Tweeto no more: Mboweni breaks up with 'abusive' Twitter

2019-10-30 08:20
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during a media brief
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during a media briefing after his first mid-term budget speech at Parliament on October 24, 2018 in Cape Town (Gallo Images / Times Live / Esa Alexander) ~ Gallo Images

Just before 2am on the day he has to present what may be the most important medium-term budget in SA’s history, finance minister Tito Mboweni announced his decision that he won’t tweet his own thoughts in future.

“I came to the conclusion that Twitter is no longer about its original purpose: i.e. to create a networked society. It is now an abusive platform,” Mboweni tweeted.

For many years, Mboweni has been active and controversial on the social media platform, earning him the moniker “Tweeto” in some quarters.

Earlier this year, he picked a public fight with Gauteng Premier David Makhura after tweeting that users of e-tolls must pay. "I don’t know why the middle and upper classes in Gauteng want to complicate our lives. The working class do not pay e-tolls!! Public transport! Hello…"

Makhura, who supported the abolishment of etolls, in turn tweeted that he referred the matter to President Cyril Ramaphosa for "final resolution". He added that Mboweni was just a minister, and not president.

Mboweni tweeted that Makhura should not "pick a fight" with the finance minister who is in charge of provincial allocation.

Mboweni also stirred up controversy by comparing, unfavourably, the state of downtown Johannesburg with Kigali.

While his Twitter stream wasn’t short of polemical views, many of his followers were there only for the food:

In September, Mboweni announced that he would take a Twitter break until December.

But on Wednesday, it became clear that this would become more permanent.

Some of his followers, including journalist and broadcaster Redi Tlhabi, urged him to remain on the social media platform: 

For now, Mboweni has larger concerns than the mean streets of South African Twitter: After an unenthusiastic response to government’s rescue plan for Eskom on Tuesday, the focus will be on his medium-term budget speech on Wednesday afternoon which should include more definite details on how government will deal with the power utility's R450bn debt burden.

Time is running out as Moody’s, the only ratings agency that hasn’t “junked” South Africa yet, will announce its new rating on Friday.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman