President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) has been met with criticism from South African political parties and social media users, who have expressed their skepticism towards his portrayal of a prosperous country.
On Thursday, February 8, 2024, Ramaphosa delivered his final SONA for the sixth parliament but delivered what detractors called an ANC re-election campaign.
Using a metaphorical approach, Ramaphosa shared the fictional story of Tintswalo, who was born in 1994 and experienced the positive effects of ANC governance throughout their upbringing.
“The story of the first 30 years of our democracy can be best told through the life of a child called Tintswalo, born at the dawn of freedom in 1994. Tintswalo, democracy’s child, grew up in a society that was worlds apart from the South Africa of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. She grew up in a society governed by a constitution rooted in equality, the rule of law, and the affirmation of the inherent dignity of every citizen. Tintswalo, and many others born at the same time as her, were beneficiaries of the first policies of the democratic state to provide free healthcare for pregnant women and children under the age of six.
“Tintswalo’s formative years were spent in a house provided by the state, one of millions of houses built to shelter the poor. Tintswalo grew up in a household provided with basic water and electricity, in a house where her parents were likely to have lived without electricity before 1994. Tintswalo was enrolled in a school in which her parents did not have to pay school fees, and each school day she received a nutritious meal as part of a programme that today supports nine million learners from poor families. The democratic state provided a child support grant to meet her basic needs. This grant, together with other forms of social assistance, continues to be a lifeline for more than 26 million South Africans every month,” said Ramaphosa.
He proceeded to describe Tintswalo’s journey of successfully finishing high school and receiving support from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pursue further education at a TVET college, where she ultimately earned a qualification.
“When Tintswalo entered the world of work, she was able to progress and thrive with the support of the state’s employment equity and black economic empowerment policies. With the income she earned, she was able to save, to start a family, to move into a better house, and to live a better life. This is the story of millions of people who have been born since the dawn of our democracy. But it is only part of the story,” Ramphosa said.
However, only members of the ANC embraced the Tintswalo narrative without any reservations. Political party leaders who reacted to the SONA strongly disagreed with the narrative and criticized Ramaphosa for allegedly being out of touch with reality.
Some users on the X platform expressed their criticism of Ramaphosa, suggesting that he provides them with Tintswalo’s home address for personal verification of his claims.
An unemployed individual named Tintswalo Lindsay Mathevula expressed her difficulty in finding a job, despite having received assistance from NSFAS.
“My name is Tintswalo, and I am an unemployed pharmacist. So, he lied. Tintswalo doesn’t have a job,” she said.
Despite recommendations to consider Aspen Pharmacare due to its frequent job openings, Mathevula provided evidence in the form of an email that her application had been rejected.
Several individuals expressed a personal connection to the Tintswalo story, as their lives underwent significant transformations during the tenure of the ANC.
Many users, however, voiced their strong opposition to overlooking the underwhelming performance of the Ramaphosa administration during the last five years, refusing to be coerced into doing so.
African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader Vuyo Zungula labelled Ramaphosa a liar.
“The president’s address conveniently glossed over the escalating unemployment crisis, with figures skyrocketing under his tenure. Unemployment has surged from 29.1% in 2019 to a staggering 31.9% in 2024, with youth unemployment reaching an alarming 58% from 43% in the same period. Such astronomical figures are not mere statistics but represent the shattered dreams and livelihoods of millions of South Africans. Furthermore, the number of our fellow citizens living in poverty has ballooned from 13.8 million in 2019 to an unconscionable 18.2 million in 2024. This exponential increase lays bare the failure of the current administration to uplift the most vulnerable members of our society, despite their lofty promises and pledges,” said Zungula.
Zungula said the Tintswalo narrative was “an exercise in disillusionment and failed promises.”
“The harsh reality is that the Tintswalo we know remains landless because the ANC-led government hesitates to expropriate land without compensation. She languishes in unemployment because investor confidence, coupled with pervasive corruption, has stifled job creation initiatives. Living in poverty is her unfortunate reality, exacerbated by the soaring cost of living in Ramaphosa’s economy,” Zungula said.
Yongama Zigebe, the secretary-general of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), urged South Africans to cast their votes against the ANC in the upcoming elections.
“UDM calls upon all South Africans to rise and demand accountability from our leaders. It is time for the real Tintswalo of our nation to assert their voices and demand the change they deserve. We urge all citizens to use their votes as instruments of change to remove the ANC government from power and pave the way for a new era of governance characterized by transparency, accountability, and genuine progress,” said Zigebe.