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.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sunday address dominated social media conversation over the weekend: the top 5 trending topics by burst all related to the address. @GovernmentZA’s tweet on Saturday announcing the address was retweeted 694 times and liked 1700 times.
Responses to the @GovernmentZA’s tweet were mostly negative, with many criticising the government’s continuing ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco. But some respondents asked for the alcohol ban be continued - they felt it had reduced violence and hospital admissions in some areas.
Responses to the changes in lockdown regulations announced by the President were mixed.
The EFF’s @MbuyiseniNdlozi criticised the move to level 3, citing the World Health Organisation’s advice that SA was not ready for the move, and saying hospitals would be overwhelmed. By the end of the weekend the tweet had 3 300 likes and was retweeted 885 times.
DA leader @jsteenhuisen 09:00 tweet welcoming the re-opening of large parts of the economy on 1 June had 479 likes and was retweeted 479 times.
@MYANC retweeted quotes from the address but did not post any new content.
The public response to the President’s Address constituted the bulk of conversation yesterday, with over 14 000 mentions.
The top topic in the spike in conversations immediately after the address was “alcohol”: the majority of responses supported the reopening of bottle stores, while some were concerned that violence would increase. Many people were angry that tobacco sales were still banned, with some speculating that the ban was based on corruption, not health considerations.
Calling out failure
South Africans called out Government for its ineffective response to the pandemic, low social relief payouts and the high number of arrests made during lockdown.
SASSA trended on Twitter all weekend, driving volumes on Sunday as one of the top 10 topics for the day, after CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula disclosed that only 10 people had received a Social Relief of Distress Grant, of the nearly 4.9 million who had applied.
People expressed their outrage, with many calling for heads to roll.
Activist Suntosh Pillay tweeted: “This pandemic exposes the anti-poor, slothful bureaucracy of SASSA. Lindiwe Zulu & Busisiwe Memela-Khambula must resign in disgrace”. The post received nearly 2 000 likes, retweets and comments.
#ANCMustFall became a top trend as the conversation continued.
Economist Mike Schussler’s tweet garnered over 2 700 likes, retweets and comments, driving the burst in this topic: “SA arrested 14 times more people than actual Covid cases. Lockdown arrests were 18 times more than actual contact crimes. More have a criminal record for running, smoking, or making an honest living. Our police are brave when arresting honest folk, not so much arresting criminals”. Social media users called his observation a “sad indictment against bankrupt regime” where “real criminals get away with impunity”.
Chief Justice Mogoeng called upon “every citizen who believes his or her rights have been infringed to, without hesitation, approach our courts” after expressing concerns over the lockdown and other measures declared under the National State of Disaster. Justice Mogoeng said these measures cannot operate outside the constitution: “Our constitutional rights are crucial and there can never be a situation [where] any of us are not subject to constitutional review”.
The topic Level 3 trended as the top topic by volume for the day.
An alleged leak of the draft Level 3 regulations had social media users talking about it before the President’s address.
@SA_Heroes tweeted that a leaked draft had revealed that the ban on liquor sales would be lifted and the ban on tobacco products would continue.
@SayEntrepreneur’s tweet at 15:30: “what the Draft level 3 lockdown regulations say” was retweeted more than 263 times as people searched for information.
As the announcement was being made, @IvoVegter tweeted that alcohol would be sold for home consumption but tobacco remained prohibited because of health risks. He posed the question: these health risks had always existed, so why is tobacco being banned now? He believed the tobacco ban had nothing to do with Covid-19. This post was retweeted 192 times, and was the 6th highest by reach with 124 000 viewers.
Trending as the 8th highest post by reach, a 16:40 tweet by @SABCNews explained that members of the Educators Union of South Africa felt that schools should only be re-opened in September when temperatures are higher.
The President later announced that Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners would return to school from 1 June, but parents who did not feel it was safe to send their children back to school were welcome to keep them at home.
The conversation around school and Covid-19 peaked at 19:00 and continued at lower volumes throughout the night.
Trending since Saturday, a humorous tweet about the number of Covid-19 cases reported in Genovia has been retweeted more than 170 000 times.
@theprincedylan tweeted: “Genovia hasn’t reported a SINGLE CASE of COVID-19. This is what TRUE leadership looks like.” Accompanying the post was an image of actor Anne Hathaway in Disney’s The Princess Diaries.
The post has received more than 851 000 likes and more than 170 000 retweets and 3 500 comments, indicating exceptionally high social media engagement with the post over the weekend.
The conversation peaked at midnight, with some suggesting that a Disney Princess was doing a better job of containing the virus than some global leaders.
Responders commented about inspiring leadership from other fictitious places like Arendale, Zamunda and Wakanda.
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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