17/11/2017 01:33 GMT | Updated 17/11/2017 01:48 GMT

The Stats On The Social Media Race To The Presidency Are Interesting

As the ANC presidency campaigns intensify, often marred by scandals, it's interesting to monitor social media chatter as it relates to SA's political scene.

Mujahid Safodien/ AFP/ Getty Images
South African President Jacob Zuma (L), former African Union Chairperson and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (C) and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

As the ANC presidency campaigns intensify, they have been marred by scandals, violence at the Eastern Cape Electoral Conference, and renewed calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down by some sectors of society and opposition parties. The question of succession is a pressing one, and it's interesting to monitor social media chatter as it relates to the South African political scene.

Two recent events created quite a stir online. On Thursday, 21 September 2017, ANC presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was sworn in to parliament. On the same day, Dr Makhosi Khoza dropped a bomb that sent shock waves across social media by resigning from the ANC.

WordStart, in collaboration with Crimson Hexagon, has investigated, tracked and analysed the social media conversations, the sentiment, and public social media perceptions, as they relate to these two events. This specific analysis forms part of a larger piece of social media research that will investigate the race to the ANC presidency, to be decided at the electoral conference in December this year.

An analysis of social media data for the period September 1 to October 1 2017 reveals just over 16,000 posts on the topic of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Makhosi Khoza, with the most mentions happening on Twitter on September 21, 2017. Some people on social media felt the move to swear in Dlamini-Zuma would position her campaign more effectively in the running for the party's top post.

The graph below shows the total number of posts that mention both Dlamini-Zuma and Khoza throughout the period, and the September 21 spike is clearly evident. Leading up to September 21, social media conversations were dominated by the public's choice of ANC candidates. As factions within the ANC and the public at large align with their candidate for party president, we see more linked social conversations, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa often mentioned alongside Dlamini-Zuma.

Makhosi Khoza began making a greater appearance in social media mentions from September 5, with some public mentions speaking about her redeployment from the chairperson of the public service and administration committee to the economic development oversight committee. We see social media making more mentions of Khoza on the September 10 and 11, following her nonattendance of a disciplinary hearing.

Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

One day in September

September 21 saw most of the posts being shared on social media, with 90 percent of the 4,954 posts that were picked up coming from Twitter; the majority posted by members of the public watching parliamentary proceedings. The surname "Khoza" appears 3,805 times, mostly on Twitter, followed by "Dlamini" with 717 appearances and "Zuma", which accounts for 760 mentions.

"Zuma" has overlaps between the president and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma -- both of whom come up a lot in social media mentions on September 21. When looking deeper into the social media data, we also note mentions of ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, whose surname comes up in 108 mentions, both in the media's and the public's posts.

Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Twitter mentions still largely referenced media houses, who were the ones sharing real-time events from parliament. The public sentiment on the data sourced by WordStart and Crimson Hexagon on September 21 are negative towards the ANC, while suggesting that the resignation was a positive move on the part of Makhosi Khoza, which in turn also supports her perspective on the corruption within the ANC.

Although Twitter was the most dominant platform on September 21, accounting for 90 percent of total mentions (or 4,482), there was also a general dominance of media outlets that South Africans are generally known to follow for daily content.

It is also worth noting that most news content ends up on Twitter and other social platforms, which further added to the overall mentions among the 16,084 for the month. Most Facebook content is kept private and not available for usage or analysis by outside platforms –– as a result, the numbers relating to Facebook mentions remain low.

Most prevalent social media topics

Social media data shows President Jacob Zuma as the common link in all mentions of both Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Dr Makhosi Khoza. In the case of Khoza, people make mention of the president in association with the resignation and the reason for the disciplinary hearing.

A perception also exists that Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been installed in parliament by the president as a way to help her party presidential campaign gain momentum.

A snapshot of the first 4,000 posts shows Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with greater prominence. He was mentioned a lot in relation to his campaign, now that Dlamini-Zuma is in parliament. Some of the data also alludes to allegations of an affair, which some people think may affect Ramaphosa's run for ANC president.

The first 5,000 posts also show themes that include ANC corruption, the Gupta family and the ANC elective conference in December. Some earlier and less prominent themes -- as shown below -- begin to decline as more post data is included.

Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

Most active content drivers

People on social media were vocal throughout the month, from Khoza's public criticism of ANC processes, and her insistence that the Pietermaritzburg High Court had ruled the party's provincial leadership unlawfully elected, to her invitation to the media as she prepared for the September 21 announcement.

The most influential Twitter content was driven by media outlets, which account for 15 of the top 20 most influential post authors. The DA was also among the most influential authors over the period.

Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

We begin to see an even split of individuals and media in the top 10 of the most active Twitter users over the period. The list below is a collection of Twitter accounts that had the most tweets on the topic of Makhosi Khoza and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in September 2017.

Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon
Data made available to WordStart by Crimson Hexagon

As the ANC pre-election campaign for presidency takes shape among various candidates, some of the big occurrences of September brought up many assumptions across social media.

People are referring to strategies that are being employed by candidates that are in the running for the presidency, and how Khoza's resignation may have impacted these strategies. The president is perceived by social media as being aligned with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign, and some ANC structures also came up in conversations.

WordStart and Crimson Hexagon will be analysing more data as the campaigns intensify in the lead-up to the December 2017 ANC elective conference.

This post was first featured on WordStart as part of ongoing research leading up to the ANC elective conference in December.