First published by the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper
A is for Ace
The ANC secretary-general, who has inspired a thousand punning headlines, found himself holding none of the cards when the Hawks came knocking in November. Ace Magashule finally saw the interior of a courtroom while being charged with 21 counts of corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering. This rap sheet must have come as a mighty shock to the rest of the ANC’s Top Six, whom Magashule had apparently been able to persuade that he was to be arrested for “failure to perform oversight”. Those who turned out in support of Ace at the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court might be described as South Africa’s very own “basket of deplorables”: Yengeni, Bongo, Gigaba… The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could have saved time by air-dropping arrest warrants en masse.
B is for Bushiri
The most famous Malawian export since Madonna’s kids, fake prophet Shepherd Bushiri sensationally fled from South African justice in November – though not via SAA, because it’s a non-prophet airline. As “Major 1” held forth from Lilongwe about his Christ-like persecution by the Hawks, it emerged that Mr and Mrs Bushiri were allegedly coining it to the tune of 20,000 money laundering transactions per month. An anonymous security source quoted by City Press said that Mary Bushiri must be the Ponzi scheme’s mastermind, because “her husband isn’t that smart”. Burn!
C is for Coronavirus
What more is there to say about 2020’s famous killer virus? Let’s look on the bright side. Not only did the global lockdown cause a dramatic drop in greenhouse gases and air pollutants, the virus also carried off British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. Most of us also acquired internet degrees in epidemiology. As for the rest of it, it’s been a tiny bit grim.
D is for Dinosaur Alliance
The DA had the chance to vote in a young, exciting, smart, black female leader in October – instead, it opted for the real South African crowdpleaser: a middle-aged white guy. This while the spectre of Helen Zille loomed ghoulishly on as the real power behind the throne, and the party decided to ditch BEE as a policy. When analysts dared suggest this might not be the smartest move in terms of widening the DA’s popular support, leaders frothed at the mouth in indignation. But on Super Wednesday, close on 100 by-elections countrywide saw the party kicked to the kerb by voters opting for the Patriotic Alliance, Al Jama-ah, the Freedom Front Plus, ANC….
E is for Elections
Other than South Africa’s glut of November by-elections, there was an insignificant little poll in the same month in the US too. Who won? Depends on who you ask. The year is 2035 and Donald Trump is still tweeting from his deathbed: “The elections were RIGGED! I won by a LOT!”
F is for Fokol
Fokol to drink. Fokol to smoke. That was the reality faced by South Africans in hard lockdown, as middle-class smokers and drinkers for the first time flirted with a life of crime. Smokers hastened the onset of emphysema by turning in their droves to an illegal brand called Chicago: essentially rat poison in a paper tube. As for the drinkers, word soon spread of dealers who could hook you up with a terrifically overpriced bottle of Chardonnay when you were jonesing for a fix. A whole country, breaking bad.
G is for Guptas
Another year with those kooky Indian brothers absent from their adopted homeland, and nary a postcard from Dubai. If only they knew how much we, and specifically the NPA, miss them.
H is for Hair
In September, hair brand TRESemmé dove headfirst into the pool of famously racist ad campaigns like a Dutch person fanatically bent on celebrating Zwarte Piet. When marketers labelled black hair “Dry and Damaged” and “Frizzy and Dull”, they might as well have been describing their own neural synapses. The positive element of the saga is that it gave the restless cadres of the EFF something to protest about, in a year when opportunities for EFF posturing have been thin on the ground.
I is for Inquiry into State Capture
The Inquiry into State Capture, better known as the Zondo commission, laboured on and on and on this year. On it forged, with the ponderous musings of the world’s slowest talker, Judge Raymond Zondo. Onwards, with the fearsome thrust and parry of quiet assassin Kate Hofmeyr SC. Former president Jacob Zuma strolled out of proceedings during the lunch break, and now he may never come back.
J is for Jerusalema
A ray of light in a gloomy year, Master KG’s smash hit could be heard blaring from every street corner this year. What is it about that eerily catchy tune that makes the hairs on your arm stand up? The associated dance challenge went viral internationally – as December dawned, news broke that the Jerusalema Challenge had finally reached … Jerusalem.
K is for Kamala Harris
“We did it. We did it, Joe!” With those words, Kamala Harris noted the not insignificant fact that the US had just voted in its first female vice-president of colour. No presh, Harris, who now carries the hopes of the progressive universe on her shoulders.
L is for Lockdown
It may not feel like it any more, but we’re on Day 3 million of lockdown. Is lockdown a legal condition at this stage, or just a state of mind?
M is for Megxit
Subsequent events this year may have erased the memory of the bombshell of this January incident – when Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan had such a good time over the December holidays that they decided to quit their jobs in the new year. We’ve all been there. Most of us, however, have not had this move become international news. Long story short: the nice American lady rescued the sad British prince from the stuffy tower and they lived happily ever after in Santa Barbara.
N is for Niehaus
An estimated 1.7 million South Africans lost their jobs this year – but not Camo Carl Niehaus. He had employment aplenty: from ordering the printing of “Hands Off Ace” banners and dusting off the old “Hands Off JZ” banners, to hosting MK Vets press conferences in which he ranted about … who knows, really? One thing’s for certain: it’s Niehaus’s world. We just live in it.
O is for Out of Order
Insert your favourite state-owned enterprise here.
P is for PPE
One of those terms that only medical personnel had any use for before 2020, personal protective equipment became a concern for us all when it turned out that more than R10-billion earmarked for it got stolen – and that even President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inner circle was part of the looting.
Q is for QAnon
The irrational American conspiracy theory – that the world is run by a cabal of celebrity paedophiles who live off a hormone called adrenochrome – hit our shores in earnest this year, proving that South Africans are capable of being every bit as preposterous as the Yanks. Even more embarrassingly, it emerged that a South African man might have been behind the whole unsound fairy tale in the first place. Mzansi: alive with possibility.
R is for Ramaphosa
Poor old Cyril entered 2020 thinking all he would have to do this year was persuade more of his rich buddies to invest in South Africa Ltd. Instead, while disease ravaged the land, he ended up having to shut down the entire economy: for a businessman, the equivalent of self-harming with a rusty knife. He also proved himself entirely ineffective at rooting out the rot when a series of corrupt comrades (see: A) were permitted to keep cushy jobs in the ANC or government. And, worst of all, we all got to see in April that he didn’t really know how to put on a mask. Shame.
S is for SAA
Here’s a strong contender for most enraging moment of the year. On 22 November, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tweeted a question: “Do we need a national airline?” Many of us have been asking the same thing, through increasingly gritted teeth. Only one tiny problem: Mboweni’s question came almost a month after the very same minister had announced a R10.5-billion SAA bailout. Next time, maybe do your mind-mapping beforehand, Uncle Tito.
T is for Toilet Paper
Remember when it became clear that the pandemic was real, and lockdowns were about to happen, and people around the world rushed to supermarkets to panic-buy toilet paper? That was, in retrospect, quite embarrassing.
U is for Unbelievable
2020. Seriously, what just happened?!
V is for Vaccines
This was a year in which the president of the US suggested that Covid-19 could be beaten by injecting people with Jik. Take a moment to contemplate that. And then, when you’re ready, return to the almost equally dystopian current reality which sees nations globally compete in a game of Who Has The Most Money to determine which nationalities live and die. Considering that South Africa has a Chief Justice who publicly suggested that vaccines may be intended to demonically scramble citizens’ DNA, perhaps it’s only fair we’re so far down the line.
W is for Weinstein
Another blow struck for Lady Justice in 2020: Hollywood’s best-known rapist finally got his comeuppance after decades of payoffs, dirty tricks, Mossad tactics and legal threats. In March, film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. Thus far, his head has avoided finding its way into a noose in his jail cell – unlike that of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
X is for Xulu
If you thought you had a bad year, spare a thought for notorious lawyer Barnabas Xulu. The founder of the Jacob Zuma Foundation suffered the indignity of having the state move on his Ballito property and his Porsche in order to win back R20-million he falsely claimed for government work. But it takes more than that to knock down Xulu, who was back in action in December arguing for his favourite client: the not-at-all-dodgy Judge John Hlophe.
Y is for Yes
Yes, we made it. If you’re reading this, you lived through one of the most gruelling years in recent global history. Hold on to that thought, and shut down the little voice at the back of your mind whispering: What if 2021 is even worse?
Z is for Zoom
The second the pandemic struck, it became internationally illegal to use all the old methods to talk to people over the computer, like Skype and Google Hangouts. Zoom replaced them all, for little discernible reason since the application was exactly like the old ones – except with the significant benefit that it kicked you out after an hour, which provided a beautiful excuse to end a meeting. The Zoomgeist was such that if you had bought shares in Zoom a year ago, you would now be a gazillionaire. As opposed to those of us who bought shares in live concerts and hugging, who are now penniless. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.