South African sports and recreation minister Fikile Mbalula has sparked a nasty Twitter war with Kenya following controversial comments he made about the East African country on Tuesday.
Addressing journalists at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Mbalula started talking about quotas for black players in South African sports teams.
However, he veered off topic by insulting Kenyan athletes.
South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, has reported that Mbalula said "you can't transform sports without targets", as he referred to imposing quota demands on sports codes such as cricket and rugby.
But the newspaper reports that he then went on to say that South Africa would not be like Kenya and send athletes to the Olympics to "drown in the pool".
Mbalula has a history of making ‘hot-headed’ comments, as he notoriously went on the record to call the South African football team (known as Bafana Bafana) “a bunch of losers” after they lost against a much stronger and higher ranked Nigerian squad in the African Nations Championship in South Africa.
However, Mbalula’s comments about Kenyans have touched a nerve in the East African country, as the hashtag ‘#someonetellsouthafrica’ has been been the top trending topic on Twitter in Kenya and even South Africa on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Angry Kenyan Twitter users have taken to the social network to vent off at South Africa and minister Mbalula.
“#someonetellsouthafrica you guys sell gold and we win it back in marathons,” said Chrissjones, @matagarochris, on Twitter.
Another Twitter user, Nicholas Kaulize @nicholaskeg, tweeted, “#SomeOneTellSouthAfrica once we rebase our GDP to reflect the quail industry we too shall surpass them!”
Conversely, the #someonetellsouthafrica Twitter trend has also initiated a #someonetellkenya trend.
The tone of the #someonetellkenya trend; though, has been more ‘reconciliatory’, with what appears to be Fikile Mbalula's unverified Twitter account even posting messages to try to quell the storm.
“The media here always blow what we say out of proportion,” the Mbalula Twitter account tweeted in response to Twitter users questioning him on his Kenyan comments.
“#someonetellKenya that South Africa and Kenya have a shared vision of a united prosperous Africa. Use Twitter to educate not for petty fights,” the account tweeted further.
His Twitter account then goes on to Tweet, “SAs, Kenyans instead of coming up with #tags to insult each other,come up with tags to advise each other on ways to develop our continent.”
Mbalula is not the only South African politician to cause a stir over misguided public comments.
In October last year, South African president Jacob Zuma made a faux pas when talking about the Gauteng province’s controversial e-toll project.
He said that Gauteng motorists must not ‘think like Africans in Africa’ regarding the system.
“We can’t think like Africans because we are in Johannesburg and not some national road in Malawi,” Zuma was quoted as saying.