Is AgangSA a Cult of Personality? An attempt to quantify it

Disclaimer: This post doest not endorse any of the political parties mentioned in this post. This post is also a work in progress.

It's interesting times in SA as we head towards elections in 2014. What has made it even more of a political circus is all the new political parties or movements that have sprung up in the last few years. One of those parties is Agang SA. The party is led by Mamphele Ramphele. One interesting thought that came to mind while following their work was their insistence to use their leader in most of their PR in social media. For example just look at their Twitter account:

Agang Twitter Profile (August 7th 2013)

Agang Twitter Profile (August 7th 2013)

Front and center is Dr. M Ramphele. A natural question that arises from this PR strategy is "Is Agang a cult of personality?". I am not the only one asking or arguing this point.




In this post I attempt to quantify if it is a cult of personality using analysis of their social media campaign on Twitter.

Mentions on Twitter

How many times is Dr. Ramphele mentioned in Tweets? How does this compare to other political parties and them mentioning their leaders? We need a metric to compare across parties. To calculate this metric I will be using Twitonomy. The metric will the likelihood of mentioning a leader (via their Twitter account), that is  [Number of Mentions of Leader]/[Total Number of Tweets]x100. I will just be using an average in this case given the data Twitonomy spits out is of varying periods and using the average will remove some of this shortcoming.

Update: (Oct 2013) This table is now outdated, see new data here:

Party # of Tweets Total Mentions of Leader Mentions per Tweet Likelihood (%)
@DA_News 3197 264 0.082577416 8.3
@AgangSA 1674 275 0.16427718 16.4
@EconFreedomZA 215 17 0.079069767 7.9
@MyANC_ 3193 20* 0.006263702 0.6
@VFplus_ 3105 59 0.01900161 1.9

* ANC did not actually mention @presidencyza for obvious reasons (To me at least, they would be mentioning the President who is public official first), their most mentioned leader was @GwedeMantashe1.

The number of samples used from each Twitter account is different, its hard to control for (at the moment) and I also did not shell out cash for the Pro version of Twitonomy. So in a perfect world I would choose the same time scale for all the parties, even better looking at the first 12 months since their formation (will be hard to capture DA, ANC etc. as they are older than Twitters existence). Basically I am saying, this analysis is not perfect but we can still get some insights from it.

Lets put the numbers on a chart, sorted by decreasing likelihood:

Get the raw data here Source:

Get the raw data here Source:

What can we say so far?: AgangSA is aggressively using the image of Dr. Mamphele.  DA and EFF have established, known, leaders at their helm and may need to publicize them less. ANC which is even older borders on not mentioning their leaders at all.

Update: (Oct 2013) DA has gone ahead now with their likelihood. Reason being that the political campaigning for the Gauteng province started recently and DA's Maimane was heavily used in tweets.

You can see more Twitonomy analysis of the AgangSA account below.

You can dig into these profiles yourself:

  • AgangSA (@AgangSA): Link
  • Democratic Alliance (@DA_News): Link
  • African National Congress (@MyANC_): Link
  • Economic Freedom Fighters (@EconFreedomZA): Link
  • Freedom Front Plus (@VFplus): Link

So is this problematic?

I claim no knowledge of the political or PR processes,e but having such a reliance on one person seems to undermine the reality that any organization consists of a lot of people. There might be multiple people in the background but there are also multiple people on the front lines. For every organization, one wants to quickly get to grips with the cast of characters involved in that organization. This fact became very clear when looking at how effectively the EFF (@EconFreedomZA) did this. They very quickly, through social media and their website, communicated their cast of characters to us. They are not a person, Julius Malema in this case, but an organization. This might be as a result of the events that led to their formation, but still...

AgangSA on the other hand is a different story. If you go to their website and look at all the images, the clear story is about Dr. Ramphele. AgangSA obviously has a team of people: We just don't see material about them (the other leaders) pushed forward at all (I might be wrong, add a comment below if I have missed something). It might be a possibility that their strategy is to push forward the image of Dr. Ramphele as the reverse of the countries current leadership. This, they hope will attract people who are disillusioned with the ANC. This is just a theory but will become clearer the closer we get to elections.

Their strategy might not be ill-informed, lets look at another piece of data: Google Search Trends:

Google Trends for Mamphele Ramphele vs AgangSA

Google Trends for Mamphele Ramphele vs AgangSA

As we can see Dr. Ramphele shows up in a lot of web searches prior to the announcement of AgangSA. Thus, AgangSA might have needed to keep up the momentum generated by her to push their image forward. After the announcement of the political movement the search volume of Dr. Ramphel matches with that of AgangSA, albeit it actually went down. I will have to look at this again a few months from now with more data.

Bonus: Website Screenshots

Note: I did not mention COPE, their website is a mess. A point though is that they also prominently feature their leader on the Home page of their website.  

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