Initial reactions to finance minister, Pravin Gordhan’s, trip recall

President Jacob Zuma dropped a major political bombshell yesterday when he recalled his arch-nemesis, finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas (who had allegedly previously refused a bribe from the Gupta brothers), from their international roadshow promoting South Africa in the UK and US.

Speculation is rife around the action. Many believe that President Zuma is taking this opportunity to remove Gordhan from his cabinet position in order to replace him with a more pliable alternative in the form of former Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe, who resigned after being fingered for impropriety in former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report (you can see our unpacking of that report here and an interactive visualisation here).

I started collecting tweets mentioning ‘pravin gordhan‘ and ‘mcebisi jonas‘ (and variations thereof) yesterday soon after the President’s shock announcement. As of this morning, over 12,000 tweets have been generated using these terms, and there are likely many more to come, depending on the severity of President Zuma’s unilateral actions (ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, has already distanced the party from the president’s actions).

This is what the conversation around Gordhan and Jonas’ recall looks like:

Interaction network of over 12,000 tweets mentioning Pravin Gordhan or Mcebisi Jonas (27-28 March 2017). We connect users when they interact with each other via retweets and @mentions, and we use the Louvain Modularity algorithm to identify distinct communities (highlighted in different colours).

I’m not going to spend the usual time breaking down the communities involved since most of the retweeting is coming from journalists and other personalities, and it appears that a broad cross-section of South African society is interacting with their content, so clear communities have yet to emerge. It is worth noting that the Zuma-Gupta-BLF-Manyi complex has a minimal presence in the data – they only represent the 19th largest community (see green community in top right of the map), hopefully implying that their partisan (to put it mildly) messaging is having little impact in the greater narrative at this stage (although one might argue that the damage is already done).

Here are the top 10 retweets so far:

We now wait for our president to show his hand. Will he succeed in capturing the entirety of government in the next few days in order to further the creation of a predatory, rent seeking state in South Africa? If so, how will South Africans respond? Or, are we blowing it all out of proportion and there’s really nothing to see here?

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