Twitpolitik: Parties tweet fur

Twitpolitik: Parties tweet furiously as election campaigns intensify

This is the first South African election in which political parties have used Twitter to bolster their attempts to win over voters. We take a look at what the major players have been tweeting about.

Twitpolitik: Parties tweet fur

twitter symbolAs South Africa’s general election edges ever closer, most of the country’s major political parties have been attempting to use social media to publicise their messages to the voting population.

This is not surprising considering South Africa has six million Facebook users and at least a million active Twitter users. According to a 2012 report, South Africa is the tenth largest Twitter user in the world,  with 467,500 unique visitors every month – accounting for 0.85%of the site’s usage.

Twitter wars have erupted over issues from the Nkandla scandal to Nelson Mandela’s legacy, and the Democratic Alliance are currently tweeting on average every ten minutes as they attempt to create a groundswell of momentum during the final month of campaigning.

We take a look at how the some of the major players are using Twitter in their election campaigns.

Agang – @AgangSA / 5,660 tweets, 44.2K followers

On Monday, Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang party had to issue an announcement denying their Twitter account had been hacked due to the extreme nature of the tweets they have posted over the last week. The tweet read: “We have not been hacked. The joke here is president Zuma’s behaviour and the ANC ministers supporting him. Enough is enough.”

This follows a tweet they posted on Friday that was laced with sarcasm in reference to Zuma’s delay in responding to Madonsela’s damning report: “Jackson Mthembu hasn’t said anything about President Zuma not even liking the windows at the palace, or was it a hectic weekend for him?”


They also reacted to criticism and accusations from ANC Youth by tweeting: “@ANC_YOUTH your stupidity and ill-informed tweets are the reason we hope you never reproduce. #VoteAgangSA”.

Their aggressive tactics appeared to be working: one response read “@AgangSA be getting my vote for being real about politics this is what I call opposition”, while another asked: “Why, when @AgangSA finally starts showing some chutzpah, people think they were hacked?!”

The hashtag #VoteAgangSA was trending in Johannesburg on Monday. Another tweet about the President read, “Out of all the excuses he could’ve used, he chooses to tell us he didn’t ask for the upgrades?” and was accompanied by the following picture:


ANC – @MyANC_ / 9,122 tweets, 109K followers

The ANC have recently been using their Twitter account to defend President Zuma against charges of corruption following Thuli Madonsela’s ‘Secure in Comfort’ report into the misappropriation of public funds during refurbishments at his Nkandla residence.

A series of tweets read: “With regards to the security upgrades at Nkandla, the NEC noted both the reports of the investigations in this matter…The NEC further expressed its satisfaction with the responses and work undertaken by our officials and the NWC on this matter…It further noted that there are processes that need to be given a chance, like the pending report of the President expected in due course.”

They have been forced into this defensive position due to campaigns by the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters aimed at focusing public attention on Zuma’s personal role in the scandal.

The ANC have also been highlighting its ties to Nelson Mandela as much as possible, possibly to offset the negative publicity currently surrounding Zuma. Another series of tweets from Tuesday: “The NEC has been humbled by the generous offer Madiba made in including the ANC as part of his estate…The NEC considers the bequest to be a singular honour that Madiba has bestowed to his movement… Wee consider such honour and generosity to be more valuable than any monetary value that can attached to the gesture…The NEC has therefore resolved to create programmes named after Madiba in taking his legacy forward…These programmes will find expressions in our political education unit and policy institute, in keeping with the last wishes of Madiba.”

Another tweet appears to make reference to Zuma’s choice not to attend the EU-Africa summit in Brussels this week. Egypt has been suspended from the African Union but has still been invited to the summit. The tweet reads: “SA as a member of the AU supports the decision by the AU to suspend Egypt from participating in its activities.” Speculation that Zuma’s decision not to attend the summit was based on who had and who hadn’t been invited seemed to be confirmed on Sunday when the President said: “I think that time must pass wherein we are looked (on) as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come.”

Since the Democratic Alliance and Agang began using the social media platform to directly attack Zuma and his party, the ANC have also been increasing their presence online. Another tweet read: “Whilst we are stepping up our election campaign, we are nonetheless confident that #ANC will win these coming elections overwhelmingly.”

ANC Youth – @ANC_YOUTH / 15.6K tweets, 14.5K followers

The ANC’s agenda is also promoted via their youth wing Twitter page, which is generally more aggressive and less-PC in the manner it attempts to combat the ANC’s critics. One spoof tweet reads: “Malema has been arrested by the fashion police, they said ‘no amount of make up could make him fashionable.’” After Agang stepped up their criticism of the President, another tweet reads: “Secret Israeli special forces caught working in @AgangSA office.”

They also focus on promoting the ANC’s manifesto for the upcoming elections using the hashtag #ANCManifesto with tweets such as “Consolidate the public works programme, creating six million work opportunities by 2019” and “Make two years of pre-school education compulsory; eradicate adult illiteracy; attend to teacher development.”

Economic Freedom Fighters – @EconFreedomZA / 2,753 tweets, 39.8 K followers

The Economic Freedom Fighters twitter page mainly features quotes from Julius Malema and is focused on attacking Zuma regarding Nkandla, defending Malema against accusations of corruption and elucidating details of the EFF manifesto. In reference to the President, one tweet says: “Zuma must rot in jail. I have a meeting with the police on Monday… Zuma must know that I respect him as an elder but I do not fear him.”

Malema also makes reference to recent attempts by the ANC to bring a court case agains him: “They took my farm saying it was brought with stolen money. the magistrate said there is no case here…They will never intimidated (sic) me! I have never taken from the poor. I have never worked for the government. We’re ready for the truth.” Another tweet makes reference to a new EFF policy: “When you get married, we must give you a hectare of land so you can start a family.”

Democratic Alliance – @DA_News / 23.5K tweets, 70.3K followers

The Democratic Alliance have been using their Twitter page to focus attempts to impeach Zuma over his involvement in the Nkandla scandal using the hashtag #ImpeachZuma. In the last few days they have been tweeting as frequently as once every ten minutes. Recent offerings have included: “In November 2012 Zuma denied knowledge and involvement in the upgrade of his private residence in Nkandla…The President must still explain to the NA why he didn’t fully answer @PublicProtector and provide copies of his bond…The special ‘impeachment’ committee will have the power to subpoena this document in the investigation of this matter…There’s clear evidence in the #NkandlaReport that Zuma had detailed knowledge and was involved in the upgrades.”

However, political pundits have commented that their attempt to get the President impeached is unlikely to prove successful due to ANC dominance in Parliament, pointing out that Zuma managed to avoid 753 charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering before he became President.