080310 The new offices of SARS at corner Rissik street and Albert street. Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Johannesburg - While the finance world was glued to Fiance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s speech on Wednesday, the same cannot be said for social media.

This speech was set to be his toughest yet as SA faces growth of less than a percent this year, and Gordhan had to reassure international ratings agencies that he had done enough to stave off a downgrade to junk status.

Downgrading SA to junk will make it harder for the country to borrow money internationally and, give the high debt-to-gross domestic product ratio, Gordhan also had to assure that he was clamping down on spending.

While Gordhan announced spending cuts in areas such as freezing non essential posts, and that the office of the chief procurement officer would claw back R25 billion on tenders each year for the next three years, there was very little of substance otherwise in the speech.

Analysts, so far, seem mixed as to whether the minister went far enough to put SA on the path to financial stability.

Read also: Gordhan: ‘enough done to avoid junk status’

Although social media, in the form of those on Twitter, paid attention to the speech, the volume of conversation (43 680 conversations) was significantly lower than this year’s State of the Nation Address (345 964) - a similar trend to the last few year, says youKnow MD Kelvin Jonck.

Leading up to the speech, there were some fluctuations in the sentiment towards the speech itself. On the day of the speech, 18 percent of the conversation was positive, 21 percent was negative and the bulk (62 percent) was neutral and just information sharing.

Jonck adds, more interestingly, the sentiment trend is that of growing positivity (11 percent growth trend) and a small (2 percent) growth in negativity. Most importantly, the speech itself helped to polarise the population and there was a 12 percent decline in neutral conversation, he says.

Gordhan was the biggest topic of conversation among South Africans on social media, at 17 percent of all conversations. The majority of this discussion was related to his speech quality (positive) and small mannerisms noticed by the community - such as his sniffing, says Jonck.

Read also: Austere budget fails to reassure

Looking specifically at the speech topics discussed by the community, the biggest topics were taxation as well as the minister’s approach to parastatals (both at 14 percent), which Jonck says makes then very hot topics for South Africans. Gordhan warned that state-owned entities must cut costs and that bail outs will depend on them meeting commitments.

Jonck adds the stats show job creation (12 percent) received the next most online conversation due to the minister’s focus on small and medium entities being the mechanism through which jobs will be created.

“Interestingly, and despite increased investment in the sector, education only received 6 percent of the overall conversation. Similarly, the minister's steps to tighten financial management and sound financial practices also received a fairly low 6 percent.”