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It’s been an interesting year for South African Twitter. Apart from anything, there are now around 9.4-million users in the country, up from 6.8-million a year ago. That means increased levels of conversation, which in turn means that much more potential for argument.
Thing is, the South Africans who’ve drawn most attention to themselves this year aren’t exactly new to the platform. And while some of them have reached new heights this year, others appear to be cracking under the pressure of Twitter’s cooking pot.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a set of New Years’ resolutions for seven of South Africa’s most high-profile tweeters.
1. Helen Zille: Don’t tilt at so many windmills
Look, it can’t be easy being South African opposition leader and Western Cape premiere Helen Zille. She has, after all, made a name for herself as a tweeting politician. Unlike so many other politicians, she tweets as herself and can be genuinely helpful to people with administrative inquiries. The trouble is, Zille’s efforts to respond to everyone mean that things can sometimes get a little out of control.
A question can easily spark a debate, which in turn can rapidly descend into a full on Twar, with Zille sometimes trying to manage several at once. It may seem boring Madame Premiere, but sometimes “I will answer that with an official statement in the morning” is the only response you need.
2. Fikile Mbalula: Keep the attitude, leave Julius alone
South Africa’s minister of sports likes to call himself Mr Razzmatazz and it shows in his tweets too. While he tweets in his official capacity, he’s also capable of injecting some serious flair into his tweets.
Just take a look at what he tweeted on the day that South Africa won the PE Sevens and Rolene Strauss was crowned Miss World:
We are a winnig nation winning nation winning nation winning nation winning nation winning nation#SAUNITE
— RSA Min of Sport (@MbalulaFikile) December 14, 2014
He can however get a tad rifled, especially when it comes to his former protege and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema. In October, the two got involved in seriously barbed Twar. Given Malema’s ability to antagonise, along with the knowledge he has on Mbalula, it’s probably best if he avoids any such confrontations in the future.
3. Jacob Zuma: Remember that you actually have a Twitter account
Seriously, the last tweet sent out from the South African president’s account dates back to October 2013:
Promoting a caring society as a guest of the Evangelical… in Giyani, Limpopo
— Jacob G. Zuma (@SAPresident) October 6, 2013
Maybe he’s afraid someone will tweet him directions to parliament.
4. Chester Missing: More of the same please
Towards the end of 2014, the sharp-tongued puppet controlled by comedian Conrad Koch started grabbing more attention for his tweets than for his live performances. First he took on Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyer’s claims that Blacks were the architects of apartheid. That earned him a gag order, which was subsequently over-turned in the wake of what was probably the most ridiculous day in South African judicial history.
He then took on Helen Zille after she suggested that he (and by extension Koch) had only taken on Hofmeyer to boost his own career. Guess who came out tops in that encounter?
— Chester Missing (@chestermissing) December 10, 2014
If Missing continues to take on the right targets, he could become one of South Africa’s most important tweeters.
5. Steve Hofmeyer: Take a racial sensitivity class
At some point, an aging bubble-gum pop singer was allowed to become the chief spokesperson for a group of extreme racists. He has taken the vitriol of this group to Twitter, claiming everything from a white genocide in South Africa to black people being the architects of apartheid.
Despite losing his case against Missing — which he did not appear in court for — Hofmeyer still seems to fancy himself the victim. Even scarier is that his 126 000-plus followers seem to agree with him.
It’s probably too much to hope for anything to change in 2015, but a Road to Damascus-style conversion would come as a welcome surprise.