The year 2020 both introduced new challenges and brought existing challenges into the light. The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it and has had a significant impact on global health and well-being, income and food security and access to education, among many other issues.
In South Africa, the nationwide lockdown and complete shutdown of the economy in response to the pandemic resulted in 56% of adults experiencing increased stress and anxiety levels. Most of this stress and anxiety can be attributed to job insecurity and the economy’s instability as the lockdown resulted in the loss of over 2 million jobs in the country.
According to a study conducted by pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics, 49% of South Africans are aware of the decrease in mental wellbeing and would be interested in receiving mental health support or therapy, however most cannot afford to do so.
As stress and anxiety levels are on the rise and mental health care is not an affordable option for many South Africans, discovering moments or events that will undoubtedly lift one’s spirits is vital, especially during a pandemic.
Throughout this tough year, South Africans have witnessed bursts of sunshine that made them laugh, smile and open their hearts. Here are a few of our favourite moments from 2020:
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Mask Mishap
How better to kick off this list than with Cyril Ramaphosa’s mask fail in April this year? It was perhaps one of the first things South Africans were able to laugh at together during the national lockdown, and even encouraged a bit of unity among citizens.
In the fifth week of South Africa’s nationwide lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a national address regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of the country’s economy. However, Ramaphosa’s remarks were entirely overshadowed by his attempt to put on a mask at the end of his address.
Before leaving the podium, the president attempted to put his face mask on, which he unfortunately struggled to do in front of the entire nation. The straps kept snapping off of his ears and at one point the president blindfolded himself.
Immediately afterwards, the Ramaphosa’s mask mishap was trending on Twitter and South Africans were all laughing in unison. The event even resulted in a social media challenge called the #CyrilMaskChallenge that saw citizens upload pictures and videos of themselves struggling to wear a mask.
The president also poked fun at himself by calling out citizens who laughed at him in an interview with ENCA the next day, saying: “For those who were laughing at me yesterday [...] let me tell you something, I’m going to open a TV channel where I’m going to teach people how to put on a mask.”
He continued to embrace the joke after his Freedom Day speech four days later, where instead of putting a mask on at the end of his address, he threw a scarf over his face while visibly holding back a smile.
School students raised money to buy their classmate a new phone
At the beginning of September, a video of a high school student being surprised with a new phone took over social media.
The student in the video, Tasreeq Doovey, was robbed of his previous phone in the midst of a seizure he experienced in public. According to the positive news website, Good Things Guy, Doovey was not in the financial position to replace his phone, as most of the money he earned working on weekends went to helping his single mother with household expenses.
Students in his class heard about the unfortunate incident and already understood Doovey’s financial situation; they all decided to pitch in to buy him a new phone. After buying the phone, they had money left over, and knowing that Doovey could not afford one, the students used the excess funds to purchase a Matric jacket for him, which Grade 12 students often wear in unison to commemorate their final year of high school.
The video of this act of kindness quickly went viral and had South Africans tearing up as they saw Doovey become emotional. After the video was widely shared on social media, a BackABudy crowdfunding page was started for Doovey and his family with the aim to reach R50,000. Today, donations have exceeded this goal and are currently sitting at over R112,000.
Gee Six Five’s music debut
You’re never too old and it’s never too late to follow your dreams, this is a lesson South Africans learnt from a new recording artist, Gee Six Five, a 65-year-old musician who launched her musical career in the latter half of this year.
Her song “Obani Lababantu” — which translates to “Who are those people?” — an upbeat house song, was released in November and instantly took social media by storm.
The song was initially met with mixed reviews with some saying Gee Six Five, whose real name is Olpha Selepe, was too old to lead the vocals on a house song, but as it started trending on social media, praise for the artist took over any doubt in the song.
The tune was so widely adored that it reached the number one spot on South Africa’s iTunes music charts. The 65-year-old said that she made the song to send a message to her peers that it’s never too late to follow and achieve your dreams. When she sings, “who are those people”, she is referring to people making the excuse that other people would judge them for following their dreams.
“Get out of those cocoons and face the world with your talents. Forget about people and what they might say,” the artist told Eyewitness News.
Although her debut was such a hit, Selepe made it clear that her song has served its purpose, and that she wouldn’t release any more music.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of December, South Africans were met with the sad news that the popular new artist had passed away just one month after her song took over the nation. South Africans continue to praise the artist and Gee Six Five is remembered as an inspiration to those who fear following their dreams.
South Africans raised money to cover a medical students’ outstanding debt
This month, South Africans opened their hearts and dug into their pockets to help medical student Mumtaaz Emeran graduate from Witwatersrand University.
After being told that she wouldn’t be able to graduate if she did not clear her outstanding debt within 24 hours, Emeran turned to social media to ask South Africans for help. She uploaded a video to Instagram explaining her situation and asking for financial assistance. Just 24 hours later, Emeran was happy to report that South Africans had helped her pay her debt of R470,000 and that she would be graduating debt-free.
The soon-to-be doctor will be starting her internship at Chris Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg and told Times Live that she is ready to serve her country on the frontlines.
“How glorious a story it is that through a pandemic, through so many lives having [been] taken by the pandemic, South Africans birthed a doctor,” she said. “Working on the front lines in SA during a pandemic will be hectic, I know, but I will serve with gratitude and awe because I'll be thinking about what better country to serve. What better people to serve.”
She later announced that more than enough funds were raised and that she would be using the excess funds to start a foundation to assist those in a similar situation as her.
You can read more about Emeran’s story here.
Jerusalema took over the world
South African music producer Master KG had the whole world dancing throughout quarantine thanks to his international hit song, “Jerusalema”.
The song was propelled to the world stage thanks to a group of friends in Angola who used it to inspire an international dance challenge called the #JerusalemaChallenge. The dance spread like wildfire around the globe and everyone started uploading videos of themselves stepping to the tune. From nuns and priests in Italy, to doctors and nurses in the Netherlands, “Jerusalema” had the whole world dancing and South Africans could not be more proud of the track.
“Jerusalema” united people even throughout a global pandemic and brought joy to South Africa and the rest of the world.
Read more about the impact the challenge had on the world and have a look at some of our favourite contributions to the dance challenge here.