The
Accidental
(Digital) Activist

Nelisa Ngqulana

They don’t call her @BabesWePetition (the Lady of Petitions) for nothing. Nelisa Ngqulana’s Twitter handle (name) is consistent with what she has done whenever she sees injustice committed. Her approach, however, is different and creative. As a public relations practitioner, she has taken digital activism to another level in South Africa.

……

Nelisa started a campaign which called for the Ministry of Justice to make the National Register for Sex Offenders public

The norm among people who are unhappy about the status quo is to take to Twitter or other digital platforms to voice some form of dissatisfaction. This tends to be in the form of hashtags that don’t yield much in terms of results. Nelisa was aware of this trend when Uyinene Mrwetyana was killed. She felt that the online outrage, such as the hashtag (#AmINext) would soon die – with little impact – like many others that preceded it.

In 2019, when Uyinene Mrwetywana was murdered by someone who should not have been working at the post office, many South Africans took to Twitter to voice their outrage. The hashtag #AmINext gained prominence during this time and was a major motive behind several other protests. Mrwetyana’s death and the rape of other women precipitated widespread public outcry that led to a two-day campus shutdown at the University of Cape Town. Her death “ignited a movement” and is known to have “shifted the South African collective consciousness”.

Following the arrest of her murderer, remembrances and memorial services were held at the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand. It was during this time that Nelisa felt something more impactful was necessary. She started an online campaign which called for the Ministry of Justice to make the sex offenders’ list publicly accessible on online and mobile platforms that anyone could easily access. The campaign called for the list to be a free government site so that anyone could access it even when without data. At the time of writing, the campaign had 50 292 signatures.

This campaign was influenced by the fact that the man who murdered Uyinene worked for a government entity and he had a previous criminal record of a similar nature. Even with a National Sexual Offenders list there was no way for any post office user to know that there was someone with the potential to hurt them. Lack of access to such important information inspired Nelisa Ngqulana to take action and establish the online campaign. Her digital activism, as well as similar calls by other concerned organisations, have not fallen on deaf ears. The South African government has considered her pleas by calling for the bill to be amended in line with the call by the petition.

This was not the first for this active citizen and public relations professional who has been recognised by The Guardian newspaper in Nigeria as one of Africa’s leading women in public relations and marketing. She has been creatively using her PR expertise and large followership on Twitter to address societal issues that would be hidden under the blanket or forgotten after a few tweets and noise.

For years, residents of South Africa’s leading murder capital, Nyanga township, required a second police station due to a need spurred by its rising crime rate. This call often fell on deaf ears – until Nelisa Ngqulana intervened. She could have used known forms of protest, which were often ignored by officials, but did not. She used a digital platform in the form of a petition that raised awareness and enabled people to raise their voices. This action was one of the most instrumental weapons in getting authorities to finally build the much-needed second police station in Nyanga township.

Soon, South Africa will have a dedicated website and possibly an app that informs citizens about people who have committed sexual crimes. It will warn both employers and, more importantly, citizens about people with the potential to commit sexual crimes. When this becomes a reality, Nelisa Ngqulana’s name will be among those of the people who creatively used their skills in addressing serious challenges in society.

Soon, South Africa will have a dedicated website and possibly an app that informs citizens about people who have committed sexual crimes

Video
Share

Your name

Your e-mail

Name receiver

E-mail address receiver

Your message

Send

Share

E-mail

Contact

Send

Sign up

Send

E-card

Your name

Your e-mail address

Name receiver

E-mail address receiver

Your message

Send

1