2016 in Review

Home > Article > 2016 in Review

Caster Semenya Image source

In 2016 South Africa History Online celebrates 15 years of being a public open source heritage site. What a journey it has been. At the end of the first week of December we reached 10 million page views. It is nice to know that we are making a difference in classrooms and lecture halls, at home and worldwide. We also published three new books during this past year and have a dedicated team who is pushing to give the most accurate and relevant history and to grow our archive of information and make it accessible to all. 


To the twenty researchers, Masters students, PhD candidates, design and IT engineers who interned with us throughout the year, we send our gratitude and wish you all the best for the new year. We would like to thank our sponsors, Ford Foundation, The Charles Mott Foundation, the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, CATHSSETA, FPMSETA, as well as our partners across South Africa, the US, UK, Canada and Africa for all their support. Most importantly we want to thank you, our faithful subscribers, readers, followers and lovers of history. We wish you all the best for the Festive season and the New Year. 

- Omar Badsha, CEO


- 8th: Zuma delivers the annual 8 January ANC statement. Responses are mixed with all but his most enthusiastic supporters unenthused.

- 11th: Student Protest against university fees resume at UP, WITS, UCT, UFR, UWC, UKZN, NWU

- 20th: Denis Galava, managing editor of the Nation newspaper in Kenya is fired, following a suspension on 6th January for writing an editorial criticising President Uhuru Kenyatta.

- 30th: The 26 th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa takes place.



- 1st: Zuma greets Sudanese president al-Bashir share a warm greeting at AU conference in Addis Ababa.

- 11th: Zuma’s State of the Nation speech to Parliament s met with protests in Cape Town.He speech was largely seen as ignoring the problems facing South Africa and glossing over any dysfunction in government.

- 12th -  2nd March: Legal documents obtained by AmaBhungane indicate that South Africa did sign a nuclear deal with Russia. In its legal proceedings against the Department of Energy (DoE), Earthlife Africa (ELA) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) said they received documentation indicating that a binding deal had been signed. They said “the Russian agreement was entered into unlawfully, but makes (an) internationally binding commitment to buy a fleet of nuclear reactors from Russia”. Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson denied the deal: “we are committed to transparency,” she said.


- 1st: Vote of no confidence in Zuma tabled by DA and debated in Parliament

- 6th: Elections held in Benin with independent candidate Patrice Talon winning the presidency following the second round held on 20th March

- 17th: Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas claims that the Gupta family offered him the position of Finance Minister with the approval of President Zuma. This leads to further allegations of State Capture. In parliament a jovial Zuma states that Jonas’ claims have nothing to do with him

- 21st: The ICC convicts Jean Pierre Bemba, former vice president of Congo for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

- 31st: The ConCourt finds that Zuma did not uphold or defend the Constitution in regards to the Public Protector’s findings on Nklandla. Zuma offers an apology that is widely disregarded.


- 3rd: The Panama Papers are published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. President Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma is among the approximately 1700 South African citizens named in the data leak.

- 5th: Zuma survives an attempt at impeaching him thanks to the ANC majority.

- 27th: Protesters march on Freedom Day under the banner #ZumaMustFall in order to voice dissatisfaction with President Jacob Zuma.


- 19th: EgyptAir flight 804 crashes killing all 66 people on board. 

- 30th: Hissene Habre, former president of Chad, found guilty of crimes against humanity by the Extraordinary African Chambers, an African Union backed court in Senegal. 


- 10th: Eight of South Africa’s nine provinces (Gauteng being the exception) declared disaster areas due to the ongoing drought.

- 16th: Forty year anniversary of the 1976 June 16 Youth Protests.  

- 25th: Black Coffee wins BET Award in the category Best International Act - Africa


- 13th: Evan Mawarire, the Zimbabwean pastor who began the #ThisFlag movement, released after his arrest was found to be unconstitutional by a Harare court. He was arrested following the 6th July stayaway that started a wave of popular protests across the country. 

- 18th: The International AIDS conference begins in Durban with falling donor funding and rising or flatlining HIV infection rates one of the major issues facing delegates. Meanwhile, a march led by the TAC among others, calls for ensuring access to ARVs for all vulnerable and marginalised groups around the world. 


- 3rd: South African local government elections - The ANC lost three metros (Nelson Mandela Bay, City of Tshwane and City of Johannesburg), and lowest level of support nationally in its most significant electoral defeat since the dawn of democracy.

- 11th: Zambian elections won by incumbent Edgar Lungu and his Patriotic Front party.

- 14th: Wayde van Niekerk won the men’s 400m final and sets a new world record of 43.03 seconds during the evening session on Day 9 Athletics of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Olympic Stadium. Caster Semenya was also victorious in winning the other SA gold medal, part of a total medal tally of 10 including 6 silver and 2 bronze - the highest since re-integration.


- 12th: President Zuma pays back the money he owes on the Nklandla upgrades. He claims that the money was raised through a bond with VBS Mutual Bank. And later investigation shows that no such bond exists.

- 15th: Simphiwe Ndzube is announced the winner of the Tollman Award for 2016.

- September 25th: Winnie Madikizela celebrated her 80th Birthday

- 28th: Gareth Nyandoro is announced as the recipient of the FT/ OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices 2016 Art Award


- 6th: Second annual Mafika Gwala Lecture held at UKZN. Mandla Langa was the keynote speaker and three books were launched at the event - Mafika Pascal Gwala Collected poems, the Return of the Gwala Gwala Bird, and Alfred Temba Qabula Collected Poems.

- 6th: Zuma appoints Adv. Busisiwwe Mkhwebana as the new Public Protector once Thuli Madonsela’s term ends. 

- 7th: Desmond Tutu celebrates his 85th Birthday. He states that he believes people should be able to die with dignity.

- 8th: Fezekile Kuzwayo known publicly as Khwezi or Accuser X who had laid rape charges against Zuma passes away. Her death elicited a mixed response. The ANCWL called for her to be remembered fondly a far cry from their attitude towards her during Zuma’s rape trial.

- 10th: Father Graham Pugin, the Jesuit chaplain to the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg was shot in the face with a rubber bullet during the FMF protests by the South African Police. “I am very lucky to have only been shot in the mouth,” he said. “I could have lost an eye or been struck in the head and killed.”

- 10th: In the midst of mounting tensions in South African higher learning institutions, Zuma heads to Kenya for a state visit. 

- 14th: Gordhan releases an affidavit to the High Court stating that the Guptas and their companies have been implicated in suspicious transaction to value of over R6.8b over the last four years.

- 15th: Mamelodi Sundowns becomes the first South African team to win the CAF Champions League, beating Egypt’s Zamalek in the final.

- 20th: Former WITS SRC President and a former leader of the #Feesmustfall movement, Shaeera Kalla, was shot multiple times in the back with rubber bullets by police.

- 21st: South Africa announces its intention to pull out of the ICC. This follows Burundi taking similar action on the 19th and was followed by Gambia doing the same on the 25th. 

- 21st: Cape Town Art Fair appoints Tumelo Mosaka as the fair’s new chief art curator.

- 26th: Minister of Finance , Pravin Gordhan, Mid-Term Budget


- 2nd: Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng are announced to represent South Africa at the 57th Venice Biennale’s South African Pavilion in 2017.

- 2nd: The State Capture report is released.

- 4th - 6th: First ever Art Fair in Western Africa - Art X Lagos, Nigeria 

The Makapansgat pebble of many faces. Picture: Wits University Image source

Dr Bernhard Zipfel, university curator of collections in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University, says: “This stone was found in the presence of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominin that lived more than 2 million years ago.” It is currently on display at the British Museum in London as  part of an exhibition titled South Africa: The art of a nation, which charts 100 000 years of the country’s art.

- 7th: Black Bodies, White Cubes: The Problem with Contemporary Art’s Appropriation of Race

- 15th - The DA lays criminal charges of corruption at Rosebank Police Station (Johannesburg) against President Zuma

- 23rd - 26th: The Politics of Armed Struggle in Southern Africa Conference is held at Wits University incorporating exhibitions and public dialogues, film screenings, etc.

- 25th: Gabi Ngcobo appointed to be the curator for the 10. Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

- 25th : Goodman Gallery turns 50. Linda Givon (then Goodman) first opened the doors to the Goodman Gallery in Hyde Park, Johannesburg on 25 November 1966.

- Flash floods hit Johannesburg


Ongoing  trial of Zwelethu Mthethwa, a prominent South African artist and photographer,  who was accused of murdering 23 year old sex worker, Nokuphile Kumalo on  14th April 2013. The case  is due to conclude before the court goes on recess in mid-December 2016.

- 1st: Activists Call for Removal of Work by Murder-Accused Mthethwa. The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) is protesting the inclusion of a work by internationally renowned photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa in a current exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town while Mthethwa is still on trial for allegedly murdering sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo in April 2013

- 1st: Elections in Gambia that result in the shock defeat of Yahya Jammeh by opposition leader Adam Barrow. 

- 7th: Ghanaian General Elections won by opposition New Patriotic Party leader Nana Akufo-Addo. 

- 10th - 20 years since President Nelson Mandela promulgated the Constitution of the democratic Republic of South Africa

Please note SAHO realises this is an incomplete list.

Last updated : 12-Dec-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 12-Dec-2016