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 6 July 2020. Global trends impacting on South Africa are also included.
Fight the stigma
Following a weekend of unprecedented daily increases in the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa, many Twitter users continued to share their views and personal experiences. “COVID-19” and “tested positive” were both top trending topics yesterday, and COVID-19-related posts contributed to high volumes in the top topics by mention.
Emerging narratives around COVID-19 include fighting the stigma associated with testing positive, how to cope with COVID and its broader impacts, and remembering those who have succumbed to the virus.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week that the stigma associated with the virus must be combated for South Africa to overcome the pandemic. Two public personalities, Lerato Zah (@leratozah) and Lesedi Mashale (@lesedimashale) both tweeted that they had tested positive for the virus. @leratozah’s tweet included a video describing her difficult experience that was watched almost 140 000 times. The tweet was liked over 10 000 times and retweeted over 3 500 times, with many replies conveying support and well wishes. @lesedimashale’s tweet was liked over 5 400 times and retweeted over 400 times.
These posts are examples of what @Joselinexx [called](https://twitter.com/Joselinexx/status/1279820345948528641) for: “Remove the stigma around Covid. Please. If you test positive, inform people.” This tweet was liked over 14 000 times and retweeted over 5 400 times.
Many other Twitter users shared their experiences of the virus and how to cope once it affects you or your loved ones. @alinaka [advised](https://twitter.com/alinaka/status/1279999838646607872): “If you are infected with #COVID19 and there is enough room to self isolate/ Quarantine at home, please do so! You stand a better chance of survival than being admitted in hospital”. The tweet concluded with the hashtags #staysafe #stayhome, and was liked over 1 600 times. This is timely advice, given that @DispatchDD [reported](https://twitter.com/DispatchDD/status/1280073773476175872) that all hospital beds in the Eastern Cape are now occupied.
Globally, more is being learned about the virus. A recent study by over 200 doctors has determined that the virus is airborne, according to a tweet by @DrEricDing which was liked over 15 000 times and retweeted almost 13 000 times.
Despite these discoveries, there still appears to be pockets of denial around the pandemic’s existence. @BBCAfrica shared this information: “As coronavirus cases continue to be on the rise, in some countries, people still don’t believe the pandemic is real”. This tweet was shared with a trailer to a new documentary on the Nigerian healthcare system and its response to the pandemic.
Reality of Death
Despite our personal and collective efforts to combat the virus, the reality is that over 3 000 people have already died in South Africa from COVID-19. @Busisiwe_G released an hour-long documentary chronicling the lives of some South Africans whose lives have been claimed by the virus. The video has been viewed over 6 000 times so far.
@eNCA announced in a tweet that was liked over 300 times: “COVID-19 has claimed the life of another one of our colleagues. Michael Wilson was part of our graphics team and he joined our eTV brand almost two decades ago. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.”
As South Africa’s schools move towards a complete reopening, @IOL reported: “Eleven teachers and 3 pupils have died, while 2 740 teachers and 1 260 learners have tested positive for Covid-19 since the reopening of schools last month”. The tweet was retweeted over 130 times.
@dejachanels tweeted a passionate plea to “please please please wear your masks”, announcing that her brother had just passed away as a result of COVID-19. The thread continued to gain traction, with almost 100 000 retweets and almost 500 000 likes globally.
Are we lazy?
#SouthAfricansAreNotLazy trended within the third most popular topic for the day. It received close to 10 000 mentions for the day, with just over 7 000 unique authors on Twitter. The first use of the hashtag for the day was tweeted by @KnowMashaba. The tweet includes a photograph of black people hanging onto the outside of an overloaded train.
Commenting on the state of railway transport in South Africa, @ThisIsPalo tweeted: “South Africa could use a really good railway system for the poor but we will take blankets and inspiring convoys”. This post has been retweeted around 900 times at the time of writing.
@njabzy responded with a similar sentiment when he commented, “A good railway system for everyone. Once you say for the ‘poor’, ulahlile because they will do shoddy work. We all deserve equal treatment especially in a democratic country. They must provide quality service like they do to the rich.” Many comments lauded @ThisIsPalo for the tweet asking them not to delete it and calling it a “banger”.
@PatriotMarc and @uLerato_Pillay contributed to the #SouthAfricansAreNotLazy conversation through a series of tweets published throughout the day. @PatriotMarc felt that liberals are not giving South Africans a fair chance because they hire illegal foreigners, adding that we need South Africa “back from leftists and foreigners”. His post was retweeted more than 100 times and received 248 likes.
@uLeratoPillay [tweeted tha](https://twitter.com/uLeratopillay/status/1280013608164917248)t, “Politicians are greedy and they have always put the interest of their children first. They have made sure their children are secured with financial independence and prosperous future. South Africans shall be put first without their approval #SouthAfricansAreNotLazy”. This tweet has been retweeted 89 times and received 179 likes.
One of the responders commented that the President’s son owns 35 companies and that each is worth R700 million; however, another person responded to these figures saying “Prove.plz”. The person who tweeted the figures did not provide the source of the information.
Vilifying foreign drivers
At 21:00 yesterday @PatriotMarc shared screenshots of a WhatsApp message that has allegedly been shared by truck drivers who are not South African citizens. The post, which has been retweeted 69 times, said: “This FOREIGNERS and Ali Nika also threatened @uLerato__pillay and @HermanMashaba South Africans Foreigners attacked our policemen and now they feel they can scare us @PennyLebyane you see what you brought in South Africa? #PutSouthAfricansFirst”. It is unclear from the WhatsApp screenshot who the original message was sent, but it refers to foreign truck drivers having sourced bullets to be prepared to fight.
@uLeratoPillay [tweeted](https://twitter.com/uLeratopillay/status/12802052263483596) two images of a smashed VW golf and another image of a man’s bloodied face saying that foreign truck drivers had attacked the man who, she claims, was an off-duty South African truck driver. Although this information was not verified, people still chose to retweet her story 365 times and some even commented about taking action against the alleged attack.
Readers are advised that some of the tweets in this conversation on social media are hateful, derogatory or prejudicial and some incite violence. These posts are not included in this report.
The beginning of each week is usually filled with some positive Twitter commentary, with users wishing each other a blessed week and sharing words of motivation.
Posts mentioning God received much attention on Twitter. Thuthuka Mthembu’s tweet “Good Morning!! My Friends. God Bless you,” received 1 400 likes and 168 retweets. Portia Gumede shared a motivational tweet declaring her faith in God, “I know my God is faithful. I know He delivers. Dark tunnels will be placed in my path. Delays will come. I have no fear because He will shine the light my way again. Until then we hold on. We don’t break. We don’t give up. We trust in Him. We will rise again. Goodnight”. The tweet received 388 likes and 72 retweets.
Mr Oluwayimika Q. Wale thanked the people who assisted him in raising money for his son’s medical treatment. From the thread it appears that his son may have developed hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain). He tweeted, “SAVE A SOUL !!!!!! HELP RETWEET .350,000 naira has been received from the post I made yesterday may God bless you all as you help complete this it is remaining just 680,000 naira. I am crying, a father of a boy that is undergoing a painful time in his very young life”. The thread received 103 likes and 589 retweets.
The feel-good tweets continued throughout the day. Sipho_Says took to Twitter to remind people to practice self-care: “Good morning. Stay home. Stay safe. Exercise. Keep busy. Be productive. Or not. Watch a movie. Lay on your couch. Have some chicken wings. Okay easy on the wings. Okay just one more. Be kind to yourself. Spread love. Or don’t. Maybe it’s not your thing. Have a great week.” The tweet received 1 200 likes and 477 likes.
Nomzamo Mbatha reminded people of their self-worth, “Always remember your worth. Even when you compromise it. Find your way back home, to yourself. For your Self”. The tweet received over 9 600 likes, 2 400 retweets and 59 comments, with a follower, Wesi, responding, “@NomzamoMbatha thank you so much for this reminder. God knows this is what I needed.”
The Twitter movement, ‘Love lives here’ also shared some love advice for those seeking love and those in love. @Cravelusts tweeted, “Fall in love with someone who wants you, who waits for you. Who understands you even in the madness; someone who helps you, and guides you, someone who is your support, your hope. Fall in love with someone who talks with you after a fight.” The tweet received over 187 000 likes and 60 600 retweets and 303 comments.
One Twitter user, @LNeltilizitli replied that love starts with oneself: “Fall in love with yourself the rest comes easy..” This received 505 likes and 83 retweets. Mpoomy Ledwaba reflected on her relationship with her partner Brendan Praise and their relationship journey, “I remember our conversations when @Brenden_Praise and got serious while dating. We would day dream about our life, our family, a daughter first then a son as a second born. All those conversations have become a reality”. The tweet received over 9 300 likes, 816 retweets and 138 comments, with Twitter followers praising and congratulating the young couple on their marriage and the birth of their baby.
Two Twitter posts highlighted mental health issues faced within families, specifically between children and parents. One tweet highlighted a toxic parental relationship, while another highlighted a proactive parental relationship in combating depression. @TiddyPlatter tweeted, “Guys jokes aside. Our parents are toxic and refuse to take accountability”. The tweet received over 15 800 likes, 5 300 retweets and 265 comments, with followers stating that it is not true for all parents, while other followers asked her to seek help and highlighted the insensitivity of some uncalled-for comments.
@TanveerJeewa described the lack of support she received from her parents when dealing with depression. She tweeted, “The first time I got diagnosed with depression & got put on anti-depressants, the doctor asked my dad if he thinks I am getting better and what he thinks the cause of my depression could be. Dad dead-ass said: ‘I don’t know… could be the war in Syria, she watches the news a lot.’” The tweet received 3 likes and 1 300 retweets.
Meanwhile, Bongiwe_Amy highlighted the support she received from her dad when dealing with depression, describing how he informed the family about her depression and how everyone needs to be mindful. She tweeted, “my dad made an appointment with my therapist so she can explain to him what depression & anxiety is. He then called a family meeting & said ‘layikhaya kunomuntu ongekho right & kuzomele sonke sibeResponsible futhi simusizi. Nathi sibe conscious ngesifo sakhe & how we contribute.’” The tweet received over 13 400 likes, 3 500 retweets and 384 comments, with users commenting that she has an amazing family and a supportive father.
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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