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In recent months South Africa has been making international headlines for all the wrong reasons: from the massacre in the small mining town of Marikana, to the lavish spending on President Jacob Zuma’s homestead and the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl. It makes sense therefore that more eyes than usual would be on the country’s State of the Nation Address.
Despite international headlines being dominated by Oscar Pistorious for the alleged shooting of his girlfriend, the address still generated serious discussion on social media.
According to online reputation management (ORM) tool Brandseye there were 49 000 conversations around the address this year, up from just 6 000 in 2011.
While there was some conversation leading up to the event, most of it took place on the day. Over 41 000 of the almost 49 000 mentions were generated yesterday and 60% of it was taking place on Twitter. Online press sites generated a very small contribution towards the overall total and the remaining 39% of the conversation took place on Facebook.
Sentiment towards the speech was largely neutral on the day with online most either merely reporting what was being said or hotly debating the issues without much reference to the content of the speech itself. Emergent conversation themes from the online chatter included education, jobs, and corruption but it was women that took centre stage and in certain ways no one might have expected.
Zuma’s impassioned condemnation of violence against women in Zulu generated significant conversation with the hashtags #stoprape and #anenebooysen playing a prominent role in the social media space on the night.
It was, however, the unintended consequence of scheduling the State of the Nation on Valentine’s Day that provided an unexpected and light-hearted trend in conversation online as many joked, commented or debated how the scheduling conflict meant the President might avoid having to choose between his wives on this traditional day of love.