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 on 1 June 2020.
Racism stripped bare?
The top topic of the day was “City of Cape Town” as allegations of racism poured into Twitter yesterday, following the demolishing of a naked man’s house.
At 16:05 @IrvinJimSA tweeted a video of an unnamed man being dragged from his informal dwelling: “These inhumane evictions by City of Cape Town Anti-Land Invasion Unit @ eThembini Kayelitsha. #LockdownSA #BlackLivesMatter must be completely rejected.”
The video shows the man being pushed to the ground repeatedly as he struggled to get back into his home. Bystanders recorded the incident on their phones and expressed their shock. But no one intervened. When the man eventually made it back into his home, members of the anti-land invasion team started tearing down the house while he was still inside. Irvin’s post was retweeted over 7 000 times by 10:00 this morning.
The City of Cape Town said on Twitter it would launch an urgent investigation into the incident, which they said was part of a City Law Enforcement Operation. Most comments expressed the view that black people were being treated with little dignity, particularly in Cape Town.
@TumiSole was outraged at the video, and said: “A host of attorneys have offered to fight the City & it’s racist policies! This isn’t the 1st time!”. This post was retweeted close to 2 000 times by this morning.
Floyd Shivambu of the EFF shared the video on Twitter in the evening along with the tweet: “This is how black people continue to be treated in their own land. The city of Cape Town is continuing with the colonial and murderous barbarism that defined the colonial convicts who colonised our land from 1652. We need our land back.” This post was retweeted over 1 000 times and received 2 100 likes by this morning.
Comments included calls to action over treatment of black people. @Lebogan32666105 commented: “Giving this man land wont erase what happened today. This guy was harassed, humiliated. Abused. Today land is 1% of his problems. Focus focus”.
@pontshopilane [tweeted that](https://twitter.com/pontshopilane/status/1278363872282509312) sharing the video further dehumanised the evicted man, and asked people to stop. But many disagreed with this stance, saying such acts needed to be exposed, and the reality that black people still faced must be shared, even if it did not appeal to bourgeois sensibilities.
Vusi Thembekwayo tweeted “Just don’t forget which party runs the City of Cape Town. Don’t forget.” As criticism of the DA came in, the ANC also took flak on social media as users expressed their disapproval that the ruling political party has not taken any action over the incident.
Just stay home
Conversations about the COVID-19 pandemic trended across the top topics by volume again yesterday: “Home” was mentioned over 20 000 mentions, indicating that the leading narrative urged people to stay home.
This theme is closely linked to the growing conversation over whether children should go back to school. A tweet by @daisythando arguing that grade R learners should stay home received almost 2 000 likes and was retweeted over 600 times by today.
@HulisaniRavele requested people to “stop having these braais, stop having the little gatherings … Go to work, get the essentials, go home”. The tweet concluded “it’s not a joke”, and received 1 700 likes and 525 retweets.
@CBTS15486123 also urged people to stay home and protect themselves, noting that, although only 25 years old, “this virus nearly killed me”. The tweet included the hashtag “#level5” and received over 270 likes.
Voicing an opposing viewpoint strongly, @leboclive tweeted, “Obviously privileged people would want us to go back to level 5 because they’ll still be earning a decent salary while laying on their fancy couches and attending virtual meetings. Zero fucks about the hairdresser that provides for her whole family. I hate it here”. This tweet received over 1 300 retweets and over 4 300 likes.
Many Twitter users shared their personal experiences on coping with COVID-19. @RosieMotene shared a 9-part thread about how she had treated herself, based on recommendations from medical doctors. The initial tweet received over 4 000 retweets and over 5 600 likes.
Radio host @AshrafGarda announced that he was COVID-19 positive and described his current condition. His tweet had the 5th largest reach yesterday, and was liked 560 times.
@noeleensaid shared pictures of her mother, a professional nurse working on the frontline of the pandemic and saving lives. This tweet was liked over 230 times.
Eyes of beholders
Conversations about the perceptions of beauty drove high volumes on social media yesterday following a Twitter thread posted by @jeunegarcon9 earlier in the week, accompanied by a photograph: “Congolese boys thread”. This gained traction with 3 000 retweets and 13 200 likes.
South African social media users quickly joined in on this trend yesterday. @Silindokuhle_ shared two photographs with the message: “South African guys thread?” The tweet received 1 500 retweets and 4 200 likes.
Later in the day, @justkeigh [tweeted](https://twitter.com/justkeigh/status/1278252915254321152), “South African Huns thread let’s gooooooo drop your pic here”, alongside two photographs of a young woman. This generated 1 600 retweets and 9 900 likes.
In the evening, @simphiwen shared two photographs in a tweet that read, “South African queer boys lets go. This gained traction with 3 500 retweets and 12 500 likes. TV host @Boity praised this thread in a sharp retweet: “Yhu!!”. This received 67 retweets and 1 600 likes. In a separate tweet, @VilakaziSoul complimented the beauty of South African women: “Imagine saying South African women are ugly? Lying is a sin comrades. Don’t do that” This received 226 retweets and 1 000 likes.
Hopes for July
Some Twitter users were inspired by a fresh start as the calendar turned a page: “I love the first day of a new month. They always feel like a whole opportunity to start again. i hope the month of july is…” tweeted Dineo. The tweet received over 9 200 likes and 2 100 retweets.
Tamuda Bianca also shared a hopeful tweet for July: “Happy New Month I hope that you will receive unexpected blessings, experience constant growth, receive love, have inner peace, be in good health and most importantly, draw closer to God.” The tweet received 212 likes and 87 retweets.
Makagiso shared the meaning of the number 7: “Today marks the 7th month of the year and the number 7 represents completion. For the month of July and beyond may we experience God’s fullness and the finished work of the cross in all areas of our lives. May God meet us all at our points of need.” The tweet received over 2 500 likes and 817 retweets.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, affectionately known as Fab Academic on Twitter, commemorated her second year at the University: “Today I celebrate 2yrs as VC of UCT. 3 successes stand out: Student suicides are no longer a thing. Out of 10 senior leadership appointments I made, 8 are black & 2 white. For the first time in 2020 UCT now leads Africa in ALL of the 5 major world university rankings. #Grateful”. The tweet received over 16 300 likes, 2 900 retweets and 553 comments, with many users congratulating Professor Phakeng on her achievements and the changes she has implemented at the University.
Neo Nontso, also known as Dine With Neo, shared a picture of her new home: “New month. New home”. This tweet received 31 800 likes, 1 900 retweets and 573 comments.
A tweet about a missing grandmother gained significant traction yesterday. @FakuMpolweni, shared her photograph: “This grandma is around park station Jozi, she doesn’t remember her name, She remembers her Surname Dlamini and her daughter’s name is Melita, she said she’s from Soweto. She got dementia. Keep Retweet until she is reunited with her family.” The tweet generated 7 300 retweets and 2 900 likes by this morning.
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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