24 Hour Trend Report | 18 May 2020

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.


Madagascar was the top topic by volume yesterday, with narratives related to President Rajoelina’s address and Madagascar’s stance against the WHO.The country’s first recorded Covid-19 death led to the top post by impact.

A 57-year-old medical worker in Madagascar who had diabetes and high blood pressure comorbidities was the first person recorded to have died from the coronavirus in the country.

eNCA’s tweet of a link to a news story at 13:50 received over 100 retweets.

The efficacy of the Madagascan organic mixture is being questioned after the World Health Organisation warned against using products that had not been tested.

In a national address President Andry Rajoelina said the treatment was not administered to the patient who had died because of his underlying health conditions.

@AfricaRepublic’s tweet of details of the address at 19:32 was retweeted 38 times.

A post tweeted by @LandNoli at 08:17 of a 12 May interview by President Rajoelina was shared widely. Rajoelina feels people are bad-mouthing “Tamba V CVO” (the full name of the organic product) even though it saves lives, and the WHO was trying to stop the country from seeking help.

The tweet has been retweeted over 1 800 times and the video has been viewed over 50 000 times.

The strained relationship between the WHO and Madagascar has made headlines since the country began promoting a herbal tonic as a treatment for Covid-19. The WHO firmly states that more testing must be done before any claims about the efficacy of the remedy can be made.

@DJnewAfrica tweeted at 09:30: “Why is it that the WHO is treating Madagascar like they don’t know how to handle respiratory outbreaks?” The tweet referred to the WHO congratulating Madagascar’s government for steps taken to contain the outbreak of a bubonic and pneumonic plague in 2017.

The post was retweeted 315 times, continuing the narrative of Africa creating its own remedies.

Lockdown legitimacy

The debate around the legitimacy of the lockdown continues, with the scientific community at loggerheads with the Government.

The @PresidencyZA PCC meeting formed part of the conversation. The 4th biggest topic of the day by volume was “Dr”, as the views of Dr Glenda Gray were hotly debated.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s post urging South Africans to respect lockdown was the 2nd biggest post by reach and 7th by impact.

Following Dr Glenda Gray’s comments that some regulations around the sale of clothing items did not make sense, many other Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) members are saying publicly that the lockdown levels and regulations were not grounded in science.

Some MAC scientists are saying that a false impression has been created about the level of consultation with scientists on the lockdown: "The risk-adjusted strategy was never shared with us, it was presented to us the day before it was announced. We saw the models eight days ago. It's a catastrophe. There’s panic in the MAC that decisions are being ascribed to us but we have never seen them, we were not party to them”.

The scientists spoke under anonymity.

One scientist said the entire process was highly politicized.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Director-General of the Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay, have both come to the government’s defence. In an article on Times Live, which was 4th by reach for the day, Dr Mkhize said the government took the MAC seriously and had sought its advice on many issues.

Dr Mkhize said: “There is a lot of debate about the lockdown, whether it should continue or not. From a health perspective we have got the maximum benefit from the lockdown.”

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula shared a video of a doctor who recently went through the Covid-19 ordeal himself. In the video, which has been viewed over 20 000 times, the doctor urges people to respect lockdown rules and stay indoors.

The President recently convened a PCC meeting to discuss bringing the nation down to lockdown level 3. This post by @PresidencyZA was the biggest by reach and 6th by impact for the day.

Acting High Court Judge Gillian Benson has come out in opposition of the lockdown.

Business Day’s news story titled “Acting judge to step down after lashing government over lockdown rules”. Expletive-laden criticism of the lockdown was discovered among the judge’s Facebook comments.

Social media engagement around the post took on racial tones.

Western Cape

The Western Cape was 8th for burst and mentions yesterday.

The top 10 posts discussing the Western Cape related to the high number of infections in the province and whether lockdown for the Western Cape should be Level 3 or Level 5.

The Western Cape infection rate continues to be debated online. Some commentators say the high rate is due to more effective testing and reporting.

@News24’s tweet at 19.55 providing updated statistics on the Western Cape achieved the top reach within this conversation.

@MightiJamie created a Twitter poll at 19.10, which was 5th by Reach: “Let’s settle this #Covid19 testing. Is the Western Cape testing more than Gauteng? Are the other provinces lying about their data? Is the Western Cape the honest province?” At 09:00 on 18 May, 680 people had voted - 18.4% said “yes”, 59.6% said “no” and 24.7% said “not sure”.

Linked to the conversation about the Western Cape’s infection rate is talk about the imminent change in lockdown levels. Government announced that most of the country will move to Level 3 at the end of May. People are debating whether the Western Cape will go back to Level 5, or if it is ready for Level 3.

@Radio702’s tweet about Premier Alan Winde advocating for the province to move to Level 3 was 4th by reach in the Western Cape conversation.

Responses were mixed: some were happy to open up the economy, while others were worried about the high number of infections.

The City of Cape Town has drafted amendments to the Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances by-law.

The by-law relates to the management of public places, noise levels and other matters on all properties within Cape Town.

A tweet by @funkneekirk criticising the DA for attempting to implement the by-laws was retweeted 371 times, and liked 338 times.


President Ramaphosa’s selfie on his morning walk trended 10th by burst.

In 9th position was a narrative about British nationals being fined.

These topics raised questions about the unjust enforcement of lockdown rules.

President Ramaphosa was stopped by other walkers while taking his early morning walk on Sunday. They asked for a selfie with the President, and he obliged.

The scene was recorded by @nwabisa_mak: she said she heard someone shouting outside her window “Good morning Mr President, we love you!”.

The video of the President elbow-bumping and joking “this is going to get me arrested” was retweeted over 2 000 times and has been viewed more than 320 000 times.

The narrative that followed included the irregular enforcement of regulations among the elite and poor citizens.

@DJNewAfrica tweeted that President Ramaphosa was breaking the lockdown rules, and joking about it.

On 16 May @News24 had tweeted a link to an article: “British citizens who entered SA during lockdown get suspended fines.” The British nationals had sped over the border between eSwatini and South Africa and were fined R40 000 or 12 months in jail, which has since been suspended.

Many took to Twitter to raise questions about the language used to describe the speedsters as “citizens” instead of “foreigners”.

@Happiness Mbatha tweeted: “Why aren’t they called foreigners?” The post was retweeted 3 000 times, stirring up sentiment about unfair treatment of Africans entering SA and British “foreigners” entering the country illegally.

An ongoing theme within the conversation on the enforcement of Lockdown Regulations was concern for the treatment of vulnerable people, especially the homeless.

@cravenwines tweeted that he had seen people being arrested for begging for food in Somerset West. Responses were mixed: some said that aid was being provided for homeless people through feeding schemes and they should not be begging, another commented that homeless people should be in a shelter where they would receive food.

@cravenwines’ tweet was 4th by retweets and 6th by reach in the conversation on “Lockdown Rules”.


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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