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Twitter storm after EFF MP Naledi Chirwa's nationality questioned

Published Mar 9, 2020

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Johannesburg - The "shaming" of individuals by questioning their nationality is in the spotlight after a tweet attacking EFF MP Naledi Chirwa.

Twitter user "Lerato Pillay" started the discussion on Sunday, when a user tweeted unsubstantiated allegations that Chirwa's family had fraudulently obtained South African citizenship. The user insinuated there was political ammunition to use against the young EFF MP.

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"One day I will make a thread on how Malawian Naledi Chirwa's family fraudulently obtained South African citizenship. I will also shake the tables and expose their involvement in Nyawupe/whunga business in South Africa," "Lerato Pillay" wrote.

Chirwa has not responded to the allegations, but many social media users came to her defence and highlighted that it is xenophobic to label individuals and question their identity based on differing political views.

Chirwa is known for her outspoken personality and the conversations she drives in Parliament and on social media – whether it is about gender politics or the ANC's lack of service delivery, often resulting in a backlash from those opposed to her politics.

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EFF MP Naledi Chirwa Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

She grew up in Pretoria and rose to prominence as a young student activist at the University of Pretoria during the Fees Must Fall protests.

A number of social media users criticised the attacks on Chirwa as cheap politicking, while others defended the questions over her nationality.

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%%%twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/NalediChirwa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NalediChirwa #Naledi pic.twitter.com/iR4EuEp8a6

— Umfana Uphethi Magic (@Pampie59)

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/NalediChirwa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NalediChirwathese EFF blind loyalists are disgusting 4 defending what Floyd and Marshall did to Gigaba, Clearly they were trying to humiliate him yet they claim to represent the African agenda. This naledi woman is a foreigner and I don't know what she's doing in our Parly😎 https://t.co/T4ZkjrqX6A

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— Muzi (@Nazomagenge2)

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/NalediChirwa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NalediChirwa

— Sharné Zoë (@Zoe_SZi)

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/Julius_S_Malema?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Julius_S_Malema. Citizenship alone can't be the mandatory requirement for someone to be in parliament despite both parents not being natives? #NalediChirwa #malawian pic.twitter.com/RWU1eVdFN6

— Msosti (@soso_songezile)

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/NalediChirwa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NalediChirwa pic.twitter.com/ATvUSOjcre

— ✨Mrs S✨ (@Feather_Ruffler)

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/NalediChirwa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NalediChirwais and will always be a child of South Africa and an African through and through. https://t.co/AaHfrckkSN

— Zovuyo Veronica Mente (@veronica_mente)

Another perspective on the discussion was focused on the EFF and how the party had also perpetuated xenophobic attacks on its political opponents.

EFF MPs Floyd Shivambu and Marshall Dlamini, who respectively serve as the party's deputy president and secretary-general, posed questions to former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba in 2018 on his nationality. This video resurfaced on Twitter on Sunday.

In the clip, Shivambu asked Gigaba: "What is offensive when people ask you about your nationality? It happens every day like when you apply for a visa and people always ask about your nationality about where were you born. 

"Is it not an opportunity to clarify where were you born and where your father was born?"

Gigaba responded: "What is offensive about it, honourable chairperson, is I know for a fact that the source of your question is as malicious as the extensive vilification campaign to which I have been subjected for political reasons. 

"I find it malicious. It would be fine if the honourable members started by telling us who they are and explain what their concerns are before asking who I am.”  

Another video of EFF leader Julius Malema was also reposted on Twitter where he accused former president Jacob Zuma's children, Duduzanne and Duduzile, of not being born in South African and unable to speak isiZulu.

Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane came to Chirwa's defence, saying that all MPs were vetted and that the attacks on Chirwa were based on "Afrophobia". 

Video: Sandisiwe Ntelemeza/African News Agency (ANA)

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