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.
A tweet by @Our_DA at 12:00 was discussed throughout the afternoon. These tweets were among the top topics by volume as they included the word “President”.
@News24 tweeted at 07:15 that the government would provide reasons for the cigarette ban. This post was the third highest by reach. The cigarette ban conversation peaked at that time and rose again at 19:00.
The DA called on the President to address the nation after an absence of 19 days.
The emergency procurement of e-learning services by the Eastern Cape Department of Education has raised concerns: it was reported that no tender process was put in place and the contract was granted to an ANC linked IT firm. A tweet by @PLmyburgh at 07:10 posted a link to an article in the Daily Maverick, driving the conversation.
Immense pressure has been put on the National Command Centre to explain why the cigarette ban is continuing. Following court papers filed by FITA requesting minutes of the meeting in which the ban was discussed, government has agreed to provide reasons. The @News24 tweet to the article had the 3rd highest reach, with over 110 retweets.
Following an article by Trevor Manuel and a widely circulated video of a child being dragged away from his father by police, Manuel spoke out against law enforcement officers, saying they were poorly trained. The @eNCA video has been viewed more than 18 000 times, with more than 150 retweets.
Origins of Covid
The possibility that the coronavirus could have originated outside China is being explored, leading to considerable xenophobia and racial tension being expressed.
The South China Morning Post published an article which alleges that there were cases of coronavirus infection in France as early as November last year, according to a doctor in Alsace.
@Qiaocollective tweeted about the article on 9 May and it has been retweeted more than 5 000 times. In the thread, Qiao Collective links another article from the South China Morning Post which says that the French coronavirus strain did not come from China or Italy. That response was retweeted a further 2 000 times.
The conversation is being spurred on by a call from the WHO to investigate pneumonia-like cases from late last year to understand how the disease spread.
It has been widely understood that the pandemic began in Wuhan Province. Recent allegations that it may have started in other countries, like France or South Africa, are drawing heat.
While the WHO and others investigate the origins of the virus, a University of KZN graduate employed by @HSIglobal has come under fire following her interview in the Daily Express stating that the virus could have started in South Africa, not China.
@XolaniNgcobo tweeted about the blame being placed on South Africans, saying: “we are being disrespected, we all know that this damn virus comes from Wuhan, a place where everyone looks the same.” He was immediately called out on the post by a responder telling him that what he had posted was racist. Other responders expressed racial slurs toward the Chinese, or laughed in response.
At 10:30 @josephgeorgeweb tweeted that @HSIglobal must take this up with Audrey Delsink saying that her allegation was both irresponsible and baseless.
@LaymansAccount issued a more threatening warning to Delsink calling on @UKZN to address this with her “or else South Africa will”.
A review of the article explains that she was speaking about trafficking in animals from South Africa, saying that we have bats and pangolins in SA, and it’s not inconceivable that the animal that caused the first infection could have come from SA.
At 18:03 @BBCAfrica tweeted that Africans were being forced into quarantine because they were black. The post has been retweeted close to 400 times and the video which shows an interview with a Nigerian man who is under quarantine has been viewed more than 12 000 times.
Western Cape under scrutiny
The Western Cape finds itself under intense scrutiny as South Africa’s hotspot for Covid-19. Western Cape was the fifth biggest topic by volume and seventh highest trending topic. Cape Town was among the top ten trending topics, with a burst of 63%.
South Africans were alarmed at the disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases emerging from the Western Cape. Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has reported that, of the 698 new cases, 484 were from the Western Cape. The province accounts for 53.8% of total reported cases.
WC Premier Alan Winde said in a statement: “only 6% of known Covid-19 deaths in the Western Cape had no co-morbidities. More than 65% of patients who died had more than two co-morbidities.”
Many social media users have called for stricter lockdown measures in the Western Cape. The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu tweeted: “The Command Council should end voluntary isolation in all parts of South Africa and should tighten the lockdown regulations in the WC. Prioritize health over capitalist greed!”. Another social media user called for the government to: “make sure that Western Cape go back to level 10 alone”.
Some social media users have defended the Western Cape, citing more testing as the reason for higher reported numbers. The DA has unequivocally stated that the WC has the highest testing rate of all provinces.
One social media user posted: “When someone gets coronavirus in the Western Cape or Eastern Cape, it does not matter who they voted for in the general election. It does not matter whether her Premier is Alan Winde or Oscar Mabuyane. That person needs medical help. Not petty political bickering. #RiseAbove”.
With the daily update from Minister Mkhize being re-Tweeted 1 500 times, “Statistics” was third for burst and sixth for volume. “President” was the top topic by volume for the day.
Much of ‘raw statistics’, such as @DrZweliMkhize’s daily Covid-19 Statistics in SA are shared without much comment, while official statements by Ministers or the President receive more discussion.
@TimesLive Tweeted at 06:05 that Police Minister Bheki Cele said that South Africa would move to level 3 in the near future. The Tweet was retweeted 105 times.
@AdvoBarryRoux’s later tweet: “It’s official, we are going to level 3 of Lockdown” was re-tweeted 625 times.
As the lockdown continues there has been an increase in online pressure on government and on President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While some are asking for South Africa to be moved to Level 3, others have called for the lockdown to be ended and for the economy to be opened up.
The third most-viewed tweet was @News24 stating that government had agreed to provide reasons for ban on the sale of cigarettes, reaching 304 021.
A moderate level of conversation was around understanding the regulations, like retweets of a list of winter clothes allowed to be sold under Level 4.
The impact of lockdown on peoples’ lives and the economy was discussed, including adherence to regulations.
Many people asked whether others were adhering to lockdown regulations, while some authors are critical of companies violating lockdown, or disregarding workers’ safety.
@Abramjee conducted a survey on Twitter and found that 32.2% of respondents said lockdown rules were being adhered to in their area, while 67.8% said people were not complying with rules.
The fifth biggest topic, with a burst of 69%, was “Remember”, including a post by @GovernmentZA on how to apply for the R350 social relief grant.
A Tweet by @News24 on how to apply for the grant was eighth by reach. An informational video detailing grant criteria by @PresidencyZA was the ninth biggest post by reach yesterday.
After the launch of the Social Relief of Distress Grant on May 11, the Government launched an explanatory video yesterday featuring Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu. The video outlines who is eligible for the grant, what documentation is required, and the channels through which people can apply.
The infomercial was posted on many official government channels including @GovernmentZA and @PresidencyZA, and received significant engagement. Most were clarification questions, while others pleaded with the government to spend time processing applications instead of publishing more posts.
The post on @PresidencyZA received over 16 200 views yesterday, and post by @GovernmentZA received over 13 800 views.
In a top trending Business Insider story, the agency reported that only one of the application channles was working: “The SA Social Security Agency's website is not available, its WhatsApp system is not responsive, and its email system is unusable on most platforms. A promised SMS system does not appear to be in place, and there is no sign of a Facebook Messenger channel. But if you stay up late enough, USSD will eventually work, our testing shows.”
The story was shared by @News24 on Twitter and reached about 152 000 people. Many respondents to the @PresidencyZA’s grant infomercial had also complained about the same issue.
International Nurses Day
International Nurses Day was celebrated yesterday, on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year healthcare workers across the world were commended for their brave sacrifices in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Dr Mkhize thanked nurses: “Let us remember those nurses who put their lives on the line every day to fight Covid-19 and the nurses who put our safety before their family’s. Happy International Nurses Day. We appreciate you”.
Conversation around Nurses and International Nurses Day was the third top topic by volume.
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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