South Africa’s political discourse is robust and relatively diverse. However, this ideological diversity tends to stick within well-defined echo chambers (that often align along racial lines). The white body politic consists of many sub-groups that span the gamut from Far Left to Far Right, and it’s the Far Right that we’re looking at today. This community is represented by the green Alt-Right/MAGA overlap with USA community below (taken from my 2020 political landscape review article) that sits on top of the South African white body politic like a growth (i.e. not fully integrated, which gives some indication that it is not fully homegrown or authentic to the South African context).
My past research has raised red flags about inauthentic behaviour and possible social media manipulation at this interface between the local and international MAGA communities. These groups, in both South Africa and the US, use our country as the posterchild for Third World failure and to bolster the white genocide conspiracy theory. They also REALLY love Donald Trump and QAnon.
What do the people in this group look and sound like? Well, it’s an interesting blurring of South Africa and America, kind of like this guy:
…and influential accounts such as @Marita_1010 (now suspended) below, whose account is a prime example of the way in which local and US issues have become conflated as they interpret South African politics primarily through the lens of US Right Wing ideology:
It turns out that the US Capitol riots (and Twitter’s subsequent actions) have had a devastating impact on this community. Just take a look at the tweet volumes generated by the community in the run up to the Capitol riot, and notice the precipitous drop-off that occurred afterwards (the chart is based on GMT+2 times for South Africa so there’s a slight disconnect in the dates given that the events occurred in EST – a 6 hours difference):
What accounts for this drop off? Twitter announced that they had removed “70,000 QAnon accounts” after the Capitol riot. It looks like that cull occurred on January 7th-8th January and was announced on January 11th. Could these accounts have been part of that cull? It seems likely given the popularity of QAnon hashtags like #WWG1WGA (“Where We Go One, We Go All”) and #SaveTheChildren (child sex trafficking is a QAnon hobby horse) within this community over the years.
A marcher holds up a QAnon poster during a Move ONE Million march in South Africa in 2020. Source: The Daily Maverick
Many of the posts from this community used the hashtag, #HoldTheLine, which dominated discussions in the run up to the riot. One can’t read the actual tweets that used this hashtag though because they have all been deleted (one assumes because their authors were removed by Twitter during the cull):
This drop-off reminds me of the quiet that ensued after the RET faction lost to Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2017 ANC Elective Conference at NASREC. As my analysis showed, the Guptabots went quiet within a few days of that loss, never to be heard from again. The Guptabots were clearly fake accounts, likely run out of India. There’s plenty of reason to believe that this cull similarly caught up many fake accounts given my past research, but it undoubtedly also caught up thousands of real QAnon adherents.
Trumpism is also popular within some parts of South Africa’s Conservative and Libertarian communities. What is the implication, if any, for the future of the #QAnonSA and #MAGASA movements then given that the direct interface between US and South African Far Right elements has been severely diminished?