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 overÂ 70,000 hits within the first week,Â a spike in traffic so large that our service provider took our site down because of security fears.Â The bots were coming, they said. But they were wrong. It was aÂ timely tweet from Trevor NoahÂ 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. ButÂ they didn’t break our site.Â That was the work of one person â€“ EFFÂ Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema.
After our launchÂ on June 16, weÂ just happened to find ourselvesÂ atÂ 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,Â we published video and theÂ fullÂ text of Malemaâ€™s State of the Nation debate speech in Parliament.
All hell broke loose. A lot of peopleÂ following the story online simplyÂ wanted to know what he had to say, and, oddly enough, it seems they couldnâ€™t find that information anywhere else.
(A caveat: On the ground itâ€™s another story altogether.Â 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.Â 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 mineworkersâ€™ and domestic workersâ€™ overalls. But then, their leader gave a speech thatÂ shook up parliament,Â energised viewersÂ and readersÂ so much soÂ that they went back to re-watch and re-read it, and passed it on to their friends and their friendsâ€™ friends.
What doesÂ all of thisÂ mean?Â Weâ€™re not entirely sure, but weÂ hopeÂ toÂ answerÂ this question, and others,Â 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.