If Twitter was the official record, then the 2016 State Of the Nation Address (SONA) would go down in history as one massive joke. Every single one of the top 10 tweets sent during SONA 2016 was a humorous crack at the President, the process of Parliament, or the sign language interpreter who unwittingly became the star of the show.

President Jacob Zuma gave his annual SONA speech in Parliament on February 11, in what was a day of high drama with walkouts by opposition parties. But the speech is likely to remembered by the coining of the phrase “Zupta”, a reference made by EFF leader, Julius Malema, to the relationship between Zuma and the Gupta family.

The hashtag #ZuptaMustFall was the fifth most used hashtag, according to research conducted by TNS Global Brand Equity Centre. It was used 5921 times in the hours after it was first coined by Malema.

Data scientists from TNS analysed nearly 430 000 tweets that were posted in the 48 hours surrounding SONA, with the analysis beginning at 9.30am on the day before the State of the Nation Address, and continued until around 10.40am on the morning after. The results were clear: the DA and EFF are streets ahead when it comes to engaging with their Twitter followings, news outlets scored massive audiences through their Twitter coverage, and humour had the last laugh.

Half an hour before the 9th State of the Nation Address, hashtags like #ZumaMustFall, #Sona2016 and #ZuptaMustFall were peaking at an average of 297 tweets per minute. When Zuma’s speech began, that average shot up to 821 tweets per minute. While he laboured through the 5000-word speech, pausing for many interruptions, over 294 537 posts flooded the twittersphere. Comedians, politicians and news outlets were the biggest influencers, and eNCA ranked the highest among the most mentioned twitter accounts. The numbers went back to mid-teens the day after the speech.



Many of the top tweets came from local comedians. They used their sharp wit and existing audiences to deliver commentary that went viral, and ended up being the most popular form of engaging with the State of the Nation.

Siv Ngesi, Chester Missing, Loyiso Gola and the cheeky Nandos account delivered many of the most popular tweets, with other celebs like presenter and actor, Maps Maponyane also contributing to the list of most-popular. But while professional and armchair comics got a lot of mileage out of the chuckle-hungry online audience, consistency paid off for news outlets who also gained massive traction online.

Take a look at the 10 most popular tweets:

Journalist Debora Patta had the most retweets on the day – but Nandos later overtook her, landing two posts in the top 10. Chester Missing also scored two top chirps as scathing SA humour had the last laugh at SONA.

This article was originally published by Independent Online on February 17, 2016