PODCAST | Elections, load shedding and Covid-19: Looking back at 2021

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  • 2021 has been another tough year for South Africans with load shedding, Covid-19 and a battered economy all taking their toll.
  • The end of the year brought more bad news with the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
  • Subsequent travel bans have severely impacted the tourism and hospitality industry.

It's has been a tough year for South Africans.

Load shedding, Covid-19, a changing political landscape, and a battered economy have all taken their toll on the health and emotional well-being of most South Africans.

The end of this year brought more bad news with the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, with the so-called festive season likely to be another bleak one for many families.

This week, on The Story, we speak to News24 journalists and editors about the biggest stories to dominate the headlines in the country this year.

Political editor Qaanitah Hunter believes the local government elections signified a turning point in South African politics.

"The ANC not only lost key metros but also that it lost support in traditional areas like Soweto and townships. You saw the ANC drop well below 50%. You also saw an unprecedented occurrence where more than 60 councils across the country, of about 250, did not have an outright majority, ushering in an era of coalitions in a way we haven't seen before."

Hunter says the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma "and the consequences thereof" was a story that persisted from the beginning of the year.

"His sustained attacks on the judiciary took centre stage in the first quarter of the year and led up to June and July, where we had the very clear judgment from Justice Sisi Khampepe that said the former president had to be incarcerated for 15 months as a result of contempt of court."

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She says the mayhem that followed had never been seen in South Africa. 

"The constitutional order in this country was completely and utterly in jeopardy as his supporters, together with organised crime syndicates and other nefarious groupings, created chaos in most parts of Kwazulu-Natal and in Gauteng."

Assistant editor for breaking news Sheldon Morais believes the July unrest was one of the biggest stories of the year because of its impact on ordinary people's lives.

Across the country, "people were wondering, where to next? Is this what we will have to contend with within South Africa? So it really affected people's psyches, and what they were talking about and what it meant for them".

News24 health editor Bevan Lakay says Covid-19 continues to dominate the headlines. He believes South African scientists and the government handled the discovery of the Omicron variant very well.

"I think the most important thing about Covid-19 is transparency, especially because of the false information out there. Unfortunately, factual information can cause a bit of panic as well, and while South Africa handled it quite well, it wasn't well-received internationally as we saw with travel bans."

He says what has stood out for him in the past two years is that Covid-19 is so "unpredictable", and he believes we will have to live with it for "quite some time".

But, vaccinations will be our best form of protection.

For Karyn Maughan, News24 specialist legal journalist, the most important legal stories "centred around a refusal of high-ranking officials to be held accountable for their conduct".

She says those stories will continue to dominate the courts in 2022, and the big case will be "Ace Magashule's attempt to challenge the NPA's evidence against him, which he essentially says does not exist. I think that's going to be a very important cause for the NPA to prove that it did not simply bring a case against Magashule without having its legal ducks in a row".

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