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The Messenger, the Message, and the Receiver: South African Government Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Part of the Springer Studies in Media and Political Communication book series (SSMPC)

Abstract

As the African country worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s government had to face steep challenges in communicating its crisis response to the public. Soon after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa started with regular televised addresses to the public, mainly used to announce different lockdown levels based on infection rates. Daily updates on infections, recoveries, and, later, vaccinations, were provided through news media and social media channels. In these communiques, the government demonstrated a commitment to scientific approaches and drew on the rhetoric of solidarity and community. Survey data show that the South African public initially (in 2020) approved of the government’s handling of the pandemic, but that a year later (2021) this approval rate dropped significantly. The decline in approval came at a time when the former Minister of Health was arrested on corruption charges and the vaccination rollout in the country was hampered by procurement, administrative, and communication challenges.

Drawing on data from online experiments and surveys, this chapter will provide an overview of these communication processes and public attitudes towards the South African government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Approval rates
  • Corruption
  • COVID-19
  • Distrust
  • Ramaphosa
  • South Africa
  • Television
  • Trust

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-031-09230-5_16
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Correspondence to Herman Wasserman .

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Wasserman, H., Madrid-Morales, D. (2022). The Messenger, the Message, and the Receiver: South African Government Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic. In: Maarek, P.J. (eds) Manufacturing Government Communication on Covid-19 . Springer Studies in Media and Political Communication. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-09230-5_16

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