This past Monday while our President was busy rearranging his entourage, the opposition party leader had her hands full with her newfound position as South Africa’s agony aunt. Thanks to the #askhelenzille hashtag trend that went viral within minutes, Zille was inundated with entirely arbitrary and often hysterically comic questions from tongue-in-cheek Tweeters. ‘Where do my socks disappear to in the wash? and ‘If I am an orphan, is Joshua Doore still my uncle?’ are just two examples of the gems that crowded her twitter feed. But the leading lady admirably took it all in her stride and humoured her audience with quirky responses that displayed sharp wit and a penchant for some good old-fashioned fun. And in the process she gathered a few thousand extra followers.

So, who is the mastermind behind the initiative that somehow became a worldwide top trending topic? The first tweet came from none other than Jo’burg-based comedian Daniel Friedman a.k.a Deep Fried Man. Friedman claims that it all started in the name of a little fun and folly in response to Zille’s recent invitation to the public to address her with their concerns. ‘It was just a way of parodying her call for questions and attempt to engage with people using social media,’ he said. ‘I thought it would be funny if people started to treat her as the source of all information on Twitter. I had no idea whatsoever that so many people would get involved.’ This move is not atypical for South Africa’s funny man, who has a long history of spicing things up with some satire. ‘When I was in high school I loved making fun of the teachers. Now I’m an adult and I’m still making fun of authority figures’, Friedman confesses. ‘I guess I should have grown out of it by now but now, ironically, it’s a big part of how I make a living.’

Friedman also made a point of commending Zille for her graceful response to the onslaught that he inspired. ‘I certainly did not expect her to take it so well,’ he admitted. ‘The way she handled this not only shows a sense of humour but political savvy.’ Despite having no political motivations or preferences for that matter, he suggested that other members of the Cabinet would do well to take a leaf out of her book. ‘Others could definitely learn a thing or two from the way Zille handles herself when it comes to social media’, he added.

Dayle Kavonic