South African’s levels of hourly happiness, after President Ramaphosa’s level four lockdown restriction speech (23 April 2020), decreased to new lows, never experienced before.  The hourly happiness score at 21:00 on 23 April reached a low of 4.6 compared to the average hourly score of 6.08, that is a 24% deviation from the norm (see the graph below and the red arrow indicating the all-time low).

These are the results of Prof Talita Greyling (University of Johannesburg) and Dr Stephanie Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology) who in collaboration with Afstereo launched South Africa’s Happiness Index in April 2019 and recently expanded their study to include the analysis of the emotions of South Africans (see www. gnh.today). 


Hourly happiness scores – 23 April 2020

Source: Authors’ own calculations using GNH data (www.gnh.today)


On 23 April, South African’s eagerly awaited the announcement of the President to ease (or remove) lockdown restrictions, the hourly happiness scores soared to levels above the norm, revealing the positive expectations, from 17:00 in the afternoon.

However, the higher levels of positive sentiment were soon crushed by the announcements of the level four restrictions, which was not the “good news” which was expected.  We saw hourly happiness scores dropping to below the norm, during and after the president’s speech.

Considering the analysis of the emotions of South Africans, it was interesting that the emotions “anger” and “fear” did not change much from the norm, however, joy decreased significantly from 17% to only 11% and distrust (despair)/trust showed an unprecedented increase from 19% to 39%.

What did the tweets reveal?

  1. The central theme (emotion) of the tweets can be summarised by the following two tweets: “I am lost as f…..k, Mr President and “This is where we are losing the fight”.
  2. From the tweets it is clear that people are very concerned that they cannot go back to work, as many are stuck at home and cannot travel to the provinces in which they are employed.
  3. A similar concern is related to children that went home before the lockdown and with the travel restrictions cannot go back to the province where they are schooled and do not have the necessary technology to attend “online” teaching
  4. Another major tweet topic is the fact that people are allowed to buy cigarettes, but alcohol sales are forbidden.
  5. Major concerns are raised about the economic impact of the lockdown restrictions, among other people losing their jobs and limited trading allowed.
  6. Interesting is the many tweets mentioning President Ramaphosa’s mishap with fitting his mask, just before the speech.  The tweets showed sympathy, mentioning that the president “looks very tired” and him struggling with the mask is evidence of his exhaustion.  

As the population of South Africa realises that COVID-19 is far from over, and that the nation will be challenged as never before, it is necessary to encourage and motivate the people, so that the nation can rediscover their positive and resilient nature, which they are known for, and beat the pandemic.


Prof Talita Greyling (talitag@uj.ac.za)

Wellbeing Economist, University of Johannesburg, Board of directors International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Co-editor Journal of Happiness Studies.

Dr Stephanié Rossouw (stephanie.rossouw@aut.ac.nz)

Wellbeing Economist, Auckland University of Technology, Vice-President Finance for International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Editor Journal of Happiness Studies. 

Technical Support by AFSTEREO.

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