Between the interminable reign of covid restrictions, riots, political upheavals and blighted economies the world over, 2021 wasn’t a whole barrel of laughs.
But our reporters searched out the lighter stories in South Africa that at least gave us a smile or a wry chuckle in the face of adversity.
From vengeful ex-lovers to a man who upset police by planting cabbages on his verge, from falling impalas to a couch that became a celeb, South Africa had it all.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa had his very own wardrobe malfunction on national TV during a family meeting in April. Shortly after the second wave swept through the country, Ramaphosa was on screens lowering restriction levels. But he reiterated that wearing a mask was mandatory and attempted to display how it should be worn - making a complete blunder of it.
Many thought he should have rehearsed this before going live, while others wasted no time on social media to depict his faux pas through parody and memes. The president took the jokes in his stride and quipped that he would start a channel to teach people how to use a mask.
The victory of Tshwane’s “Cabbage Bandit” was a heart warmer around the country.
The Metro police fined Djo BaKuna for growing vegetables on the verge outside his home.
The "Cabbage Bandit" as he became known was growing food which he said his wife, a social worker, provided to impoverished families, in addition to selling some to the community for a meagre R10.
BaKuna, as with all Pretoria residents, is allowed to grow plants and trees on pavements, but not vegetables. So police fined him R1500 or told him to appear in court for his violation of the city's by-law. The matter went to court, and the charges were thrown out.
Our love of cars threw up two odd stories.
Social media raced as an Opel Corsa was filmed at a set of traffic lights in Cape Town with a flat-bed trolley replacing the back right-hand-side wheel of the car. The video depicts the driver of the unroadworthy vehicle appearing unfazed on the busy road.
The previous owner learnt about the video and confronted the driver, who said while he knew it made the car a death trap, he had no other choice. The former owner said the car had all four wheels when he sold it, but the new owner alleged that a bearing broke, and when a new bearing was installed, it also broke.
At the other end of the scale, there was the Joburg dealership trying to sell a boring 35-year old car for over R1 million.
A box-shaped 1986 Toyota Cressida, which was apparently in “mint condition”, got users on social media all revved-up in November as they expressed either disgust or delight at the R1.1 million price tag. The last time the bulky sedan got this much public attention was when Nelson Mandela rode in one straight after he was released from prison in February 1990.
Waseem Fareed, the owner of High Select Auto, the dealership that had the vehicle on sale, was adamant the vehicle was “one of a kind” and looked “fresh from the factory”.
A wealthy Nelspruit businessman in February showed a really malicious streak by demolishing the house he had allegedly built for his girlfriend after she broke up with him.
The unknown businessman had given the girlfriend, whose identity was also unknown, money to buy the site the house was built on. Once the house was built, she dumped the businessman. Little did she know that hell would break loose as he arranged for the house to be taken down.
He allegedly hired an excavator to demolish the house. The story was shared by @THAB4NG on Twitter on February 25. A yellow excavator is seen demolishing the two-storey house.
While South Africa’s off and then on again municipal elections went relatively smoothly, you can imagine one man’s surprise when his name and picture appeared on an ANC election poster when he was not standing as a candidate.
Nhlakanipho Mthethwa, 49, from Mlalazi, was outraged after being “put up for election as a ward councillor” without his knowledge or consent. Mthethwa, a representative of Independent South African National Civic Organisation, received a call on the day of the local government elections telling him that his name and his face were on ANC posters at one of the voting stations near where he lives.
“I was attending my mother’s funeral. I was shocked because I had never registered with any political party, and I have no intention of becoming a councillor,” said Mthethwa. He later opened a case at the eShowe Police.
While there was little funny about the looting and riots that plagued KZN in July, the title of the country’s worst looter went to a Pietermaritzburg man who was filmed attempting to fit a 58-inch Sinotec smart TV in his old Toyota Corolla.
The man had stolen more than he could handle from Game in the CBD. With hazard lights on, he attempted to place the enormous TV in the back seat of his car but only managed to get one corner in. Frustrated, he tried to empty his boot full of loot to make space, but that didn’t work either.
As he desperately tried to come up with a solution before the police got to him, a Toyota Tazz with four occupants and a TV screen on its roof drove past him. All occupants had their arms out, holding the TV onto the roof.
Eventually, the man placed the TV inside the boot with the box sticking out the back and the boot lid open and sped away. We wonder if he made it home with the smart TV.
Then there was the most-wanted couch in SA.
After the rioting, Mzansi was tasked with finding a missing blue San Pablo leather corner couch that was fancied by ‘looters with expensive tastes’ and disappeared from Leather Gallery in Durban’s Springfield Park.
The owners put out a plea, and Saffers came to the rescue. TikTok star Tumi Mmope, aka Tums, posted a clip about finding “the missing couch”, which quickly went viral.
The luxury sofa, priced at R70 000, was tracked down by social media users to the Quarry Road West informal settlement. It was found with some locals lounging around on its plump cushions outside a shack.
Mzansi cheered, and the famous blue couch - like any celebrity - then went on tour with loads of selfies being shared.
Another funny side to the looting was the genius of Shoprite workers in Newcastle who, realising looters were on their way, quickly poured cooking oil on the floors of the mall. Videos of would-be looters slipping on the floor and even laughing at each other in their predicament quickly went viral, and the store was saved.
Animals often make amusing stories
One of the weirdest involved a stolen peacock in Verulam in October. The bird was recovered by Reaction Unit South Africa who said it was stolen by two drug addicts for drug money. A passer-by witnessed the two addicts approach a man driving a white VW Golf GTI and alerted the security company.
The poor peacock was found with its legs bound with a piece of material. According to the driver, he had paid the two addicts R300. The suspects had removed the feathers from the bird, which they intended on selling separately.
In October, local herpetologist Nick Evans told the story of two black mambas found under the same bed in the same house just one week apart. This was “two different snakes, behind the same brick, under the same bed,” Evans says
He received a phone call from a man in Cato Ridge who sounded panicked.
“He was explaining there was a black mamba at his house. Then he said ‘Remember the one from last week? Same house, same bed’. I couldn't believe it,” said Evans.
“Why they both went there, I’m not sure. It isn’t mating season, although nature can be full of surprises. I don’t think that bed will be occupied for a while,” Evans said.
Another amusing animal video was the leopard cub who nearly did Mommy an injury by dropping an impala out of the tree,
Taken by Instagram user sabrewildlife on a game drive in the Sabi Sands, the leopard had hoisted an impala way up in a tree for her cub to feed on and had returned to rest on the grass beneath the tree. A cub tucked in, sticking to one spot and severing the vast bulk of the animal from the piece it was eating.
The video showed the impala dropping to the ground, narrowly missing the mom but clearly giving her the fright of her life. She rocketed up into the air and seemed to fly 10 metres before landing again. And then, as patiently as all natural mothers, she hauled it back up the tree.
And we were saved a Donald Trump golf course in South Africa because he’s scared of lions.
According to revelations in Peril, a book by Bob Woodward published in September, Trump was surprised that lions couldn’t jump over high fences. He revealed his fear of lions during a round of golf with Gary Player. The conversation took place as Player tried to help Trump with his swing and told the then president to use more “control”, and “swing less extravagantly’’.
The Independent on Saturday and Sunday Tribune