AmaBhungane exposé suggests ActionSA complicity in xenophobic disinformation campaign

Issued by Angel Khanyile MP – DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs
29 Apr 2022 in News

Please find an attached soundbite by Angel Khanyile MP 

 The DA is alarmed, but not surprised, by the findings of a detailed amaBhungane analysis released today, which suggests that ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba has played a key role fanning the flames of xenophobia that could result in another bout of widespread public violence. In fact, the amaBhugane analysis closely echoes the warning issued by the DA earlier this month that “if South Africa descends into xenophobic violence, it will be disproportionately due to the actions of a few political actors.”

Primary among these actors is Herman Mashaba.

Despite weak attempted denials from ActionSA, the amaBhungane analysis strongly suggests that the party is a driving force behind a disinformation campaign built around the hashtag #PutSouthAfricansFirst. In what could be the biggest disinformation scandal since the GuptaBot saga perpetrated by Bell Pottinger, this campaign sees a combination of fake and real accounts creating “follower trains” that spread anti-foreigner propaganda on Twitter for political gain.

ActionSA has been part of this movement from day one. On the very day that the coordinated – and seemingly well-funded – campaign was launched, amaBhungane finds that Mashaba used the hashtag, “even using it as a call for voters.” The analysis further suggests that Mashaba used vitriolic attacks on foreigners by anonymous Twitter accounts as a way to keep his own content “within the bounds of plausible deniability, while still including dog whistles back to the more toxic content and ideas.”

In order to “maintain legitimacy in the face of the controversial narratives [they] are trying to harness for political gain,” ActionSA employed “a multi-level strategy that speaks to different users at different levels.”

The findings of amaBhungane’s research suggests that ActionSA’s has been a pivotal driving force behind the online disinformation campaign to incite xenophobia for political gain. This makes the partly partially liable for every bout of murderous xenophobia that plays out on South African streets, including the possibility of a repeat of the widespread public violence witnessed during last year’s looting. This is why the DA has previously written to Mashaba calling on him to urgently and publicly apologise for his role in this dangerous campaign and for his party members to desist from inciting further violence. He refused to do so. (see here)

In light of this new information, which comprehensively illustrates the extent of ActionSA’s complicity in fuelling this campaign, the DA today publicly repeats our call for Herman Mashaba to apologise for fuelling this dangerous vitriol, and to call on his fellow party members to desist from further incitement.

The DA has been at the forefront of holding Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi accountable for the collapse of the department under his watch. We continue to advocate for reforms to our immigration system that will enable our country to attract skilled migrants and modernise our visa system. At the same time, we steadfastly continue to oppose the efforts of populist politicians who seek to abuse the failures of the ANC and Home Affairs to fuel hatred, violence and anarchy for political gain.