The twar that wasn’t: how Zelda and Redi showed that Twitter can be sane



On Saturday, the South African Twittersphere was set into a fresh rage spiral following comments from Nelson Mandela’s former PA and confidant Zelda la Grange that president Jacob Zuma made white people feel unwelcome in the country.

The tirade, which went on for a number of tweets, echoed many of the frustrations which South Africans across the economic and social spectrum have felt with Zuma but, unfortunately, framed it within a racial narrative.

Many tweeters latched onto this, suggesting that the veil of the “rainbow nation” had slipped. The tone of some of the responses to la Grange meanwhile seemed to suggest that her relationship with Mandela was a facade and that she had harbored racist feelings all along.

This is something which la Grange fervently denied:

Interestingly, the interaction which some sections of the media were quick to call a twar — between la Grange and talk radio presenter Redi Thlabi — was perhaps the most sane today.

In order to see why, it is worth examining Thlabi’s response, which used academic rigor over emotion and sentiment, in full:

Compare that with the exchange that took place between sports minister Fikile Mbalula and EFF leader Julius Malema last year. It’s gossipy, full of allusions to information one has on the other and is about as far from the traditions of rigorous debate as a school ground fist fight. That is a twar.

Thalbi’s response to la Grange’s tweets is far from that. It’s a rare moment of lucidity and sanity that stands in sharp contrast to the usual frenzied witch hunt that accompanies most similar incidents on the social network.

La Grange meanwhile appeared to have considered at least some of the responses to her tweets and by the end of the day she had apologised.

There will, inevitably, be those who do not accept the apology. That said, even the most hard-headed tweeter would have to admit that it shows making a mistake on Twitter doesn’t automatically mean descending into the kind of pariah who sues puppets.



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