JOHANNESBURG – When president Jacob Zuma fired former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene on December 9, 2015, it set the tone for a lot of the events that ensued in the following months.


The past year has seen many ups and downs, several unexpected events and underlined just how unpredictable the future really is. Below is a summary of some of the events that shaped 2016 – in numbers.


17.9169: On January 11, the local currency suffered a “flash crash” and weakened to R17.9169 to the dollar following illiquid trade and fears around political upheaval in South Africa. Although some analysts expressed concern that the slide could continue, the currency has strengthened considerably during the course of 2016 and traded around R14 by mid-December.


600 million: On March 16, deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas issued a statement, alleging that the Gupta family offered him the position of minister of finance to replace minister Nene. He rejected the offer “out of hand”, he said. Jonas later claimed during an interview with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that he was offered R600 000 in cash immediately as well as a further R600 million. The deputy minister’s allegations were arguably the event that set the wheels in motion for Madonsela’s investigation into state capture.


45: On March 31, the Constitutional Court found that Zuma failed to uphold and respect the Constitution when he did not adhere to the Public Protector’s ruling to pay back some of the money spent on his Nkandla homestead. National Treasury had to determine how much money Zuma had to repay. Once the court approved the proposal, Zuma had 45 days to pay back the money.


52: On June 23, Britain shocked world markets when 52% of votes cast in a referendum were in favour of it leaving the European Union. Very few commentators expected the leave vote to win, with one Moneyweb commentator putting the probability of Brexit at 20% on the evening before the results were announced. Six months later, article 50, the formal mechanism to set Brexit in motion, is yet to be triggered and it remains unclear what the ultimate implications of the decision will be for Britain, but also for its trading partners like South Africa.


6: On August 31, fixed income asset manager Futuregrowth suspended loans to six South African state-owned companies amid concerns about corporate governance. The companies included Eskom, Transnet, Sanral, the Land Bank, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The announcement opened a can of worms, with CIO Andrew Canter coming under fire for the decision. Futuregrowth has resumed lending to the Land Bank, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. It continues to engage with the other SOEs.


: On September 28, Belgium beer behemoth AB InBev won approval for its multi-billion rand takeover of SABMiller, one of the largest deals of this nature in South African history. The combined company has operations in virtually every major beer market around the world and is responsible for roughly of world beer production.


355: On November 2, the court ordered the Public Protector to release her 355-page State Capture report, after Zuma withdrew his interdict application. A similar application by the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (and former finance minister) Des van Rooyen was struck off the roll. The report ordered Zuma to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture. It also raised questions about the process during which Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources purchased Optimum Coal and the relationship between former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and the Guptas. Molefe resigned as Eskom CEO a few days later, denying another wrongdoing or unethical behaviour on his part.


(Another!) 45: In an outcome that many still have difficulty to fathom, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on November 9. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who was widely expected to become the next president of the United States, won the popular vote by a significant margin, but lost the election as a result of the Electoral College system.

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