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A botched Twitter campaign shows the crisis in Nelson Mandela’s once-great party

The African National Congress twitter campaign #WeAreANC fails ahead of its January 8 birthday celebrations
Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Protesters call for the removal of President Jacob Zuma outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings – RTX2RJRX
  • Lynsey Chutel
By Lynsey Chutel


Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Africa’s oldest liberation party learned this week just how irreverent the social media generation could be. Ahead of its 105th birthday celebrations, the African National Congress invited South Africans to share a photo or video of the party’s work in their constituency.

The campaign backfired immediately:

The ANC’s spokesman Zizi Kodwa tried to spin the tweetstorm in a positive light, saying the social media campaign “exceeded” expectations. “Whether positive or negative the ANC achieved its goal of highlighting its values and beliefs,” said Kodwa. He added that the party would use the feedback they received as a teaching moment.

Twitter may not be a robust survey of the party’s approval rating, but it is reflective of the public’s frustration with Nelson Mandela’s party. As the ANC prepares to celebrate more than a century as a political movement on Jan. 8, it is reeling from a year of corruption scandals and the loss of urban metros in the local government elections, including the economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

Still, the party confidently marches on. It will celebrate with a birthday bash in a football stadium. The celebrations honor Oliver Tambo, a fighter of Mandela’s generation, and will be held in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a historically significant area for the ANC where it fought battles against apartheid on the streets and behind closed doors. This, however, is also the region where the ANC has lost significant support.

On twitter, the ANC tweaked its campaign to the much more passive strategy of asking users to add a twibbon in the form of the ANC’s logo to their profile pictures.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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