The IEC Results Operation Centre (ROC) at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
The IEC Results Operation Centre (ROC) at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Social media is a poor oracle for election results

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published May 18, 2019

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If social media was real, South Africa would be preparing to inaugurate Julius Malema as president at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday. The opposition benches would be made up of Andile Mngxitama’s Black Land First Party and Kanthan Pillay’s Capitalist Party of South Africa (ZACP).

Twitter though, thankfully, isn’t the real world.

The only thing the twitterati got right last week was that Jimmy Manyi might have got a real ATM for himself and a plus one at least for the next five years.

Hubris, though, put a lot of people on the backside - just as it did Icarus when he dared to fly too close to the sun - probably because far too many of them believe the arrant nonsense that keeps looping in their own echo chambers of social media.

One of the funniest (and saddest) had to be Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who after telling all and sundry he’d be president, was crying foul when his party only managed 4839 votes, even though he’d deployed 5000 party agents.

But just as those platforms bolster self-delusion, they can also be incredibly brutal, the purple cow(s) was eviscerated for having vowed to get a couple of seats in Parliament, only to forfeit their IEC deposit altogether.

In an election people will smile at you, wear your T-shirts and drink the electric cool-aid the hucksters give them - and still vote for someone else.

The Freedom Front Plus had 13700 Twitter followers by last Saturday when the results were announced - but 414861 actual votes. Nobody saw the moribund ethnocentric IFP making a Lazarus-like leap from the grave either, while the EFF’s dramatic growth was a lot less than the clamour the twitterati would have liked.

The true story of Wednesday, May 8, is that only one in two of South Africa’s eligible 35.9 million voters pitched up on the day - and even then, it was a blood bath for parties like the PAC, Cope and Agang. Who knows what effect those missing millions might have had?

We can only hope that Mngxitama got the message. Right to the end, he was blaming the media; a man who got far more airtime and column inches for being a boorish bully and Gupta-bot than he ever deserved.

Puppet Chester Missing, as always, was spot on. When BLF was on 2000 votes (they eventually got 1915 - 4000 more than the purple cow) he tweeted “turns out it’s Death”.

Conrad Koch’s puppet had the last word on the commander-in-thief too: “It turns out that when Julius said he would be the president after these elections he meant of the Inanda Club.”

The biggest lesson for all of us, in particular the media (not that we should need teaching), has to be to stop giving social media far more importance than it actually deserves - and giving the bullsh****rs more oxygen than they merit.

If we can do that, we can maybe focus on the real work at hand; creating a better country for all, all the time. God knows, we need to.

* Ritchie is a journalist and former newspaper editor.

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