The week in social media | 3 May – 8 May 2020

Every day we observe, dissect and analyse the news and information driving the conversations around the week’s most topical issues on social media. These are the highlights you should know about.

Gareth Cliff’s letter to the President: “We are losing hope”

Gareth Cliff’s letter to the President was the fifth biggest topic by volume while Julius Malema’s tweet in response was the highest by impact and reach on the day.

The Cliff Central host, in a voice recording widely circulated on social media, urged the President to reconsider the lockdown or face the wrath of South Africans. He claims people are more worried about the economic consequences of lockdown than they are of Covid-19.

He closed with a biblical reference to Moses and the Pharoah: “let our people go Mr President, or this plague will be the least of our worries”.

EFF leader Julius Malema took a jab at the President, claiming he was controlled by South African capitalists: “The investors are not happy with their deployee @CyrilRamaphosa, and they are willing to disobey lockdown regulations. Let them try, Gareth Cliff must speed up the process so that they can learn a lifetime lesson very fast”.


Freelance journalist @samirasawlani’s video of the Tanzanian President was viewed over 80 000 times on Twitter.She tweeted that the Tanzanian government was sending an aircraft to Madagascar to collect the COVID Organics herbal remedy for Covid-19.

Later, Reuters reported that Tanzania had rejected imported Coronavirus test kits after samples taken from a goat and a paw-paw came up positive. President Magufuli has called for an investigation into the country’s national laboratory in response to this matter.

The issue has raised concerns over Tanzania’s decision to resort to the Madagascan treatment so quickly, as the herbal tonic has not been tested scientifically and is not an approved treatment.


In the top story for the day (4 May) the Department of Public Enterprises said not all SAA jobs may be saved with the creation of a new airline.
The DPE has decided to scrap the national carrier and start a new venture with public and private partners. The new airline will employ about 5 000 SAA employees.

SAA’s business rescue practitioners have proposed that the remaining 4 700 contract workers contracts be terminated. Severance packages will need to be funded through the sale of assets.

This story evolved as the week went by, with the unions securing a victory at the Labour Court on 09 May, that ruled the retrenchment notices issued to workers at SAA are unlawful and must be withdrawn.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) advice

Social media gives everyone a voice, and some use the platform to try do a little good like in this case, Siyauyazi Mshengu (@realsiyauyazi) who posted a video demonstrating the correct way to use a surgical mask: “Been wearing this the wrong way? Watch…”

The video has been viewed more than 170 000 times, with over 7 400 retweets and 11 300 likes.

People shared their own experiences with PPE: many had not been wearing their masks correctly, and some felt that the steps were just too complicated for a mask.


Narratives around solidarity against Covid-19 and the lockdown include stories about food donations from farmers, support from breweries and relief for artists and sports people.


The Mpumalanga Farmers Association is supporting neighbouring villages after noticing more people looking for food. The farmers gave their own produce and groceries to 350 households in the Nkomazi municipality.


The Woodstock Brewery, Drifter Brewing Company, Stellenbosch Brewery and the District Six Working Committee are making 3 000 litres of soup a day, in their giant pots, which can feed 9 000 needy people. They call this feeding scheme SoupaGroup.

The group has a strong distribution network in place and relies solely on donations and volunteers to prepare the soup.

Sports, arts & culture

The lack of relief for people involved in the arts and sport has left many South Africans disgruntled.

@MasheanePopo said: “We have literally become paupers and beggars. For the first time I ask myself why did I become a creative, if my own government doesn’t see me as an employer despite the taxes I have been paying over the years”.

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has also launched Covid-19 relief funding for those in the arts, creative and support sectors. Enquiries can be directed to[email protected]

Cover ups

Russian doctors “fall out of windows”

This strange story was one of the top topics on 5 May. @SizweDhlomo garnered over 3 400 likes for calling on people to question the story: “Wait! So three Russian doctors criticised Russia’s Covid-19 response & then they “accidentally” fell out a window?”

Two doctors died and one is in critical condition. Two of the doctors were vocal critics of Russia’s lack of preparedness to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortage of PPE for healthcare workers.

EU Leak

Is the EU protecting their relationship with China? @isaacstonefish tweeted that, after the EU was accused of “watering down” a report on China’s disinformation, the EU attacked the whistle blowers who leaked the information.

The EU’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, accused staff of damaging the EU by leaking the report. EU officials were left angry and disappointed at Borrell’s remarks, especially his singling out of junior staff members.

One official said: “the more dovish governments are focusing on the leaks and the more hawkish ones claiming that the EU had played into China’s hands.”


SASSA messed up yet again after a glitch in their system doubled the social grants of some people, while other beneficiaries received nothing.

About 430,000 beneficiaries in the Western Cape allegedly received double their payments. This is about 83.5% of all grant beneficiaries in the Western Cape.

A tweet by @News24 spurred the conversation as people questioned the inefficiencies of government workers. One responder tweeted that the government needs to fire many of its workers. Another extreme response was to fire the government after the lockdown.

Covid-19 tests our racial rhetoric

In a sea of polarizing rhetoric, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s statement that that all races must benefit equally from Covid-19 relief featured as the fifth highest post by reach. The Minister told two finance committees: “we need to support all enterprises, black and white, as long as they are able to remain viable to support our people, create jobs”.

Many social media users rose to denounce the polarising rhetoric. @MusaVerwoerd wrote: “2020/21. We don’t care if you are Black or White, foreigner or citizenship holder, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, Zulu or Swahili, celebrity or president, this is not your f***n mother’s world. It belongs to everyone in it.”

Many others called for cooler heads to prevail and to support fellow South Africans in these trying times by showing solidarity, regardless of race or gender.

Zooming with Zumas

The hashtag #ZoomingWithZumas trended on 7 May with over 3700 tweets after the former president Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane created a YouTube show of the same name. In one episode they poke fun at President Rampahosa’s mask mishap. Some social media users find the show in bad taste, while others say we have been fed the media’s side of the Zuma story, now it’s Jacob Zuma’s turn to tell his perspective.

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