Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech put some South Africans at ease, says national happiness index. It’s true, over the past few weeks, South Africans haven’t had much to be happy about since the announcement of tighter restrictions during the third wave of the pandemic.
It’s safe to say the mood switched to one of fear and uncertainty as Monday’s wave of pillaging and rioting which began as “Free Jacob Zuma” protests, quickly spiralled into opportunistic looting of retailers and attacks on residential areas.
But it appears that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s last-minute message to the nation amid the national state of pandemonium did bring some relief to citizens.
Wellbeing economists at the University of Johannesburg and Auckland University of Technology found that the Gross National Happiness Index showed a short turnaround on Monday evening after the president spoke to the nation
Ramaphosa denounced the riots, looting and criminal actions, emphasising that ”no shutdown” of South Africa would be tolerated.
“The nation’s mood reacted positively to the speech and the index moved briefly into the happy territory of above 5 to 5.49,” said University of Johannesburg well-being economist Professor Talita Greyling.
The Gross National Happiness Index is a real-time measure of the mood of a nation.
The team constructs the index by using natural language processing (machine learning methods) to analyse the underlying sentiment and emotion of Twitter posts.
They differentiate between eight emotions; anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust.
A critical analysis of tweets from Monday portraying negative sentiments showed fear and anger.
“Many fear the uncertainty of the future. They are worried about jobs and safety,” Greyling said. “There is also anger. Many people believe that Zuma should not be in jail. Furthermore, they are against calling in the SANDF to control the riots.”
Greyling said that tweets about the importance of protecting lives, such as “black lives matter” and posts asking for strong leadership, reflect a positive mood.
Posts that also show support for the actions taken by the president and restaurants reopening signal a move to happier sentiments.