The mood of the nation: riding the lows of Lockdown and the ups of “No shutdown”

​Who thought that “bad” could turn to “worse”: add riots to a pandemic and the mood of the nation plunges into an all-time low of 3.6 (measured at 14:00 on 12 July 2021). The previous low of 4.02 was measured on 27 June, when Pres, Ramaphosa announced Level 4 Lockdown regulations to curb the spread of COVID.

What added to the depressed mood? We saw the nation’s mood decreasing to 3.9 with President Ramaphosa’s speech on 11 July, which extended the Lockdown. Added to this, the Zuma riots (protests against Zuma’s incarceration) raging since early Monday morning (12 July), turning into the looting of businesses, pushed the mood to the lowest lows measured, as yet, of 3.68 on Monday afternoon (see the black arrow on figure 1).

The index showed a short turnaround on Monday evening after President Ramaphosa’s speech. The speech denounced the riots, looting and criminal actions and emphasised: “no shutdown” of South Africa will 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 (see the green arrow on figure 1).

Figure 1: GNH per hour from Lockdown (11 July 2021) to “No Shutdown” (12 July 2021)

Gnh Per Hour


These are the results of Gross National Happiness. Today Project, the project is an ongoing study by a team of well-being researchers, namely Prof Talita Greyling (University of Johannesburg), Dr Stephanie Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology), in collaboration with Afstereo)). They developed the GNH (Happiness Index), which is a real-time measure of the mood of a nation (see The team construct the index by using Natural Language Processing (Machine learning methods) to analyse the underlying sentiment of tweets. The team also analyse the underlying emotions of tweets. They differentiate between eight emotions; anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust

Analysing the tweets for Monday 12 July, the team found the following:

Negative sentiment: tweets that portray a negative sentiment show fear and anger. Many fear the uncertainty of the future. They are worried about jobs and safety. 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. They fear the loss of lives.

Positive sentiment: tweets that portray the importance to protect lives “blacklives matter” and asking for strong leadership. Also showing support for the actions taken by the president. A few tweets reflect a positive mood as restaurants are re-opening.

Examples of tweets:

Nke le bolela le yena lere: 1- Release Zuma 2- Resign 3- Pay Back R500 Billion then he can fo home and sleep with peace because whatever in Shell House will Happen and His Master De Klerk forget that he sponsored Zulu Nation with Big Ammunition during that time of apartheid. mxm

@SbuLXVII I think it would be a tragedy to treat these protests as petulant outbursts that will wear off in a day or two. A government should be seeking to proactively engage the people.

When judges choose to enter the political terrain instead of upholding fairness and justice they open themselves to be reduced to mere commodities. Therefore there will be more problems than solutions. The colonial judiciary has no credibility nor legitimacy

It’s the guy carrying a fridge for me #ShutdownSA Jabulani Mall #LootingForZuma Been watching this since 9am , 6hours later its still Christmas

@PresidencyZA @CyrilRamaphosa Pls let’s take our country on the right path before it all gets out of control.God bless SA.

I cant wait to look back and thank God for passing this season

Decisive action is needed to turn around the mood of the nation. This can be done by strong leadership. The focus should be on the protection of lives, turning around the pandemic and stopping lawlessness. Unity is needed to fulfil the Constitution’s aim: to increase the quality of life of all people in South Africa.

Prof Talita Greyling (

Wellbeing Economist, University of Johannesburg, Board of directors International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Co-editor Journal of Happiness Studies and Applied Research in Quality of life.

Dr Stephanié Rossouw (

Wellbeing Economist, Auckland University of Technology, Vice-President Finance for International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Editor Journal of Happiness Studies.

Technical Support by AFSTEREO.

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