The Democratic Alliance is messing up on Twitter

By Mighti Jamie
/// Posted April 29, 2018


To put it bluntly the Democratic Alliance has been holding the wooden mike on Twitter most of this year.

There is no question that social media will play a role in the next election as it has in other major global elections. We all spend more time than we should daily on WhatsApp, facebook, instagram and Twitter. We share articles, we comment, we argue daily on social media. A party that wants to perform well next year will have to do well on several platforms.

Twitter is arguably the go-to spot for politics. It’s a blitz and it’s a tough playground. If you can’t make it on Twitter it portends badly for your electoral prospects. Twitter is a microcosm of greater society and actually influences societal conversations quite significantly these days.The DA has been doing badly on Twitter. It’s still early days to call it, but if it continues messing up on Twitter it is going to lose votes next year. Specifically they have been doing poorly with Black Twitter. It’s the demographic that the DA is trying to attract if it’s going to grow into a governing party.

Allow me to elaborate on why I am saying this. Consider the following Twitter missteps :

Ugogo uHelen

Helen Zille is the most prominent DA personality on Twitter with 1.3 million followers. Her tweeting habits are oftentimes no different from those of Donald Trump. She constantly aggravates Black Twitter with her revisitations of the colonialism debate.

Helen wants to make a point that it was not wholly bad and that some aspects of colonialism have a positive legacy. She says that Mandela made this argument and several historians have done the same. This all stems from her tweets on this topic last year where she offended many and had to apologise several times.

Without diving deep into the debate at this point, it’s merely important to note that many are offended each time she does this. It’s an insensitive line of argument to many and it’s an argument that Helen does not have to keep making and belabouring. It seems that Helen aptly revealed a lot about herself when she titled her memoirs “Not without a fight”. Her eagerness to get into the ring has led to her picking this lose/lose fight. Even if ,(assuming but not conceding) she is right, winning that point still loses you an audience that is unwilling to accept the crumbs of colonialism. If you lose the argument outright, you still incur the indignation of the audience. As an astute political player it’s not clear why she would take on that kind of a fight.

Most recently she attempted to have this debate with Sizwe Dhlomo and he capably routed her. The exchange and the comments from followers on Twitter is a great litmus test to where the South African public stands on this matter. Helen has been dragging her party down on social media for a while now.

Mini Mandela

Looking at the next most prominent DA linked account on Twitter which belongs to Bra Mini Mandela. Mmusi Maimane has 921.9k followers to date. His Twitter account has grown rapidly over the  last few years due to lots of promotion from the party. It hasn’t been an organic growth and has heavily relied on twitter analytics and social media strategists. Let’s put that aside though and examine responses to Mmusi on Twitter.

Mmusi’s comments that people call him everyday and tell him that he is a mini Mandela were widely mocked. Firstly that’s because no one calls him that, secondly it seems like a continuation of the DA narrative of trying to paint Mmusi as the great black saviour. There was a time when “Obama of Soweto” was used to describe him. Black Twitter is getting tired of Mr Dumelang Bagaetsho.

One of the most telling tweets about how people view Maimane on twitter simply reads, “retweet if you think Mmusi Maimane is annoying” it currently has over 6280 retweets in only 3 days. That’s a viral tweet in South Africa. It underscores that Mmusi is coming across to many as a man playing along to a script. His authenticity is in question. There is a oft quoted standard in the hip hop community, one has to “keep it real” and the perception is that Mmusi does not keep it real at all. He is as real as a Mcdonald's beef patty.

We can fairly draw a conclusion that the two biggest Twitter accounts associated with the DA are doing badly on Twitter but more specifically Black Twitter.


It’s more than just the consternation created by the two most prominent DA leaders on Twitter. It’s also how the DA has handled their biggest internal scandal this year. That being #DeLilleGate. That’s not really a hashtag that has taken off but it has potential. The decision taken to remove Patricia DeLille has been made stubbornly with no consideration of the optics. The optics have been horrible.Natasha Mazzone and several other leaders twitter accounts have tried to make the case why the removal of DeLille is legitimate but they are getting limited support on the platform.

One of the quickest ways to measure potency of message is to access its retweets and the replies. Simply put If you have lots of retweets and positive replies then you are doing well. If you have lots of retweets and bad replies then you are getting attention but not the kind that you actually want.

If you do a cursory search of the #DeLille trend, you will find that predominantly people retweet and positively respond to Patricia De Lille’s position in this dispute. They do not retweet Maimane and Mazonne, these are relative assessments of course. Further reading the replies to posts made by Mazonne on this issue you can tell that black Twitter is simply not buying it.

Mama Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela Mandela

The last thing I want to point out is the twitter response by the DA to the death of Mama Winnie. The political arena has often been described using the metaphor of a room full of people, one of the most important skills in politics is the ability to read the room. One of the deadliest mistakes in politics is to misread the room.

When Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela passed on, the room that was South Africa said the following.

1. We loved this woman deeply

2. We want to celebrate this woman’s life

3. We are deeply hurt to have lost this woman.

4. We do not appreciate the media narrative told about this woman while she was alive.

5. This woman was the mother of our nation.

Those are the very clear messages from the room. That message was loudest on Twitter. When eNCA initially took an editorial path that sought to impugn Mama Winnie the backlash from Twitter was immediate and intense. It befuddles how a political party could misread the feedback from the nation on this matter.

But that’s just what the DA did looking at how they responded to the death of Mama Winnie as a party they scored 1/10.

I am going to focus on two things to prove my point.

There was a divided message from the party and it’s leaders. Officially the party did issue a statement and commemorated her during their congress. That was not the source of the division. On Twitter the black leaders Mmusi Maimane, Makushele Gana and Phumzile Van Damme offered condolences to the nation and attempted to be on the right side of the issue.

However the white leadership said a lot by saying nothing. They say sometimes silence speaks volumes. When I am mourning and to say nothing we are not united.Their silence screamed to the people an insensitivity and an inability to grasp the moment. They could not let go of the grudges the party developed under the leadership of Tony Leon. Examining the timelines of three prominent white leaders James Selfe, Natasha Mazzone and John Steenhuisen not a single iota was utilised to speak on the passing of “the mother of the nation.” Whether you the reader agree with the moniker or not is not the issue. Black Twitter had taken a clear consensus position, to not endorse that position as party leadership would have the effect of undermining what the party said elsewhere.

Many people on twitter noticed this discrepancy within the DA and further entrenched the emerging view that this is a duplicitous organisation. One that lacks empathy with the black lived condition.

Basically the white leaders of the DA said absolutely nothing on social media. They did not offer the nation that was mourning condolences. Black Twitter also noticed that the Democratic Alliance did not attempt to send a party delegation of supporters to the funeral. The stadium was full of green, yellow, black and red T-shirt’s. Conspicuous in the their absence were the blue t shirts that are part of the DA national brand.  That provided a real world corroboration of what was clearly evident on Twitter. The white leadership of the DA wanted nothing to do with this moment of suffering that the people were going through.

There is talk of an internal DA poll that showed the party voter base to be stagnant. It seems the party is still on 2014 voter numbers. In light of this, there is a risk that the party will either stay at 22% of the electorate or even diminish in size for the first time since its inception. If these accounts are true, social media performance becomes even more important to the party. Dropping the ball is something the DA can not afford to be doing and yet it’s been the order of the day for the last four months.



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