Short Report

Who do you really want to nominate as South African of the Year?

22 September 2017 - 13:11
The South African flag
The South African flag

Who’s your South African of the year?

Before you answer‚ I’d just like to point out to any lawyers reading this that I asked about the year‚ not the Year. Because if I’d written ‘South African of the Year’ I would be violating copyright. Oh bugger‚ I think I just did it anyway.

It turns out that the phrase ‘South African of the Year’ is a registered trademark owned by Jan Scannell‚ aka Jan Braai‚ the man behind National Braai Day. Because‚ as we all know‚ nothing screams nation-building like ring-fencing language for commercial use. Anyway.

According to the website of the Burning Animals To Avoid Tricky Conversations Day‚ sorry‚ I mean‚ National Braai Day‚ “the South African of the Year is someone who‚ with a phenomenal achievement‚ makes you extremely proud to be a South African.”

Of course‚ phenomenal achievements and pride are both pretty subjective. I sometimes consider it a phenomenal achievement to eat muesli without getting milk in my beard and feel very proud of my dexterity. The website is also at pains to point out the poll is “light-hearted”.

But even so‚ the five nominees revealed by News24 on Wednesday – Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng‚ artist Esther Mahlangu‚ Olympian Luvo Manyonga‚ the Blitzbokke and tennis player Kevin Anderson – seemed to represent a very peculiar idea of what makes South Africans great. When 60 percent of your options are sportspeople‚ you’ve got problems.

That’s why this poll is so disappointing‚ because right now there are thousands of South Africans of whom we can be fantastically proud: brave‚ honest‚ skilled people pushing back against the tide of criminality and mediocrity threatening to engulf us.

Trademark laws prevent me from launching a less tone-deaf ‘South African of the Year’ poll‚ but as Heritage Day looms‚ I would like to ask you again: who is your South African of the Year?

I’ve got a few nominations.

For starters‚ there’s the person who changed everything: that unnamed yet vastly significant employee of the Guptas who first leaked their documents and revealed the true state of our nation.

Then there are the journalists‚ from the sleep-deprived sleuths of the AmaBhungane and Scorpions to the relentless newsrooms across South Africa where excellent and brave people have been defending this country one paragraph at a time.

There are the activists – Right2Know; Equal Education; the Zackie Achmats of this country – who push and push where others tire and walk away.

There are the police officers who ride out into our war zones and remain calm and gentle and honest; the doctors who perform small miracles every day; the teachers who spend an extra two minutes with a child and in so doing shape the next sixty years.

They are there. They aren’t reported on because we only want to read about their rotten or inept colleagues‚ but they are there‚ and they are magnificent.

Yes‚ those are the “phenomenal achievements” – good people doing their job – that make me proud to be a South African.