Gross National Happiness Index took a dive after Sona

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd L) stands during the national anthem, flanked by his wife Tshepo Motsepe (C), before delivering his annual State of the Nation address to Parliament in Cape Town on June 20, 2019. - It was his first state-of-the-nation address since the ruling ANC party won elections in May, with the crisis-hit state energy company high on the agenda. (Photo by Kim LUDBROOK / POOL / AFP)

The Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) results show that South Africans’ happiness levels hit somewhat of a nadir on Thursday last week, meaning President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “dream” State of the Nation address (Sona) may have hit the wrong notes.

Wellbeing economist at University of Johannesburg Professor Talita Greyling and her Auckland University of Technology counterpart Dr Stephanie Rossouw observed happiness levels after the speech, and the results were not good.

Greyling said happiness followed the same pattern as all preceding Thursdays, with highs reached between 5am and 7am.

Sona’s happiness scores fluctuated between 6 and 6.6. On an ordinary Thursday evening, the happiness score generally stays above 5.89 between 8pm and 9pm.

“This was not the case on Sona Thursday. Instead of the mood levelling off, it decreased after 8pm to lows of 5.72 and remained lower than on any other Thursday night until 11pm,” she said.

According to Greyling, this reflected the sceptical mood of South Africans after hearing Ramaphosa’s wish list, which she said many felt would never materialise.

The researchers developed the GNH based on sentiment analysis of the daily tweets, from which they derive a happiness score. The scale is between one and 10, with five being neutral.

Their analysis of the tweets after Sona demonstrated that the country felt Ramaphosa was “selling them dreams” and was too ambitious.

“On Friday, we saw a somewhat more positive attitude, with the happiness score reaching an average of 6.6, in line with previous Fridays,” she said.

Greyling said South Africans had gone from being “cautiously optimistic” about what their future entails to “rather sceptical”.

“As we follow President Ramaphosa, the GNH will quickly show us how the mood changes when he starts to make these dreams a reality.”

Greyling and Rossouw have been following the political events in the country since a week before the elections and found that the happiness index was closely related to political events.

Sipho Mabena / The Citizen