The year that was

Like most South Africans, the staff at The Citizen will be taking a well-deserved break to ring in the new year, and so your favourite newspaper will only be back on the streets and in stores on Thursday.

As we take a moment to reflect on the biggest news stories of 2013, it may seem that most of the headline-grabbing events of the year were negative ones.

While there are often complaints the media does not carry enough positive stories, human nature dictates that tragedy, death, crime and corruption always have a bigger impact than the many feel-good stories out there.

But dig a little deeper, and it soon becomes apparent that many of the darkest moments also revealed the possibility of hope and even created the opportunity for positive change.

Of course, this doesn’t apply in every case. It’s hard to think of any positive side to the pointless, tragic death of model Reeva Steenkamp at the hands of her boyfriend, paralympian Oscar Pistorius, on Valentine’s Day. It’s similarly impossible to find a silver lining in the brutal, lethal gang rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen, even if one of her attackers was sentenced to two life terms.

Some of the biggest international stories of the year centred around revelations of spying by the American National Security Agency (NSA) on the telephonic and digital communications of world leaders and ordinary citizens, American and foreign. The positive spin-offs are that everyone is now much more aware of privacy, or the lack thereof, when it comes to telephonic and online communication, and pressure from various quarters has forced Barack Obama to try and rein-in what appears to many to be an out-of-control spy agency.

Back home, government was often in the news for all the wrong reasons, but never before has the South African electorate seemed as ready to punish leaders for corruption and shortcomings. President Jacob Zuma’s biggest headaches of the year were Guptagate and Nkandlagate, and the booing he received from the crowd at Madiba’s memorial service made it clear that voters’ loyalty and forgiveness have a limit. The establishment of the Economic Freedom Fighters and Agang, and the DA’s public and painful wrestling with Black Economic Empowerment, were further signs that the political life of the country remains vibrant and filled with the potential for positive change.

And even as we grieved for the loss of the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, we could take solace in the fact that his long suffering had come to an end. The way South Africans from all races, creeds and walks of life pulled together in this dark hour also confirmed the unity of the rainbow nation Madiba sacrificed so much for.

In many ways, the big stories of 2013 also seem like previews for the headlines of 2014. Oscar Pistorius’s fate will be decided next year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will finally release her report into spending at Nkandla, and we will find out if Zwelinzima Vavi will re-emerge from the political wilderness.

Then, come the most important general election since 1994, we will learn just how fed-up South Africans truly are with corruption and maladministration, and whether the new political parties can fight as well as they can talk. We will also find out how effective the continuing efforts to resist e-tolling will be.

Yes, like the past year, 2014 will bring many negative headlines. We can only hope that there will be as many silver linings to salvage – as was the case in 2013.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

today in print