/ 5 November 2012

Seven news events that made us smile in 2012

Olympics silver medallist Caster Semenya.
Olympics silver medallist Caster Semenya.
  1. Caster Semenya's silver lining
    Following an intrusive scrutiny of her gender by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) since winning the 800m race at the world championships in Berlin in 2009, Semenya struck out with the intention to prove her worth to the world.

    She was banned from competing for almost a year before the IAAF cleared her to run again, but was set back by a lower back injury. She shook this off too, returning to the Olympics this year more determined than ever and making us proud by bringing home a silver.

  2. Chad's dad – and the swimmer himself, of course
    Chad le Clos's gold in the men's 200m butterfly at the Olympics this year made headlines after he edged the world champion, US swimmer Michael Phelps, in his penultimate international race. We were more than proud when he humbly said of his incredible win: "I think I am a bit lucky."

    But Chad's father Burt was the man who captured our – and the world's – hearts. In a post-race interview, Burt was literally bubbling over with pride, barely able to string a coherent sentence together in his excitement.

  3. Madiba turns 94
    After reports of former president Nelson Mandela's health taking a turn for the worse at the beginning of the year, we relaxed our shoulders on his 94th birthday, glad to have the legend around for just a little longer. The fear of losing him made us wonder if our children knew why he is important, and the responses we received were more than a little amusing. If you watch the video all the way through you'll get to Mail & Guardian reporter Nickolaus Bauer doing the Madiba shuffle.

  4. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma taking the helm of the AU
    Challenged by incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, the former home affairs minister became the first female to head the African Union. After the first round of voting in January left no winner, Dlamini-Zuma made history by becoming the first woman, and South African, to take up the position in July.
  5. Malawi's president making positive moves
    President Joyce Banda took the helm after Malawi's former leader Bingu wa Mutharika died in April this year. Her first move after taking office was to fire officials who remained loyal to Mutharika to a fault. She removed the Reserve Bank governor Perks Ligoya, who pursued a rigid exchange rate policy that the International Monetary Fund blamed for much of Malawi's economic woes. A former police chief who was implicated in the murder of a student activist was also axed, as well as the country's information minister who insisted Mutharika was alive more than a day after he was pronounced dead. She also installed a new secretary of treasury and director general of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

    But she didn't stop there. Banda inherited the country with a stuttering economy, and aid from the UK and other states stopped due to the heavy-handed suppression of dissent under Mutharika's regime. Banda then took a 30% pay cut to be in solidarity with the poor. Her salary dropped from $60 000 a year – about R480  000 – to $42 000, or R340 000. We definitely take our hat off to her.

  6. Pippie Kruger, the fighter
    A story that at first broke our hearts, Pippie Kruger's recovery became a story of survival. The Limpopo toddler received third degree burns to 80% of her body after a bottle of flammable liquid exploded in her father's hands at a family braai, and doctors initially gave her a 10% chance of survival. But the child had dedicated healthcare workers at her side and made a good recovery.

    A revolutionary skin transplant was performed on Pippie, the first such skin graft performed in Africa. Skin from her groin was used to grow sheets of her own skin, which was transported from the US to the Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg, where the child was kept in high care for about six months. The new skin had a shelf life of just 24 hours and was delivered in time after a 21-hour flight from the US.

    Doctors said the little survivor was recovering well.

  7. Felix Baumgartner's courage
    Baumgartner proved the limit is beyond the skies by breaking three world records during a skydive from outer space.

    He claimed the highest altitude manned balloon flight, the highest altitude skydive, and became the world's first supersonic skydiver after breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1.24.

    "When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you don't think about breaking records," he said, after landing safely from his 39km drop.