As ever, it was a busy afternoon on Sunday Twitter after the masses swarmed upon one target: 24-year-old South African MP, Naledi Chirwa. Specifically, it was the “South African” bit which sparked the most conversations.
Naledi’s citizenship became a topic of heated scrutiny after an unverified accusation claimed that she was not a legal South African citizen.
This opened up an intense can of worms:
While the violence and outrage may have died down, the wounds are still fresh from last year’s xenophobic exchanges which saw tensions rise between South Africans and nationals of other African nations. So when Naledi was (falsely) accused of falsifying citizenship to eventually work her way up to the top of South African government, it didn’t take long for the reaction to boil over.
It all began rather innocuously. Naledi first caught the timeline’s attention when she offered some advice to the Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, on how best to deal with the impending threat of coronavirus in South Africa.
However, the conversation swiftly turned in a different direction when an account belonging to someone named Lerato Pillay made an explosive allegation. She wrote:
Lerato Pillay on Twitter
One day I will make a thread on how Malawian Naledi Chirwa’s family fraudulently obtained South African citizenship, I will also shake the tables an expose thier involvement in Nyawupe/whunga business in South Africa
It didn’t take long for the allegation to trend and before you knew it, dozens of critics were condemning Naledi Chirwa’s route to South African citizenship and beyond. The issue of contention appears to be that, despite having no hereditary roots to South Africa, Naledi has managed to take up a position in South African parliament.
Many agreed with Lerato’s sentiments, and her opinion appeared to embolden people who, at best, didn’t understand how citizenship laws worked, and at worst, were plainly afrophobic themselves.
As things began to get ugly, many of Chirwa’s supporters jumped to her defence. From high profile politicians, to entertainers, to regular fans who are inspired by her, the support was tremendous:
One particularly level-headed tweep was able to point out that, amidst the fighting, this saga exposed the fact that very few people in South Africa understand how citizenship law works – and more specifically, the many number of legal ways which nationals can acquire South African citizenship. Naledi’s namesake tweeted:
With the debate yet to die down, what are your thoughts on the Naledi Chirwa saga?