My fellow South Africans

2020 was definitely one for the record books. Here is an irreverent take on the year that changed our lives forever.

By Terrena Rathanlall

My fellow South Africans…

Remember when you first heard those words this year? The shocking news that accompanied that greeting and how we naively believed that lockdown would end in 21 days? 2020 was the year our deeply personal experiences become global lessons. Here is an irreverent look some of them.

Our first and perhaps most important lesson was learning how to wash our hands. Youtube videos, charts and pamphlets showed us what first graders already know – it’s not clean unless you obey the 20-second rule.

Trips to the shops were strictly controlled; queueing for food became the norm – you could only visit the store closest to you and fill your trolley with products from the essential items list. Cigarettes, alcohol and clothing were considered non-essential. Remember the fiasco with the minister trying to categorise which clothing was essential and which was not…

DJ Max Hurrell’s Zol song immortalised Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s words and made her Tik Tok famous. This year, people all over the world danced to: “When people zol, they put saliva on the paper.”
We were introduced to the elbow bump which became the new handshake as hugs were banned. On the other hand, sincere air hugs were permitted.

Social distancing became the new buzzword, religiously enforced by security guards all over the country. Because we all know that though the virus is airborne, it cannot travel further than 1.5m (if only).

Face masks became all the rage and an overnight income generator. Unemployment, already part of the South African brand shot up faster than Elon Musk’s Spacex programme and a conservative figure of 2 million more job losses was announced recently – meaning that COVID-19 has spawned a new generation of recently unemployed potential entrepreneurs.

We were introduced to e-funerals, e-church and e-parties. The Emmys made history as the first awards ceremony in Hollywood to have a virtual format.

Our survival instincts kicked in big time when lockdown was announced. People stampeded to the toilet paper aisle. For 2-ply. Across the globe, nogal!

Most of us learnt that working from home doesn’t actually mean we could kick-back with shorter commute, longer lunches and a chilled work vibe. Instead we worked longer hours, battled dodgy Wi-Fi and homeschooled the kids during a Zoom call.

2020 was the year travel was banned. Not just international, but interprovincial as well. It was a time we hunkered down in our homes with our family, played board games and baked banana bread. It will also be known as the year when reading became fashionable.

We sat glued to the internet and were thrilled to find out that global gas emissions were down this year because of the coronavirus shutdown and that the reduction in marine traffic meant sea animals got to enjoy their natural habitat.

Something else that made us smile in 2020 was when Donald Trump was… err… trumped. And when he found out that bleach was not the antidote to the coronavirus.

If you think about it, we did pretty much everything online this year. Even Black Friday was adapted to Black Friday Month as stores promoted online sales. Mobile networks struggled to cope with the migration to life online, but it didn’t stop them from capitalising on the trend.

2020 will definitely be recorded in the history books for future generations. We don’t know what your year was like. Maybe it was different. But we would love to hear about it. Tell us all about it at

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About the Author

Terrena Rathanlall is the SME Media Portfolio Manager at Fetola.

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