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.
Lockdown shot down
The Gauteng High Court ruling in De Beer vs Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs dominated social media by volume and burst. The High Court declared that some regulations under Lockdown Level 3 and Level 4 were unconstitutional and invalid as there was no evidence that they would slow the spread of COVID-19.
@News24's 18:02 tweet announcing yesterday’s ruling was retweeted more than 1 400 times and received close to 3 000 likes by this morning. @Abramjee and @AdvoBarryRoux tweeted screenshots of the order as it was released. @Abramjee was retweeted 185 times and “Man’s Not Barry Roux” has been retweeted 299 times, driving the conversation. Mixed emotions ensued, with some celebrating the achievement of our democracy while others asked if judges can be held accountable for the number of deaths that could possibly follow.
Public and institutional responses to the ruling spurred the conversation. @ThuliMadonsela tweeted at 22:20: “There would have been a lot to learn from this judgement if it were more clear, concise, accurate, professionally reasoned and persuasive. I’d be surprised if in its current form it survives the scrutiny of a higher court”. This post was retweeted more than 230 times and received close to 500 likes by today. One responder tweeted “surely a judge could have done a better job of reasoning why they are rubbish”. Questioning the choice of Applicants in the trial, @suntoshpillay said they made “strange bedfellows”.
As screenshots of the High Court order were shared throughout the evening, the conversation turned to Point 4. Point 4 states that: “During the period of suspension, the regulations published in Government Gazette No 43364 of 28 May 2020 as Chapter 4 of the regulations designated as “Alert Level 3” shall apply”. Social Media influencer @Tumisole tweeted: “High Court has declared the Lockdown Regulations are invalid & unconstitutional. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t bound by them though! Con Court has to confirm this first. Interesting times!”. This post received more than 1 000 likes and was retweeted more than 900 times overnight.
Alcohol has been a trending topic online since sales resumed this week. ‘Alcohol ban’ was the 6th biggest topic by volume yesterday, with 1 406 mentions. Alcohol was also the main driver of volume within the top topic by volume: the move to Level 3.
Images of people queueing to buy alcohol trended on social media for the second day in a row: one video tweeted by @Thabitha9206 featured a brass band playing outside a liquor store as customers danced inside.
While some users were clearly excited, others expressed concern about the sale of alcohol. @NosipoMakamba tweeted a video of a man falling down in the street, apparently because he was drunk: “#AlcoholMustFall How lifting of alcohol ban will help prevent spread of COVID19???? This is day 1 of Alcohol sales during level 3 lockdown”. The video had been viewed 154 000 times, with 2 400 retweets and 3 800 likes. Comments were mixed, with some noting that consuming alcohol was a personal choice, and abuse should not be blamed on the government. Others expressed anger, saying alcohol would worsen the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many online commentators noted an increase in the number of hospital admissions for alcohol-related injuries. @SebeNkambule tweeted: “My sister is on call tonight, they're already dealing with 3 cases of stabbings, p1 cases, meaning they are emergencies that need to be attended to immediately. It's not even 9pm yet, on day 1 of the return of alcohol. #Covid_19SA #LiquorShopsOpen”. The tweet was liked 106 times and retweeted 80 times by 09:00 today.
#AlcoholMustFall has gained some traction online. @Nthapeleng__ tweeted at 09:27: “Fathers will drink the entire quarantine budget then beat up the mother for it. Criminals will rob again for the bottle. Drunk girls will get raped at house parties. Drunk drivers will slaughter on our roads. Welcome back alcohol #AlcoholMustFall”. The tweet was liked 1 900 times and retweeted 526 times by today.
A large proportion of comments supported the sentiment in the tweet. The most-liked response was a tweet by @Emmanuel_Moraba: “Two most important things you didn't mention: Our parents are back to work at liquor stores. Alcohol contributes to the economy”.
Police under fire
EFF MP @NalediChirwa criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to the killing of 11 people during Lockdown. Chirwa tweeted, “11 Black Men were killed by the police during the lockdown period alone. Ramaphosa called it, “over enthusiasm by the police.” When the ANC calls for his intervention in the US what kind of intervention do they imagine? 11 BLACK MEN! “ The tweet generated 484 retweets and over 1 000 likes.
@AdvBarryRoux, tweeted an image of a woman who had been beaten: “Meet Thalente Ngidi, beaten by a metro police. Her crime was to ask the man to wear a mask.” The tweet had 4 400 retweets and over 8 400 likes by this morning. Among the 349 comments was a video shared by @legendaryMan depicting the struggle between the woman and metro police officer. The video gained traction, with 221 retweets and 276 likes.
Meanwhile, online video footage of the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the US continues to spread round the world. The video, shot by 17-year-old passerby who stood her ground, has invoked anger and mass protests on the streets of major US cities, and in many others around the world.
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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