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How social media changed face of politics post 1994

Fikile Mbalula stands a chance to win.
Fikile Mbalula stands a chance to win.
Image: Esa Alexander

In the days leading up to the first democratic elections in 1994, it was almost obvious that most black people were going to vote for the ANC.

The party, which held hopes of freedom from oppression for many, knew it had the elections in the bag.

This was mainly because it was one of the very few parties whose vision for SA resonated with citizens.

Not in 2019, where the 25 years of democracy has seen the emergence of many political parties - 48 to be exact - it is not clear where majority of the votes are going.

Before the age of the internet, and eventually social media, parties would only depend on door-to-door campaigns, but this changed dramatically post-1994 with the introduction of social media, which has changed the face of politics.

As the country is gearing towards its sixth democratic general elections, parties are forced to conform and use social media to campaign. "We are campaigning on social media as you can see," said ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula.

"We are able to share our thoughts and engage in the national discourse. We have been on social media forever, go and look at our followers. We have over 600,000... we are on Twitter, we are on Facebook, we are on LinkedIn, we are rolling out our television news channel on social media. We are everywhere," he said.

There are over 2.3-billion people on Facebook across the world, with 16-million of them in SA. It was reported in 2017 that those on Twitter were over eight million.

There are over 26-million people registered to vote in the upcoming general elections, and if it can be assumed that of that number, at least 10-million are on social media, then it would make sense for political parties to attempt to reach them on their comfortable social media platforms.

The DA has almost completely conformed. The party goes to an extent of putting money behind their social media through advertising.

"Social media has contributed greatly to the ecosystem of political campaigning in that it's a tool in the arsenal of political campaigns. It's the most direct way to interact with voters outside the day-to-day activities and ground activity," said DA's communications director Mabine Seabe.

Social movement groups such as Country Duty, led by Tumi Sole, have managed to not only change the political narrative in the country but to also alert the powers-that-be on some of the issues faced by the masses.

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