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DA Twitter QA

The Great DAQA

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / 30.08.2011

“I have also learnt that Twitter’s 140-character limit is more conducive to repeating (Paris) Hilton’s hallucinations than debating complex policy issues.” – Helen Zille.

On the 14th of August, the Sunday Times ran a review article on a Twitter debate that occurred between renowned South African singer, Simphiwe Dana, and the head of the DA, Helen Zille. In the piece, Zille laments the 140-character limit of the social media platform, and yet a few weeks later, the DA holds an open Q&A session on the exact same medium. But is this an honest attempt at open communication, or the DA taking another crack at imitating Obama-style electioneering tactics.

The ironies of holding a debate on Twitter in the interests of fostering inclusive national debate are obvious, especially a fortnight after mentioning that Twitter was an insufficient host for this kind of conversation. But still, at 19h30 on the 28th of August she tweeted: Hi Everyone, I am here waiting for your questions. Remember the Hashtag #DAQA.

Let’s not forget the hashtag. The content of the questions seemed less important than ensuring the DA became a trending topic. Suggestions made by Twitter users a few weeks back for the DA to hold a public meeting to discuss the management of the City of Cape Town were largely ignored, and in turn the party responded with a socially exclusive Twitter exercise.

A debate mainly accessible to the middle-class, because, well, if you are not privileged enough to have smartphone Twitter access, then your opinion won’t matter. Was this really about accessibility and accountability; or just a cyber PR campaign. Perhaps the DA Youth South Peninsular Leader, Alex Lansdowne’s tweets can offer some insight:

But perhaps the most contentious issue to arise from the #DAQA Twitter experiment was that the party seemed unwilling to engage with certain lines of questioning and branded them, rather conveniently, as “trolls”. An act that turned the event into a DA propaganda exercise.

Instead Zille responded to user who asked what the best part of her weekend was, and what soccer team she supported (Pirates, and ALL the Cape Town teams, if you’re interested) but then told fellow user Unathi Kondile “I am busy answering important questions from people who are serious about the future” when asked about black representation within the DA.
Throughout the night, the DA evaded issues of transformation, and refused to answer any queries pertaining to its mainly white management. Generally, the responses were no different from the daily drivel of politicking and non-specific rhetoric we have heard from every politician ad infinitum.

In a phonecall to the DA’s Media department, I was told by Priya Reddy that they have no official stance on the DAQA session. “Whatever happened, happened. You can just follow the thread on Twitter”. Perhaps the session was most aptly summed up by a knock-off Hellen Zille account:

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  1. Typical Mahala Reader says:

    Oh dear. This is far to uncomfortable for me. I think I’ll go to the Ard Matthews story and hate on Edmonds for using Orwell as a critical tool.

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  2. Garg Unzola says:

    A more balanced article would have included examples of questions that were in fact answered. As it stands, this article does not feature a single question or answer that was answered.

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  3. mud-debunker says:

    And the point of this article is what exactly? All public political communication is propaganda; stop being so naive

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  4. Zam says:

    Maybe it was indeed a PR tool (like everything these days) and maybe she did avoid certain topics (such as race within the DA); however . . .

    The topic of a predominantly white leadership in the DA has come up in countless interviews and news stories and has been answered countless times. And if the poster was serious, and not “trolling”, she (Helen Zille) would have probably answered him. And on that note, if that’s the only person who responded as such, then your evidence isn’t exactly strong.

    Secondly, no one ever questions The ANC’s predominantly black cabinet and leaders. But i guess it’s okay for black people of power to pick who they feel is the best person for the job, irregardless of colour. Besides, do your history and find out who Helen is. Her mother was one of the original members of The Black Sash if i’m not mistaken and Helen persued the story of Steve Biko’s death in incarceration. She has always faught for equality. A racist does not do that, no matter what the ANCYL may say about her.

    Finally, at least she’s being proactive about interacting with people (PR stint or not). Julius wont’ even talk to news reporters or other parties and that goes for the rest of the major political parties out there. Yes he goes out and has rallies, but individual opportunities to question him (even for middle class voters) does not exist.

    In no way am i supporting the DA, ANCYL, ANC or any other party. They’re all a bunch of hacks in my opinion, but for far more legitimate reasons than the ones you have given. But your article comes across as a clearly biased opinion, and as a writer you should try be as subjective as possible using strong evidence to promote and support your argument/conclusion.

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  5. Andy says:

    I’ve checked Unathi Kondile’s twitter feed. He wasn’t “trolling” in the strict sense of the word. He asked questions the DA found it prudent to avoid – which is hardly in the spirit in which the DA engaged the users of Twitter… so really there’s quite a lot to answer for. I applaud them for making themselves available on a social media platform, but it’s not cool to brand lines of questioning that you don’t like as “trolls”.

    That’s a less than candid way of dealing with uncomfortable questions.

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  6. Sue says:

    A complete non-story, and an OLD non-story at that. The DA used Twitter to communicate with voters during this year’s municipal elections in May, so what on earth is the point of writing a story about them using Twitter now?

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  7. lindokushle says:

    Old non-story =Sundays Trending topic, if it doesn’t speak to you, if you don’t want to engage in this conversation -don’t comment.

    The story is about whether or not the DA is using twitter for valid communication or PR. How long they’ve been tweeting for is irrelevant.

    As a young, black individual searching for alternatives to the ANCYL, I followed to DAQA to see if they tackled the hard issues head on, and they didn’t. So yes, this story is not for YOU, but your opinion is not the comprehensive guide to SA. Issues that don’t pertain to you do not become non-issues because of your disinterest.

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  8. Lizzy says:

    all politicians = useless. that is all.

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  9. Count Nero says:

    The questions you put up as examples are leading questions:

    “Do you honestly believe there are no senior blacks skilled enough to fully transform your party’s leadership?” – It presupposes that the DA believes there are no skilled blacks.
    “Why is it difficult for young blacks within your party to raise race matters?” – It presupposes that it is difficult to raise race matters in the DA.

    I didn’t read the feed so I don’t know if these are the only examples, but I will say that they are bad examples if you’re trying to show the DA avoiding tough questions. Rather, those questions seem to me to be poor attempts at making statements.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    @ count nero, then the questions should be answered honestly and be shown up to be misinformed, not ignored. questions, no matter how inflammatory, provide you an opportunity to answer well, proving them to be illegitimate. by just ignoring them you shoot yourself in the foot.

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