Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Johannesburg - South Africans have taken to Twitter, Facebook and blogs to throw their weight behind Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan amid reports that he could be arrested.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that Gordhan could face arrest for his involvement in the SA Revenue Service’s “rogue unit”.
Gordhan, in an impassioned statement on Tuesday night, said the “malicious rumours and accusations about 'espionage' activities are false and manufactured for other motives.”
Meanwhile, social media has lit up amid the drama, according to research conducted by international online media monitoring company Meltwater, which has an office in Cape Town.
The company used its tools this week to scan the web for mentions of Pravin Gordhan’s name over the past few weeks. And the company found that overall sentiment online was of a negative nature and supportive of the minister.
Twitter, in particular, recorded the highest number of mentions about plans to supposedly arrest Gordhan with over 1 000 discussions on the matter, according to Meltwater.
“I think historically Twitter has been the platform of choice for people with dissident voices. It’s been used for Pan-Africanism. It’s been used for a number of different causes,” Wesley Mathew, marketing manager for Meltwater, told Fin24 by phone.
“I think because it’s easy, it’s quick and speak directly to the person you’re talking to,” said Mathew.
Meanwhile, Facebook recorded the second highest number of online conversations of Gordhan followed by forums, comments, blogs and YouTube.
Twitter had 6.6 million users in South Africa in 2015 while Facebook recorded 11.8 million local users, according to research from World Wide Worx.
Twitter, though, is becoming the main platform in South Africa for political conversations, said Mathew.
“As mobile penetration grows and data packages become more affordable for the everyday man, I think Twitter is going to play a bigger role in the South African market,” said Mathew.
Global news reports
But news organisations in the US and China also picked up on the Gordhan story, said Mathew.
The month of May has so far seen 295 online articles in the US detailing reports surrounding Gordhan, according to Meltwater.
The story was also picked up on English-speaking websites in China, which is South Africa’s biggest trade partner.
“There was quite a lot of discussion both on the editorial side as well as the social side,” Mathew told Fin24.
“There was something in the order of 295 articles in May alone in the United States that include the words 'Pravin Gordhan', which is obviously quite high,” he said.
Reports of Gordhan’s possible arrest have shaken the rand which on Friday was trading at a fresh low for the week of R15.8 to the US dollar.