SA president asks citizens to share concerns on social media

South African president Jacob Zuma wants his country’s citizens to lay out their troubles on social media ahead of his State of the Nation address, scheduled for 9 February.

This is the second year-running that Zuma has turned to social media as a means of addressing the concerns of the nation.

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In an official post, the office of the presidency claims that in 2011 Facebook messages from people in the small towns of uMzimkhulu and Bekkersdal, saw sewerage being repaired and low-cost housing issues being addressed respectively.

According to the post, people wishing to send comments they want the president to consider including in his speech to Zuma’s personal Twitter account, or the presidency’s official Facebook page. Twitter users can also make comment using the #PresidentSona hashtag.

The presidency has close to 14 000 fans on its Facebook page, while Zuma has just over 87 000 followers on Twitter.

Although this still puts him some distance behind opposition leader Helen Zille, Zuma has gained his followers in a much shorter time period.

While the presidency’s campaign to connect with South Africa using social media appears to be going smoothly, the ANC’s have been less so.

The ruling party managed to pull off something of a social media coup during its centenary celebrations, but its leadership has sometimes done more harm than good on the medium.

Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni, for instance, attacked party members on Facebook, calling anyone who refused to commit to re-elect Zuma “muncu” (“stupid” in Zulu).

Former president Thabo Mbeki, meanwhile, recently said he was sceptical about Twitter’s role as a “great conveyor of reliable knowledge”.

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