A score of of new Twitter accounts lampooning Julius Malema are popping up online after the firebrand leader of the youth league of South Africa's ruling ANC called for the micro-blogging service to be closed.
The serial controversialist complained this week that he was being targeted by Twitter impersonators who were distorting his image. The ANC youth league issued a grammatically bizarre statement calling for the "closer" of Twitter on Wednesday, which was quickly filleted by critics who then distributed it online.
The league's notoriously bad spelling led one reporter Malema had called "bloody bastard" at a news conference, to reply on the blogging site: "ANCYL statement called for 'closer of Twitter' following 'cretation' of fake accounts. Was that so we'd know it was the real Malema?"
Fake accounts of famous people offering phoney Tweets known as "Phweets" have become a mainstay of Twitter, prompting the blogging service to offer the option of officially verifying who's who. But the sensitive ANCYL launched a tirade signed by the league's spokesman Floyd Shuvambu.
"The ANCYL has in [sic] more than one occasion reported these impersonators and hackers, yet no action has been taken against them by the Twitter administrators. We will now approach the relevant authorities to report these hackers and call for the closer [sic] of Twitter if its administrators are not able to administer reports for violation of basic human rights and integrity."
The mockery that followed online prompted @Floyd_Shivambu's to tweet back: "Stop mocking my spelling. When we close Twitter you won't be laughing anymore." This was replied to by @TheJuliusMalema, who tweeted: "Don't you come heer to my internet with your white tendencies." After which Mr Shivambu replied: "I will tell our President it is worse than we thought."
By yesterday, new Malema accounts were flourishing online. "Juju Malema" was fairly typical of the tone, introducing its author by asking: "Who do you think you are? Are you not aware that I am Julius, the president of the ANC Youth League? I know some of you hate me."
Mr Malema's abrasive manner and brash lifestyle –his luxury cars and exclusive night-clubbing are routinely dismissed as evidence of continuing racism – has made him a hero to some in South Africa and a jester to many.
Press freedom is under serious attack in the Rainbow Nation. Two major pieces of legislation are being considered which would give the government sweeping powers to silence outlets it does not like and criminalise much investigative journalism.
Mr Malema's political importance has been underlined recently as the leadership backed down over its effort to discipline him for publicly contradicting party positions. President Jacob Zuma faces a possible leadership challenge in the next year and seems unwilling to offend the youth wing or its outspoken leader.
The fake tweets
@Julius_Malema Not doing anything today because I am still babalaas. Eish.
@Julius_Malema @Floyd_Shivambu we need to change the words to "shoot the tweeter" in our favourite song!
@JMalema_TWIT_iR Zuma want me to go to political school, mmm let me think NO I hate doing wood work!!