SA 'loses interest' in politics after vote

Mxit has announced a new smartphone focus. (Mxit)
Mxit has announced a new smartphone focus. (Mxit)
Cape Town - The South African national elections highlighted the engagement on social media between voters and political parties, but interest waned after the vote.

Data from social network Mxit showed that South Africans in droves turned to the platform to engage with political parties.

While the African National Congress has 162 000 Facebook fans and 124 00 followers on Twitter, the party has over 440 000 subscribers on Mxit.

"The apps remain active, though activity is now obviously much lower than in the lead up to the elections," Mxit CEO Francois Swart told News24.

Social media has been growing in popularity in South African politics and a number of political parties have more than one engagement channel.

Healthy democracy

The fact that the engagement dropped after the election was disappointing to some.

"I think it's fair to speculate that now that elections are over, political parties will lift their foot off the social media pedal and relax a little, which is a pity. Democracy is about so much more than elections," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24.

The ANC emerged as the dominant party in the elections, winning 62% of the vote, followed by the Democratic Alliance at 22% and the Economic Freedom Fighters at 6%.

Check out the full election results here

Fleming said that the results indicate that SA has a healthy democracy.

"It feels momentous in that we have managed to come through our fifth national election peacefully with a "free and fair" stamp.
It definitely wasn't a one horse race, despite the ANC still winning over 60%.

"Having said that, the engagement levels on social media were still very shallow."

On Mxit the ANC host a number of "Live Chat" sessions on their MyANC application; the DA's DemocraCITY game was modelled on a mobile version of SIM City where players had the task of taking care of a country.

Mxit said that people in the 18 to 25 year old age bracket were most active on the platform and make up half the user base.

Fleming said that the social media momentum gained during the election period could be harnessed as an engagement platform as parties seek ways to understand the needs of the electorate.

"Ideally, the momentum gained in the last few months would give a great springboard for citizen action to strengthen participation and democratic debate. Only time will tell whether political parties will use the momentum they have gained."

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