When we launched the Daily Vox a week ago, we were hoping to draw anywhere between a thousand and two thousand readers a day. But we surpassed these humble expectations when we got over 70,000 hits within the first week, a spike in traffic so large that our service provider took our site down because of security fears. The bots were coming, they said. But they were wrong. It was a timely tweet from Trevor Noah and real people came marching in.
Our reporters went out to find stories about young South Africans – not just the privileged few who head off to Wits or UCT or land plum jobs with government and JSE-listed companies, but regular South Africans who have had to make the most of what they have.
Our reporters brought us stories about young people living on the streets of Johannesburg, turned out of their communities and unable to return home, of matriculants and recent graduates pounding the pavements looking for work, of youths trying to find their way out of drug addiction, and teenagers struggling to stay in school.
These stories were widely read and passed around on social media. But they didn’t break our site. That was the work of one person – EFF Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema.
After our launch on June 16, we just happened to find ourselves at the right place at the right time. Malema made a rousing speech in Parliament, with all the usual outrageous statements he has come to be known for. We thought people who had missed it might want to hear more about it than the odd headline or tweet. So, on Wednesday, the day after he spoke, we published video and the full text of Malema’s State of the Nation debate speech in Parliament.
All hell broke loose. A lot of people following the story online simply wanted to know what he had to say, and, oddly enough, it seems they couldn’t find that information anywhere else.
(A caveat: On the ground it’s another story altogether. When we sent our reporter out to find out what people on the street thought of his speech, hardly anyone seemed to know what we were asking about. Online really is a different world)
A lot of people may have thought that the EFF were a joke when they launched. And then they won 6% of the national vote, becoming the second largest opposition party in the country overnight.
People thought they were a joke again when their MPs turned up in Parliament in mineworkers’ and domestic workers’ overalls. But then, their leader gave a speech that shook up parliament, energised viewers and readers so much so that they went back to re-watch and re-read it, and passed it on to their friends and their friends’ friends.
What does all of this mean? We’re not entirely sure, but we hope to answer this question, and others, in the coming days.
While enjoying the drama that Malema and his cohorts bring to the political scene, we recognise that it too is pageantry, and that it has little impact on the lives of ordinary South Africans.