As we bid 2019 farewell, it is worth a pause to reflect on those compatriots who have shaped the past 365 days, writes Adriaan Basson
2019 was a rollercoaster ride for Mzansi: from the very highs of the Springboks’ World Cup triumph in Japan and Zozibini Tunzi’s spectacular crowning as Miss Universe, to the very lows of our brutal gender-based violence endemic and the mammoth failures at Eskom.
In-between, we had a successful national election and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform efforts were curbed by the realities of the ANC’s factional interests.
The official opposition, the DA, saw a dramatic change in leadership and the National Prosecuting Authority’s long-awaited state capture arrests started towards the end of the year.
In my view, these 10 people were instrumental in shaping the good and bad of 2019.
1. Siya Kolisi
My undisputed South African of the year is Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi, who led our national rugby team to World Cup glory in Japan. The importance of a Boks team being led by a black captain that included the most black Springboks yet cannot be understated.
It was not only an inflection point for South African rugby, but for the country as a whole. Kolisi’s calls for unity and praise of diversity in his team couldn’t have come at a better moment for a country battered by poverty, racism and corruption.
Kolisi’s cry that we are stronger together drowned out the noises of the prophets of doom and will reverberate for years to come.
2. President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa had a tough year, having to balance internal ANC politics with the legacy left by the Jacob Zuma administration in government. Under the circumstances, he did well to steer the ship that is South Africa out of the morass, but the verdict is still out if he will be brave enough to take hard, unpopular decisions in 2020 that risk to alienate sections of the ANC and labour.
3. Judge Raymond Zondo
Zondo has become our moral compass; a voice of reason of who and what South Africa could and should be. He has steered the commission into state capture in an exemplary fashion, knowing that we cannot move forward without knowing the truth.
4. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni
Despite his reluctance to return to active politics and preference to host cooking shows on social media, Mboweni has been rock-solid in his support for Ramaphosa’s reform agenda. His no-nonsense, straight-talking is a breath of fresh air in the ANC and his plan to save the economy has set the pace for reforms, including those of state-owned enterprises.
5. Uyinene Mrwetyana
The rape and murder of the UCT student in a Post Office in Cape Town ignited the #AmINext movement against gender-based violence. It was the largest public outcry against women abuse this decade and her memory has inspired a new generation of activists.
6. Zozibini Tunzi
Our very own Miss South Africa grabbed the attention of the world when she smashed perceptions and stereotypes of beauty by being crowned Miss Universe in December. It was a major moment of recognition for black women by an industry dominated by white faces for decades.
7. Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Her unorthodox ways have brought Mkhwebane to the brink of being the first public protector in democratic South Africa to be impeached. By using her powers to achieve political outcomes, Mkhwebane has become an active player in the fightback against Ramaphosa.
8. Ndlovu Youth Choir
The choir from the Moutse Valley in Limpopo gave us goosebumps as they thrilled the world with their performances on America’s Got Talent, where they made it to the finals.
9. Gavin Watson
The mysterious death of the Bosasa boss and ANC funder as the state capture net was closing in on him highlighted the dark side of democracy. Watson oversaw a criminal enterprise for over a decade with impunity because of the blessings he dished out to the governing party and its politicians.
10. Sho Madjozi
Millions of people around the world will say their goodbyes to 2019 on Tuesday evening to the beat of John Cena, arguably the most popular gqom song ever to emerge from our shores. Sho Madjozi took the world by storm this year and is a proud ambassador for Mzansi.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.
· This column will resume on January 13, 2020. I wish you and your loved ones peace, resilience and prosperity for the new year.