SLICE: Politicians to the left; influencers, right! 

The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.  

With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.  

Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC

Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign. 

The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.  

Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.

Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said. 

Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.   

An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.  

This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported  that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”

The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.

I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Aphelele Mbokotho. Photo: File


How social marketing can bring about behavioural change  

Wits highlights how digital platforms, through marketing, can be used as a tool to combat issues that society faces  

The Wits Business School hosted Africa’s first social marketing Association Conference at the professional development hub on east campus, last week, from April 24 to 26. 

The conference was held to promote the use of social marketing — an advertising approach which focuses on influencing people’s behavior with the primary goal of achieving a common good.  

The aim of the conference was to highlight how this form of marketing can combat some of the serious health, social, and environmental issues Africa faces, especially South Africa. 

The event brought together hundreds of academics, practitioners, and social policy makers from across the world to discuss the work they do; and how social marketing is practically solving real life issues. 

Andy Du Plessis, managing director of Food Forward SA discussed how their non-profit company uses a system of virtual food banking to reduce hunger. This is a digital platform that links its beneficiary organisations to the closest participating retail store to collect perishable and non-perishable foods, which in turn is used to feed thousands of people daily.  

The conference included discussions around corruption, which is an extremely prevalent issue in South Africa. Social justice activist Kavisha Pillay at Corruption Watch said besides working to provide a platform for reporting corruption, the organisation has also done campaigns that allow people to denounce wrongdoing.  

One of those campaigns is the “My hands are clean” initiative which encouraged South Africans to post a photo of themselves online holding up one hand, which is a sign that they are taking a stance against corruption. 

Pillay said they did this because, “confronting corruption begins with behavioural change.”  

Head of the Wits Business School, Helen Duh told Wits Vuvuzela, that the conference created opportunities for social marketing scholars to learn “from practitioners and practitioners to learn from scholars”. 

Duh then said that the school’s focus area of research was, “sustainability and well-being,” and that the conference allowed for scholars to, “reflect, debate, discuss, and recommend solutions to the various societal and environmental problems.”

She said she hopes the discussions will attract more workshops and seminars in these areas in the future.  

Chair Head, Professor Debbie Ellis from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Professor Gael O’Sullivan from Georgetown University, USA, and Leah Taub from Premise, USA preparing to engage in a discussion with scholars at the African Social Marketing Association Conference on April 25, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

FEATURED IMAGE: Leah Taub from Premise, USA giving a talk on Crowdsourcing and how it can be used to gather useful information at the Social Marketing Conference on April 25, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright


SLICE: Battling my addiction to social media

For a student journalist, social media can be beneficial if used properly, but it is very easy to cross the line to addiction 

Social media has always been something that puts me at ease after a long and stressful day, but I never imagined that I would become addicted. 

The Addiction Center website defines social media addiction as “a behavioural addiction that is defined by being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas”. 

It all started with me moving away from home in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, in February to study at Wits. The next thing I knew, I was spending a lot of time on my phone to escape the reality of missing home and my family, especially my twin sister. I shy away from interacting with people, though I am capable of conversing with anyone. I would be on my phone swinging among Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.  

At first, I told myself that what could be better for a student journalist than to be on the lookout for goings on around the world without stepping outside my room and talking to people about current affairs, gossip and entertainment? However, I started to notice that I could not ignore a notification tone, and that anything that hindered me from attending to my phone agitated me. Whether I was in the middle of drafting an essay or studying, I could not help but check my social media pages, especially TikTok.  

I tried to limit my screen time to no more than an hour each day, but I consistently came up short. Then I checked my screen time management on my phone settings and discovered that I typically spent close to 20 hours per week, just on TikTok! 

An article by Tanyaradzwa Pamhirwa referred to a 2022 South African Depression and Anxiety Group survey that found that more than 60% of South Africans reported being addicted to social media, and that social media addiction is most common among young people, with 80% of respondents aged 18 to 24 reporting addiction.  

I had always justified my social media usage that it was a distraction from missing my family and that I was not committing any crime by doing what other people my age were doing. So, I would constantly send TikTok videos and Instagram reels to my sister, until one day she called me and said, “You are always online, even during the day!” This is when I realised that I might be addicted to social media because my sister would not be concerned otherwise.

According to the Addiction Centre website, social media is “addictive both physically and psychologically” and self-expression on social media platforms activates the same area of the brain as using an addictive substance. 

This addiction had taken a toll on my wellbeing. I was not as physically active as I used to be. Instead, I lay in bed all the time. My sleeping patterns were irregular because it was impossible to resist the urge to check social media before bed and waking up for school every day would be a drag. I neglected my personal life, resulting in loneliness and anxiety.

My optometrist back home had told me last year that, “You are short-sighted my friend,” after he had tested my vision. My vision has gotten even worse since I started spending a lot of time on social media. I experience eye pain, watery eyes and severe headaches. 

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre says “Spending too many hours staring at a screen can cause eye strain. You tend to blink less while staring at the blue light from a screen, and the movement of the screen makes your eyes work harder to focus.” 

After my sister’s call, I made the decision to spend less time on social media, especially in the newsroom, and to pay attention and interact with my classmates. I now have a good relationship with everyone in class, and I only use my phone during break times. Talking to my family every day helps me miss them less.

Acknowledging an addiction is not easy, but it is the first and most significant step towards getting help. I have been doing research online, reading articles and taking online surveys on what to do to minimise the time I spend on my phone scrolling, double tapping and screenshotting memes.

I am willing to take those baby steps towards battling my addiction and fighting it until I feel free and comfortable without or with less reliance on social media.

FEATURED IMAGE: Nonkululeko Mncube. Photo: File