Arguably one of the most divisive social media users in the South African political space, Helen Zille, has announced in a series of tweets that she will be closing her public Twitter account and moving to a private one.
Zille’s current public account, @helenzille, was created in February of 2009 and has amassed 1.4 million followers. The account follows 2 326 other users and has gotten the politician into hot water many times, most infamously for posts about colonialism.
As Twitter is a terrible platform when it comes to formatting of multiple tweets, we’ve collated all of them below. Given what they entail, they may soon be deleted or made otherwise unavailable.
We will, however, summarise. Zille, after posting picture of her adopted granddaughter, was met with many tweets that were completely unsavoury to say the least. We won’t link to said pictures or the tweets to prevent dog piling, but we’ll just say that they’re not fun to read in the context of a child being the topic.
This, together with other problems with the platform, has seemingly convinced Zille to close her account and move to a new one – @ZilleTweets, which was created February 2020.
@ZilleTweets is a private account, meaning that each and every follower needs to be manually granted access to the account after clicking on the follow button. It also means that the accounts followed and following are hidden.
While the accounts may not be public knowledge, the amounts of each are not. At the time of writing @ZilleTweets is following five accounts, and being followed by just three.
We’ll have to wait and see what impact that makes in the realm of politics, if any.
Again, the full Twitter thread from Helen Zille is copied below. While they’re still publicly available, they can also be read on her old account.
A thread 1) After the grotesque treatment of my grand-daughter on Twitter ydy, I am closing this account. I say goodbye to some of my followers, and good riddance to the haters, bots and sock-puppets that constitute such a large percentage of my 1,4-million plus followers.
2) Twitter has degenerated into a platform for irrationality and mob-lynching. Everything that can be distorted and twisted for a hate-filled agenda, is used for the purpose of manufacturing outrage and inflicting maximum damage.
3) For a long time I have sought to promote Twitter as a platform for rational and civil debate, but it clearly is not possible. It has degenerated into a space of distortion, de-contextualisation, demonization, de-legitimation and double standards.
4) Instead of democratising debate, it has severely curtailed freedom of speech and discussion. It emboldens your enemies and silences your friends. It is a space where the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity, as Yeats so aptly put it.
5) The only thing I would miss if I went off the platform entirely, are the posts of the rational and interesting people I follow. So I am opening a new, private account called
@ZilleTweets. That will be for people interested in rational debate only.
6) Of course, I would only know if someone is interested in rational debate if I know them either personally, or through past Twitter interactions. This means I may reject many who are interested in rational debate, but who I do not know.
7) I apologise for that. But this evil platform, that can find no effective way of filtering out fake accounts, and dealing with hate speech (as constitutionally defined) offers no alternative. Go well if you mean well. I’m out of here.