ICYMI: Tragedies, drama that shocked shocked SA

ICYMI: Tragedies and shocking stories that left South Africans in awe this year. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

ICYMI: Tragedies and shocking stories that left South Africans in awe this year. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 29, 2023


This year, the news cycle was dominated by some of the worst social and political events that grabbed newspaper headlines as the country was still reeling from the effects of the Boksburg blast which killed 41 people, including 12 health workers from nearby Tambo Memorial Hospital.

KwaZakhele massacre

On January 29, a birthday party turned deadly after two gunmen entered a home in KwaZakhele in the Eastern Cape and randomly started shooting and killing some of the guests, resulting in the death of eight people and injury to three others.

South Africa Johannesburg AKA Memorial. 17 February 2023. A memorial service is held for fallen SA rapper Kiernan AKA Forbs at the Sandton Convention Centre. Forbs was shot and killed a week ago in Durban. Fans, business associates and Music industry leaders gathered to bid AKA farewell ahead of his private funeral on Saturday. Musician turned pastor Kabello Mabelani prays for AKA. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

AKA and the mystery of his death

The death of award-winning rapper AKA in Durban on February 11 was yet another blight on an already ominous year. More than 10 months later, his killer or killers are yet to be brought to book.

AKA’s death preceded the country’s cholera outbreak, which according to the Department of Health was reported on February 22.

In total, the department indicates that as of June 26, the number of cholera-related deaths rose to 43 since the outbreak, with more than 1 045 suspected cases of cholera in 15 out of 52 districts across five provinces, 197 of which were laboratory-confirmed.

South Africa Krugersdorp SANDF for Zamas 06 December 2023. Acting on the mandate given by president Cyril Ramaphoza the SANDF and SAPS targets illegal miners (Zama zamas) in the Krugersdorp area. Their operation to disrupt mining operation included the destruction of work areas, the arrest of miners and raids on homes that offer accommodation rentals. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers.

Zama-zamas, construction mafias and the army

In June and July communities who live on Johannesburg’s gold belt told of their fears in the face of increased gang wars between various zama-zama factions fighting over turf and underground spoils.

Heavily armed and ruthless, the gangs have caused terror and left mayhem as their increasingly brazen activities have caught the attention of South Africans.

This prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy the army to help fight the illegal miners and construction mafias.

According to the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF), a crackdown on construction mafias has resulted in the arrests of more than 700 individuals involved in extortion.

Fire at Free State mine, sit-in and death of miners

In May, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources revealed that at least 31 suspected illegal miners died at a mine in Welkom, Free State, following a methane explosion in a disused mine.

South Africa Johannesburg Busisiwe Mkwebane 13 June 2023. Suspended public protector Adv Busisiwe Mkwebane gives evidence of a meeting between her husband and the late Tina Joemat Pettersson. Audio recordings and whatsapp messages were given to the media gathered at a briefing that took place in Sandton on Tuesday. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)
Acting CEO OF Government Communication & Information System Phumla Williams addressing members of the media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held in Parliament on Wednesday 7 August 2013 joined by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson talk on South AfricaÕs accession to the agreement for the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commissions. Held at Tshedimosetso House 1035 Francis Baard Street, Corner Festival Street, Hatfield, Pretoria.12/08/2013

Mkhwebane, Gcaleka and Tina Joemat-Pettersson

In June, the death of MP and former Cabinet minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson saw then suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane threaten to spill the beans of an elaborate plan by other MPs allegedly involved in an extortion scandal to ensure her impeachment inquiry does not see the light of day.

Mkhwebane revealed that if she had not been subjected to an impeachment inquiry and suspended, Joemat-Pettersson would be alive today.

Mkhwebane was duly impeached by Parliament to make way for her deputy, advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, to be voted through Parliament as the country’s public protector following a 60% vote threshold in October.

South Africa - Johannesburg- JHB CBD explosion day 2. 20 July 2023. Police and other emergency services asses th extent of the damage that rocked the Joburg cbd on Wednesday evening. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency

Joburg explosion

In July, the Joburg CBD was jolted into hysteria after a gas explosion ripped through parts of Lilian Ngoyi Street (previously Bree Street), sending taxis and cars flying while also killing 34-year-old Joseph Dumisane and injuring 48 others.

As the year ends, the City of Joburg is yet to start rebuilding parts of the city that remain cordoned off while trying to investigate the matter.

Fire at Usindiso Building

As if that was not enough, a month later, on August 29, the same city exploded after more than 77 people tragically died when the Usindiso Building in the Johannesburg CBD caught fire and scores were left homeless.

This deadly tragedy has become the subject of a controversy-prone commission of inquiry headed by retired Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe, who this past week recused advocate Thulani Makhubela as one of the commissioners of the inquiry into the deadly blaze.

On September 1, police confirmed a shoot-out between SAPS officers and 18 suspects in Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt), Limpopo, who were said to have been allegedly involved in a cash-in-transit heist.

Since then, there has been no fewer than 250 cash-in-transit heist with the police lamenting the number of police killings by suspected CIT robbers.

This prompted an outcry from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which called for an end to police killings a mere 24 hours after the country remembered 34 officers who lost their lives this year.

The months of October, November and December were bad months for the mining industry. First it was the underground hostage drama which involved more than 500 mineworkers who had been stuck underground for three days. The miners were at it against early this month with reports that more than 400 mineworkers decided to stage another underground sit-in in defiance of the retrenchment of workers who had been involved in the first hostage situation at the mine.

Impala Platinum mine also reported two major incidents this year. The first one was the death of 11 workers who were killed in a crash accident resulting in the injury of 75 other employees while the second incident in December more than 2 000 mineworkers decided to stage their own version of the underground sit-in in response to wage and bonus issues with management.