Cape Town - After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday, one of the questions on the nation’s lips was: Is Tintswalo real?
During the president’s Sona, he had sought to illustrate the progress and achievements of his ANC government during its 30 years in power in a democratic South Africa.
He did so by telling the story of Tintswalo – “democracy’s child” born in 1994, who grew up in a society that was worlds apart from the South Africa of her forebears, and had changed the fortunes of her family for the better thanks to the governing party’s policies.
True story or fiction? Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has clarified that it was merely an analogy devised to inspire South Africans.
“The Tintswalo story is a representation of all us,” she told SAnews.
Ntshavheni said Tintswalo is a representation of all those who are called the “Black Diamonds” of their families.
“Tintswalo is a representation of progress we have made as a country that a child from Makwarela can be a minister; that a child from Tshifudi can be a lawyer; that a child from Dzingidzingi can be a nurse; that a child from an ordinary family can become a doctor.”
Ramaphosa had narrated that Tintswalo was a beneficiary of free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of six.
He described her upbringing in a household provided with basic water and electricity, in a house where her parents were likely to have lived without electricity before 1994.
“Tintswalo was enrolled in a school in which her parents did not have to pay school fees, and each school day she received a nutritious meal as part of a programme that today supports nine million learners from poor families,” said Ramaphosa.
“The democratic state provided a child support grant to meet her basic needs …
“With this support, Tintswalo – democracy’s child – was able to complete high school. Through the assistance of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, Tintswalo attended one of our Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges and obtained a qualification.”
The narrative drew a mixed reaction from observers.
On X (formerly Twitter), medical doctor Mike Mikia Ramothwala of the Limpopo Health Department and ANC Youth League provincial spokesperson, claimed he was living proof of this progress.
“I am Tintswalo born and raised in the deep rural village of Bochabelo, because of ANC policies I went to study medicine at UCT on a free government bursary, because of ANC policies went to the US to do a fellowship in public management at TTU for free. I am Tintswalo,” he wrote.
Critics, however, said the analogy was out of touch with reality and implausible under ANC rule.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said: “President Ramaphosa’s recital of the story of Tintswalo, the child of democracy, makes glaring omissions of the ANC-created struggles that many in her generation now face.
“In South Africa today, there is a 70% chance that Tintswalo will be unemployed. There is a 50% chance that she is one of the 30 million people who live below the poverty line.
“Any day, Tintswalo could become one of the 75 people murdered, or one of the 115 women who are raped or subjected to gender-based violence each and every day.
“Should she get sick, Tintswalo may die in a state hospital that has no electricity due to load shedding. And when she opens her taps, there is no longer any water coming out.
“The fact of the matter is that Tintswalo’s hopes and dreams as a child of democracy have been stolen by the ANC. Far from a ‘New Dawn’, South Africa is now at a dusk of despair, but there is hope.”