/ 13 May 2011

ANC mayors embrace Twitter (sort of)

ANC mayors in Gauteng will be setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts ahead of the local government elections, but won’t be doing the tweeting themselves.

“Me and Parks [Tau, the ANC’s mayoral candidate for Johannesburg] don’t know the difference between a blog and Twitter,” said Tshwane’s mayor, Sputla Ramokgopa, at an ANC “bloggers’ conference” at the party’s media monitoring centre in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

In addition to Ramokgopa and Tau, West Rand mayor Mpho Nawe and Sedibeng municipality mayor Simon Mofokeng were on hand to promote the party’s social media plans at the event, titled “Getting Online with Gauteng’s Mayors”.

“We are aware that some of these mayors are of an older generation, and we will train them how to tweet and use Facebook” said ANC national elections campaign media and communications head, Nkenke Kekana.

Kekana is neither on Twitter nor Facebook, but Ramokgopa uses Facebook.

Kekana said the party would be appointing people to update the politicians’ Facebook and Twitter accounts on their behalf.

Mofokeng said the mayors will not have the time to tweet themselves.

“There will be people who will look at these accounts, but you don’t expect a mayor to be worried about Twitter and Facebook”, he said.

He neglected to mention, however, that many other party members – including senior government officials such as Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, were already updating their own Twitter accounts with enthusiasm.

“We needed to expose our mayors to social networks and acknowledge the important role played by this media platform [Twitter and Facebook] in our election campaign,” said Mofokeng.

“We have to engage with another kind of constituency which is on a different communication platform,” said Kekana.

Ramokgopa said their drive to speak to young voters started when they used Kwaito musician Chomee to draw young people to their events.

Ramokgopa said Tshwane had the youngest constituency in Gauteng, hence the need to use social networks to reach this constituency.

“The aim is not to change people; it would be false to present our mayors as the best Twitterers around. We want to make them more accessible leaders who can actually deliver,” said Kekana.

Following the conference online, observers on Twitter were less interested in the party’s social media strategy than they were in more practical matters. Most of the questions asked of the Gauteng mayors, using the event’s twitter hashtag #meeturmayor, were directed to Tau, about municipal matters, including the billing crisis that has plagued Johannesburg over the past year.

“What is Parks Tau going to do to sort out (Johannesburg’s) billing crisis?” asked @taraturk1, to which @TOMolefe, a twitterer who was at the event, responded, “Parks [Tau] just left. Acknowledged billing “challenges” in Johannesburg. Didn’t really say how it’ll be resolved.”