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CR’s Tintswalo analogy would have been laughable if it wasn’t so insulting to millions

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Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick and is part of the founding team of Maverick Citizen. Prior to Daily Maverick she worked as a communications and advocacy officer at Public Interest Law Centre SECTION27.

It may have started off as a seemingly clever metaphor and an electoral ace card for the ANC, but it came off as a tone-deaf, insensitive and clearly manipulative political ploy.

I won’t bore you with my memory of the euphoria I felt as democracy was being ushered in 30 years ago when I was an 11-year-old girl, lest I am mistaken for a supporter of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ill-fated Tintswalo analogy in his recent State of the Nation Address.

Do you know the meaning of the name Tintswalo? I’m sure many curious South Africans who don’t speak Xitsonga rushed to google it to find out, but for those who didn’t, it means grace or mercy – the antithesis of the ANC’s rule over at least the past decade.

“The story of the first 30 years of our democracy can best be told through the life of a child called Tintswalo born at the dawn of freedom in 1994. She grew up in a society governed by a Constitution rooted in equality, the rule of law and affirmation of the inherent dignity of every citizen,” Ramaphosa waxed lyrically.

The analogy would have been laughable if it wasn’t so insulting to the millions of South Africans who cruelly have been brought so close to the promise of the Constitution, yet have barely been able to enjoy its protections and prescripts.

What may have started off as a seemingly clever metaphor and an electoral ace card for the ANC sadly came off as a tone-deaf, insensitive and clearly manipulative political ploy. The self-congratulatory tone was off-putting in light of the reality faced by those born in 1994.

We cannot celebrate the Tintswalo who could have, should have and would have been just to assuage the ANC’s ego.

I’m not prone to cynicism, but it unfortunately bears mentioning that it’s not difficult to claim to have improved the lives of South African people from the low base that was apartheid; it’s a given that a shift to democracy would have achieved this.

I think the ruling party can rightly claim to have had an upward trajectory in its first 15 years of assuming the mantle of government. However, the past 15 years have been anything but. So, an accurate reflection of Ramaphosa’s Tintswalo would in fact show that she was tragically stunted as a 15-year-old teenager, her promising future after 1994 markedly curtailed.

We cannot celebrate the Tintswalo who could have, should have and would have been just to assuage the ANC’s ego.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tintswalo and balloons take centre stage amid the weird, the curious and the contradictory debates

What we need to do is ensure that we do better by the Tintswalos born during our democracy by electing a political leadership of unquestionable moral standing with a demonstrable commitment to the founding principles of our Damascus moment in 1994.

We’ve done it before and I believe we can do it again. That’s why, in this year’s elections, the calibre of the political party we choose is so important.

Leaving behind the perhaps unkind criticism of the speech, what we can glean from Ramaphosa’s words is the unintended insight that should give us pause, namely just who a dysfunctional state hurts the most: the very Tintswalo he brought to the country’s collective imagination. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ajay San says:

    Mr Moleketsi. Your summary of the ANC’s 5 deadly sins was spot on. As a sub-plot I would add corruption allowed to germinate and left to grow like weeds throughout the organisation.

  • Gary Palmer says:

    Grasping at straws to hold their position, the ANC leadership have insulted their children by dispossessing them of a promised bright future, through famine, disease, poverty and false claims to otherwise.

    If the majority ANC party supporters see this, and decide to oust this kleptocracy, then it will be these cadres who will be packing their bags for Moscow and Havana. There will be years of anger to face them should they want to stay and proclaim their lies.

    Still, we live in hope!

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    I very nearly voted for the ANC in ’94 and made my decision not to in the queue to the booth. Something made me decide that a more substantial opposition was a better outcome than an even bigger majority for them. Glad I did that so I don’t have feel an idiot a idiot for that as well as not emigrating when it was much easier to do.

  • Tony B says:

    I was a very proud South African when I voted for the ANC in 1994.
    My work with the PFP (Progressive Federal Party) and with the great Frederik van Zyl Slabbert was no longer needed.
    My SA pride eroded quickly during Thabo Mbeki’s term in office.
    Today, I am feeling very foolish to have believed Nelson Mandela’s statements during his inauguration speech as the first democratically elected President of our country.
    “Let there be justice for all.
    Let there be peace for all.
    Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
    Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
    I live in a small Karoo village.
    There are no job opportunities here but we try and help each other as best as we can.
    Water is not always available out of our taps, water trucks are never available and this community goes for 2-3 days at a time without water and electricity is frequently OFF [in addition to our “normal” planned blackouts] as the existing infrastructure collapses.
    No one to whom I have spoken to relates to the “Tintswalo” mentioned by the President!
    Very few actually know what I am talking about.
    No one complains because the local ANC councillor does not tolerate any criticism.
    I’ve stopped complaining. I no longer want to be told that I am “just a racist”.
    Today, I am ashamed to be South African.
    But I love living here and this community so for now, I’ll stay.

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