South Africa riots: journalist writes open letter to Twitter boss

Jack Dorsey - Twitter CEO

Dear @jack,

As you may be aware by now, South Africa is burning (check the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal if you need a summary). What you might not know is that your platform is being abused by political antagonists to flame the violence engulfing the country’s eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the economic hub.

In recent days, as the looters ransacked shopping centres and businesses and brazenly torched buildings, destroying jobs and livelihoods, prominent accounts associated with former President Jacob Zuma have been posting incendiary tweets that no sensible person would see as anything other than incitement to violence.

I know Twitter cannot deal with every bot and idiot on its platform, but it should be dealing actively with prominent accounts that are deliberately fanning the flames of violence. You are failing to do this, Jack. You are failing South Africa.

The @JGZ_Foundation account tweeted on Tuesday that “peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect”. Given the tinderbox nature of the situation, and the real possibility that reckless social media comments could exacerbate the volatile situation on the ground, this tweet is at best extremely reckless. At worst, it may have helped fuel the scenes of carnage and mayhem engulfing Durban and other towns and cities across KwaZulu-Natal.I’d like to point you to two Twitter accounts in particular, one belonging to the foundation run by our now-jailed former president, Jacob Zuma – in effect, the leader of the kleptocratic wing of the ANC, the former liberation movement and now political party that has led South Africa since the end of apartheid. For background, the Zuma faction, which looted state resources during its nine years in office, is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the reformers in the ruling party, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa. And there is growing evidence that the kleptocrats are involved:

The second high-profile account that needs your urgent attention, Jack, belongs to one Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, the former president’s daughter, who, before the worst of the looting and violence took place, was posting highly incendiary tweets, one of which showed unnamed people discharging a firearm or firearms at a poster of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Zuma-Sambudla subsequently deleted that tweet, no doubt on advice – but no action was taken by Twitter, despite active reporting of it.

Other highly problematic tweets by Zuma-Sambudla, like the one below (which I post here with great reluctance), remain up on your platform:


What does it take for Twitter to act, Jack? If those tweets had been posted by anyone associated with former US President Donald Trump, I have no doubt that you would have acted with great haste to delete tweets and suspend accounts. Do you apply a different set of policies to the developing world? Why have you not acted? Why are you allowing your platform to be abused like this as South Africa, my country, burns?

Duncan McLeod
Editor: TechCentral


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