Nicolette Dirk and Carlo Petersen
#FeesMustFall and #NationalShutdown were the top hashtags for 2015 in South African news, the annual Twitter review has shown.
The survey looked at the top South African events that created the biggest trends in 2015 and which were sorted into categories such as sport and news.
The survey found that overall South Africans are a nation who enjoyed watching television, especially news and sports.
Twitter spokesperson and blogger Alexandra Valasek said #FeesMustFall and #NationalShutdown hashtags sparked massive public debate, reached a global audience and had students from around the world united.
Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) social media manager Mohammed Abdulla said: “The media hype sparked by UCT student activist Chumani Maxwele’s poo-flinging onto the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the university made us realise we needed to use social media platforms to write our own narrative.”
Abdulla said reports on the RMF campaign were often skewed due to “media houses having their own agenda”.
“We needed to tell our own story and Twitter provided us with the platform to upload links to blogs, pictures, videos and detailed updates to mobilise our members.
“RMF started the #FeesMustFall and the #NationalShutdown hashtags, and we quickly got over 10 000 followers after the actions students took at Wits.
“The beauty about social media is that it is unfiltered and gives all our members and supporters access to what we are now calling the ‘The Decolonisation Project’,” Abdulla said.
He said after the success of the #FeesMustFall campaign, the movement faced a negative backlash from “a third force”.
“We then had to be careful what we posted online because we were obviously being watched after having taken on government.
“We saw strange things happening like information being leaked online and a few violent incidents of apparent intimidation.
“I guess the beauty of social media is that it allows us to be transparent and gain the trust of our supporters and mobilise them.
“But we have learnt that we mustn’t be too transparent because it allows people who are actually against us to infiltrate the movement.”
Abdulla said RMF would be using social media to help the movement launch new campaigns in 2016.
The State of the Nation address, #SONA2015, was among the top five hashtags of Twitter trends in the country this year.
The president’s SONA was upstaged by EFF MPs being removed from the National Assembly, before DA MPs walked out of Parliament.
The temporary lack of cellphone connectivity at the proceedings also added to the hype at this year’s SONA.
With South Africa being a sports-obsessed nation, it was no surprise that the Rugby World Cup hashtag’s #RWC2015 was also one of the top five Twitter trends. Television reality shows like SA Idols was a huge hit in its 11th season among Twitter users, with #IdolsSA one of the top hashtags for television shows in 2015.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s #AskMmusi hashtag also made the top-five list with his controversial tweet, but, according to Twitter, the hashtag made the top five for the wrong reasons.