Mandy Wiener15 February 2024 | 4:20

MANDY WIENER: ANC feeding us a fiction it genuinely believes

The ANC genuinely does not understand how opposition parties could think South Africans do not live in the wonderland it describes.

MANDY WIENER: ANC feeding us a fiction it genuinely believes

“Controlling the narrative” is a basic public relations skill. It’s what all good communications experts and PR practitioners aim to do. “Get ahead of the story” and take control of your narrative.

The use of “Tintswalo”, a fictional South African child of democracy born in 1994, is an effective narrative device employed by Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech writers to do just this. It is a crafty vehicle that enabled the President to give examples of the successes of the ANC-led government, very practically, over the past thirty years.

Ramaphosa used Tintswalo to highlight the government’s successful school feeding scheme, the improvements regarding running water and electricity, the child support grant system, the national student funding scheme NSFAS, technical colleges and employment equity and empowerment policies. 

There are indeed many Tintswalos in South Africa who are beneficiaries of the government’s successes. However, that is just one narrative and that is the one that the ANC is seeking to sell us.

Cabinet Ministers after the SONA address and MPs in the debate in Parliament have been consistent in their key messaging and the refrain is being repeated regularly.

Blame it on apartheid and the DA-run municipalities are where all the problems are.

Thirty years into democracy, the current government is seeking to remind us about what it inherited in 1994 and how difficult it has been to reverse the legacy of apartheid. The part of the story they conveniently omit is about how the ANC under Jacob Zuma was responsible for dismantling and eviscerating government institutions, organs of state and parastatals.


As the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us, there is a danger to telling a single story. “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story”.

The ANC is telling us an incomplete story.

They are trying to convince us that this is the only story. That is because the ANC genuinely believes this fiction to be reality. They don’t understand how opposition parties could think this is a wonderland, a glorious dystopian universe, that they are living in.

"The opposition behaves as if they have just fallen from heaven when they know the president has been candid about the successes and the challenges of our country. They do so in order not to see the successes of the governing party," Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said in the SONA debate.

At the same time, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande accused Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and the DA of peddling a false narrative. "All the things you claim to have done, have been made possible by the advances of the ANC."

In response, the ANC is also trying to dismantle the narrative that the DA will attempt to peddle. That where it governs, it governs well. Minister Lindiwe Zulu lamented how much poverty and homelessness there was in the City of Cape Town, which is indeed true. It is also true that there is homelessness and poverty in all South African cities including those where Zulu’s party governs.

Zulu controversially said after the deadly Marshalltown fire last year that the lawlessness and decay which led to the fire was a result of apartheid because it subjected people to inhabitable living conditions. 

Again, this week we are hearing that very tired argument being pushed by the ANC. We are where we are because of apartheid. 

To a degree that may be true. But it is not the full story. They are selling us a selective rendering of the history of this country. It is because they have convinced themselves that is indeed the truth and that’s why they should hang on to power. They are trying to control the narrative. 

The electorate needs to be told of the full tale of mismanagement, of corruption and malfeasance, of failing infrastructure and leadership failings, of violent crime and unemployment, to truly make an informed decision.

Tintswalo’s story cannot be told in isolation.