Whistleblowers: #Khuluma!

Khuluma is the isiZulu word for speak, and is also the hashtag selected for an anti-corruption social media campaign produced in partnership with the Daily Maverick. 

The project used the content of website articles on the role of whistleblowers in exposing corruption and, through graphic design, aimed to make these stories accessible to a new audience via social media. Project collaborators include investigative journalist Marianne Thamm, curator and designer Brenton Maart, Zulu translator Dr Brown Maaba and Afrikaans translator Adv. Jean Meiring, and Roxanne Joseph running the Social Media. Together, this team selected ten pivotal, dare-we-say, heroes who have come forward – often at great personal and professional risk and sacrifice – in order to unmask the deception, deceit and greed that bedevils much of South Africa’s well-being.

The story of whistleblower Mosilo Mothepu was one of the 10 showcased in the #Khuluma campaign. Her revelations in the South African State Capture scandal triggered a wave of courage that saw many others follow suit and testify publicly. Image: Brenton Maart

Ten whistleblower's stories were used

Verified Daily Maverick articles provided the content for a series of ten digital posters, each produced in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu, and distributed via a network of social media profiles and platforms as a campaign that extended from 1 April to 8 May 2019. The project’s overall aim was to contribute to informed decision-making in the South African general election on Wednesday, 8 May 2019.

The ten whistleblowers selected were Bernard Baninsi, Cynthia Stimpel, Dougie Oakes, Guptaleaks whistleblowers, Johan Booysen, Kiran Sukeri, Mcebisi Jonas, Mosilo Mothepu, Suzanne Daniels and Thabiso Zulu.



The #Khuluma campaign focused on 10 whistleblowers who have spoken out against corruption in South Africa over the past few years. Using Twitter and Facebook to tell their stories, the campaign reached more than 60, 000 people. Image: Brenton Maart

The Online Campaign

An archive of Daily Maverick articles and photographs on each was compiled and used as the basis for the series of designs. The elements decided upon for the designs were chiefly iconographic, and include colours, resistance aesthetics, messaging and textual format, and target audience. Project profile pages were established on Facebook and Twitter, and the concept design and project logo were generated and used as teaser postings in the lead-up to the campaign. The postings commenced on 8 April and ran until 8 May 2019. Google analytics provided the data for social media analysis. In summary, the Facebook campaign reached in excess of 40,000 people, and the Twitter campaign had a total impression number in excess of 19,000.

#Khuluma's Facebook campaign reached more than 40, 000 people in total. Part of the campaign focused on the anonymous Gupta Leaks whistleblowers, depicted here. Image: Brenton Maart

Target Audience and Partner Organisations

Target audiences were varied and, with the assistance of partner organisations, may be classified into five key types: students, educational institutions and professionals, civil society, media and community-based organisations.

Organisations who partnered with the project informally to assist in social media distribution were Wits Citizen Justice Network, Women’s Legal Centre, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Reclaim the City, Abahlali baseMjondolo, Sonke Gender Justice, Open Democracy Advice Centre, Children’s Radio Foundation, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Centre for Environmental Rights, Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, My Vote Counts, Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Right2Know, Organisation Undoing Taz Abuse, Black Sash, Social Justice Coalition, OpenUp, Amandla Mobi, Open Data Durban and Open Data South Africa.