This is a summary of the trending, highest impact, and most active themes and their narratives related to social cohesion and division in South African public-domain social media conversations. A 24-hour trend report can be downloaded for media.
Quotes and video clips from EFF leader Julius Malema’s press conference have trended over the past 24 hours. The top topic in the online conversation was “Malema #EFFPresser”.
Malema called for hard lockdown measures, like compulsory quarantine.The EFF Official account tweeted clips from the conference. One tweet reminded South Africans that the EFF had called for compulsory quarantine at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The EFF proposed Robben Island for a quarantine site, but said it would not happen because “Government is scared of white people”. Malema explained that the EFF was against the sale of alcohol, as it would increase the load on hospitals, and there would be no space for COVID-19 patients.
@Siseko_Soga tweeted, quoting Malema, that “Alcohol is: – destructive – destroys families – contributes to unprotected sex and spread of diseases – contributes to domestic violence” This tweet, posted at 13:31 yesterday, had been liked 4 600 times and retweeted 2 000 times by 09:00 today.
The EFF was against the reopening of the mines. At 13:30 @MbuyiseniNdlozi tweeted: “#StayAway: if Covid-19 is going to kill us anyway, then we must die in our homes; not at work digging gold that does not belong to us. Not at work, cleaning kitchens & gardens of the boers. If this is the end, then it must not find us on our knees & chains, but with our boots on”.He tweeted using #StayAway and #StayatHome.
The tweets received significant positive and negative reactions: some praised Malema’s statements, while others said his ideas contributed to economic collapse in South Africa. At 09:00 today these tweets had received a total of 760 retweets and 2 300 likes.
Malema spoke about the economic impact of the coronavirus on South Africans. He called for a 12 month moratorium on the repossession of cars and houses by private banks, citing the job losses that have started, and will continue as the coronavirus pandemic deepens. Malema further criticised the banks for continuing to place financial demands on small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. These tweets trended less than those about alcohol or staying at home, with a combined total of 140 likes and 83 retweets by this morning.
Level 3 Regulations
Lockdown level 3 regulations was a big topic on social media and news cycles yesterday, trending as the second biggest topic for the day.
At 07:14 the Government Communication and Information System’s official Twitter account tweeted: “The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs @DlaminiZuma & the Minister of @thedti Ebrahim Patel will brief the media on the regulations relating to the COVID-19 Level 3 restrictions”. This post reached about 133 000 people yesterday and Level 3 conversations dominated social media for the rest of the day.
Alcohol sales became a hot topic: the announcement that:“Alcohol will be on sale on Level 3 from Mon to Thurs, 9am to 5pm” came in as the number 5 post by reach for the day.
The Presidency’s official Twitter post also garnered significant attention with over 700 likes, retweets and comments by this morning. The post asked South Africans to “work together to protect lives & continue to observe vital social distancing & hygiene practices to curb the spread of COVID-19”.
A [post by the DA](https://twitter.com/OurDA/status/1266054886166233093), which received almost 550 likes, retweets and comments yesterday, accused the Government of losing the plot in the fight against COVID-19: “Instead, their focus has shifted to undermining the hard-fought freedoms of all South Africans”.
A post by SAfm news said the Human Rights Commission had written to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga urging her to postpone the reopening of schools as learners get ready to return to schools on Monday, despite widespread criticism.
Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked why the media’s focus has been on cigarettes and not schools in a tweet that reached almost 4 000 likes, retweets and comments.
Many religious leaders have decided to keep the doors to their places of worship closed. The Muslim Judicial Council advised mosques in the Western Cape to remain closed for another month during level 3. The Claremont Main Road mosque also decided to stay closed, in a post that was widely shared, garnering over 1 500 likes, retweets and comments. This post was also retweeted by Mmusi Maimane.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said the national backlog for COVID-19 testing was 100 000 tests. Winde said the WC provincial testing strategy had changed: instead of testing as many potential contacts of confirmed cases as possible, tests were now reserved for patients in hospitals.
Later in the day, @News24 tweeted confirmation that the Department of Health acting DG, Dr Anban Pillay, said the National Health Laboratory Services had a backlog of 80 000 tests for COVID-19.
Disinformation through humour
While online jokes about a famous Cape Town club being a place of worship for some made the rounds, some accounts used humour to start conversations with more serious, and more sinister, undertones.
After the National Coronavirus Command Council released level 3 regulations, some Twitter users poked fun at rules they deemed to be arbitrary. At 18:16 an account called@Propaganda24tweetedfor the first time since 2018: “Ramaphosa says that Coronavirus regulations will remain in place until the middle class is completely eliminated”. By this morning. the post had been liked 268 times and retweeted 153 times. In another attempt to spread social discord, the fake news page went on totweetat 20:36 that “Dlamini Zuma says the communist takeover of South Africa is well on track. The Whites don’t even realise, they are all watching DSTV.” This post was retweeted 74 times by this morning, and not all readers seem to be aware that the quote is fake. Some commented that the current ANC and EFF are “black Nazi’s” or “Zimbabwe 2.0”. At 21:00, the account tweeted more false information, saying government had unexpectedly lifted the ban on the sale of cigarettes at level 3. The sale of tobacco products remains banned under level 3.
Hairdressing to impress
Trending by volume and burst were 2 tweets by @NikeshKooverjee. The first tweet at 17:16 has been retweeted over 600 times and has received more than 1 500 likes: he said the Department of Health confirmed that haircuts would be allowed only for those who were in a relationship because single people did not have anybody to impress. At 17:31, he followed up with The Chilli Bar being granted permission to operate at level 3 because it was considered a place of worship. Responses inlcuded: “bro, you almost had me” and “This man is playing with people’s feelings”.
Issued by the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change.
See Cabc.org.za for daily reports
A deep analysis on any of these issues is available on request.
The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based at UCTs Graduate School of Business and incubated by the Allan Gray Centre for Values-Based Leadership. It was established to track and counter mis- and disinformation, fake news and divisive and polarising rhetoric that is promulgated online to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity, and the stability of nation states.
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