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Vote for Daily Maverick’s People of the Year 2023
Dear readers, it’s that time again when you get the opportunity to vote for Daily Maverick’s People of The Year. Unlike next year’s elections when you only get to vote for political parties and independent candidates, in this election you get to vote for a broad range of remarkable, amazing,wicked, funny and idiotic people from Mzansi and further afield. Your vote counts. Choose your best and worst candidates for 2023 by the deadline of Wednesday, 22 November, 3pm.
Category: South African Person of the year
A person who has had the broadest or most significant positive impact on the country as a whole. Nominees:
Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Advocate Andy Mothibi
Andy Mothibi takes state corruption seriously and is a driving force behind tackling the scourge. Just some of the entities on his radar are the National Lotteries Commission and the SABC. In October 2023 Mothibi told Parliament the SIU “submitted 21 reports to the Presidency on the outcomes of investigations relating to allegations of corruption, maladministration, and malpractice in the affairs of State institutions.” What makes such work more admirable is that threats have been leveled at the SIU under Mothibi’s leadership, yet investigations continue.
Siya Kolisi , Springbok captain
Kolisi not only led his side to a second successive Rugby World Cup title, but showed his leadership through several significant gestures. He rallied behind Manie Libbok when he was struggling from the tee and he offered England flank Tom Curry support after he became the victim of online abuse, despite the fact that Curry’s accusations of a racial slur against Bongi Mbonambi were unfounded. Simply class on and off the field.
“Simon’s Town Resistance Army”
Anyone who thought they could under the cloud of darkness enter the navy town and remain incognito met their match when hundreds of binoculars were trained onto the navy dockyard where a certain Lady R had berthed. Residents sent hourly updates, neighbourhood Whatsapp groups were on fire and every move was recorded, photographed and shared beyond the town, the story going global. They understood that by sharing this information, life was being made uncomfortable for all the roleplayers, lifting some of the cloak of darkness and holding the government accountable. Active citizenry at its best!
Assad Gaffar, Westville Ratepayers Association
Asad Gaffar is a 51-year-old civic campaigner and chairman of the Westville Ratepayers Association who led a rates boycott in eThekwini this year. A brusque mealie meal salesman, Gaffar is an unlikely public champion who garnered support for demands for civilian oversight of spending. He says patriots want accountability in a municipality beset by corruption.
Category: South African Institution of the year
Institutional strength is vital to build democracy and hold the forces of capture at bay. Good institutions undergird good democracies. Nominees:
The Constitutional Court
When the minister of Home Affairs was instructed to pay a portion of the legal costs, the Constitutional Court made a clear statement that it was tired of dealing with errant politicians and government officials.
The court’s 2023 judgments have affirmed the rights of immigrants and the rights of women in divorce. It also made a significant ruling on the rights to access of information and the press in a case involving Jacob Zuma’s tax returns.
Special Investigating Unit (SIU)
Not only is the SIU cracking down on State corruption, it is also retrieving and preventing the loss of masses of money. Over the financial year, the SIU averaged a disciplinary referral a day – and then some. According to an October 2023 SIU statement, it “made 376 disciplinary referrals against officials in various State institutions and 680 referrals were made to the relevant prosecuting authority for consideration.” Between April 2022 and March 2023, the SIU recovered cash and assets worth R389-million and prevented the loss of R2.1-billion. It also has the potential to recover cash and assets worth R846-million.
While few enjoy paying taxes, the reality is that without the bumper performance of the SARS team this year, the government deficit that was presented in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Speech would have been far larger. PwC’s newly released Taxing Times Survey 2023 reflects that a combined 53% of respondents ‘agreed’ and ‘strongly agreed’ that they received quality service from the revenue service (a 14% improvement from last year). To cut down on the number of people who are obliged to file yearly income tax returns, SARS has expanded the implementation of automated assessments for personal income taxpayers. Over the last year, SARS has appointed three deputy commissioners, appointed more staff and increased its use of technology to improve service delivery. Among these developments are the deployment of resources — including the appointment of more staff and the use of technology to revive SARS.
Category: International person of the year
A person who has had broad international impact or made an outstanding contribution this year. Nominees:
Doctors, journalists, frontline workers and Palestinian civilians
Amidst the chaos unfolding in the occupied Gaza Strip — the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire and the frontline heroes, including doctors and journalists — tirelessly risk and dedicate themselves to the solemn tasks under unbearable conditions of no water, medical supplies, electricity, and fuel: burying the deceased, healing the wounded, and revealing to the world the harrowing realities unfolding in Gaza. List of but a handful of these frontline workers: Journalist,Youmna El-Qunsol; Journalist, Plestia Alaqad; Photographer, Motaz Azaiza ; Photographer, Ali Jadallah; Photographer Wissam Nassar; Journalist, Hind Khoudary; Surgeon, Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah; Doctor, Mohammed Al Ghoula; Surgeon, Dr Sara Alsaqa; Journalist, Wael Al-Dahdouh; Journalist, Bisan Owda.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Iranian human rights activist, is now serving her second prison term in response to her vigorous efforts in a “fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all,” per her Nobel Prize’s citation. Her campaign resonates globally.
Journalists worldwide, especially those covering conflict zones and repressive, authoritarian regimes, who have been carrying out dangerous work to inform the rest of us, reporting what many rulers would prefer remain hidden from sight or knowledge. Some have given their lives or are in prison in response to their efforts. “As journalist murders continue to go unpunished in nearly 80% of cases globally, in both democracies and authoritarian countries, the message is clear: journalists are fair game,” said Comittee to Protect Journalists President Jodie Ginsberg. According to the CPJ 261 journalists were murdered in connection with their work between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2023. It finds that during this 10-year period, no-one has been held to account in 204 – more than 78% – of these cases.
Category: South African villain of the year
This category is self-explanatory but if you insist, The Cambridge dictionary defines a villain as “a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime.” Nominees:
Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana.
From his hairstyles, his designer clothes and coy smile, convicted murderer and rapist, Thabo Bester, showed South Africa how you can run a media empire from a private Maximum Security prison cell and get loads of celebs on board.
Not only that, he proved how easy it was to break out. This he did with the help of virtually everyone it appears, most importantly the love of his life Dr Nandipha Magudumana. Both hatched diabolical plans using corpses and fire. Certainly front runners in this category. Magudumana remains in custody refusing to appear in court and wailing and ripping her clothes on those days she is due in the dock. Sorry, not sorry.
Paul Mashatile’s Blue Light Thugs
When politicians and their enablers don’t fear the citizens, incidents like the one which occurred on the N1 in Johannesburg in July this year happen. Eight SAPS protection officers driving in a blue light convoy transporting Deputy President Paul Mashatiile stopped and brutally assaulted three people on the side of the busy road in full public view.
The men now face 12 charges, including assault, malicious damage to property, discharging a firearm, contravening the Road Traffic Act, reckless and negligent driving, and attempting to defeat the ends of justice. Mashatile carries on.
Former UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Phakeng’s reign of terror ended with the UCT Council appointing an independent panel to investigate the management challenges at SA’s top university. The panel report, overseen by two respected judges and two higher education specialists, found Phakeng to be among others a narcissistic and thin-skinned leader who exploited and encouraged racial divisions – talking up a narrative of racial empowerment in public while saving some of her worst abuse for black women in private. Phakeng “repeatedly conducted herself unprofessionally by engaging in activity that is prohibited in the UCT workplace, including using threats, intimidation, ethnic slurs, personal insults and also posting racially offensive material on social media”, the report concludes. Phakeng continued to direct members of the administration who identified as black that they could not do so if they were not African, telling one: “You’re not Black … you don’t have hair like me, you don’t smell like me, you don’t look like me and you don’t taste like me.” Phakeng has left a trail of trauma, destruction, violence and a deeply wounded UCT in her wake, waltzing off with a R12,5-million golden handshake. Sadly she went from Fab Academic to Fab Villain.
Moti is the owner of the Moti Group – a conglomerate with a diverse international portfolio including mining, property development and aviation. Amabhungane reports that leaked documents show how the Moti Group became enmeshed in huge, possibly illicit, money-moving networks in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Seemingly artificial loans and investments were used to move hundreds of millions of rands across borders and through Moti’s companies. In Zimbabwe, at least some of the cash allegedly ended up with the country’s president and vice president. AmaBhungane has been able to tie Moti to two separate money-moving operations using extensive documentation in the#MotiFiles leak and another unexpected source – the wreckage of the doomed VBS Mutual Bank.
Category: International villain of the year
As above, but drawn from foreign fields.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is the driving force behind the bombing and destruction of Gaza, with the death toll over 10 000 after Hamas brutally attacked 1200 mostly Israeli civilians on October 7. Before the attacks, Israeli citizens came out in their thousands to object to his proposed judicial overhaul which would reduce the independence of judges. Netanhayu also stands accused of fraud and coruption for which he is currently on trial.
Mohammed Deif, Commander of military arm of Hamas
Mohammed Deif, who serves as the military commander of The Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas is among the key figures behind the brutal 7 October attack against Israeli civilians which resulted in the loss of over 1,200 lives and the taking of about 240 people hostage. The Hamas attack has triggered the most brutal onslaught by Israel’s IDF on Gaza, depriving residents of water, aid, electricity and communications and the bombarding of buildings and causing over 10 000 Palestinian lives to be lost.
Next up is Uganda’s President Museveni for legalising state sponsored homophobia and transphobia, signing into law one of the world’s most stringent anti-LGBTQ measures. This legislation includes the imposition of the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” The move is seen as a troubling development that not only challenges fundamental human rights but also puts the lives and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Uganda at significant risk.
Category: Kant of the Year (formerly known as Moegoe of the year)
Those whose behaviour perhaps falls short of “villain of the year”, but have in some way acted idiotically Nominees:
Everyone knows in South Africa people who are not mother-tongue speakers of English do not resort to the word “c#nt” in a moment of heat. It is just not done. P#es, yes, that does slip out and even Jou Ma Se P#es, and even further Jou Ma se Ma se P#es. But tetchy England flanker Tom Curry, accused Bok Bongi Mbonambi of calling him a “white c#nt” in the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-finals, despite many attempted explanations about multilingualism.
Dr Matthew Lani
Fake it till your ass is dragged off to jail. This is what happened to Tik Tok Dr Mathhew Lani who was dragged off the wards of the Helen Joseph hospital with his stethoscope still around his neck for impersonating a doctor. Lani rose to social media stardom dispensing advice as if he were Chris Barnard. All it took was a stethoscope. He appeared on national television and was interviewed for an episode of Unpacked with Relebogile Mabotja. Lani has now really been unpacked and qualifies most certainly for the title. The fake doctor is currently out on bail.
Swapping her R25 000 Valentino Garavani Rockstud ankle-strap pumps which she wore to a visit to the Gupta money milking scheme Estina, for a cleaning overall, Busisiwe Mkhwebane went from the frying pan straight into the leadership hierarchy of the EFF. Having been voted unfit to hold office as Public Protector by the National Assembly, the impeached Mkhwebane unsurprisingly found a new home with the red berets.
Category: South African business person of the year
Not necessarily the person who made the biggest profit, but those whose influence went beyond the balance sheets. Nominees:
Stephen van Coller, CEO of the technology group EOH.
Van Coller will step down from his role in March next year after five years at the helm of EOH. He has largely been credited with cleaning up the corruption that engulfed EOH.
In 2018, technology-focused media house, TechCentral, exposed the corruption at EOH involving the supply of Microsoft software in a dodgy contract with the Department of Defence.
This prompted Van Coller to appoint a law firm, ENSafrica, to conduct a forensic probe into EOH’s public sector contracts. He also made submissions to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture about EOH’s corrupt public sector contracts. Under his watch at EOH, Van Coller has driven efforts to institute criminal charges against the company’s former employees implicated in wrongdoing including EOH co-founder, Asher Bohbot.
The founder of One Family One Stockpile, a platform that has more than 650 000 members on Facebook and encourages women to save money through stockpiling-sharing specials with the specific purpose of buying more when the price is low. Each member has a responsibility to share specials as and when they find them and information is shared that can help all members save money. Described as South Africa’s stockpiling queen, Ndelu was awarded a $40 000 grant to fund work to advance her Facebook community goals and training to use the social network’s tools. She has also won the award for Women in Finance at this year’s Sebenza Women Awards.
Neil Schreuder, managing director of ShopriteX
After joining the Shoprite group in 2004, Neil embarked on a digital transformation journey with former CEO, Whitey Basson. Almost 20 years later, the group is reaping the rewards, leapfrogging ahead of competitors and even making global history with innovations including its Sixty60 delivery app, the Xtra Savings loyalty programme, the Simple Truth white label, partnerships with luxury brands such as StarBucks and Krispy Kreme. Watch this space – with an annual investment of more than R1-billion, there are bound to be more innovations on the horizon.
Andy du Plessis, managing director of Food Forward SA
South Africa’s food banking organisations that redistribute perfectly good-quality, safe, fresh food that would otherwise go to waste because of retailer specifications or overordering, or ‒ in the case of manufactured food products ‒ because of overproduction or incorrect labeling. The “rescued” food goes to people and entities (such as early childhood development centres) that cannot access or afford the nutritious food they need.
Category: Community champion of the year
The people uplifting, defending and representing ordinary South Africans, often against all odds. Nominees:
Gift of the Givers founder Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman’s soft-spoken, big-hearted right-hand man is not only a person with the patience of Job but he is also dedicated to helping the poor and diligently works to keep the wheels of Gift of the Givers running smoothly. Sablay is a leader who also works at the frontline, coordinates donations and often is the first to be ready to hand out food parcels or building materials and a true example of what it means to live out the principles of Ubuntu. His phone never stops ringing and have we mentioned that he manages to keep up with Doc. Sooliman which is also not an easy task.
Avril Andrews of Hanover Park, Cape Town, lost her son Alcardo Andrews in 2015, when he was murdered for rejecting a demand from local gang members to take part in a crime. In honour of his memory, she founded the Alcardo Andrews Foundation, a nonprofit organisation that runs a community feeding programme for local residents in need. She also started the Moms Move for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Western Cape organisation, which helps family members of gang violence victims fight for justice and closure.
Through diligence, going way beyond the call of duty and her dedication to the best interest of the child this feisty Nelson Mandela Bay social worker made a miracle happen earlier this year when she found a kidnapped child. The child was stolen by a young woman but was being raised by her boyfriend’s grandparents. The grandparents came to the hospital as they did not have a birth certificate for the child. Through some clever detective work, Marinana traced the documentation that was in possession of the grandparents and had been crudely altered, back to the kidnapped child. The little boy was reunited with his mom, aunt and grandmother and is doing very well.
Thapelo Mohapi is the 40 year old General Secretary of shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo. Abahlali have since their formation had 24 of their leaders killed in cold blood, four of whom were killed last year. Now Mohapi is currently in hiding because of threats to his life as a result of his tireless work and efforts to bring dignity, housing and justice to shack dwellers in South Africa.
Category: OBP Polluter of the year
Those individuals and entities who are hell bent on putting profits and pollution before people. Nominees:
Eskom has earned a nomination for the Planet Destroyer of the Year award for several reasons, but perhaps chiefly because it is the largest emitter of health-harming sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the world, surpassing the power sectors of the US, China and the European Union. Its fleet of coal-fired plants also releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), mercury and fly ash, contributing to climate change and poor air quality in the country. Despite the availability of technologies to reduce these emissions, the utility has been lobbying against the domestic air pollution laws and failing to comply with the minimum emission standards.
As companies around the world make a grab for natural resources in South Africa’s diverse and sensitive coastline, global oil and gas survey company Searcher Seismic has been at the forefront of this exploration for these reserves along South Africa’s coastline. Despite a history of insufficient public participation, particularly with small-scale fishers and coastal communities as well as the potential harm to marine life as a result of sound blasts, the Australia-based company is now looking to take its activities up the coast and into Mozambique.
A climate policy not aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, continued investment into fossil fuel exploration and its stance of considering gas as a transitional fuel, are a few of the reasons why Standard Bank should be considered OBP planet destroyer of the year. The bank’s involvement in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and its hand in Mozambique’s gas project in Cabo Delgado cannot be missed. This is all despite the bank’s knowledge of the devastating legacy of fossil fuel exploration on the African continent and developing nations. Though the question of the alarming environmental degradation associated with the projects the bank has a hand in has been continuously raised – Standard Bank stands by environmental mitigation efforts being enough, taking very little into account of the irreversible environmental damage and carbon emissions.
Category: Our Burning Planet heroes of the year
The green warriors fighting for our planet’s survival
An environmentalist, who started her activism when she was just 12 years old Dr Adam has worked for more than 15 years on environmental and climate change issues and challenges at both international and national levels. She has become a beacon of hope in addressing the water crisis issues faced across the country and works extensively with Johannesburg communities through her work at Outa’s Water CAN, giving power back to people through education on how to test water, purify it and clean water sources in communities. She completed her PhD on Citizen Science and Environmental Justice in South Africa’s Water Sector at the University of Johannesburg.
Kumi Naidoo has been an activist since he was 15 years old, first fighting for liberation against the apartheid state, but to this day, he has not stopped campaigning for human rights, and more recently climate justice. Formerly the Secretary General of Amnesty International and Executive Director of Greenpeace, he understands that climate justice and social justice are interlinked, and has been a prominent voice in the fight against fossil fuel investment – both from the private and public sector – and campaigning for the rights and protection of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Even with climate disasters all around us, greenwashing in the fossil fuel industry is still a thing – and it’s being driven by advertising and public relations (PR) agencies.
Fighting this very niche battle is a global coalition of media agencies called Clean Creatives.
Clean Creatives’ South African chapter has named and shamed 41 advertising and PR agencies that have current and historic contracts with coal, oil, and gas companies. In Clean Creatives South Africa’s 2023 report, The SA F-list 2023: Fuelling a Perfect Storm, the movement shames PR colleagues for aiding the climate catastrophe caused by their client’s activities.
Category: Sportsperson of the year
A sportsperson whose positive impact has been felt either on or off the field of play
RasNaber – Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, the Springboks’ director of rugby and head coach respectively, demonstrated their ability to think laterally while always preparing manically . They plotted and planned their way for six years to win RWC 2023 and pulled it off with bold selections (7-1 bench in the final, four scrum halves etc) and calm management in the face of many challenges. The players did the business on the field but RasNaber gave them the tools and confidence to do it.
Handre Pollard – Although he didn’t feature at RWC 2023 until game four, the final Pool match against Tonga, the decorated flyhalf’s impact was monumental. Pollard didn’t miss a kick at goal against Tonga, France, England and New Zealand, landing some massive, long-range, game-winning kicks. In all, he scored 33 points, including all 12 in the final. This is a nomination of quality over quantity.
Quinton de Kock – The mercurial left-hander announced he was stepping down from ODI after the Cricket World Cup. Maybe that freed his mind because he delivered some wonderful performances in India during the group phase, scoring four centuries and 591 runs at an average of 65.66 at a superb strike rate of 109.24.
Kirsten Neuschäfer made history as she became the first woman to win
the Golden Globe Race.She still had time to save a fellow sailor in distress before her historic victory. This retro race is based on the first solo circumnavigation race that took place in 1968. In order to stay true to the original circumnavigation, boats are all older designs, no bigger than 36 foot- and modern navigational technology, like GPS, is not permitted. The route for the race began in France, down the Atlantic, east-about the Southern Ocean, and back up the Atlantic to France- an approximate distance of 30,000 nautical miles and anywhere from 7 to 9 months or more at sea. This is largely a race of attrition, luck, seamanship – and adventure!
Dricus du Plessis
Mixed Martial Arts athlete, Dricus du Plessis has built an impressive 6-0 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to become the No 1 contender for the middleweight belt — which he will contest against Sean Strickland at UFC 297 in January next year. The South African combat fighter bashed Derek Brunson, via TKO, in March this year at UFC 285. Du Plessis followed that up with an incredible TKO win over the ‘gatekeeper’ of the middleweight division Robert Whittaker in July to maintain his against-the-odds unbeaten run in the UFC.
Category: Sports team of the year
A team that has stood out from the rest in 2021 either on or off the field of play. Nominees:
The Springboks became only the second team in history to defend the World Cup title after the All Blacks in 2015 with a victorious RWC 2023 campaign. The became the first team to win the title four times and did it without influential players such as Malcolm Marx, Lukhanyo Am, Lood de Jager and Makazole Mapimpi. It was a triumph of planning, execution and tenacity, masterminded by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber.
Banyana Banyana continued from their success of 2022 – when they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations – by becoming the first senior South African national soccer team (men or women) to reach the knockout stages of a Fifa World Cup.
The Proteas Women’s cricket team became the first senior South African cricket team to make the final of a Cricket World Cup. The historic feat was achieved on home soil after a brilliant six-run win over England in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. Unfortunately, they went down by 19-runs to Australia in the final. South African opening batter Laura Wolvaardt finished the tournament as the highest run-scorer.
Category: Artist of the year
Hitmakers whose musical or social influence has towered above others this year. Nominees:
The Nigerian pop musician has moved beyond African audiences to scale the global big time with SRO concerts in America and as the star of the UEFA championship kick off. Critics have called his music “savvy and modern but undistracted by obvious crossover moves”.
The dazzling operatic soprano superstar from Piet Retief, has broken through on a grand scale globally, receiving standing ovations for her performances in lead roles in productions in major opera houses across America, Europe, and the UK, in addition to being lauded in South Africa as a major homegrown talent.
She’s moved beyond her Country & Western roots in her musical reinventions and she is now a huge influence on the music industry. With 200 million-plus records sold, she is the most-streamed woman on Spotify and Apple Music, the highest-grossing female performer, and first billionaire with music as her main income stream.
Jo-burg born South African artist Tyla Laura Seethal has skyrocketed to crazy fame with her hit song ‘Water,’ soaring to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The track’s popularity surged on TikTok, where Tyla initiated the ‘Water’ dance challenge, accumulating over 448.6 million views under hashtags #TylaWater and #TylaWaterChallenge. Fun fact: ‘Water’ is the first solo song by a South African musician to enter the Billboard Hot 100 since Hugh Masekela’s ‘Grazing in the Grass’ 55 years ago.
Comedians of the Year
A standout figure in the comedy scene and South Africa’s favourite lockdown comedian, Schalk Bezuidenhout. With his distinctive style featuring “ugly” jerseys and scruffy hair, Schalk proudly connects with audiences through his Afrikaans heritage.
Coconut Kelz, the alter ego of Lesego Tlhabi, knows how to turn serious issues into laughs. Through satire, she adeptly addresses important societal issues, with a particular focus on race, demonstrating the power of humor as a tool for social commentary and awareness.
Tums The Narrator
While not officially holding the comedian title, digital creator Tums The Narrator has undoubtedly brought Mzansi lots of laughs. Winner of DSTV Content of the Year, is now in the running for Comedian of the Year.
Category: Grinch of the year
Those who have done their best to suck the cheer from our lives in 2023. Not a word needed from us as to why the following three are nominees for vacuuming up every little glimpse of gees, hope, joy or good vibes from the rest of us. Nominees: