#TracyZille outed as front for EFF-aligned local government official — Lies, he says

10 July 2020 - 15:22
By Iavan Pijoos
Anthony Matumba has rubbished the allegations.
Image: AFP/Leon Neal Anthony Matumba has rubbished the allegations.

The “white woman” who tweeted a series of racial posts this week has been identified as a local government official in Limpopo.

According to the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), the @TracyZille Twitter account was used to funnel clicks to at least three of the official's websites in a bid to net an income off the back of the outrage caused.

The account caused a Twitter storm this week after it posted several tweets about the difference between white and black cultures. Other tweets pretended to offer “advice” from white people to other races.   

The DFRLab identified the person behind the account of @TracyZille as Anthony Matumba, an employee at the Makhado local municipality in Limpopo and a member of the EFF.

Matumba denied the allegations when contacted by TimesLIVE, saying that he was not given the right to reply.

“When you write about someone at least have the decency to contact them and say their sources are leading them to you,” he said. “Except for those websites, what links me to that account? Why will I want to use an account to write my views?

“I write my own views on my personal Facebook account. Why will I need a private account to write my views?”

According to the DFRLab, Matumba has registered multiple websites in his name, which he monetised using Google’s AdSense.

“In order to drive traffic to these sites and increase the ad revenue they generated, several Twitter accounts spammed links to the websites, mostly in reply to prominent Twitter personalities,” the site said.

By Friday morning, @TracyZille had more than 31,000 followers.

The DFRLab said it had collected 104 tweets from @TracyZille between June 29 and July 4. A total of 61 tweets linked to three websites: whatsappgroup.co.za, search67.com, and jobsfinder.co.za.

According to DFRLab any traffic directed to any of these three websites would become monetised and generate revenue for the owner of the website.

An investigation by the DFRLab established that the owner of the websites belonged to a company called Volongonya (Pty) Ltd, which was registered on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) website under single director Anthony Matumba.

According to publicly available documents checked independently by TimesLIVE, Matumba is indeed a director of the company Volongonya (Pty) Ltd.

However, the municipality's communications manager, Louis Bobodi, told TimesLIVE he was not employed by the municipality.

“But he is a sitting councillor for the EFF in our municipality since 2016. We are not aware of the allegations levelled against him,” said Bobodi.

EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo said that they would investigate the matter and would comment at a later stage.

Jean le Roux, research associate for the Digital Forensic Research Lab, said it stood by its report.

“Our previous research has shown that the majority of disinformation campaigns hinge on either politics or money. In this case, there is a causal link between the traffic generated by the Tracy Zille account, and the amount of money Matumba would receive from ad revenue.

“Our investigation found that the account posing as Tracy Zille was one of a network of accounts that exclusively shared website links that would lead users to one or more of the websites linked to Matumba. This exclusivity is a hallmark of a co-ordinated campaign meant to benefit the owner of those websites, in this case Matumba.

“There is simply no rational explanation why the account would, so consistently and so repetitively, share links to Matumba's websites. The fact that Matumba hid his real identity when publishing on the site made his motivations even more sinister.

“All the research conducted by DFRLab is based on open source information, accessible to anyone, and all the links and screenshots are available on our piece.”