Eskom gloom, political scandals held sway but Boks saved the day , writes Mervyn Naidoo.
YOU were only able to tuck into your golden brown turkey and other treats this Christmas because Eskom dipped deep into its emergency reserves to supplement its capacity over the festive season.

That Eskom is in the red going into 2020 is not comforting.

But it has been that sort of year for the state owned enterprise, saddled with debt of about R500billion and ageing power stations.

Rolling blackouts, especially in the last quarter of the year, were as frequent as raisins in a Christmas pudding.

In this time, Eskom said system malfunctions and “wet coal” were largely the reason South Africa was thrust into darkness when load shedding hit “Stage 6” on December 9 - the first time when 6000 megawatts was taken off the national grid

The death of Gavin Watson, chief executive of the maligned services company Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations, in a car crash near the OR Tambo Airport was shrouded in controversy.

The crash happened in the early hours of August 26 when the vehicle Watson was driving, a company owned Toyota Corolla, crashed into a concrete pillar on the M21.

He was due to testify a few days later at the Sars Inquiry headed by advocate Piet Marais SC.

Earlier this year, Bosasa’s chief operations officer, Angelo Agrizzi, testified at the Zondo Commission that Watson bribed politicians to land government tenders worth about R12billion, from 2006, for the company.

Some of the theories that emerged at the time of his death included him suffering a stroke or heart attack; his death was an assisted suicide; a case of murder and it was a staged accident.

Gavin Watson’s name, and his R500000 donation, were included on a list of donors who made significant contributions towards Cyril Ramaphosa’s successful CR17 ANC presidential campaign.

That revelation emerged sensationally in August when emails detailing donors to CR17 was leaked to his political opponents. Those counted in Ramphosa’s corner, as he pushed for the presidency, with donations included Maria Ramos (R1m), Raymond Ackerman (R1m) and Nicky Oppenheimer (R10m).

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was able to gain access and unlock the CR17 campaign’s financial records on the basis that she had received a money laundering complaint against Watson, which she investigated. Hence, she became privy to information on the backing CR17 received, which totalled R200m.

Mkhwebane claimed to have found evidence that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament about the source of the R500000 Watson donation and that he was directly involved in the donor gathering efforts of the CR17 campaign.

SOME made vociferous calls for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to be removed from office in 2019. Those were mostly over her losses in court that not only affected the public purse but her own pocket in two instances.

A punitive cost order was previously granted against her in the High Court regarding her matter with the Reserve Bank. The court ordered her to pay from her pocket 15% (R900000) of the costs. She took that decision on appeal to the Constitutional Court in July - and lost.

In September, the Gauteng High Court ordered that she personally pay part of the legal costs of the two applicants, the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), in the Estina dairy farm matter. Mkhwebane’s running court battles with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was another feature of 2019. In July, she called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against him over Sars operating a “Rogue” investigations unit previously.

EVEN though the ANC put up its worst showing at a national election since democracy, 57.5% of the votes it was able to draw at the May polls was enough to confirm their ruling party status for another five year term.

Many reasons were bandied about for the ground the ANC lost, including former president Jacob Zuma’s claim that it was due to him joining the party’s campaign ahead of the elections a bit too late.

The polls also marked the DA’s loss of popularity. But it remained the official opposition with 20.8% of the vote. Julius Malema’s EFF were the biggest movers. It achieved 10.8% of the votes - a growth of nearly 4.5%.

A good showing was also enjoyed by minnow parties the IFP, Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP.

Shortly after announcing he was stepping down as DA leader, Mmusi Maimane also declared his disassociation with the party and Parliament.

He felt that the DA was not best suited to build a “one SA for all”, in spite of his efforts. Therefore, Maimane, the party’s first black leader, bowed out.

His departure triggered the resignation of the DA’s federal chairman Athol Trollip and Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Maimane also stated that he was at odds with the DA’s former leader, Helen Zille, especially her tweets about colonialism. In October she was elected federal chairperson.

Zandile Gumede was easily one of the biggest local newsmakers in 2019. Her fall from grace as mayor of the eThekwini Municipality to a backbencher came on the back of money laundering, fraud and corruption allegations that emerged in May.

She handed herself over to the Hawks and appeared alongside nine other suspects (businessmen and municipal officials) at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

The charges they faced were related to a R208million Durban Solid Waste tender, awarded in 2016.

She was eventually fired in August and replaced by Mxolisi Kaunda, the former KZN MEC Transport, Community Safety and Liaison.

While the ANC took time to eject Gumede from the mayor’s parlour in Durban, her deputy, Fawzia Peer, acted in that position in the interim.

As part of her duties, Peer was required to preside over council meetings. On one such occasion, Peer had to be rushed to hospital after she consumed bottled water, placed on her table, and suspected of being laced with paraffin.

While the results came back clear, Peer said the water she sipped had left her with mouth and throat burns and she was treated for poisoning in hospital.

THE “White Zulu” otherwise known as Johnny Clegg died in July after eventually succumbing to his long battle with cancer.

Clegg, the entertainer, endeared himself to South Africans through his collaborations with black artists during the apartheid era.

Singing and dancing to English and Zulu infused music was Clegg’s signature. In his heydays, Clegg also performed with the two bands he created at different times; Juluka and Savuka.

Arguably his best known song was Asimbonanga (We Haven’t Seen Him), dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

THE Springboks lifted the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama, Japan, by beating England 32-12 in the November 2 final.

Siya Kolisi’s Springbok team delivered their most clinical performance at the tournament when they took on the English, who were billed as the favourites, and turned the match into a one-sided contest.

It was the third time the Springboks bagged the Webb Ellis trophy and coach Rassie Erasmus was singled out for his behind the scenes machinations.

Winger Makazole Mapimpi dotted down a well-worked Springbok try in the 66 minute and a few minutes later, Cheslin Kolbe waltzed his way over the English tryline to confirm the result.

* Mervyn Naidoo is an Independent Media journalist in KZN.