TikTok star Mfumo Bamuza uses platform to fight Covid-19 disinformation

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Influencer Mfumo Bamuza uses TikTok to fight misinformation around Covid-19 and vaccines.
Influencer Mfumo Bamuza uses TikTok to fight misinformation around Covid-19 and vaccines.
  • TikTok star Mfumo Bamuza uses the platform to fight Covid-19 disinformation.
  • Bamuza believes he reaches audiences that government communication does not.
  • Bamuza also works as a debate coach.

When Mfumo Bamuza joined TikTok in March 2020, he wanted to use it to stave off boredom during the Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown.

Since then, he has become one of the most influential South Africans on the social media site. His short videos debunking disinformation about Covid-19 and encouraging people to get vaccinated are very popular and have garnered him nearly 60 000 followers on TikTok.

Bamuza uses music to make his messaging around Covid-19 relevant, humorous and educational. He also shares the videos on Twitter and Instagram.

This week, he went viral after filming himself getting his second Pfizer vaccine dose. In the video, he dances with the vaccination site staff as he demonstrates how easy getting vaccinated is.

Since deciding to concentrate on Covid-19 messaging, he has done short clips explaining lockdown regulation levels and how Covid-19 variants work. He also answers frequently asked questions about the vaccine side effects.

Bamuza tells News24 he sees himself as one of the local content creators filling the gap that government communicators miss when they develop messaging around Covid-19.

"The government needs to understand that the world is going digital. They need to recognise the best way to get young people to hear your message is to use these platforms. But also, you need to pay creators like myself to push this message. They must realise that the arts and content creators have the social muscle the government wants."

READ | Covid-19: Children won't get jabs for now, says health minister

He has worked with corporate brands like Discovery Health and says they are more willing to take a gamble on social media.

"Corporates are understanding the use of social media. They understand TikTok is the biggest app right now. They understand that you need to engage directly with [vaccine] hesitant people," Bamuza says.

Fighting misinformation

He says he had no plans to be an influencer or social media activist. It has happened organically after realising there is a lot of online misinformation that needs to be tackled.

"I realised there was so much misinformation, generally. The misinformation is there because there is so much fearmongering about Covid-19 and vaccines.

"I won't lie and say I wanted to be an influencer. I started doing videos and got noticed by TikTok, and they selected me to be one of the rising voices for 2020. They trained us on how to engage with brands and to market ourselves as a business. That's when I noticed that this is actually serious," Bamuza says.

Some of the videos receiving the most engagement, he says, are the ones posted after getting vaccinated. "I wanted to show people that I don't only talk a big game. I went to get vaccinated, and these are the symptoms I experienced. The engagement was amazing, and people asked me a lot of questions. I could take them through all the steps and show that there was nothing to be afraid of."

He admits he doesn't always get positive engagement.

I get called a sell-out every day and I get comments like I work for white monopoly capital. What I always tell them is that they can criticise but don't be rude about it.
 

Bamuza says, for him, social media metrics aren't important. What's important is starting conversations and debunking myths.

"When I work with brands, I tell them I am not going to promise them metrics. I can't promise thousands and thousands of shares, but I can promise awareness and engagement. People will talk, whether it is the engagement you want or don't want."

READ HERE | Africa Covid jab shortfall could take world 'back to square one', says WHO

Bamuza works as a debate coach for three high schools in Johannesburg. He says because of his job, he has always been a news junkie.

"I keep up on current affairs because I also have to coach my kids. When my kids discover me on social media, they really love it. They are really fond of it. I also use it to spark creativity in their speeches."

He is already planning videos and messaging around the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

The conversation on the fourth wave is going to be different. We need to make people understand that this virus mutates and if we don't vaccinate, we are going to see another harsh wave. If we don't push harder for vaccination, we are going to see a lot of deaths.

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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