By Bongani Mavundla
As we get ready to bid farewell to 2016 and reflect on the events of the year; it is the dramatic events that occurred in local and international politics that will leave an indelible mark in the local and international political spheres.
South Africa alone experienced a lot of politically and economically destructive news. The government came under intense scrutiny this year. The executive powers of the country were heavily criticised and the rand took a few knocks as investor’s cited political instability.
Not even the economy was safe from the wrath of 2016 after a battle ensued between Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) in October. Gordhan was facing three criminal charges that are still unclear to most and was called for questioning; many political leaders cried foul of this scandal.
The Hawks defended the police investigation by referring to a suspected rogue spy unit formed at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) during Gordhan’s tenure as the SARS Commissioner.
The most controversial saga was that of the state of capture report that was made public earlier this year. The report gave details about the scandalous relationship between President Zuma and the Guptas.
The state capture report also supplied evidence of corruption and offers more insight into how the executive had failed to act on claims that there had been any interference in the appointment of cabinet ministers.
Paying back the money
President Jacob Zuma finally paid back the money he owed taxpayers. A loan of R 7.8 million was granted to him by VBS Mutual Bank after he was given only 45 days by the Constitutional Court. This transpired after the recommendations of the former public protector, Adv Thuli Madonsela, that the president should pay for non-security upgrades made to his Nkandla homestead, that include the “fire pool”, chicken run, visitor’s centre and amphitheatre.
As South Africans had become too comfortable with the state of affairs in government and in the news media a series of events were about to shake the system.
Local government elections
In August the results of the Local government elections (LGE) sent shock waves throughout the country as the African National Congress (ANC) lost its control of major metropolitan areas to the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The three major cities of the country, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria are now all led by the main opposition party – the DA. The ANC went back to the drawing board to do some introspection as it was clear that its popularity was diminishing.
Trouble at the SABC
The South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was put under the microscope this year. Former SABC Boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng was involved in numerous court battles concerning his premature appointment as COO and for his dismissal of eight SABC media personnel who protested the controversial editorial policy not to broadcast public protests violence.
Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi turned a blind eye to the crisis at the SABC. In December, the board was called before parliament to account for the state of affairs at SABC, and the chairperson of the board Mbulaheni Maguvhe decided to tender his resignation.
South Africa is not alone in experiencing political drama. The events in international politics this year had dire consequences for the world economy and were more than surprising to many analysts.
In Britain, calls for the country to leave the European Union (EU) through a campaign known as Brexit, saw David Cameroon handing in his resignation in June as the results of the referendum showed that voters supported the decision. The decision led to the plunging of London stock market as investors feared the consequences of the UK being outside of the EU.
This year Americans went to the voting polls and decided that Donald Trump would succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States of America. This outcome caused global turmoil as most countries affiliated with the US, including the media, were anti-Trump.
Their opposition was fuelled by a number of things including Trump’s capitalism and sole focus on the economy; as well as his blatant racist, sexist, xenophobic, and anti-sematic views. What shocked the world even more is that despite all of this, the citizens of America chose the mogul as their leader.
This year was filled with dramatic events that may yield daunting effects for the coming year and have also contributed to the shift in public opinion on politics.
Bongani Mavundla is a journalism student at the University of Johannesburg and is interested in the politics of the country. He runs a politically charged news blog called Talking Politics 101. Mavundla considers himself as more of a political analyst than a political journalist.