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With 2.63m followers Fikile Mbalula is most followed SA Cabinet member on Twitter

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is the most following government leader on Twitter. Picture: File

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is the most following government leader on Twitter. Picture: File

Published Dec 20, 2021


Pretoria - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is the most followed South African Cabinet member on Twitter, with 2.63 million followers, beating President Cyril Ramaphosa.

However, Mbalula was also found wanting for not using the platform to disseminate information related to his department.

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The 2021 report, compiled by GovCommSocial, took issue with the fact his prominence was a result of him engaging in Twars, or twitter wars, and not necessarily sharing information about his department.

GovCommSocial, an initiative of Decode Communications, is described as a platform supporting public sector social media professionals and government communicators by facilitating training, hosting events and organising a community of digital marketers across Africa.

The report said: “Mbalula’s Twitter growth is as a result of his engagement in wars and not so honourable responses rather than communicating his department’s programmes and messages.”

Although Ramaphosa was not handling the Presidency Twitter account, the report found it was the second most popular with 2.1 million followers.

Mbalula and Ramaphosa were in the top 10-followed Twitter accounts of Cabinet ministers.

Despite Mbalula commanding a huge following on Twitter, it was discovered his department was the least followed when compared with the other 10 most popular departments on the platform.

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For example, his department had 6 100 followers while the Presidency topped all the departments with 2.5 million followers. The SAPS came second with 899 000 followers.

In the category of ministers’ spokespersons, Masechaba Ndlovu of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture was ranked No 1 with more than 505 000 followers.

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba took the second position with at least 60 000 following.

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Gauteng MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi led the pack of the top 10 provincial MECs with a following of 329 000 on Twitter, while his ANC chairperson and Premier David Makhura was second with 223 000 people following him.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zihle Zikalala and Gauteng Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko were ranked in the third and fourth positions, respectively.

The report said: “Lesufi is the most followed provincial leader.

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“KZN Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu experienced the biggest growth among the provincial leaders at 91% followed by Zikalala at 50%.”

Interestingly, the report mentioned that the majority of ministers’ spokespeople didn’t use their Twitter presence to promote the work and messages of their departments and principals.

“The spokesperson of Cabinet, Phumla Williams’ following has increased by almost 50%. Although the head of digital communications in the Presidency Athi Geleba is not a spokesperson for the President, she is probably among the most visible voices among government communicators , her following has increased by 56%,” it said.

Some Twitter accounts credited to Cabinet ministers were considered in the report. It was noted that they were “still not verified, thus missing the opportunity to be trusted sources even in times where misinformation and disinformation are becoming pervasive and worrying”.

The report also took note of the most talked about events on Twitter in 2021, naming the procurement of vaccines by the government and the ANC’s significant loss of support during the first local government elections held during a pandemic, as among the top stories.

The arrest of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court and the subsequent unrest also made the cut.

Among other topics were Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle, former health minister Zweli Mkhize’s resignation, cyber-attacks of the Department of Justice and Correctional Services and Transnet and the death of FW de Klerk.

Pretoria News