What went down in 2016

2016-12-18 06:04
President Jacob Zuma’s home in KwaNxamalala in Nkandla. The homestead has undergone an extensive revamp, which reportedly cost the taxpayer R203 million. Picture: Gallo

President Jacob Zuma’s home in KwaNxamalala in Nkandla. The homestead has undergone an extensive revamp, which reportedly cost the taxpayer R203 million. Picture: Gallo

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe seemed to be on steroids yesterday when he opened Zanu-PF’s national conference in Harare.

He lashed out at what he called a culture of “indiscipline, disrespect, contempt and arrogance” among party members, and sternly told them that “there are rules to be obeyed”.

The 92-year-old Mugabe, who plans to stand for another five-year term in 2018, also lambasted those who said he had overstayed his welcome.

“If you no longer want me, what do you think should be done when others still love him [Mugabe] … It does not happen that way, whether you are a detainee, a war veteran or a long-serving member of the party. We do not do that.”

He told the gathering not to air “our grievances through Twitter” and not to feed the papers with news of internal quarrels.

Comparing opposition parties to confused insects that die once crushed, he charged that they were devoid of ideas to transform the economy.

He then returned to his regular bogeyman of foreign forces, saying: “External countries that have been hostile to us, and all this time expected that Zanu-PF and the Zanu-PF government shall listen to them, and that there shall be regime change, have failed to achieve that. There has not been regime change and there shall not be regime change.”

South Africans are forgiven if these sentiments sound familiar. We have been hearing much of the same lately as our dearly beloved President Jacob Zuma has gone on a road show, pleading with people to feel sorry for him.

Members who speak outside of party structures are ill-disciplined, he has charged. Veterans and stalwarts should raise their issues within the organisation, has been another refrain. He is going nowhere soon as he was elected by the people, he has reminded those who want him to go and tend his livestock. And the president has been scathing of ANC members who voice their frustrations with his leadership in the media.

When he gets on his “feel sorry for me” platform, one of Zuma’s favourite themes is to belittle the opposition by saying they have no original ideas and exist only to take on the ANC. Like his brother-leader north of the Limpopo River, Zuma has not been shy to blame his woes on foreign powers. His narrative goes along these lines: Because he led South Africa into the five-nation group known as Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the Western powers are scared of his Castro-like revolutionary, anti-imperialist zeal.

The year 2017 will be a huge one for the two men.

Mugabe’s brain is likely to experience accelerated deterioration and his knees will buckle more often. His lungs will be able to take in less and less oxygen, bringing closer the thing that happens when people are unable to breathe.

As for Zuma, he will dance and sing less in 2017 as his party turns on him with more vigour. The spectre of orange overalls will also loom large over him as the long-running challenge over the dropping of charges against him comes to a head, and the myriad cases laid against him by various groups enter investigation stage.

These were the themes that defined 2016 and will influence 2017:


The year 2016 was one in which the small and big skeletons tumbled out of the closets. It was the year in which what most people knew was confirmed: that the Guptas are the real government of South Africa.

Through a slew of media investigations, public declarations by serving and former politicians and government officials, and the Public Protector’s probes, it was revealed that the family called the shots on big state decisions. So much so that Cabinet ministers themselves did not know who among them reported to the Guptas and who was a genuinely appointed servant of the people.

All of these revelations made South Africans understand what the ever-chewing Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, meant when she told the world that in the ANC leadership “we have our small skeletons, and we don’t want to take all skeletons out because hell will break loose”.


Arguably, the biggest event of 2016 was the Constitutional Court’s landmark judgment on the Nkandla matter. The masterly ruling brought to an end a disgusting episode which saw the president and the governing party soil the pillars of our democratic dispensation. The judgment, read out by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, not only confirmed the Public Protector’s powers but also reminded us all of the sanctity of the Constitution.

It was rather strange that it needed a case about one man refusing to pay for the accommodation of his chickens and cattle, and for the water in his paddling pool, to force us to refocus on constitutional values and principles.


A real video clip, currently in circulation, has SABC strongman Hlaudi Motsoeneng addressing an audience in his Gooblenglish. “On the issue of should I go back to school, the answer is a big NO.” That forceful statement says everything about the state of affairs at the SABC and in the country. Two key institutions – the national government and the public broadcaster – are in the hands of people whose literacy levels are as limited as whisky in Iran, and who are unwilling to enhance their knowledge levels. Worse, while most poorly educated people are honest and principled, these individuals use their low education as a cover for shenanigans.

At the SABC, a supposedly educated chairperson, who claims to have written a book called Teaching Biology to Blind Learners, stooped to new lows by using his disability as an excuse for wrongdoing.

Again, while many blind people are high achievers, Mbulaheni Maguvhe crassly and dishonestly abuses his visual impairment.

At state level and public broadcaster level, the chancers will spend this Christmas presenting a false sense of bravado, while internally they will be biting their nails as they look into 2017.


“The days of disrespecting decisions of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are over,” said NPA boss Shaun Abrahams as he announced that he would be charging Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for littering, rowdy behaviour and parking his car on the highway. A few weeks later, he dropped the charges, leading to howls of laughter and even greater disrespect for his office.

Abrahams’ conduct was emblematic of the state of the security cluster, where the leadership has been more interested in playing political games than ensuring the safety of South Africans.

They have turned the state security sector into an episode of Isibaya (which stars Nomzamo Mbatha), the series about taxi bosses and hitmen.

As 2016 closes, the bosses and hitmen are turning on each other, which sets the scene for an ugly 2017 – and more scenes that resemble Isibaya.

Read more on:    year in review  |  mondli makhanya

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