Hashtag that gave the cops a kick in the pants

Twitter power: Police and education authorities acted only after assault video was posted by activist

14 August 2017 - 06:46 By Matthew Savides
NOTORIETY Siyathuthuka Secondary School, in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, where the assault on a schoolgirl was videod and posted on #CountryDuty
NOTORIETY Siyathuthuka Secondary School, in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, where the assault on a schoolgirl was videod and posted on #CountryDuty
Image: Thuli Dlamini

At 7.25pm on Women’s Day, Tumi Sole posted a 20-second video on Twitter of a schoolgirl being tripped, hit and kicked in the head and neck.

Posted with the popular #CountryDuty hashtag, it wasn’t long before it went viral and caught the attention of the media, other keyboard activists, education departments and the police.

It garnered some 1,500 retweets, 600 likes and just shy of 900 comments — but, most importantly, it spurred a cross-section of people, including the authorities and special-interest groups, into action.

Less than 24 hours later and The Times was the first to identify the school at which the assault took place and interview the 16-year-old victim’s family.

The next morning, education department officials were at the school investigating. By the Friday night, the assailant’s father had handed him over to the police.

This morning he is expected to appear in the local magistrate’s court.

“It ’s about galvanising
support and sharing a
common goal, and getting
authorities on board”
Twitter activist

It is a big win for #CountryDuty and its originator, Tumi Sole, a corporate-law attorney and Twitter activist.

“I don’t share things because I want the hits or [to have something] become a trending topic,” he said. “It’s about galvanising support and sharing a common goal and getting the authorities to come on board. It’s about the common good and joining hands to make a difference.”

He was delighted that he helped to get swift action in the school assault case — and particularly happy that #CountryDuty was instrumental in getting the police to act after they had failed to do so.

The girl’s father said the police advised him not to report the case shortly after the assault took place in November.

“The police failed to do their duty … and without the outcry on social media I wonder if anything would have happened,” Sole said.

“The education [department] didn’t know about it. It prompted them to act. People think Twitter activism isn’t there, but I’d argue differently.”

The 35-year-old said he started #CountryDuty in the wake of President Jacob Zuma’s axing of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. But it went into high gear amid rumours of another cabinet reshuffle early this year.

“I started talking about people guarding the country. I just asked: ‘Can you report for duty?’ It took off from there,” he said.

It ’s almost impossible to track how many hits the #CountryDuty hashtag gets, but if it’sanything like Sole’s 8.1 million monthly impressions — the number of interactions and views a particular Twitter account gets — it’s clear that it’s resonating with South Africans.