#JohnSpeaksForMe trends as lockdown debate rages on social media

Image credit: YouTube/SABC News

Some social media users have rallied to Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen’s defence following the #WhichSouthAfricans interview controversy.

On Thursday, SABC News anchor Flo Letoaba asked Steenhuisen which South Africans he was speaking for when he argued that level 4 lockdown regulations were too restrictive.

Steenhuisen seemingly did not take kindly to the question, sparking a heated back-and-forth with Letoaba. A video of the exchange soon went viral under the #WhichSouthAfricans hashtag.

#JohnSpeaksForMe: Support for Steenhuisen

The DA leader bore the brunt of critical comments, including from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Deputy President Floyd Shivambu.

He tweeted, “You can see the white supremacy, racism and irritation in the attitude, tone and response of little John when trapped in his own lies. He’s speaking on behalf of the white capitalist establishment and too shy to say it. Trapped like a wizard at night.”

Before long, however, the #JohnSpeaksForMe hashtag began trending as other social media users tweeted support for Steenhuisen and his views.

Leading them was DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille, who said Steenhuisen spoke for those who “have lost and will lose jobs because of the lockdown crisis.”

Debate rages

Twitter user @kbkgobisa added, “I have a lot of problems with the lockdown, the cumbersome and often irrational regulations, and the authoritarian tendencies of some Ministers, to which @CyrilRamaphosa is acquiescing. So yeah, #johnspeaksforme.”

“I work for the government and even if I don’t go to work, I am going to get a full salary. Those in private companies won’t. @jsteenhuisen is speaking for those,” Lawrence Shabalala added.

Busisiwe Sarah Shezi chose to address Letoaba directly, “@Flo_Letoaba I am shocked at how you look down at us who do not have salaries like you and can’t go to work to make a living. You showed me that you are a hypocrite. Try going without a salary for 50 days then you will see who John speaks for.”

Nevertheless, the debate continued as anti-Steenhuisen commentators hit back. @kgomo389 tweeted, “John doesn’t speak for people of Alex, Dutywa, Nongoma, Nquthu, Malamulele, Gugulethu, Ficksburg, but he speaks for Stellenbosch, Sandton and Ballito.”

EFF MP Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi wrote, “I see #JohnSpeaksForMe is trending. But Baas John did not actually speak… he shouted in empty noises when asked #WhichSouthAfricans?”

Others argued that unless there is sufficient evidence that the vulnerable in society would be catered for adequately once the lockdown is lifted, Steenhuisen did not speak for them.

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