Editorial: Hell of a year for a birthday

Blackouts. Bankruptcies. Bailouts. Bullshit. A pandemic. An infodemic. A climate in chaos. Extreme heat. Wildfires. Drought. Hurricanes. Corruption. Ineptitude. Mismanagement. Politicians. Arrests. Early paroles. Tweets. Misinformation. Disinformation. Depression. Despair. Dead loved ones.

It has been a hell of a year.    

Let’s take a moment to remember those who didn’t make it. The loved ones who make up the more than 23 000 people claimed by Covid-19. The thousands of others who died in the ways humans always die. The people who made us who we are, who left an imprint on the world. 

And let’s appreciate that we are still here. We made it. 

This new decade found a confused South Africa. The so-called “lost decade” was over, where the then kleptocrat-in-chief, Jacob Zuma, cemented the role of the ANC as a tool of vague leadership and focused looting. 


In Cyril Ramaphosa came a president who wanted to improve our country. And, with the shift to irrelevance for the Democratic Alliance, came a lack of opposition. But a recession, awful decisions about parastatals, inaction on corruption and our high unemployment rate stalled that initial “Ramaphoria”. Junk status followed. 

Over the ocean, 2020 started with massive fires in Australia, signalling the realities of a hotter world. Things were looking apocalyptic. And the swing to right-wing leaders in so many countries meant we were actively ignoring science, threatening a barely survivable future.  

Then came Covid-19. 

What a year to celebrate your 35th birthday. Not that things in 1985 — when a group of retrenched journalists created what was then the Weekly Mail and is now the Mail & Guardian — looked all that great in the world. Apartheid was at its apex. The Cold War kept sparking. White privilege was absolute.

But, like this year and every year, those few dreamers understood the importance of rigorous, quality journalism: the importance of questioning the status quo and holding those with power to account by performing this craft to the highest ethical standards. 

We can do this because of you. 

Next year will likely be as crazy as this one. To cover it, we will be bringing in more reporters to dig into politics, law, parliament and how this country works. We will also be building one of the biggest climate and environment reporting units in the world. 

Before then, we’re going to take a well-deserved break. Enjoy this special edition. 

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These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

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