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.
Impact of lockdown
The psychological and physical impact of lockdown was a big topic of conversation yesterday. Mental health featured in the top 10 topics for volume, with a burst of 57%. A celebrity couple’s break-up featured as the 2nd biggest topic by reach. A song about the President’s speech was the 5th trending topic by volume, with 78% burst.
After President Ramaphosa cautioned South Africans that hugging, shaking hands and kissing would become a thing of the past, the message has been turned into a lockdown anthem by Player1505. The song has taken social media by storm with over 40 000 views since posting at 17:48. It trended as the 5th biggest topic of conversation by volume.
Underlying the humour, more serious commentary about relationships, and the absence of the human touch and affection during these times, emerges in the second biggest post by reach. @George_Mogwase detailed two very public celebrity breakups, and asks: “do you think your relationship will survive this lockdown?” Social media users responded with their own stories of breakups and how they were braving the storm.
Mental health spotlight
The day’s top topic on news and social media by volume and burst was Covid-19 related mental health.
Model and activist Adwoa Aboah came out in support of people around the world struggling with mental health, reminding them that they were not alone. She shared well-being tips and encouraged communities through #copingtogether.
The UN warned of a global mental health crisis in the wake of Covid-19. Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s mental health department: "The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil - they all cause or could cause psychological distress."
Psychologists warned that children under lockdown could become anxious, and noted an increase in cases of depression and anxiety.
War on GBV
It has been reported that more than 120 000 victims of Gender Based Violence have phoned the national helpline for abused women and children in the first three weeks of the lockdown - double the normal number of calls.
President Ramaphosa has announced measures to empower women during lockdown: “One of the interventions we have made is to ensure lockdown regulations be structured in a manner that a woman can leave her home to report abuse without the fear of a fine, intimidation or further violence.”
Gauteng Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko revealed 566 arrests related to GBV were made in Gauteng from 13 May to 14 May.
Government’s relief packages
“South Africa” and “Cyril Ramaphosa" were the top two topics by volume in this conversation yesterday, with 4 669 and 2 538 mentions respectively. Related discussion about financial aid achieved the highest number of re-tweets: 71 967.
The government’s relief packages have been a consistent feature of the online conversation since they were launched.
Yesterday @SABCNews quoted President Ramaphosa as saying the Unemployment Insurance Fund had paid out R11 billion to two million workers - this became the top tweet in this conversation.
The second biggest tweet, also from @SABCNews, quoted the President saying that he was focused on rebuilding the economy and creating jobs as the lockdown is eased. This tweet reached 46 069 Twitter users.
Criticism of the aid has focused on the difficulty in accessing the various grants, or allegations of a race-based distribution policy. Complaints that financial aid was based on race have been a continuous thread in the online-conversation - it tends to involve a small group of people.
“South Africa” was the top topic by mentions yesterday. The top media item by number of retweets in this conversation was a video uploaded to Twitter by @DaanBarnard: “South Africa government refuse pandemic aid to Poor Whites”. The tweet had a reach of 21 965.
Regulations for lockdown levels
Conversations about levels 3 and 4 trended sixth and ninth by volume, with the Western Cape featuring among the top 10 topics by volume.
New directives were issued for level 4 as many regions hoped to move to level 3 by the end of May.
A Business Tech article explained the new process for obtaining permits tomove businesses and transport goods during lockdown.
@MorningLiveSABC tweeted that the lockdown could move to level 3 early in the day.
At 16:40 @RichardCalland tweeted that, while there have been mistakes made in implementing regulations, he viewed DA leader John Steenhuisen’s call for the lockdown to end as potentially highly irresponsible. His tweet reached 220 804 users, and responses were mixed.
Conversations around level 3 trended throughout the day, reaching its peak 11:00.
Earlier in the day, an ecr.co.za article provided a list of what is permissible under level 3, advising that prohibited products may soon become available for sale again.
Following the President’s address, social media users in the Western Cape were concerned that the Western Cape and other areas with high infection rates could stay on level 4. WC Premier Alan Winde appealed to national government to move off Level 4.
At 13.39 @GovernmentZA listed a “return to church guidelines post as “Fake News” which misdirected readers, falsely stating that church services would resume from 21 May 2020.
The government has made it clear that large gatherings of people are not allowed under the lockdown, as they put all people at such gatherings at risk of being infected by the coronavirus.
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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