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 from 10 to 12 July 2020. Global trends affecting South Africa are also covered.
Tightening of Lockdown Level 3
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday night on the need for an amended response to the COVID-19 pandemic, considering the recent sharp increase in cases. @PresidencyZA announced on Sunday evening that the president would share developments on the risk-adjusted strategy for dealing with the spread of COVID-19. The tweet was liked and retweeted over 2 600 times. Two key controls were announced by the president, as reported by @News24 and @SABCNews. The former tweeted “LIVE | President #CyrilRamaphosa announces a curfew between 21:00 and 04:00. While parks reopen for exercise, family visits remain banned”. This was liked and retweeted over 700 times. Responses to this tweet also highlighted two other controls announced by the president, namely that taxis are permitted to operate at 100% capacity, and that visiting family members is still prohibited, but parks are reopened for exercise. @SABCNews tweeted, “The sale and distribution of alcohol has been suspended with immediate effect. #cyrilramaphosa #Covid19isGettingCloser”. This was liked and retweeted over 600 times.
Reactions to the president’s announcement were varied, but many were critical. @RenaldoGouws poked fun at the latest regulations, sharing a “hack” for those who miss their friends and family. They tweeted ,“So here is a South African lockdown hack for all of you who miss your family and friends. Buy a taxi, pick them up and then drive around. Taxi’s can have 100% occupancy and the 2-meter social distancing rule doesn’t apply according to our government. It’s fool proof”. This received almost 700 likes and retweets. Others, such as @HermanMashaba were more overtly critical. His two-part thread received over 1 800 likes and over 500 retweets since it was posted on Sunday evening. It included statements such as: “Your government has failed spectacularly on so many levels. The time for giving you the benefit of the doubt is over” and, “The alcohol ban has been reintroduced because your government failed to use the initial lockdown to increase healthcare capacity. Instead your comrades used this time to loot #Covid19SA relief funds & enrich themselves”. He concluded the thread with: “This is @MYANC in action”. His sentiments were echoed by @SimonPGrindrod, who addressed the president directly in his tweet that, “the storm is not suddenly upon us. You & your Government have created the perfect storm of incompetence & theft. The roof was leaking long before Covid19 thanks to the ANC. Your looting & incompetence have left our nation utterly defenseless”. This tweet was liked and shared over 1 000 times.
Other political figures also weighed in on the announcement and on government’s performance. EFF leader @JuliusSMalema tweeted: “Chief please close schools, I’m asking you nicely @CyrilRamaphosa. I won’t congratulate you on alcohol because I warned you, but you choose to listen to white capital & look now. Anyway, they deserve you as their President because they voted for you. Comprador, think of our kids”. This was liked over 22 000 times and received over 6 700 retweets and comments. This tweet was also the top tweet by reach over the period. Some responses to this tweet called out the incitement of racial tension, as the alcohol ban affects black people and black businesses as well. @MmusiMaimane, leader of the One SA Movement posted a poll on Twitter asking whether respondents believe that the country should go back to level 4, and whether they believe in the cigarette ban. The poll received over 10 000 reponses with almost 60% of respondents expressing that the country should return to level 4 and about 58% supporting the cigarette ban.
There was however some expression of support for the president. @itThuthukaM tweeted: “We can talk, But the President is trying his best to save the country. The truth is that people have to work and get used to the pendemic [sic]. #cyrilramaphosa”. The tweet was liked and retweeted about 900 times, but also received replies that expressed disapproval of some government regulations, such as a tweet by @DLehloenya. They tweeted: “True that but then again I’m a teacher and really it doesn’t make sense that the learners are back at school and then a teacher gets infected and stays at home for 14 days and those learners are not taught for that time but still going to school.”
Addressing the Spread of COVID-19
During his national address, the President announced that a new curfew will be enforced and warned against social gatherings, as these contribute to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. This sentiment was supported by Anelisa_Tuswa, who tweeted: “You guys are still hosting parties and having friends over etc…. And then on Monday you take your Coronavirus to work – and it spreads to people who stayed at home, iweekend yonke. Yhoo; ni selfish guys.” The tweet received 6 200 likes and 2 500 retweets and comments, with people sharing some of their experiences with colleagues who have attended social gatherings.
@GovernmentProvince shared a COVID-19 video campaign of COVID-19 being an uninvited guest at social events. In the video COVID-19 is represented by a green-faced invisible party-goer, who announces that he will be spreading the virus among the party goers. The caption reads: “#COVID19 | [WATCH:] When you invite friends for a hang-out, COVID-19 is your uninvited guest. Avoid gatherings! #GAUTENGCOVID19 #COVID19SA.” The video received over 220 000 views, 2 200 likes and 2 500 retweets and comments, with users criticising the representation of Black people in the video.
Put South Africans First
The number two top topic for the weekend “South Africans” was driven primarily by two posts that garnered significant social media traction. Following the truck driver protests sparked by the #PutSouthAfricansFirst movement, social media influencer parody account @uLeratopillay posted an unverified [tweet](https://twitter.com/uLeratopillay/status/1282003528299491328) that: “In Cape town one white owned Truck Company doing deliveries at Transnet fired 150 Foreign drivers and replaced them with South Africans, That is what we like to see happening. Durban Indians and ANC Politicians owned Trucking Companies should copy and paste #PutSouthAfricansFirst”. The tweet received significant online traction with over 2 200 likes and nearly 750 retweets and comments. Comments were generally in support of the movement.
Another tweet by @James58812685 stating: “The ANC government has ordered ENCA and SABC TV not to show any story which shows foreigners commiting [sic] crimes, they only show south Africans, never foreigners”. This garnered significant social media attention with almost 1 500 likes, retweets and comments at the time of writing. One of the top engagements around the tweet quickly dismissed it as “Fake news”.
Over the last few days, a parody Twitter account by the name of Tracy Zille has gained nearly 40 000 followers by posting highly controversial and racist content. Over the weekend, a post by @jeanleroux detailed how the account user has been exposed: “Earlier this week, [#TracyZille](https://twitter.com/hashtag/TracyZille?src=hashtagclick) was propelled to the top of SA’s trending lists by her controversially racist tweets. My investigation for @DFRLab tracked down the man making money from the account: a government official and EFF councillor from Makhado.” The post was accompanied by a link to the investigation. The post has, at the time of writing, received over 2 200 likes and over 2 500 retweets and comments. The author asserts that, “Tracy Zille’s tweets were meant to shock and spark outrage, attracting users to its profile where it tweeted click-bait links to off platform website. The aim? Monetise the traffic through Google @AdSense adverts on the site.” Twitter users applauded the work and were widely supportive of the findings.
Other Trends: An Entanglement
On 10 July 2020, Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith appeared on her chat show, Red Table Talk, owned by Jada, to address the news around Jada Pinkett Smith’s relationship with artist August Alsina. Chuuzus shared the video of the full interview which received over 10 million views; 108 600 likes; 48 800 retweets and 3 200 comments. In the interview Jada Pinkett Smith refers to the relationship with August as ‘an entanglement’ which caused a social media uproar, with users creating videos mocking the term ‘an entanglement’ and Will Smith’s reaction. @JudyYo posted a video with the caption, “Will Smith reacts to Jada confession about cheating on him with August Alsina #entanglement and #entanglements I’m done with the internet”. This received over 180 000 views, 3 900 likes and 1 000 retweets. Meanwhile South African Twitter user Brazoville: The Podcast recreated a Zulu version of the interview. He tweeted “If Will Smith and Jada were Zulu #AugustAlsina #Jada #entanglement #cheating #willandJada #redtabletalk”. The video received over 463 500 views, 14 200 likes and 5 500 retweets.
Issued by the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change.
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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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