The ANC has seemingly launched a social media campaign calling on its members and supporters to post images of the party’s flag with heart emojis in the traditional colours of the organisation, black, green and gold, as a way of “protecting” its image.
A message circulated on social media, calling on members and supporters to take part in the said campaign, reads that since the governing party has come “under attack it is our responsibility to protect it”.
“I am by no means condoning corruption that seems to be rife,” the message reads, further stating that the party has done no wrong but rather “it is some individuals who are bringing the organisation to shame”.
The message says the campaign is meant to “restore” people’s faith in the ANC as “some people are beginning to [lose] hope” in it.
The campaign comes at a time when social media has been abuzz with complaints that the party has facilitated the squandering of billions of rands meant for Covid-19 relief either by party members, officials deployed by it or those connected to the ANC.
The ANC Gauteng recently took the decision to subject President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko to the party’s provincial integrity committee (PIC), following reports on contracts amounting to R125 million her husband, King Madzikane II, scored from the Gauteng Department of Health through his company, Royal Bhaca Projects.
The matter has also affected Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and his wife, City of Joburg MMC Loyiso, who have been placed on leave.
The contract, which was for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), has caused huge furore due to a possible conflict of interest borne from Khusela’s proximity to Ramaphosa and her membership in the ANC PEC.
Following the scandal, Khusela Diko took leave of absence until the investigation into the matter has been concluded.
A political analyst has said the scandal has knocked Ramaphosa’s image.
Party spokesperson Pule Mabe was sent a text to confirm whether the party has launched a social media campaign “to protect” its image, however, no response was forthcoming.
The ANC’s verified Twitter account throughout Friday retweeted users either dressed in party regalia or who seemingly adhered to the request made in the message.
Those retweeted by the account included Ministers Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Fikile Mbalula, serving in the communications and transport portfolios, respectively.
Mbalula on his own Twitter account retweeted similar images and others with messages about lessons “learned” about “the harsh impact on society and economy arising from loss of integrity in institutions of state and business and in political and other formations”.
One of South Africa’s leading political analysts, Daniel Silke, said he viewed the campaign as a reaction to “the heat” and “pressure” felt by the ANC.
Silke said the ANC was now slowly waking up to the fact that Twitter is somewhat of a political battleground, in which it “has not performed at all over the last number of years”.
He was of the view that the governing party was either ignorant of the platform’s potential or had not wished to engage it, which has seen being left far behind its opposition the DA as well as the EFF and Herman Mashaba, the leader of the People’s Dialogue, “who has been quite active on Twitter”.
Silke said the ANC has been heavily criticised on Twitter and this campaign was in response to that and other trending hashtags such as #ANCMustFall, “which have effectively, I think, really damaged the name of the ANC on social media”.
The ANC’s campaign aimed at protecting its image would have a “neutral effect” and would be seen as a paid one, Silke said.
“It lacks spontaneity, its far too choreographed in terms of a Twitter campaign. In terms of that, it will be seen as a propaganda attempt to restore the image or at least to help the image of the ANC. On the basis of that, I don’t think it will really have the desired effect,” he said.
The criticism levelled against the ANC for corruption scandals and the management of the Covid-19 pandemic will be more prominent and influential than its campaign, Silke said.
However, Silke pointed out that Twitter “is not South Africa” and vice-versa and by focusing only the comments shared by its viewers one would assume “the ANC is about to lose power, and I think that’s not the case”.
The current “rising tide of frustration and anger” would, however, have negative consequences for the ANC, he said.
“As the governing party, the ANC is in a position in which it’s performing poorly and of course Covid-19 has made governance that bit more difficult,” Silke said, adding that the criticism will negatively affect the party’s “fortunes” at the polls, with the local government elections expected to be held next year.