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Social media analysis shows SA ‘happy’ with GNU

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 03 Jul 2024
South Africa has 11 political parties forming the Government of National Unity.
South Africa has 11 political parties forming the Government of National Unity.

A social media sentiment analysis has revealed that South Africans are “happy” about the newly-formed Cabinet under the Government of National Unity (GNU).

Well-being economists, professor Talita Greyling from the University of Johannesburg and Dr Stephanié Rossouw from the Auckland University of Technology, developed an indicator that measures happiness in real-time, using sentiment analysis applied to a live feed from X (formerly Twitter).

Their findings indicate an upward trend in the happiness of South Africa and an increase in international trust in the country’s future.

The much-anticipated announcement by president Cyril Ramaphosa of the new GNU Cabinet on 30 June was positively received by the South African people, as shown by the near-real-time happiness index of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) project, say Greyling and Rossouw.

The happiness index is constructed by monitoring and extracting the tweets of South Africans and analysing the sentiment of these tweets. A sentiment score is allocated to each tweet, classifying the tweet as either negative, neutral or positive.

The scores are then used in a sentiment balance algorithm, to derive the GNH. The GNH is measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being very unhappy and 10 being very happy.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa announced the new members of the national executive for the seventh administration, which is inclusive of all the parties in GNU.

The highly-anticipated announcement took place after Ramaphosa was elected as president by the National Assembly on Friday, 14 June, after which he was inaugurated on Wednesday, 19 June.

The 11 parties to the GNU are the African National Congress, Democratic Alliance, Patriotic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, Good Party, Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, Freedom Front Plus, United Democratic Movement, Al Jama-ah, Rise Mzansi and the United Africans Transformation.

According to Greyling and Rossouw, the happiness levels in SA have been trending upward since the election results were announced in June, from 5.36 to 5.42 (see graph below).

Happiness of South Africa from election to Cabinet announcement. (Source: Gross National Happiness Index)
Happiness of South Africa from election to Cabinet announcement. (Source: Gross National Happiness Index)

The researchers say analysing the positive trend in the happiness index, they found that positive emotion words used in SA increased, such as “hope”, “happiness”, and “joy”.

However, they also see an increase in negative emotion words, such as “bad” and “afraid”, but with a positive net effect.

According to the researchers, the increase in both positive and negative words is expected as it indicates the debate around the newly-appointed Cabinet.

“Different parties criticise the portfolio allocations and the ministers appointed. The increased size of government is also critiqued. On the other hand, there is relief that the Cabinet was announced after almost a month of negotiations. This announcement implies an agreement about power-sharing.”

They add that the upward trend in the happiness of SA is also reflected in a stronger rand, showing increased international trust in the future of the country.

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