The most ‘difficult’ thing about writing a review of the year that was 2012 is that one may very well be penning his last piece since The End is at our doorstep if Mayan calendar-reliant conspiracies are anything to go by. So what exactly does one include or leave out in what was another eventful year so as to give an idea of how the Last Days were spent for those who’ll inherit our Earth in the wake of the imminent End?
Whoever said “what was in the beginning will be in the end” probably had the ANC’s centenary year in mind. It was amidst fun fare and merriment that the party kicked off its celebration in Mangaung earlier in the year and it’s to the same City of Roses that a bruised and not-so-united returned for its 53rd national conference. By the time you read this President Jacob Zuma would’ve retained his position as party head unless deputy president Kgalema Mothanthe would’ve proved to be the most remarkable dark horse.
While the nation was still under the jolly moment of Mangaung, a group of some 17000 Impala Platinum workers had gone on an unprotected strike since January in demand of better salaries and were subsequently dismissed. Violent scenes broke out in February that resulted in the injury of many and the death of one person in Rustenburg. The discontent of those miners died out, or so we thought. In hindsight what happened at Impala was a sign of more consequential things to come because August 9 marked the beginning of the bloodiest week in the democratic order. It culminated with the harrowing scenes of miners being sprayed with live ammunition by the police on that fateful Thursday afternoon on live television. It’s become known as the Marikana Massacre. When you add the 13 people murdered by the demonstrating workers and the 34 butchered by the police it totals 47 lives lost unnecessarily. Some died striking against R3000 or R4000 they risked their lives for, some died trying to enforce the law while others died because they exercised their right not to strike. It’s not surprising that The Star and the Daily Maverick named Marikana as its persons of the year.
The Mail and Guardian, in its 2011 “Xmas edition”, ran a story titled “No New Year textbooks for Limpopo learners”. By midyear certain grades still hadn’t received textbooks as the M&G foretold and it would take civil society group, Section 27’s, court application to force minister Motshega’s department to fulfil its constitutional obligation. Amidst national outrage, Motshega famously said “I’m a minister. I make policy, I don’t deliver textbooks”. While the country was coming to terms with the sordid affair of textbooks in Limpopo, artist Brett Murray gained infamy for his ‘painting’ The Spear, a Lenin-esque poster of Zuma with superimposed genitals. The ANC organized a march to the Goodman Gallery that housed the ‘painting’ and made calls for the City Press to be boycotted since it initially refused to remove the image off its site. Those who were baying for Murray’s blood felt he had insulted the president’s dignity and African men in general. It’s a pity that the dignity of textbook-deprived Limpopo learners didn’t get a similarly passionate and popular protest on its behalf.
On the international front the Syrian civil war continued to reach new lows as the body count increases and it seems that it’s unlikely to end soon. The European Union, who were shockingly awarded the Noble Prize For Peace, debt crisis had chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany crisscrossing her continent trying to ensure that the likes of Greece, Spain and Portugal didn’t default on their debt obligations and that the unpopular austerity measures are strictly applied lest the economic block disintegrate. As if a testament to the new power shift in the political world, the US elections took place in the same week that the Chinese Communist Party met for its 18th National Congress to elect its leadership for the next decade. As usual much of the coverage focused on Washington as president Obama secured his 2nd term. Perhaps when the CCP meets in 2022 greater attention will be on Beijing given its gigantic leaps of progress. The political breakthrough of the year has to be the UN General Assembly’s granting the Palestine Authority member status after such a move was vetoed by the US at the Security Council last year.
Undoubtedly the sporting spectacle of the year was the London 2012 Olympic Games. Who can forget ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ and James Bond jumping out of a helicopter during the spectacular opening ceremony? The Olympics platform is where participants in ‘fringe’ sporting codes like rowing go from being mere mortals to demi gods as our “Foursome Awesome” demonstrated. Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian ever when he took his medals tally to 22(18 gold). However, it was out of Phelps’ shadow that the Republic’s new golden child, Chad Le Clos, emerged to pip his idol in the men’s 200m butterfly final. Cameron Van der Burgh had set the tone by claiming gold in the record-breaking 100m breaststroke. Serena Williams, who’d won the Wimbledon title some two weeks earlier and would later claim the US Open, completed a career grand slam by winning gold, while Andy Murry won gold on home turf and capped that with a maiden grand slam title at Flushing Meadows. Usian Bolt’s heroics grabbed the headlines while Kenya’s David Rudisha became the first person to do 800m in under a minute and 41 seconds and Oscar Pistorius embodied the triumph of the human spirit.
For those who’ve persistently asked “what will happen when Jacque Kallis retires?” The answer was Hashim Amla’s 311 not out against England at The Oval. Amla, Sports Illustrated South Africa’s Sports Person of the Year, became the first South African to achieve that feat and the fact that he did it during Ramadan is indicative of his mental strength. “One can prove anything with statistics, but I do think there’s a case for insisting that Amla’s 311 not out is one of the finest triples ever seen in Test cricket. Certainly it must rank in the top 5, and that quite some company to be in.” Tom Eaton wrote in the Business Day Sport Monthly publication.
The Afro-American rapper Common observed that: “The same spot where joy is is where the pain is felt.” That couldn’t be more truthful to Zambia and its link to Gabon. It was off the coast of latter that a military aircraft carrying the Zambia national team and coaching staff plunged into the Atlantic in 1993. 19 years later in Gabon’s Libreville, a new breed of Chipolopolo stood toe to toe with their more acclaimed opponents in Ivory Coast. A thrilling 8-7 penalty shootout broke the North African hegemony over the continent’s Holy Grail and confirmed Zambia as the newest champions thanks to a Stoppila Sunzu penalty. Zambia’s victory lay to rest the souls of those who perished in the crash and brought smile where there was once anguish and despair. It seemed a touch of destiny that Kalusha Bwala be the president of Zambian football when they triumphed he was, after all, a member of the 93 squad. Sometimes the arrogance of invincibility can lead to the tastiest of humble pies and the patriarch of Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson, can today attest to that. He once said Manchester City wouldn’t be champions in his lifetime. Who’d blame the Scotsman? After all, at the height of his powers when his Manchester United were slaying English and European rivals his ‘Noisy Neighbours’ were languishing in the 4th tier of English football. But the gods of football don’t take kindly to arrogance. It’s May 19 and the Citizens’ faithful can’t believe that the league title is slipping away as relegation candidates QPR are 2-1 ahead with 4 minutes to go. Over at the Stadium of Light the Red Devils have won by an odd goal and news filters in that their nemesis is behind. Enter Edin Dzeko to restore parity and moments later with effectively the last kick of the season Sergio Aguero, who’d always been more famous for being Diego Maradona’s son-in-law, did what all great people do when history beckon: he stepped up. Time seemed to stand still as he rattled the ball into the net to send the Etihad and the blue half of Manchester into delirium as the floodgates of league supremacy washed away 44 long and painful years of insults from their decorated cross-town rivals. The art of snatching wins at the death is known as “Fergie Time” but on that Sunday it became “Mancini’s Moments”. When football historians remember 2012 they’ll speak of Spain’s finest generation that defended its Euro title; they’ll speak of Didier Drogba breaking Bavarian hearts to hand Chelsea their maiden UEFA Champions League trophy; they’ll speak about Lionel Messi’s 90(at the time of writing) goals in a calendar year as he shattered Gerard Muller and Pele’s records but I suspect it’s the day Fergie’s ‘Noisy Neighbours’ got louder that footballing 2012 is likely to be remembered for because on that afternoon the beautiful game proved once again that it’s the original reality show.
The run away success of Adele’s 21, which exceeded the ten million mark, resulted in 6 Grammys for her on a night overshadowed by the death of Whitney Houston. The British singer capped the year with the theme song for Sky Fall, the latest James Bond film. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Ian Fleming-created spy agent franchise. The Zahara Tsunami that swept 2011 away continued into the new year as she claimed 8 SAMAs as the ceremony returned to its spiritual home of Sun City. No Idols SA contestant has captured the nation’s attention much like Khaya Mthethwa as he sang himself into the history books by being the first African idol. Will he sweep the SAMAs board next year? Let’s wait and see. Cross over artist of the year is probably one Toya Delezi and her genre-defying music. If 2012 is anything to go by, then she bound for greater things.
If ever you doubted that sex sells, how else would you explain the phenomenon that is 50 Shades trilogy selling 60 million between June2011 and this year. On August 1st Amazon UK said 50 Shades of Grey alone had sold more copies than JK Rowlings’ entire Harry Potter series in Britain. The raunchy trilogy has spawned a genre termed “Mommy Porn” since EL James is a middle aged mother of two away from the public glare.
The long awaited final instalment of the cinematic adaptation of Stepheny Meyer’s Twilight series was released this year with much craze from its adoring fans. In a post-Harry Potter and Twilight Tinseltown one wonders where the next cash cow will come from. With talks of a 4th Transformers film there may yet be another box office goose for Hollywood. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy started off on a tragic note as a young terrorist slaughtered movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado but the film was said to have done well inspite of its sombre release.
2012, like every year preceding it, was an event and dramatic beyond what’s highlighted afore. As humanity we haven’t learnt to be tolerant to perspectives that don’t mirror our own. We’ve seen this via the brutal killings of the gay and lesbian people; we’ve seen this in the violent relations between Palestinians and Israelis and other conflict stricken places across the globe. It’s hoped that with every breakthrough in the digital technological sphere there’ll be equal consideration afforded to the irreplaceable power of the human touch. The harsher realities of everyday life make it so easier to be pessimistic but it’s the alternative that we ought to strive for. Here’s to hoping that 2013 will inspire more “I was there” moments; that more children will be fed before and after school; that textbooks will delivered on time; that community libraries will out number private security firms; that fewer people will expose themselves to risky sexual behaviour; that more children will hear more of “you’re beautiful/handsome and capable of anything” than “you’re stupid and useless”; that integrity will accompany our decisions in relation to each other; here’s to hoping that where bona fide effort was exercised equivalent returns will accrue; here’s to hoping the various sporting teams disappoint us to the extent of wanting to denounce our allegiance to them but not quite enough to actually see it through; here’s to hoping we’ll go the distance against formidable and seemingly unconquerable odds and never cease to try again when we don’t succeed in the first time of asking; here’s to hoping we’ll keep lit the flame of memories of those gone too soon from our lives and here’s to the unpredictability of a new second, minute, hour, day, week, month and a new year!