South Africa

Tintswalo: A symbol of ANC’s legacy


There has been no shortage of volunteers to put flesh on the imaginary bones of Tintswalo, the “born free” young woman fathered by the ANC 30 years ago and drawn to the attention of the country by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address.

Democracy’s child fathered by the ANC, the beloved Tintswalo had been endowed with a substantial trousseau. She was among the first beneficiaries of a child support grant and free health care. She grew up in a house provided, along with free water and electricity, by the state.

Her education was free through to a tertiary qualification. When she started working she was able “to progress and thrive” because of the ANC employment equity empowerment policies. As a result, Tintswalo has been able to save, start a family, move into a better house, and live a better life.

In the subsequent debate, parliament initially took on the air of a revivalist meeting. An array of ANC MPs queued to “give witness” to having experienced the beatifically transformational touch of Tintswalo.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu contradicted Ramaphosa’s assertion that Democracy was Tintswalo’s mom. “I am standing here as the mother of Tintswalo,” she confessed. She was also “an auntie to Tintswalo and a grandmother to Tintswalo”.

After staking claim to the entire matriarchal line, Zulu was willing to be generous on the patriarchal. “Here we have,” she said encompassing her proud male ANC comrades, “the grandfathers, uncles and fathers of Tintswalo”.

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Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, however, was having none of it. “I am Tintswalo!” he proclaimed. To the disappointment perhaps of many, it soon became clear that the dapper minister was not coming out of the LGBTQ+ closet but speaking metaphorically.

Lamola explained that without the ANC government’s tertiary student financing, “I would not be standing in front of you as a member of parliament, an attorney of the high court of SA”.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, too, was a quick study. He said he was “Uncle Sputla” and he had heard dear Tintswalo’s “anger and cries”. This was a tad over-eager message, since until then Tintswalo had been living in this ANC-provided Utopia where life was bliss.

Uncle Sputla was quick to try to backtrack. “To you, Tintswalo, I say, the end of load shedding is indeed in sight. The future is indeed bright.”

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi was equally off-key. While at 65 he’s patently too old to claim to be Tintswalo, it seems that he may at least have been present at her birth.

In those days, in the ’90s, he had to perform caesarean sections without the benefit of an assisting anaesthetist. Everyone knows that things are now better under an ANC government.

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The official opposition had their own Grimms’ version of what the DA’s chief whip Siviwe Gwarube described as a “revisionist and dishonest fairy tale … a fabricated narrative” that was an insult to the nightmarish lived reality of Tintswalo and most South Africans.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said Tintswalo was disillusioned: unemployed, living in a shack without water and electricity, her father had been murdered, and she feared for her safety.

The DA is boxing clever here. It would be foolish to deny the ANC government’s remarkable early successes in improving the lives of the poor.

Bereft of any evidence of a turnaround, the Ramaphosa administration’s strategy seems to be to take credit for advances between 1994 and 2009, deny blame for any setbacks since, and to promise, as is the denouement in every tale, that everyone will live happily ever after.

If that doesn’t work, just tell the voters to suck it up. Brandishing an admonishing finger at parliamentarians, Sylvia Lucas, the ANC’s deputy chair of the National Council of Provinces, said “load shedding is not the end of the world”.

Take that, Tintswalo, you spoilt little bitch.

ALSO READ: ‘I am Tintswalo’s grandmother,’ says Lindiwe Zulu