highs and lows of 2009

Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota is seen adddressing the media during a news conference in Johannesburg.Pic: Veli Nhlapo. 08/01/2008. © Sowetan.
Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota is seen adddressing the media during a news conference in Johannesburg.Pic: Veli Nhlapo. 08/01/2008. © Sowetan.



South Africa is ushered into 2009 with acting President Kgalema Motlanthe at the reins.

Motlanthe took over after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC leadership in September last year.

The move came after Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Chris Nicholson had ruled that Mbeki might have been involved in a political conspiracy against ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

l The ANC kicks off its election campaign endorsing Zuma as its presidential candidate - despite him facing corruption charges.

l For the first time the ANC faces what seems to be a real challenge in the form of the newly formed Cope.

Formed by disgruntled ANC leaders including former national chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota and former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, Cope is regarded as having some political kudos because of its leaders' struggle credentials.


Cope is hit by internal political setbacks with Lekota losing the race for presidential candidate to Reverend Mvume Dandala.

The move leads to divisions among members with Lekota's supporters seeing Dandala as an imposition by an Eastern Cape faction.

Dandala's introduction was also rumoured to be supported by former ANC bigwigs including Saki Macozoma, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and her husband Bulelani Ngcuka.

The effect of the move continues to be felt in Parliament where Dandala leads the party - instead of the more experienced Lekota.


Controversy hits the ANC's fund-raising for its R100million election bill - with claims of receiving funding from discredited sources including Equatorial Guinea's notorious dictator Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who has ruled the country since 1979.

ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa denies receiving any funding from foreign governments.


The NPA drops charges against Zuma. Acting national director of prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe says he dropped the charges because he received a secret recording which suggested that the timing to charge Zuma in 2007 had been manipulated.

l The ANC wins 65,9percent of the votes in the general elections, falling just short of a two-third majority that would allow the party to amend the Constitution. Its number of seats in the national assembly drops from 279 to 264.

The DA receives 16,6percent of the votes and 67 seats in the national assembly.

The new kid on the block wins 7,42percent of the votes and 30 seats. Cope also manages to be the official opposition in five provinces (Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West).

The ANC suffers a major blow in the Western Cape with the DA taking over the province.


Zuma is inaugurated as the new president of the country and he appoints South Africa's largest cabinet since 1994 - with 34 ministers and 28 deputy ministers.

His inclusion of the likes of SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and former trade union leader Ibrahim Patel in the Cabinet was seen as a move to embrace individuals who Mbeki would never have considered.

Zuma, however, showed his understanding of the effect of global politics on his government by retaining former finance minister Trevor Manuel.


During his state of the nation address, Zuma promises to create 500000 job opportunities by Christmas - as a way of dealing with the worst recession the country has experienced in 20 years.

Zuma also decides not to renew beleaguered national police commissioner Jackie Selebi's contract. Selebi was put on extended leave by Mbeki following a decision by the then NPA boss Vusi Pikoli to charge him with corruption.


The ANC Youth League throws the cat among the pigeons and calls for the nationalisation of mines.

ANCYL president Julius Malema argues that this is in terms of the Freedom Charter. ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe accuses Malema of misinterpreting the Freedom Charter.

He argues that the current legislation which provides for the government to own the mining rights and give out licences to mining companies sufficiently addresses the situation.

l Government is hit by a series of scandals about ministers splurging on multi-million rand cars.

The government defends the move, arguing that the ministers were within their rights in terms of the car allowance scheme.

But questions are raised about the morality of spending public coffers on luxuries while expecting taxpayers to tighten their belts.


The ANCYL raises a racial stink by arguing that more blacks should lead financial positions in Cabinet. Malema points out that these positions are currently held by whites and Indians.

"Are Africans only good enough as security guards?" Malema quips.

Zuma comes out and shoots down the call for a debate on race, saying it will drag the country backwards.

Malema responds by accusing the ANC leadership of being cowards who are afraid to raise controversial but pertinent issues like the existence of racial disparities in the country and within the government.

l Both the ANC and the ANCYL join the fray around gold medalist Caster Semenya whose sexuality was questioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Malema accuses the IAAF of racism and Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile threatens war if Semenya is disqualified on the basis of a gender test.

Both parties had to stand down when it was later discovered that they were not given the full information about Semenya's case by Athletics South Africa.


More than 2000 South African National Defence Force members march on the Union Buildings to protest against poor working conditions and low pay.

The police react with force, firing at and wounding some of the protesters.

An angry Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu summarily suspends some of protesters.

She also rejects the notion that soldiers should belong to a union. Instead a multiparty forum is suggested to deal with their grievances.

The minister subsequently offered the soldiers increases ranging up to 80percent.


Professor Jonathan Jansen is appointed the first black rector and vice-chancellor of the University of Free State.

He however angers many black people, including Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, when he pardons white students who had racially abused black university employees.

Many, including trade unions, call for Jansen's recall.

However, in a surprise move Malema comes out in defence of Jansen, saying "he should not be thrown out to the enemies because he is one of us".

The matter is still pending with Jansen not having paid the compensation he has promised to the workers.


Sisulu and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale are involved in a public spat relating to a multi-million production that the Sisulu had introduced during her tenure to promote her housing-for-all campaign.

Sisulu's office reacted when Sexwale announced that he was canning the production "because his job was not about theatre but about building houses".

In turn, Sisulu's office accused Sexwale of having done nothing new except following on Sisulu's previous programme.

l Eskom chairperson Bobby Godsell resigns after he was accused of running a racist campaign against senior executives at the electricity utility.

He had a fallout with chief executive Jacob Maroga, who had offered to resign but subsequently withdrew his resignation with Godsell arguing that the board had accepted the resignation.


A public spat ensues between the ANCYL and the SACP after SACP delegates had booed Malema during the party's congress in Mankweng, Polokwane.

Malema accused the SACP of inviting him to the congress to humiliate him.

He subsequently called the SACP leadership "yellow communists" who want to take over the ANC to use it for their own means.

Malema was booed because he had previously accused the SACP of trying to take over the ANC. The SACP had come out against his call for the mines to be nationalised.

The SACP has accused the ANCYL of serving the interest of capitalists who want the government to bail them out of the recession by taking over their debts in the mines.