And just like that, it’s the end of the year again. Is it just me or did this one seem to go by really quickly? Then again, I say that at the end of every year so who knows.
Like I did last year, I want to go through each month of 2019 and choose my favourite story from each. Same disclaimer as before: this does not mean that these stories are the most important or even the most newsworthy – they just happen to be some of my favourites.
JANUARY: ‘Caged to entertain‘ by Sivenathi Gosa
We really hit the ground running this year with one of our first stories being a major protest against the East London Zoo.
The initial protest was organised by Ban Animal Trading (BAT) who claimed that the animals were being kept in poor conditions and were suffering mistreatment.
This story only escalated over the next few months, with both the DA and traditional leaders eventually throwing in their support.
And lets not even get started on the social media fights this story caused.
FEBRUARY: ‘Running for a cause‘ by Amanda Nano
This was a wonderful feel-good story about a local resident giving their all for a good cause.
Margie Bentley took it upon herself to run the gruelling Comrades Marathon this year in order to raise money for charity, something she has done for the last eight years. The charity in question this year was the Childhood Cancer Foundation SA (CHOC).
Not only do people like Bentley make a big difference in the lives of others, they also serve as inspiration for the rest of us.
MARCH: ‘It is very easy to die‘ by by Thembela Ndlumbini and Matthew Field
Okay, this one was rather tragic.
Thembela Ndlumbini, a freelance reporter, sent us a story about the poor state of a clinic in Zone 5. The building was overcrowded, there was a chronic shortage of staff and patients were left waiting hours before being attended to – that is, when the clinic wasn’t just shutting down at random times without justification.
Sadly, such situations are more commonplace than they should be in the Eastern Cape.
APRIL: ‘Gone port fishing, again‘ by Matthew Field
Moving on to a more positive story, in April we reported how TNPA finally agreed to allow public fishing of the West Bank following a dedicated campaign by the Buffalo City Association of Salt Water Anglers (BCASA).
The organisation had been pushing for their right to fish off the harbour for a while, with our first coverage of them being printed in May 2018.
Seeing them finally succeed was certainly a heart-warming moment.
MAY: ‘LGBTQI march for awareness‘ by Sivenathi Gosa
Like April’s pick, May’s story is one of those that are relatively small in scale but still carry a lot of meaning for me.
Given the high rates of crime against LGBTQIA people in this country, the importance of continued advocacy for equal rights cannot be overstated. Seeing how residents are willing to come together and openly struggle for their right to live with dignity is truly inspiring.
JUNE: ‘Echoes of the past‘ by Matthew Field
Earlier this year, East London resident Russel Bradfield published his debut novel ‘Shadows and Sky’ which followed a young Xhosa woman as she tried to come to terms with SA’s brutal history.
While I’ve certainly written ‘bigger’ stories during my time at the GO!, I won’t deny that this one was one of the most fun to write.
Not only was the book itself pretty good, but Bradfield was a fascinating person to talk to. He clearly has a strong passion for history, especially Eastern Cape history, and I walked away having learnt quite a bit.
JULY: ‘Latimer’s life story‘ by Sivenathi Gosa
The next month saw the release of another book dealing with local history, this one a non-fiction account of famous museum curator Majorie Courtenay-Latimer, ‘Curator and Crusader’.
Courteny-Latimer’s impact on East London is significant. In addition to her successful curation of the East London Museum, she was also responsible for identifying the Coelacanth after one was caught off the coast in 1938.
For her contribution, the fish was named after her: Latimeria chalumnae.
AUGUST: ‘Conquering the mountain‘ by Amanda Nano
East London local Lee-Ann King undertook a daunting expedition in August, hiking up Tanzania’s famous Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a 23-person team that included former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. The climb was part of a fundraiser for Caring4Girls, a menstrual hygiene programme aimed at young disadvantaged girls.
Like our February pick, this was a wonderful feel-good story of someone undertaking a gruelling task in order to improve the lives of others.
SEPTEMBER: ‘Remembering Biko‘ by Amanda Nano
Steve Biko is a central historical figure, not just for the Eastern Cape but for the entire anti-apartheid struggle.
Needless to say then, that the 42nd anniversary of his death at the hands of apartheid police was a major event not just for BCM but for the entire country. His legacy continues to impact us and is likely to do so for a long time still.
OCTOBER: ‘People ‘under siege’‘ by Matthew Field
This is another story from this year that soon grew far larger than I imagined it would. It first started with residents from Stoney Drift complaining that the municipality was failing to provide them with basic services along with the proliferation of deadly illegal electricity connections.
Soon after the story was published, we returned to Stoney Drift following a protest by informal settlers against actions taken against them by the municipality.
It’s an ongoing issue and a reflection of the economic divide across SA as a whole.
NOVEMBER: ‘Overwhelming support for Boks‘ victory tour’ by Matthew Field
I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that the Springboks’ victory at the World Cup in Japan was one of the biggest stories of the year by far. The subsequent victory tour across the country was in some ways even bigger.
We were lucky enough to have the tour pass through our city and what a show it was. Literally thousands of people (myself included) flocked to the streets decked out in their best green and gold to catch a glimpse of our sporting heroes. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that we probably won’t see again in our lifetimes.