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By Brendan Seery

Deputy Editor

Eish! A year in the life of SA

From #FreeClifton to Shaun The Sheep, the country survives again - and despite what many people think, there have been far worse years.

Old Father Time sat down to rest his weary bones on the steps of the Union Buildings in the City Formerly Known As Pretoria. He laid his traditional scythe (which was identical to the one carried by his cousin, the Grim Reaper) alongside the hourglass which has come to symbolise the passage of time.

He would have preferred to be on a beach in Cape Town – beautiful at this time of year – but, with #FreeClifton and goat’s blood… just – no.

Imagine, he thought: I am just a figment of creativity in a human’s artistic brain. Things could be worse, but every year they drag me out just before New Year’s Eve when they look back on the previous 12 months.

So, what do they want me to tell them about 2018? A vintage year? No. An awful year? Despite what some people feel, there have been far worse ones.

It started off on the same high the sort-of-unbanning of dagga caused. People raised their glasses to the “new dawn” of President Cyril Ramaphosa and somewhat naively believed the final nails were being driven into the coffin of state capture.

Old Father Time chuckled: “Come on, people, it took the entire Zuma decade of nonstop thievery to bring this country to its knees and you think it can be fixed, just like that?”

Still, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture made for good entertainment, first as people gasped at the sheer scale and audacity of how the state coffers were turned into a piggy bank for the likes of the Guptas, Jacob Zuma and sundry hangers-on. Then the Media Mogul formerly known as Jimmy put in an appearance to “explain” The New Age and ANN7 with a rambling, nonsensical speech which made Hlaudi Motsoeneng look like a professor of logic.

Talking about “The Special One”, he said towards the end of the year he will become the country’s political saviour. Plenty of people at Auckland Park – anxiously waiting to see if the SABC will go bankrupt or be put into business rescue in 2019 – would argue Hlaudi couldn’t save his way out of a wet paper bag.

Hlaudi’s inanity was easily topped by the ravings of Andile Mngxitama, who makes Idi Amin look like a Sunday school teacher. The BLF man tweeted the festive season road deaths were the “fault of apartheid”. Ja, Nee. Old Father time shook his head: “Say no more unless you want me dragged before the Human Rights Commission, shackled to Helen Zille.”

Helen herself continued to blunder across social media, while her beloved DA was imploding: the “cheeky” Patricia de Lille made them look like duckers and divers in her unsuccessful fight to stay mayor of Cape Town. Then she set up her own party, a slightly larger, louder version of Cope. The DA is hoping the “Good” Pat keeps talking about means she’ll be gone for good. Don’t bet on it. That antie likes a fight.

While the DA’s blue may have been fading, the ANC’s green, gold and black gained a little more lustre as people looked for a new Madiba in Cyril. But the political colour of the year, in terms of noise made, influence exerted and just plain visibility, was red. The EFF’s Red Berets were everywhere – from partying/protesting, beer bottles in hand, outside the Zondo Commission, to slick night clubs in Sandton, drinking Johnnie Blue with dodgy cigarette mafia dons.

That sort of lifestyle is fitting for the people who have been accused of being beneficiaries of the Great Bank Heist of VBS Bank in Limpopo, where more than R1 billion – including deposits by poor gogos – disappeared.

But it was in parliament the EFF did their best work. Love them or hate them, the EFF forced the ANC to put land back on the agenda with expropriation without compensation. And if the ruling party handles the question like they do education and health, land restitution will either never happen, or be a chaotic mess.

Seen that movie before, thought Old Father Time, it’s called Zimbabwe. Talking of which, that country’s new dawn after the removal of Robert Mugabe as president after 38 years was as much of a damp squib as SA’s.

Mind you, he thought, when the going gets tough, the tough get going – to watch sport. And 2018 was typically South African on the playing fields. SA’s national teams won games they should have lost and lost matches they should have won. Surprisingly, all the fans moaned. All the time. If only the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) could get its act together and get whingeing recognised as an Olympic sport, we’d win gold.

Mind you, the Banyana Banyana women’s team gave the country renewed hope when they qualified for next year’s World Cup in France, while the rugby and cricket teams each hope to fly our flags at their World Cups.

Caster Semenya and Chad le Clos were continuing to blitz their opponents and prove that speed is something South Africans can do in places other than on the wrong side of a highway.

Shaun “The Sheep” Abrahams was put out to pasture as NPA head and Tom Moyane given his marching orders at Sars, while the likes of Brian Molefe (Prasa and Eskom) and Matshela Koko (Eskom) as well as Lucky Montana (Prasa) used Twitter to throw barbs at their enemies.

Conspicuous by his silence on that medium in recent months has been Malusi Gigaba, the “honourable member” who may have been upstanding in some areas, but certainly not as a politician. His removal from government was greeted with surprise – and relief – by more than a few people.

The ghost of Bell Pottinger wafts through the timelines of Twitter as “uBaba” Jacob Zuma uses language and ideas he could never dream about to convince the world he is an innocent victim and a simple man, your “Uncle in the politics business…”

Old Father Time sat, thinking about the possibilities for such a beautiful country. Would 2019 be its year? The dusk gathered around him and the lights of Tshwane came on, flickered and then went off.

Ah! He shook his head. Eskom …

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