Ahead of the 2019 National Elections, the ANC has set up a secret propaganda initiative named the “Boiler Room” for its Twitter operations, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The operation was reportedly created by ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula, and aims to produce positive about the ruling party while challenging opposition parties on social media.
Mbalula recruited 60 party activists to push ANC propaganda on Twitter while also calling into radio stations and spreading pro-ANC messages.
This operation was reportedly activated last week via a messages from Mbalula sent to the ANC election hub WhatsApp group, which stated: “Esethu [Hasane] activate Boiler Room. For this weekend. Let us go Gaga.”
A source told the Sunday Times that the Boiler Room was a clandestine operation which formed part of the ANC’s campaign strategy, adding that there were people involved with election strategy who were unaware of its existence.
Mbalula told the Sunday Times that while the Boiler Room did exist, it is not a secret initiative.
“The ANC is fighting its war on Twitter by mobilising the member,” Mbalula said. “The campaign is on social media, the digital space, and out there on the ground.”
“All political parties are running campaigns on social media that are very strong and well organised,” he added.
“It does not happen on its own like it is automated, people sit down and plot, so the ANC cannot fold its arms.”
According to the report, Boiler Room activists were trained by ANC elections deputy general manager Bandile Sizani and were briefed to defend ANC leaders on Twitter while attacking the leaders of the DA and EFF.
These users were provided with pro-ANC content to disseminate from their accounts, including statistics which portrayed the successful service delivery of the ANC.
Mbalula maintained that there is nothing sinister about the ANC’s Boiler Room operation.
Mbalula takes on the SABC
Mbalula has been fervently campaigning for the ANC of late, even going so far as to confront the SABC about its election coverage.
This week, he reportedly accused the public broadcaster of implementing a blackout against ANC election coverage and demanded that further coverage of the party’s events was provided.
However, the SABC noted that it covered so much ANC-related content that it was forced to actively search for other parties’ activities to maintain its mandate of unbiased election coverage.
The ANC has also reportedly threatened to dissolve the board of the broadcaster, bullying the entity into complying with its requests.