UJ’s Prof Talita Greyling and Dr Stephanié Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology) developed the “Gross National Happiness Index (GNH)” of South Africa” based on sentiment analysis of the daily tweets of South Africans, from which they derive a happiness score. The scale of the happiness scores are between 1 and 10, with 5 being neutral, thus neither happy nor unhappy. Sentiment analysis is the procedure of text analysis that labels a tweet as either having a positive, neutral or negative sentiment, which they then apply to a sentiment balance algorithm, to derive a happiness score.
The researchers have been following the political events in South Africa, since a week before the elections, and found that the happiness index is very closely related to political events. Interestingly, they also found that GNH is correlated to economic indicators such as the JSE All Share Index, and from analyses, it seems as if the GNH index is a leading indicator, implying that what happens to the sentiment in South Africa is reflected in the financial markets.
On Wednesday 29 May at 20:00, President Ramaphosa announced his cabinet, after much deliberation, and an impatient nation awaiting his first step to show his commitment to his inaugural promises.
However, it was worth the wait, with these first steps taken as the President, Mr. Ramaphosa has shown that he is committed to delivering on his inaugural commitments made to South Africans. Last night he cut the number of cabinet ministers from 36 to 28 (a 27% reduction), showing the country that he is determined to improve efficiency. President Ramaphosa told his cabinet that they carry the expectations of the nation and stressed that he will hold them to the highest ethical standards.
Wednesday morning “happiness” followed the same pattern as all preceding Wednesdays, with highs being reached between 5:00 – 7:00 am. The rest of the day’s happiness scores fluctuated between 6.3 and 6.8, however on a normal Wednesday evening, the happiness score starts to decline from 19:00 pm onwards. This was not the case on Cabinet Wednesday. This Wednesday was different from the others, in that instead of the mood declining from 19:00 pm it started to increase, reflecting the political energy due to the expectations of the announcement of the cabinet at 20:00. From 21:00, we saw the happiness score increasing to levels above 6.5 reaching 6.53 at 23:00, the highest happiness score, since the index has been reported, for that time of the evening.
This reflects the positive mood of the country after President Ramaphosa chose individuals for their knowledge and skills, their past ethical behaviour and he made significant progress in terms of gender equality.
Analysing the tweets clearly show that the country supports President Ramaphosa. Many of the tweets congratulated the new President on his choices. The Tweets also showed appreciation for the president’s commitment to hold members of the cabinet accountable, especially considering any corruption allegations. The negative Tweets were mainly related to the delayed announcement of the cabinet. Some Tweets mentioned that the cut of 36 to 28 ministers was not radical enough and a higher cut was expected. There were also comments on certain members of the cabinet that people did not approve of. The higher happiness score of Wednesday evening carried over to Thursday morning, with Thursday morning’s levels of happiness higher than the preceding Thursdays.
Now that President Ramaphosa has selected highly skilled cabinet members, South Africans admit that they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about what their future entails. As we follow President Ramaphosa during his time in office, the GNH will very quickly inform us about the sentiment of South Africans and if they support his policy decisions. We will be following the happiness score for the rest of day to determine if this is the happiest day in South Africa so far, and if this trend will be carried into the future.