In a column in the Daily Maverick, Helen Zille has alleged that many of the Twitter accounts that expressed anger towards her on the social media platform were actually fake.
She also expresses her view that Russia attempted to use Twitter bots to create fake news to help Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma get elected as ANC president in December, in much the same way that fake news helped Donald Trump get elected in the US.
In the column, which looks at the onslaught of fake accounts and bots and the effect they’ve had on the political situation in places such as the US, Russia and here in South Africa, Zille says that after Twitter’s recent clean-up of “fake and dubious accounts”, her timeline is now free of the “vicious attacks, the deliberate distortions [and] vitriolic insults” she had experienced before.
It was reported that both she and EFF leader Julius Malema lost about 50,000 fake followers.
Whether Zille thinks all of those who called her out for her notorious tweets that seemed to downplay the negative effects of colonialism were fake accounts is, however, unlikely.
Rather, the Western Cape premier appears to be saying that the tone of the responses has changed, noting that since the clean-up of fake followers she has “experienced Twitter for what it always had the potential to be – a platform for open debate”.
The column sees Zille link the Bell Pottinger scandal and the so-called “Gupta bots” that came with it to the Mueller investigation in the US.
READ MORE: Why I’ll never quit Twitter – Helen Zille
Robert Mueller conducted an inquiry that included that Russian agents manipulated social media to help Donald Trump get elected to the US presidency.
Zille also warns in the column of what Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has described as “Bell Pottinger 2”, designed to “push back investigations into State Capture”.
Gordhan described the sequel to the scandal that befell the UK PR firm as “an underground media strategy to attack those who stood up against wrong things”.
According to Zille, who says she “connected the dots” to make her conclusion, “The connection between Zuma and Putin was much deeper and broader than we understand, and involved their broader networks. These have not ended. Indeed, they continue to operate.”
Zille feels that South Africans are victims of the same interference that Putin’s administration was guilty of in the US.
According to the politician, Putin attempted to keep Zuma in power the same way he succeeded in helping get Trump elected, “But the strategy failed in South Africa, because both Putin and Jacob Zuma underestimated our resilience and our instinct for accountability and democracy.”
Whether the new, cleaned-up Twitter will see Zille offered a respite from the Twitter controversy she is infamous for, however, remains to be seen.