South Africa 2014: Let’s have the good news

Rhodes>Perspective>2014 Archive

In a year which has sometimes seemed to be wall-to-wall murder trials, parliamentary chaos and blackouts, it’s been easy to lose track of the good stuff. REBECCA DAVIS rounds up some of the non-political ‘good news’ happenings in South Africa, or achievements by South Africans, in 2014.

When I asked my Daily Maverick colleagues over lunch for suggestions of South Africa’s good news stories for the year, there was a small silence.

“We invented something,” Marianne said authoritatively.

“We definitely did,” Marelise agreed.

“Something important,” Marianne elaborated. “I think it was something… blue.”

That was about as far as we got. It turned out Marianne was talking about the world’s first digital laser (which South Africans did indeed invent – but that was in 2013).

After some research and some Twitter crowdsourcing, however, we were able to come up with a number of positive local-is-lekker developments and individual achievements this year. Here is a wildly non-exhaustive list.

We opened the biggest solar plant on the continent. Located near Kimberley, the Jasper plant was completed two months ahead of schedule. Partly funded by Google, the plant should produce enough energy to power 80,000 homes per year. We’re now in the top 10 countries worldwide for solar energy.

Mark Shuttleworth set up a fund of R250-million to support Constitutional court cases. After billionaire Shuttleworth won R250 million from the Reserve Bank after taking the institution on about exchange controls, he didn't just pocket the cash for a Space jolly. The money is going into a fund administered by veteran Constitutional scholars to take on constitutional cases against the state on behalf of those who can’t afford to do it.

From next year, UCT and Wits are offering free online courses. Wits have partnered with non-profit online education service edX and will be providing more than 200,000 students in Africa free courses. UCT, meanwhile, will be offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) from early next year, which are free and have no entry requirements.

Trevor Noah is killing it on The Daily Show. The South African comedian is the latest contributor to join the world’s top satirical news show. His first appearance is worth seeing – he takes the piss out of America and teaches them a thing or two about our continent.

If you live in Tshwane, you’ll be able to stream movies on your free wi-fi from 2015. Project Isizwe, which provides free wi-fi in parts of Stellenbosch and Tshwane, is expanding to provide a video-on-demand movie streaming service called Wi-fi Drive Inn. Project Isizwe has already introduced a free TV service called Wifi TV.

Onse Charlene spawned the future king of Monaco. On Wednesday South Africa’s former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, who is married to Prince Albert of Monaco, gave birth to twins Gabriella and Jacques. Gabriella was born first, but Jacques will be the future ruler, because only dudes can reign in Monaco.

Pretty Yende is on her way to becoming one of the world’s top opera singers. The young soprano from Mpumalanga earned standing ovations last year when she made her debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. This year Yende performed for the first time at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, winning rave reviews. “A gracefulness that can seem decidedly divine seems to radiate from Ms Yende,” gushed the New York Times.

They filmed Homeland Season 4 in Cape Town. It was, admittedly, far from the most amazing season of the award-winning drama, but being able to play ‘spot the MyCiti bus stop’ did add a certain something to the viewing process. We’re still not sure how we’re supposed to take it that Salt River could double for Kabul, but it cheers us up that Claire Danes called our food “fucking incredible” and said that she intended to make ‘sharp sharp’ part of her daily vocabulary from now on.

Two South African writers hit the stratosphere. Sarah Lotz’s thriller The Three, the subject of a six-figure bidding war among international publishers, was hailed as a global summer blockbuster. Lauren Beukes’ international bestseller Broken Monsters, meanwhile, was raved about by Stephen King, and Leonardo DiCaprio bought the rights to adapt it for television. Hell yeah.

South Africa’s youngest doctor qualified, age 20. Newcastle’s Sabile Kubheka was raised by a single mother who worked at Shoprite, and matriculated at 15. He obtained his MBChB degree aged 20 with distinctions in obstetrics and gynaecology, and is currently interning at Grey’s Hospital in Newcastle.

We found a new shrimp. Well, not “we” as such, but underwater photographer Guido Zsilavecz, who found a tiny shrimp off False Bay. Experts determined it was an entirely new species, dubbed the ‘stargazer mysid’ because its slightly crazy-looking eyes seemed to be fixed on the sky at all times.

An unemployed South African ran the London Marathon – and finished 36th. Siya Mqambeli, of Dobsonville, Soweto, managed to scrape together the sponsorship to enter the London Marathon, and was placed 36th in a time of 2:29:27. Mqambeli has been unemployed since January 2013 and had his passport stolen two weeks before the trip to London.

LNN got nominated for an Emmy. Satirical South African TV show Late Night News with Loyiso Gola was nominated for best comedy in the 42nd International Emmy Awards. And not for the first time: LNN got its first Emmy nod in 2013. Next year, let’s bring home the silverware.

What was your favourite South African good news story of the year? Let us know in the comments below – and please, let’s keep it upbeat. It’s been an awfully long year. DM

Article by: Rebecca Davis

Article source: Daily Maverick