Hashtags fly as South Africans vent over cabinet reshuffle

7 April 2017

Digital Content

The emotional rollercoaster experienced by South Africans over the past week following the hiring and firing of the country's ministers and their deputies has been aggregated through a report on social media trends.

ROi Africa's tracking of sentiments expressed through social media networks such as twitter has offered interesting insight into how South Africans feel about the changes and how their reactions have changed over time.

Tonya Khoury, Managing Director of ROi Africa says news of President Zuma's cabinet reshuffle last week Thursday night resulted in impassioned feedback through social media by the citizenry.

"This was a devastating blow to South Africa and a nation voiced its opinion of despair and anger across social media. Less than 24 hours later, the #KathradaMemorial had the same defeated voices speaking with hope and unity. #Gordhan and many others that spoke at the memorial had restored hope to a nation and sent a clear message #MobiliseSA. The stats inside make fascinating reading."

ROi's report found that news media was consumed by the events unfolding in the country over the past seven days with a quarter of all reporting focusing on the reshuffle and over 50% of the media being overrun with reporting of anti-Zuma sentiment rising across many political voices.

The initial attitudes expressed in in news media seemed to influence social media and were echoed by many users.

"South Africans on social media expressed outrage with the #CabinetReshuffle announcement, with over 1/3 of our conversation being focused on what Zuma had done. What was an overwhelming influx of sadness, despair, anger and astonishment quickly turned to hope and inspiration as #PravinGordhan and the #KathradaMemorial brought a nation together on social media with one message #ZumaMustFall. Combine this with pro-Gordhan sentiment, reference to #AhmedKathrada and the outcry of regarding the #CabinetReshuffle and one gets over 87% of our social media coverage," adds Khoury on the developments as seen on social media.

ROi's study of social media also found that many voices and people were highlighted across the #CabinetReshuffle and the #KathradaMemorial, the largest of which were Gordhan, Kathrada, Malema, Mandela and Ramaphosa.

The report which touches on other international trends was compiled using a data set that consists of 206 million social networks (globally), 90 000 online newspapers spread around the world, 76 radio and TV stations in South Africa as well thousands of printed publications from South Africa and the rest of Africa.

ICT analysts in South Africa have warned that the President's changes to the communications and telecommunications and postal services portfolios could have dire consequences for progress in the sector.

Steven Ambrose, CEO of StrategyWorx says South Africans who are angered by the changes are correct to feel the way they do.

"Changes in ministers always leads to changes in director generals. The DG need to be highly competent and experienced especially in the telecommunications area. There is no real separation between party and the administration so no professional public service exists. As such with each reshuffle it takes time for the entire department to settle down and to start working effectively. Considering that any minister has at best 18 months before the next election. The latest reshuffle will create massive delays and policy issues for a department that needs to be nimble and effective. The new ministers have no background or experience in the ICT or telecommunication arena. And this does not bode well at all."

Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director of World Wide Worx also expressed scepticism about the Presidents changes to the ministries directly responsible for ICT.

"It is unlikely that programmes currently underway will be curtailed, but obviously the new Minister will want to get to grips with the departments and the issues they face. The tragedy is that Communications is used as a vehicle for patronage, and it increasingly appears that the splitting of the original department into two was a consequence of needing more positions to spread that patronage. Clearly, if Ministers are appointed regardless of their knowledge, interest or ability in the area, it is a recipe for both reputational and economic disaster. The first has already been suffered as a result of the continual delays in digital migration, which could have been forestalled by strong leadership. The second is likely to result if vested interest take precedence over the national interest. Where communications could have been a powerful engine of the economy, it has been made into a stuttering, creaking and collapsing machine that has run out of fuel."

Source: ITWeb Africa 3 April 2017