A personal mission to affirm the Tintswalo is us

Motalatale Modiba

Motalatale Modiba

Published Feb 21, 2024


Motalatale Modiba

In delivering the State of The Nation address (Sona) for the sixth administration on February 8, President Cyril Ramaphosa encapsulated the story of our journey in the first three decades of democracy through telling the story of Tintswalo – democracy’s child.

As expected, this provoked contrasting reactions among those who viewed the narrative as nothing but an out-of-touch mythical concoction that bore no relation to the lived experiences of many today, and others who acknowledged that there were many Tintswalos who often quietly walked among us.

As some argue, Tintswalo is a child who wears a garment of many colours. Their story is not a simplistic one. It is a story full of highs and lows. It is about despair yet it is equally about triumph.

I am one of those who resonate with the story of Tintswalo yet in the same breath, acknowledge that our country has the potential to make the triumphant aspect of Tintswalos story a lived reality in every household.

Twenty-four years ago, I was a post matriculant from Lephengville in Hammanskraal whose dream was almost deferred for not having funds to pursue a journalism qualification.

Thanks to the policies of the ANC-led government, I became the first person in my family to qualify as a journalist. I went on to pursue a career in the communication space and now ply my trade as government communicator.

I can hear someone throwing a jab that I may be singing for my supper. That might well be the case but it does not take away the facts at hand and that mine is not a peculiar account.

More than 70% of my fellow journalism students from the class of 2002 at the then-Technikon Northern Gauteng (now Tshwane University of Technology) are themselves Tintswalos who have gone on to impact the public and private sectors in many ways.

Many of my friends back home have pursued careers outside the government but few would find it difficult not to attribute their progress to changes ushered in by the democratic dispensation.

In my immediate and extended family in more than two decades, I have witnessed the birth of many Tintswalos whose testimonies might not swell social media pages or hog popular headlines. Nevertheless, their stories offer hope that even in the unknown corners of Lephenville, Majaneng, Bosplaas, Eesterus, Tladistad, Makapanstad, Dilopye, Pankop and many other villages, Tintswalo has a home.

Outside my family, I bore testimony to countless tales of Tintswalos whose lives have improved over the years.

I say this not oblivious to the countless many who yearn for a day they too will testify that Tintswalo is not a fictional character concocted by the ruling class to silence the masses from being agitated by their lived realities.

As a public servant who is privileged to have been afforded an opportunity to make but a small contribution towards the building of a national democratic society, I bemoan the complicit and hypocritical posture assumed by many of us when it comes to the pursuit of this historic mission.

I look at the fault lines in our communities and the service delivery failures perpetuated by the culture of corruption, greed, opulence and impunity that has infested the public service and to a large extent, other sectors of society as well, and I get why some have a hard time embracing the narrative of Tintswalo.

However, I have had to also grapple with the role that I can play to ensure that as many Tintswalos as possible find their voice.

I have taken it as a personal mission to contribute in whichever way that is within my reach towards the unleashing of Tintswalos who continue to roam the streets of our communities. They too deserve to have their story affirmed.

I too am Tintswalo multiplied!

Modiba is the head of communication at the Gauteng Department of Health. This is his personal testimony.

The Star