This can be a abstract of the trending, highest affect, and most energetic themes and their narratives associated to social cohesion and division in South African public-domain social media conversations between 1 October and eight October 2020
Double discuss ways
As xenophobic sentiment and incitement to violence escalates considerably on social media, some accounts are getting used to play a duplicitous recreation.
That is permitting protagonists within the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion to evangelise peace in public however promote violence privately.
Up to now three weeks, the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion has been broadly criticised within the media for fuelling xenophobic rhetoric, regardless of denials from some activists within the motion who declare they’re being patriotic.
First, media studies detailed how a community of about 80 social media accounts have been manipulating conversations to unfold xenophobic sentiments. A Twitter account named uLerato Pillay was central to the community.
Then it was revealed that the particular person posing as uLerato Pillay was truly Sifiso Gwala, a former member of the SANDF who had been dismissed after serving within the DRC.
This previous Sunday @PutSACitizens1 (a Twitter account claiming to be a “civil rights organisation for patriotic South Africans”) launched this open letter to all media homes, criticising media protection of the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion.
The letter said: “#PutSouthAfricansFirst is just not a hostile motion, we’re peaceable and none violent, we’re a civil organisation based mostly on the ideas of patriotism our goal is to defend our nation…” This submit obtained almost 200 retweets and 264 likes.
However statements made by central members of the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion have usually bordered on the verge of hate speech or stopped simply in need of inciting violence. Language linked to violence or hate speech in the direction of international nationals was talked about at the least 6,400 occasions in South African social media conversations over the previous three weeks.
Not too long ago, the discuss has turn into extra aggressive and threatening. After @DIRCO_ZA shared a message of African unity by the Minister of Worldwide Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, @Motheo2009 responded with this comment: “Minister Pandor, Nigerians are concerned in felony actions in SA, they promote medicine, counterfeit items, kidnappings and human trafficking. When are you deporting them utilizing our regulation, earlier than we take the regulation into our arms. #NigeriansMustGo #VoetsekNigerians #PutSouthAfricansFirst.”
@D007Woman (whose Twitter title is Adolf Hitler) tweeted: “Nigerians should (expletive) go residence” in response to a video of a lady having an altercation with a person who had adopted her residence – with no indication by any means that the person was Nigerian.
Later, @MarioKhumalo put out this post: “…Let’s clear our nation to ensure that us to have a method ahead with out anybody from outdoors sharing our area. #PutSouthAfricansFirst”. This tweet generated almost 100 retweets and 221 likes.
@MarioKhumalo is a distinguished voice inside the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion and has been churning out content material with the hashtag #PutSouthAfricansFirst because it first appeared on 27 April. On that first day, 12 posts have been revealed by this account containing the hashtag. Till this week the account had put out a further 677 tweets.
Because the aggression of tweets elevated, the #PutSouthAfricansFirst motion started utilizing the time period “cleanse” extensively. The #23septembercleansa march was poorly attended however one other has been scheduled utilizing the #16octobercleansa hashtag. This hashtag has been utilized in 6,300 tweets from late September.
@MarioKhumalo additionally shared a post that referred to international nationals as “peasants”, amongst different names. The tweet learn, “Our nation is being become a drug lab, a haven for human trafficking, murderers, international criminals and international peasants. But, now we have a parliament. What a joke! We’d like LAW & ORDER! #PutSouthAfricaFirst.” This was retweeted 65 occasions and appreciated over 100 occasions.
One other vocal #PutSouthAfricansFirst supporter, @buwapg, shared a tweet referring to foreigners as “parasites in our nation and a burden to taxpayers cash and South Africans”.
Nearly the entire central accounts on this community are cautious to not make direct hyperlinks between the motion and apparent hate speech or incitement to violence.
However, as the warmth was turned up, devious ways got here into play.
This post, which didn’t development, claimed: “Human trafficking runs within the blood of Nigerians.” The person didn’t embrace hashtags or straight hyperlink the PSAF motion on this tweet. Nevertheless, this account (@Motheo2009) is very energetic in selling the motion. It has used the #putsouthafricansfirst hashtag and its varied permutations in 1,621 tweets. This account has additionally been steadily publishing content material associated to the hashtag because the first day #putsouthafricansfirst was used.
In tweets containing hashtags that set up a direct hyperlink to the #putsouthafricansfirst motion, the person doesn’t publish content material that may very well be outlined as hate speech or incitement to violence. However the identical person doesn’t use the hashtag with content material that would qualify as hate speech or incitement to violence.
Many social media customers are actually spreading harmful xenophobic rhetoric based mostly on unfounded claims. Accompanied by a photograph of an unidentified girl’s injured limbs, @kemodidi’s tweet reads: “Human trafficking is actual, Nigerians are traumatizing us. Clear Sunnyside, hillbrow and restore borders.” This submit obtained an excessive amount of consideration, with four,700 likes and almost three,000 retweets.
Incitement to violence by one other person affiliated to the motion can also be clear on this comment, responding to a submit by Julius Malema. @SANEEDSAWALL tweeted: “we’ll assault these foreigners and the businesses using them”, earlier than making a name to “Atrack [sic] South Africans Assault”. The person didn’t straight hyperlink the #putsouthafricansfirst motion to this remark. However a better look confirms the affiliation with the motion: till this week, 105 tweets containing the hashtag had been posted by this account.
Different accounts concerned with the motion are explicitly calling for the extermination of foreigners. This tweet by @BrooXola reads: “The one strategy to do away with these Nigerians is to assassinate them silently. We about to do drive-by shootings at their favourite spots.Pretrol[sic] bomb and so forth.They have to be eradicated.” This tweet, which didn’t development, is evident incitement to violence. One other post by the identical person praises Lerato Pillay and states: “Nigerians have to be shot.”
The language utilized by these accounts – who’re identified supporters of the #putsouthafricansfirst motion and its agenda – is inconsistent with the motion’s media launch that describes itself as non-hostile, non-violent and peaceable.
Whereas the motion’s official communications publicly decry confrontation, its members are frightening it.
This double-talking tactic has allowed the motion to advertise overtly xenophobic and hateful sentiment, whereas avoiding prosecution for selling hate speech or inciting violence.
That is leading to a rising quantity of more and more hateful and violent content material being posted on social media because the narrative spreads into mainstream South African tradition.
Authorized specialists have confirmed that lots of the xenophobic tweets being publicly distributed on social media clearly quantity to hate speech and incitement to violence, that are each felony offences.
Whether or not South Africa’s regulation enforcement businesses, or the #putsouthafricansfirst motion itself, take motion in opposition to the perpetrators of those crimes stays to be seen. DM
The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based mostly at UCTs Graduate College of Enterprise and incubated by the Allan Grey Centre for Values-Based mostly Management. It was established to trace and counter mis- and disinformation, pretend information and divisive and polarising rhetoric that’s promulgated on-line to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity, and the soundness of nation states.