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ANALYSIS

South Africa’s 24-hour trend report: 23 April 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the State of the Nation Address, 7 February 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan / US President Donald J. Trump (C) delivers the State of the Union address, 05 February 2019. EPA-EFE/Doug Mills / POOL

This is a summary of the trending, highest impact and most active themes and narratives related to social cohesion in South African public-domain social media conversations on 23 April 2020.

PRESIDENTIAL DIALOGUE

The post by @CyrilRamaphosa sharing his address had the highest impact on 23 April.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s phone conversation with US President Donald Trump was the highest trending topic of conversation of the day.

Consultation with the Command Council was the third highest trending topic, and the Address to the Nation ended the day as the sixth most discussed topic.

Twitter account holders began posting their expectations of the national address early in the day.

@eNCA’s tweet that the FW de Klerk Foundation said the government should not extend the lockdown because of the dire economic consequences was retweeted 70 times.

@StephenGrootes of SAFM also got some conversation going when he asked followers what they hoped for in the President’s address. Responders said they were hoping for an end to the lockdown. @Gianeena2813 asked for the sale of wine, beer and cigarettes “at least!”.

Conversation on Twitter about the Command Council spiked at 21:00.

@PresidencyZA’s post that “The National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of our health system to provide care to those who need it” was retweeted widely.

Sections of the speech were shared as tweets for people who might not have data or could not watch the live broadcast.

@TeamNews24 provided a summary of the alert levels as the President was speaking.

@CyrilRamaphosa tweeted at 17:56 that he had a productive phone call with President Trump. They discussed the impact of Covid-19 on South Africa and the US. President Ramaphosa passed on condolences to the people of the US for the loss of life due to the outbreak.

President Ramaphosa added that @POTUS had pledged his support to South Africa and Africa to fight the coronavirus. A few South Africans used the thread as an opportunity to spread disinformation about white citizens in South Africa. A particularly startling response from @Skye_Aurora was: “Do you think he told Trump about his strategy to boil white people slowly like frogs?” @DaanBarnard responded about farm murders and the alleged racial BEE relief funding, resurfacing old rhetoric.

LOCKDOWN LEVELS

Discussion about Level 4 regulations trended as the second biggest topic of the day, bursting at 98%.

The theme of lockdown levels was the primary driver for the 21:00 to 22:00 volume spike.

President Ramaphosa unveiled the new tiered lockdown approach. Tiered from Level 5 to Level 1, Level 5 is the most severe, the current lockdown situation. Level 1 will be the resumption of all normal activity with health precautions taken at all times.

Tiered lockdown trended as the number two topic of the day and peaked in volume between 21:00 and 22:00, just after the President’s address.

South Africans wondered about timelines and what economic services would be reopened in each phase. The biggest overall reaction was one of goodwill towards the President. Many commended his leadership and the well thought-out plan. Others highlighted how a small developing country was putting global giants to shame with its strategy.

Those who disagreed said lockdown rules were barely being followed and the plan was too complex and confusing for the masses. 

The President announced that South Africa would enter Level 4 lockdown restrictions on 1 May. 

Level 4 includes lifting the ban on cigarette sales. Inter-province travel is prohibited. Sit-in restaurants, hotels, bars and shebeens, conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas and theatres will remain closed, and concerts, sporting events, religious, cultural and social gatherings will continue to be prohibited. Gatherings of more than 10 people, except at a workplace, will not be permitted. Public transport will continue to operate but the necessary health precautions will have to be followed, including sanitisation of taxis and passengers wearing masks.

The ensuing social media conversation focused on cigarettes, exercise and transport, with most people commending the President. @SimonPGrindrod put it best, “Any politician can say what’s popular, but only a President has to take the responsibility. Tonight, our President showed us all the difference between being popular and being responsible.”

Twitter was buzzing with conversation about DStv throughout the day. DStv talk spiked at midday and again at 8pm, with 6,482 mentions from 5,752 unique authors. “Sign the Petition” was the top trending topic in the DStv conversation.

@UmalambaneZN, the self-proclaimed president of the people, first tweeted #DStvMustFall at 00:17. Over 5,000 people talked about this with 13,700 likes and close to 4,000 retweets.

Others tweeted throughout the day that people should sign a petition for DStv to give subscribers a payment break or decrease prices during Covid-19. The petition aims for 35,000 signatures and has already received 25,673.

At midday, @News24 posted about the payment holiday that Edgars and Jet account holders would receive in light of the financial constraints many are facing.

The post received many likes and was retweeted 337 times with 464 people talking about it in the afternoon.

Responders called on other big companies like The Foschini Group, Truworths, Vodacom and FNB to follow suit. Many tagged the company they mentioned on the post and said they won’t be paying this month.

Some posted that they didn’t receive the payment holiday from Edgars, even adding pictures of the SMS they received requesting payment. Business Insider clarified that only accounts that were up to date would qualify for the payment holiday.

Stats SA has monitored prices of essential products since the lockdown began. On average, the price per product rose by 0.3%. Eggs became 19% more expensive, tea costs 7% more and instant coffee rose by 2.8%. The price of personal care products dropped.

Price controls have been put on basic goods and sellers who hike prices by more than input costs face fines or jail sentences.

At 16:34 @ewnupdates tweeted that Dis-Chem would be charged for hiking prices.

Responders felt all supermarkets should be charged as they had noticed price hikes at Spar, Woolworths and Pick n Pay.

The peak in conversation took place at 17:00 as @SAfm and @news24 also aired news about price hikes.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund was a topic of conversation throughout the day for many South Africans, as payday approaches. Companies are trying to understand how they can access UIF money.

@ncube_thami tweeted the example of a small UIF-compliant business that was declined assistance by Sukuma and wanted an explanation on which SMEs qualify for the funds.

Just before 10:00 Man’s NOT Barry Roux, a Twitter profile known for interesting viewpoints, drove a spike in UIF mentions as people retweeted his post, “UIF is starving people. TERS claims are paid within a week, while people who applied for normal claims or applied for continuation of benefits have been waiting for payments since February.” 185 people talked about this tweet.

HEALTHCARE RESPONSE

The publication of many articles about Morningside Mediclinic ensured high reach for this topic.

Conversation about healthcare in Eastern Cape increased by 284% and Unique Authors increased by 343% compared to the previous day.

Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, who recently accompanied Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on his tour of Eastern Cape hospitals, has found herself in hot water.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) has called for her resignation for taking Covid-19 PPE requirements lightly. During a recent hospital visit, she wore only a mask and not the prescribed gloves and apron.

The Health Minister is allegedly disappointed with the MEC’s preparations in the province and has sent in reinforcement teams. The MEC is alleged to have failed to fill critical positions and provide PPE to healthcare workers who are now turning to their municipality for support. Another source said Mkhize did not believe the low infection numbers reported in the Bay area, compared to the number of deaths, and believed not enough testing was being conducted in the province.

Eastern Cape was one of the top trending topics by volume for the day, peaking between 06:00 and 07:00.

Posts about Mediclinic Morningside said the hospital faced a crisis with over 90 infections, including 79 sick healthcare workers, support staff and health professionals.

This incident highlighted how many South Africans perceive private healthcare. While some said the high number of infections at private hospitals indicated they put profits over the wellbeing of staff, others said private healthcare was no better than services provided at public hospitals.

By Thursday 23 April, 143,570 tests had been conducted in SA, 3,953 positive cases of Covid-19 had been identified and 75 deaths recorded. DM

All reports are available at www.cabc.org.za. The The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) will provide media with additional information and deeper analysis on any trending topics on request.

The CABC is a non-profit organisation incubated at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. The CABC aims to effect positive behavioural change for social upliftment and environmental benefit. The main areas of focus are enhancing social cohesion, preventing narrative manipulation, furthering sustainability, managing climate change and improving public health. Cutting-edge social media analytics are used to identify both progressive and anti-social stances on any theme. Analysts isolate social media conversations and conduct rigorous data analysis to predict trends. The CABC stimulates positive social change through engagement, dialogue and advocacy. www.cabc.org.za

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