04 Oct Celebrating South Africa
Celebrating South Africa
24 September marks the annual observance where South Africans the world over celebrate our heritage, and although this date has come and gone, there’s no reason to stop the celebrations.
In honour of all SA’s people, Rand Rescue once more wants to highlight those things South Africans and all our divergent cultures and tongues can be proud of.
We’ll all recall that Castle Lager holds the Guinness World Record for the most people simultaneously cooking, a feat which was rather easy to achieve since they merely got 2 353 South Africans to braai simultaneously on Heritage Day 2013. An easy win for South Africa.
Visionaries and trend-setters
Despite the bad wrap South Africa gets from abroad as well as the infighting and bickering we may dish out to other cultures or people in our society from time-to-time, we have much to be proud of.
Our influence and impact on the world can be seen across the board, from science and fashion to language, literature, architecture, sports and legislation.
Although we’d like to give a shout out to any and all South Africans or South African things, it’s simply impossible to mention everything.
Science & medicine
South Africa has made remarkable contributions to the fields of science and medicine over the years.
By far one of our most famed achievements is the first successful heart transplant carried out by cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard on 3 December 1967. Although the patient, Louis Washkansky died 18 days later, the transplant was considered a success since he died of double pneumonia and his body had not rejected the heart.
Known as computed tomography scan (formerly also known as the CAT scan or computed axial tomography), this technology allows medical imaging using radiology for detailed, non-invasive diagnostics of the body.
This nifty piece of equipment which is still used to this day was developed by South African physicist Allan M. Cormack, with the help of British electrical engineer Godfrey. N. Hounsfield. The team was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their invention.
Freeplay fetal heart rate monitor
The idea for the freeplay fetal heart rate monitor was pitched to John Hutchinson, CTO of Freeplay Energy in Cape Town, by people working in the medical field in Africa who were frustrated by the lack and impracticality of Western-derived equipment. Much of the equipment requires electricity and disposable or replacement parts which simply aren’t available in rural areas.
A fetal heart rate monitor measures an infant’s heart rate during birth, an important tool since infants are 500 times more likely to die on the first day of life than a month or so later.
This South African invention works off the grid which has a hand crank to generate its own electricity and is built with robust materials to withstand tough conditions. Each minute of cranking provides 10 minutes of operation.
First aero-optic lense from flames
A concept which defies most laymen’s imaginations and seems like something from a science fiction film, CSIR professor Andrew Forbes created the first lens constructed from flames.
Modern lenses are created with glass and are ubiquitous optic and laser systems. These lenses are usually very large to handle high power and expensive since they require a lot of time to cool down after each laser pulse. So the team set off to create something completely novel. Though it is a hard concept to explain, the new model uses aerodynamics, an array of algorithms and computational fluid dynamics to model a flame lens which can accurately simulate a virtual wind tunnel for aircraft testing.
Smartlock Safety Syringe
When reading about this invention, it’s understandable how it was invented in South Africa. Given that our country has the highest incidence of HIV, designers at the Vaal University of Technology sought a way to limit the spread of the infection by developing a three-chambered syringe which automatically draws the needle back into its sheath after medication has been administered.
Known as ‘the man who made Nelson Mandela weep’, ophthalmologist Dr Percy Amoils is famous for refining eye surgery and inventing various methods and technologies (such as the Joule-Thomson effect cryoprobe) which changed the nature of cataract and retinal surgery forever. He received the Queen’s Award for Technological Innovation in 1975. In 1994 he performed cataract surgery on former president Nelson Mandela and was awarded the silver Order of Mapungubwe by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2006.
Another first in transplants is the first successful penis transplant done by urologist André van der Merwe from the University of Stellenbosch and plastic surgeon Frank Graewe.
The surgery was undertaken in December 2014 to fix a botched circumcision procedure and was considered a success. Not only was it a success, but surgeons had envisioned full functionality to only present by December 2016, yet the patient reported back on 13 March 2015 that he’s made a full recovery and all functionality has been restored.
It should be noted that a similar transplant was done in China in 2006, but the patient had been so traumatised that he requested a reversal 15 days later, which means the success of the surgery could not be formally established.
3D-printed bone transplants
The first 3D-printed bone transplant was done at Steve Biko Academic Hospital to restore a 40-year-old man’s hearing. The procedure was pioneered by Dr Mashudu Tshifulara who heads up the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pretoria. The 3D prints were modeled on cadaver-specific implants. The transplant was a success and paved the way for 3D printing in medical science.
Largest hospital in the world (number of beds)
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto may not be the largest hospital in size, but it holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of beds in the world – 3 294. This number, of course, is not based on emergency beds and rooms as temporarily assembled and used during the global pandemic, but is based on any normal day outside crisis situations.
Mining & minerals
A world first, the Helikon vortex separation process is an aerodynamic enrichment process which uses a device called a vortex tube. Although the idea was conceptualised by two men from the UK, South Africa was the first to develop and successfully use it at the Uranium Enrichment Corporation South Africa in Pelindaba.
As early as 1927 a White Paper was tabled in SA parliament to investigate the establishment of a South African oil-from-coal industry. This was necessary since South Africa doesn’t have crude oil reserves and importing these proved rather impractical and costly. Sasol was established in 1950.
Pioneered by P.N. Lategan who worked for the Transvaal Coal Owners Association in addition to scientist Ettien Rousseau, Sasol became the first in the world to successfully produce oil from coal.
To date, South Africa remains the greatest producer of Platinum in the world, by an enormous margin. Our country unearths a whopping 130 000 kilograms of the world’s total 180 000 platinum production per year. Our closest rivals in this regard is Russia, which manages a total of 22 000 kilograms per year. We’re also the greatest producer of Manganese and Chromium.
When it comes to mining, few countries can keep up with South Africa. We not only take the top spot for the deepest mine, but hold 9 out of the top 10 spots for the deepest mines in the world. Our star in the race is the Mponeng Gold Mine which is 4,0 kilometres deep. The closest rivals are the Empire Mine in the USA (3,355 km) and Kolar Gold Fields in India (3,2 km), both of which have closed over the years. The only active mines to rival us in the top 15 are Canada’s Kidd and Laronde mines (3,014 and 3,008 km respectively) as well as Brazil’s Morro Velho (3,0 km)
Although our most famed diamonds aren’t in our own possession and still part of the British Crown Jewels as well as Elizabeth II’s private collection, these are still South African in origin. The Cullinan diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, weighing 3 106,75 carats (621,35 g). The largest clear cut diamond in the world is the Great Star of Africa at 530,4 carats which is mounted in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, while the second largest is Cullinan II weighing 317,4 carats which is mounted in the Imperial State Crown.
Technology & Engineering
Before Europe could read, write or calculate, Africans were counting. The world’s oldest mathematical instrument, dubbed the Lebombo bone, was discovered in the Lebombo mountains between South Africa and Eswtini.
Radiocarbon dating has placed it between 44 200 and 43 000 years old. Though other bones have been found with similar markings, there is no proof that these were used for mathematical calculations. Scientists believe the notches may have been used for lunar tracking.
World’s largest telescope
Still under construction, the SKA will be the largest and most scientifically advanced telescope in the world with completion aimed for 2023.
The SKA site in the Karoo will incorporate the adjacent MeerKAT radio telescope with its 64 telescopes spanning an eight kilometre diameter. In partnership with the SKA development in Australia, the new SKA site in SA will add an additional 20 antennas and extend to cover 17 kilometres to increase sensitivity, angular resolution and image quality. In total, the SKA project will boast 197 antennas.
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Elon Musk is not only famed for all his inventions, but is the second most wealthy man on earth after Jeff Bezos. Musk’s value is placed at $151-billion.
Musk has revolutionised many things, from computer tech to solar power and space travel. His most famous claims to fame are SpaceX, Tesla Inc., Starlink, Paypal, Neuralink and the Boring Company.
It’s not just remarkable that a plane could be constructed in a mere 10 days, but that this was done by 14 teenagers AND they had managed to fly this plane from Cape Town to Cairo over 12 000 km.
Father of one of the students, Des Werner, who is a commercial pilot, stated that it would normally take more than 3 000 man hours to assemble a Sling 4. Another remarkable fact about the teens’ journey is that their pilot’s licences prohibited them from flying at certain heights and weren’t allowed to enter clouds. During the last 10 hour leg of their journey, the support aircraft wasn’t available which meant pilots Megan Werner and Driaan van den Heever navigated the last stretch without any support.
Although they reached Egyptian airspace, they encountered problems with one of their avionic systems and had to land at the closest domestic airport in Abu Simbel, leading to a near arrest by Egyptian authorities. They were released after 4 hours, and allowed to carry on with their journey.
Formula 1 engineering
A little known fact is that two South African engineers are behind the development of the best F1 cars in history.
Rory Byrne was Ferrari’s chief engineer and car designer for Michael Schumacher, with his cars winning a total of 99 races and 7 championships, making him the 3rd most successful F1 engineer in history.
Following in his tracks, chief engineer for McLaren in 1977 was South African Gordon Murray, whose cars won 15 of the 16 Grand Prix that year. He also took the Constructors Championship and clinched Ayrton Senna’s Driver’s Championship. Murray later moved to McLaren F1 to create the fastest naturally aspirated road car in the world.
Born in Welkom in 1973, Mark Shuttleworth is one of the first South Africans to take the tech world by storm.
In addition to becoming the first South African to travel to space as a space tourist, Shuttleworth developed the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. He also founded Thawte Consulting and created the first digital certificates for internet security.
Avid golfer Henri Johnson would become famous for not one, but three inventions which dramatically changed the nature of sports.
The first, the Flightscope was aimed at tracking tee-off and fairway drives in golfing using Doppler radar technology. This invention allowed golfers and commentators to measure and analyse launch angles, trajectories, speed and direction of balls.
His second invention, the Speedgun, was aimed at measuring ball speed in cricket. It was first used by coaches at the 1999 Cricket World Cup. He followed up this invention with the Speedball which could measure angle and velocity of balls in cricket and tennis.
Wadley loop circuit
In the 1940s, Dr Trevor Wadley sought a way to stabilise radio frequencies since most devices at the time yielded oscillator drift and instability.
Known as the Wadley-drift-cancelling-loop or Wadley loop, his system used two oscillators, a synthesiser and two mixers and his system was first incorporated into stable wavemeters. His loop was then incorporated into radio receivers and was used for radio transmission around the world from the 1950s to 1980s.
Although the CyberTracker company has developed numerous handheld data capture solutions over the years, their first CyberTracker was developed with the aim of offering illiterate field workers and animal trackers a way to communicate their environmental observations.
World’s first biometric fingerprint identification
Although this technology has been studied extensively over the years, and featured in many sci-fi books and films, South Africa’s CSIR was the first to develop fingerprint recognition technology which can accurately identify individuals using only partial prints.
Culture, politics and heritage
As the youngest official language, Afrikaans holds the record for its first publication of a new language being recorded in Arabic script… and this script being a religious text penned down by an opposing religion’s scholars.
It’s strange to envision, but the Bible was the first ever Afrikaans publication, and given the nature of the publication it is even more confounding, but the early standardisation of Afrikaans was achieved by Cape Muslims who penned down the Afrikaans Bible in Arabic script. In 1815 Afrikaans replaced Malay as the official language in Muslim schools in South Africa, so it simply made sense to hand the task of transcribing the Bible to Afrikaans over to those who had the most knowledge of writing Afrikaans, Malay Muslims. This is another attestation to South Africa’s rich and unique cultural heritage.
Vilikazi street in Soweto is the only street to have been called home by two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – former president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Although SA previously also held the record for the most official languages recognised by its constitution, Zimbabwe has taken that top spot by recognising 16 languages in its constitution.
We do, however, take top honours as the country with the most official languages in its national anthem – with five official languages incorporated. Not only that, but it is one of only three neomodal anthems in the world which start on one key and ends in a different key. The anthem has also been ranked the best national anthem for several years due to the melody, range of languages, arrangement and ‘rousing tune’.
In a 2012 interview in Egypt former associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was asked whether Egypt should use Constitutions of other countries as a model for their own constitution.
Her response, which outraged many US citizens, was that any country looking to draft a progressive constitution should not look towards the US but to South Africa’s constitution.
She stated that the SA constitution was the perfect example of “a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. … It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution.”
Although Ginsburg received much criticism from those claiming that SA’s legal system is flawed, she reminded everyone that the constitution is but the foundation from which the legislature and judiciary is built, and despite flaws, it is the most fair, just and representative constitution in the world.
What makes our constitution so unique is that any and every South African has the right to access information from government, even that obscured by usual secrecy policies and actions, if the pursuit of such information is to uphold or protect the rights and dignity of a person or peoples. Such a right is not offered by many other nations, whose legislation protects the state and leaders from scrutiny, challenge or legal action by civilians.
In essence, South African civilians have equal rights to inform legislation as any politician or organisation and our constitutional court is one of few which gives any citizen authority to challenge the leadership.
In 2021 has reaffirmed its power by, among other things, refusing to overturn former President Jacob Zuma’s rescission application, and ruling that the University of South Africa had not acted justly in eliminating Afrikaans as language of tuition based on its fallacious conception that Afrikaans is merely limited to whites and seen as a language of oppression. Though navigating through our courts may be difficult, saffas have rights to inform and safeguard our personal rights in a way which is unrivalled abroad.
Oldest in-tact hominid fossil
Dated at 3,67 million years old, Little Foot, of the genus Australopithecus is the most complete hominid skeleton ever found over 1,5 million years old. Though it is rivalled by Ardi, a hominin which lived in Ethiopia around 4,4 million years ago, Ardi does not offer a wealth of information for study.
Standing at around 135 centimetres tall, Little Foot’s skeleton offered information based on pelvic structure, face, teeth. Her legs are longer than her arms, which was the first indication that this skeleton was more human than ape.
Most capital cities
Though saffas are quite aware of this fact, many foreigners are shocked to learn that South Africa has the most capital cities of any country in the world.
Though there are other nations with two capital cities, we’re the only nation to have three: Pretoria, as the administrative capital, Bloemfontein as the judicial capital, and Cape Town as the legislative capital.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Although there are numerous Truth and Reconciliation Commissions around the world today, the premise and first such commission was established in South Africa in 1995.
Although highly criticised at the time, the aim of the commission was to allow those who had committed human rights atrocities under the Apartheid government or other factions (such as militant factions of the ANC) to confess to their crimes and to offer closure and begin a process of healing without convicting and persecuting masses and creating more animosity. President Nelson Mandela wanted to do something different to the Nurembourgh trials in Germany, believing that such an undertaking would only lead to more civil unrest.
Most attendees received amnesty for their confessions, though some who’d committed the greatest atrocities were convicted and imprisoned for their roles in Apartheid atrocities.
Antjie Krog talks at great length about the commission and its success in her book Country of my Skull, a memoir where she talks about her role as journalist in covering the TRC commissions.
The name Tiyo Soga may not ring any bells, but it is one which should be remembered. Born in the Eastern Cape, Soga’s mother sought a Christian education for him, a move which also prompted her to be released from her marriage to the head advisor of Chief Ngqika. Due to unrest during the War of the Axe in 1846, Soga moved to Scotland with the principal of Lovedale who also sponsored him.
Soga received formal education in Glasgow before returning to SA to establish a new mission. He became the first black South African to be ordained by the United Presbyterian Church, and also one of the first to marry outside his race, wedding a Scottish woman. Due to his unique outlook, Soga received much opposition from blacks and whites alike in his pursuit of building bridges between races, but also achieved much progress in this regard.
His son, Kirkland Allan Soga, became the first black lawyer in South Africa and was also a politician involved in the founding of the ANC. His fourth son, Jotello Festiri Soga, became the first black veterinary surgeon in SA. His youngest daughter, Jessie Margaret Soga became a classic contralto soloist and teacher, studying in Milan and London. She was a leading suffragist at the time.
Soga is considered to be the first modern African intellectual and one of the first Christian leaders to assert the right of black Africans to receive freedom and equality.
– Donald Woods
– Benjamin Pogrund
– John Matisonn
– Steve Biko
– Helen Suzman
– The Voëlvry Movement
– Albertina Sisulu
Jody Scheckter (motor racing)
The only South African to ever win a Grand Prix and World Championship, Scheckter is without a doubt one of the most famous sportsmen in SA’s history.
He made his Grand Prix debut in 1972 and claimed his first victory in 1974. He claimed his World Champion title in 1979 after facing off against his team mate Villeneuve. Scheckter is the only person to ever win a Grand Prix in a car which didn’t have 4 wheels (his Tyrel P34 had 6 wheels).
Ferdinand Buchanan (shooting)
Ferdinand Buchanan may have only claimed silver at the 1920 Summer Olympics as sport shooter, but the noteworthy part of his story is that he was not a professional athlete – he was a general in the South African Army.
Buchanan served as general in both WWI and WWII and found some time in between to win the silver medal for team SA in the 600 metre military rifle prone competition. He was ranked 5th for 300 m and 600 m military rifle prone, and 9th for 300 m military rifle standing in his career.
Irene van Dyk (netball)
As the most capped international player of all time, Irene van Dyk is also one of the most famous netball players in the world. Not only that, but van Dyk maintained a 90% for the entirety of her career as goal shooter – earning her the title as the best goal shooter of all time in Netball.
Irene started her career in South Africa, representing us a total of 72 times, before moving to New Zealand in 2000. She was not only chosen for their national team, but nominated for the 2003 and 2005 New Zealand Sportswoman of the year award.
Before her retirement, van Dyk scored a tournament high of 501 goals from 527 shots (95.1% ) in the ANZ Championship.
Highest ranking rugby team
South Africa’s rankings tend to climb and wane over the years, and yet we still hold the top spot in the overall World Cup Rankings (94.19) as well as pole position in the Rugby World Cup with an average of 42.86% over New Zealand’s 33.33%. Although both teams hold 3 titles, the average is calculated by the total win rate of all matches in each respective tournament. Added to this, we also hold the no. 1 spot for most points in a calendar year per team – 658 points in 2007 over 17 matches.
Gary Anderson (NFL)
The first South African to star in the NFL in the USA, Anderson also went on to play 23 seasons in total.
The bulk of his career was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Anderson earned 4 Pro Bowl and 2 All-Pro
Known by the ring name Tornado, Steve Debbes is a 2-time WWP Heavyweight World Champion. Not only that, but he is the longest-reigning title holder in the championship’s history, having claimed the title for the first time on the first episode of WWP Thunderstrike in 2005.
Most surfers riding one wave
Getting into the Guinness Book of World Records for piling surfers onto one wave like sardines may sound foolish, but speak to any surfer and you’ll understand how difficult this feat is. You not only need to rely on synchronicity and skill of fellow surfers, but find just the right wave to allow such an undertaking.
A total of 110 South African surfers simultaneously rode one wave at Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town on 4 October 2009 in an effort to raise awareness for climate change. Not only did they set the record for a good cause, but Australia which sought to break the record on 26 January 2014 could not manage the task, leaving SA in pole position.
Wendy Botha (surfing)
Surfing may not be the most popular sport in SA, but we’ve certainly claimed some titles and taken some names over the years.
Born in 1956, Botha is a 4-time world surfing champion. She won her first title while still living in SA in 1987, and three more titles after moving to Australia in 1989, 1991 and 1992 respectively.
Although many view him as a US citizen, Kevin Curren hails from South Africa and only moved to the US in 1985 having already established himself as a tennis star. He won two singles Grand Slam finals and four doubles titles before moving to the US. This move, of course, was a strategic one given sanctions placed on South Africa at the time. The only reason Curren ever played for team US was due to political restrictions which prohibited him from claiming titles under SA’s name, even after emigration.
Curren reached the Wimbledon final that same year and made headlines by eliminating World No. 1 John McEnroe in the courter finals in the fourth round with straight sets. He also eliminated World. No.3 Jimmy Connors in the semifinals.
He was the first player in history to beat both US players in the same Grand Slam event. Curren lost to Boris Becker in the final, but his loss went down in history as many believe that McEnroe will have retained the title had Curren not eliminated him, and that Becker will not have made records for claiming the title at the age of 17 had it not been for this defeat. Curren was also the last ‘US’ player to reach the Wimbledon final, which he did against Andre Agassi in 1992.
Longest no.1 batsman ranking per country (cricket)
From 2010 to 2016 South Africa held the spot for the top batsmen in ODI. The first three years the spot was held by Hashim Amla, with AB de Villiers taking over the reins from 2013. This is the longest term that any nation has held onto the top spot for batting or bowling in the ODI.
Coldest FIFA football match
It sounds like an odd claim to fame, given the FIFA World Cup had been hosted in many countries with far colder average temperatures, and yet SA holds the Guinness World Record for the coldest on-pitch temperature of any such match. This was -1°C at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg in a match between Brazil and North Korea on 15 June 2010.
Bruce Fordyce (ultramarathon)
Although Fordyce is considered a South African, many people don’t know that he was actually born in Hong Kong.
Considered one of the greatest ultramarathon runners in the world, Fordyce holds the record for having won the Comrades Marathon a total of nine times – eight of which were consecutive. He also won the London to Brighton Ultramarathon three years in a row.
Although the Comrades is a local competition, it is also the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. The length of the race alternates between 87 km and 90.184 km as the direction changes between ‘up’ and ‘down’.
Fastest 4 x 100 metre relay
We may not be that well known for producing the world’s top sprinters, but we can claim the World Records for the fastest 4 x 100 metre relay for athletes with disability as well as the world record for the fastest 4 x 100 metre relay for under-20 sprinters.
The first feat was achieved by South Africans Samkelo Radebe, Zivan Smith, Arnu Fourie and Oscar Pistorius on 5 September 2012 at the Paralympic Games in London with a time of 41,78 seconds.
The second was achieved at the Under-20 World Athletics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya in August 2021. Sprinters Mihlali Xhotyeni, Sinesipho Dambile, Letlhogonolo Moleyane and Benjamin Richardson wowed spectators by not only beating out favourites, Jamaica, but breaking the previous record of 38,62 seconds set by the USA with a new time of 38,51 seconds.
Cameron van der Burgh (swimming)
With an HPI of 46.21, van der Burgh takes top honours when it comes to South African swimming. What makes his swimming feats so remarkable is that he’s the first home-trained African swimmer to have reached such heights and claimed so many Olympic medals.
Tabraiz Shamsi (cricket)
South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi is currently ranked no.1 for all T20 bowlers in the world with an ICC rating of 775.
Most consecutive one-handed backflips
World records are strange things. It’s not always clear what could count as a record or not. When it comes to physical feats, however, no one can argue that consecutive one-handed backflips take quite the effort and skill. The world record for this feat is currently held by South African gymnast Zama Mofokent, who managed 34 backflips in one go using just one hand. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that Zama was prompted to push himself due to a severe hand injury suffered at the age of 13. This injury taught him that balance and strength could be achieved using just one limb.
Greg Minnaar (mountain biking)
South African Greg Minnaar wowed crowds at the World Downhill Championship in Italy in August 2021 to claim his 4th title – 2021 UCI MTB Men Elite Downhill World Champion.
Greg has won the title in 2003, 2012 and 2013 before claiming this fourth gold in 2021.
Steve Nash (basketball)
Another Jo’burg native, Nash is undoubtedly one of SA’s greatest exports. He has not only played 18 seasons in the NBA, but was an 8-time All-Star and 7-time All-NBA selection who is now head coach of the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.
Nash was also a 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player while playing for the Phoenix Suns. Nash was named the 9th greatest point guard of all time by ESPN and also claimed a spot in Time’s 100 most influential people of all time in 2006. He has an honourary doctorate in Law, has been the Canadian men’s national basketball team general manager and co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC since 2011.
Bryan Habana (rugby)
Bryan Habana is currently ranked no.1 for most overall tries in the RWC, sharing this top spot with Jonah Lomu of New Zealand who also scored 15 tries. The two players also hold the top spot for most tries in one tournament for the RWC (8), with Julian Savea.
Zirk Botha (rowing)
South African rower Zirk Botha broke a record previously (and partially) held by fellow South Africans for the fastest transatlantic row between South Africa and Brazil. Not only did he up the ante by doing it alone, he smashed the previous record of 92 days over 7200 km and cut it down to a remarkable 71 days. The previous record was set by two South Africans Braam Malherbe and Wayne Roberts.
Jacques Kallis (cricket)
Over the span of his career over 18 years, Kallis played 166 Tests and 328 ODI’s. His career stats attest to his prowess, with a test run average of 55.37 and ODI average of 44.36.
As a great allrounder, Kallis was not just noteworthy for his batting, but also picked up 292 and 273 wickets in Test matches and ODI’s respectively.
Most bungee jumps in one hour
This feat of athleticism may not sound that remarkable to some, but it should be noted that at the time when this feat was achieved, Bloukrans Bridge, where South African woman Veronica Dean set the record, was also the tallest commercial bungee jump in the world. Essentially, while many others may have been able to achieve this same feat elsewhere, they will also have saved significant time in both their jumps and return to the location of the bungee had they attempted this on other bungee courses.
Veronica achieved 19 jumps in one hour on 9 May 2003. Although other bungee jumps have been erected and exceed the Bloukrans Bungee height, no other jumper has been able to break her record in close on two decades.
Gerrie Coetzee (boxing)
Coetzee was not only the first African to fight in a world heavyweight championship, but the first to win the title as well.
Dubbed ‘the Bionic Hand’, Coetzee suffered persistent injuries to his right hand which earned him a less impressive nickname in Afrikaans – ‘Seer Handjies’. Noteworthy local wins include his bouts against Christiaan Roos, Ron Stander, Kallie Knoetze and Pierre Fourie, as well as knocking out Mike Schutte and Leon Spinks.
Coetzee failed at his first world title attempt, later stating that he was both intimidated by US boxers and ashamed of South Africa’s apartheid system as a white man. After several world title tries, he faced off against Don King-promoted Michael Dokes in the WBA heavyweight championship in 1983. He knocked Dokes out in the tenth round, becoming the first South African to claim the title, and the first caucasian in 23.
Percy Montgomery (rugby)
As of 2021, Percy Montgomery still holds the record for the most conversions by any player in a single year for all rugby matches. This record was achieved in 2007 with a total of 52 conversions over 14 matches. He is also the only Fullback to achieve a ranking in among the top 8 record holders, with all other players being fly-halfs.
Wayde van Niekerk (athletics)
Not only is his cousin Cheslin Kolbe one of the greatest rugby players the world has ever seen, but South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk holds the current world and Olympic record holder for the 400 metre sprint, as well as having the fastest time for the 300 m sprint.
For another perspective, although Wayde’s 43,03 record sets his average over 100 metres at 10,75 seconds and his personal best in 100 m is 9,94, his average time/100m for his fastest 200 metres sets his average at 9,92. For those who had watched athletics over the years, this is the world record for 100 metres which Carl Lewis set in 1988 which made the US sprinter famous.
Oti Mabuse (dancing)
Oti is not only a famed South African dancer, but also a Latin American champion, with first place in the German Championship PD Freestyle Latin. She is best known for her professional dancing on Strictly Come Dancing and the German equivalent, Let’s Dance.
She was Dance Captain on The Greatest Dancer and expert panellist on The Masked Dancer.
Naas Botha (rugby/gridiron)
Although Naas is only ranked 5th for total drop goals per player overall, it should be noted that his average drop goal of 0.64 in total far outweighs any other player, with the closest runner up average being Jean-Patrick Lescarboura of France. Johnny Wilkinson who is ranked no.1 has an average drop goal per match of 0.37.
To add to Naas’s credentials, he was also a placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys (American football/gridiron) for a short stint in his career, earning a 100% kicking record during his trial period.
Corrie Sanders (boxing)
In one of the most surprising upsets in boxing history, South Africa’s Corrie Sanders claimed the WBO heavyweight title in 2003 after knocking out boxing favourite Wladimir Klitschko in two rounds.
Sanders had also held the WBU heavyweight title from 1997 to 2000. Nicknamed ‘the Sniper’, Sanders was known for his long reach and fast hands which he used to knock his opponents out early. Sanders was fatally shot in an armed robbery at a restaurant in Brits in 2012. The shooters were apprehended and each received a sentence of 43 years.
Great Wall of China
South African extreme sports athletes and humanitarians Braam Malherbe and David Grier became the first and last athletes to ever run the entire length of the Great Wall of China in one go. The mammoth marathon covering 4 218 km over 98 days was a feat never seen before, and one which is never to be seen again.
Although athletes are still allowed to traverse the Great Wall, The Chinese government has barred any similar feats. This is due to Malherbe and Grier having had to wade into and onto restricted military areas since the wall has degraded to such an extent in certain areas that they were forced to climb down and cover these sections on ground level in territory they weren’t officially cleared to venture into (nor had they known such until later). This feat is therefore one which can never be achieved again.
Jannie de Beer (rugby)
Although eclipsed by Johnny Wilkinson in overall drop goals, Jannie de Beer had a far shorter stint as player and currently holds the record for the most drop goals in a test match by a player. This record was obtained in a match against England on 24 October 1999.
Longest motorcycle ride through tunnel of fire
It may be a bit of an unconventional feat, but we’ll take it. South Africans Enrico Schoeman and André de Kock hold the Guinness World Record for the longest motorcycle ride through a tunnel of fire. The feat was undertaken in Parys, South Africa on 5 September 2014. The pair managed a distance of 120,40 metres.
Baby Jake Matlala (boxing)
Jacob Matlala, known by his ring name ‘Baby Jake’ which hinted at his small stature, is one of the most noteworthy boxers in SA’s history. He is also the shortest boxer to ever claim a world championship title, at 1,47 metres.
Of his 68 bouts, Matlala won 53, lost 13 and drew three matches, with 26 of his wins achieved by knockout.
During his career he claimed the WBO, WBU and IBA flyweight world championship titles. He has a total of 4 world championships under his belt…and talking about belts, he presented his WBU to Nelson Mandela following his fight against Juan Herrera.
Tonderai Chavhanga (rugby)
Tonderai is placed 5th overall for most points per player in a debut match in the rugby league, but what makes his feat remarkable is that all 30 points were achieved with tries. The closest rankings for points in a debut match through tries is 2 tries. He achieved this feat on 11 June 2005 in his debut as wing against Uruguay.
Herschelle Gibbs (cricket)
Gibbs was notorious for his wild antics during his cricketing days, and these antics also helped him on the field. Gibbs holds the world record for the most fours hit in an innings in a T20 international. This record was achieved against the West Indies on 11 September 2007 in Johannesburg, with Gibbs smashing 14 fours and achieving 90 runs from 55 deliveries.
Caster Semenya (athletics)
Whatever your personal thoughts on gender, following numerous invasive tests and determinations, the IAAF still maintains that Caster Semenya is worthy of certain titles. This includes the world record for 600m set on 27 August 2017 in Berlin with a time of 1:21:77
Record cricket partnership per wicket (cricket)
Morne van Wyk and Cameron Delport hold the record for the most runs per wicket of any partnership, with 367 runs.
Largest successful run chase (cricket)
South Africa holds the record for the largest successful runs chased against Australia on 12 March 2006. With little hope left, we successfully chased Australia’s 438/9 lead and won.
Ernie Els (golf)
Ernie Els, also known as the Big Easy, holds the World Record for the most World Match Play Championships won by an individual golfer with 7 under his belt, achieved between 1994 and 2007.
Longest Test Cricket Match in history (cricket)
Before people found other things to do with their time, cricket test matches were played with no time limit to eliminate the possibility of a draw and see a clear winner walking from each match. Unfortunately, playing an indefinite match proved quite impractical at times.
In the longest recorded ‘timeless match’ ever recorded, South Africa faced off against England on home turf. The match started on 3 March 1939, and finished on 14 March 1939, with one day’s intermittent delay due to unforeseen weather conditions. With a target of 696 set by South Africa, England were on target with a score of 645/5. Unfortunately the British visitors had other matches scheduled in Cape Town and England which meant they had to catch their train. The match ended in a draw, given circumstances. Approximately 5 447 deliveries were bowled and 1981 runs scored over 43 hours and 16 minutes.
This was also the last timeless test ever played, as cricket councils realised that an indefinite match simply left all teams disgruntled.
Fastest 100 m by a centenarian
That’s right! It’s not merely the South African youth who impress. The world record for the fastest 100 m run by a centenarian. This record was set on 10 July 2004, five months after Philip Rabinowitz’s 100th birthday with a time of 30,86 seconds.
There are really too many sportsmen and -women to mention in one article, so it’s important to note that we’re proud of all South Africans who have held our name high over the years.
A few honourable mentions include:
– Willie Smith (boxing)
– Greg Albertyn (motorsports)
– Robert Hunter (cycling)
– Gary Player (golf – Zim origin)
– Tomas Scheckter (motorsports)
– Jordy Smith (surfing)
– Trevor Prangley (MMA)
– Gonda Betrix (showjumping)
– Retief Goosen (golf)
– AB de Villiers (cricket)
– Hank McGregor (canoeing)
– Burry Stander (cycling)
– Natalie du Toit (swimming/paralympics)
– Amanda Coetzer (tennis)
– Esmari van Reenen (sport shooting)
– Jonty Rhodes (cricket)
– Bobby Locke (golf)
– Lucas Radebe (football)
– John Whitmore (surfing)
– Grant Langston (motorcycling)
– Penny Heyns (swimming)
– Gary Bailey (football)
– Wetsi Morake (pool)
– John Davies (climber)
– Danelle Wentzel (archery)
– Joel Stransky (rugby)
– Diane Swanton (sport shooting)
– Brian Mitchell (boxing)
– Makhaya Ntini (cricket)
– Ryan Sandes (endurance running)
– Hestrie Cloete (high jump)
– Elana Meyer (athletics)
– Wayne Ferreira (tennis)
– Jeffrey Mathebula (boxing)
– Schalk Burger (rugby)
– Sarel van der Merwe (motorsports)
– Chad le Clos (swimming)
– Percy Sonn (cricket)
– Rory Sabbatini (golf)
Food & cuisine
The most unique and longstanding repetitive social event in SA’s history is not only noteworthy for being uniquely South African, but for being a favourite pastime among different cultural groups.
Who knows what the origins of this social gathering is – it could hearken to antiquity or merely point towards a common hobby which represents all South Africans. Some believe that the habit of communing around a fire for food, drink and discussion was established as a South African gathering due to the links between the Zulus and Boers, who had need to establish common ground in bomas and around fireplaces. Though the different cultures had established their own traits for this event, it has remained a common equaliser in SA society and no other country in the world has such deep connection nor the same frequency of cooking meat around a fire as an emblem precursor to connection.
South Africa not only has a bunch of food unique to our country, but we also have the culinary expertise to back that up. South African Jean Delport has received a Michelin Star two years in a row, the latest being awarded to him in 2021.
Jean moved to the UK in 2018 to work at Restaurant Interlude in Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens in England. Owner Penny Streeter also owns the Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate near Hermanus in the Western Cape, South Africa. Jean had previously worked for Penny Streeter at her restaurant in Somerset West.
Uniquely South African, this local grape and the wine made from it are popular both locally and abroad. In fact, in 2020 alone 18 274 497 litres of Pinotage were exported while 4 281 570 litres were sold locally.
The mastermind behind Pinotage was not a vinter by trade, but held an undergrad degree in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, with a PhD in Chemistry. Abraham Izak Perold subsequently became the first professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University, following his return from a grape scouting expedition which he was tasked with by the Cape government. Perold successfully crossed Pinot noir and Cinsaut in 1925, creating Pinotage (then known as Hermitage), and the rest, as they say, is history.
We initially wanted to give this one an honourable mention, but given the worldwide recognition for South Africa’s favourite snack, how could we not honour it with its own entry?
Although various methods for preserving meat have been used over eons, no such preservation method has lasted so long and remained such a remarkable treat in South African and global history. Such is the fancy for biltong, that many a biltong shop has opened around the globe and taken local foodies by storm.
Though some US citizens have claimed that biltong is just a form of jerky, the method for preparing and preserving it, as well as the types of cuts, types of animals and array of spices used in biltong preparation make the two types of snacks as different as cheesecake and cheese fondue. Such is our claim to fame, that international vegan vendors have capitalised on the name and recipes to sell ‘vegan biltong’ made from mushrooms, eggplant, jackfruit, mango, potato and other variants of plant material.
Yes, preserving and creating snacks from plant material is certainly not new, but using the biltong moniker and seeking to recreate biltong flavours is, for sure, a global shoutout to SA’s favourite.
One of the foremost importers and sellers of South African wine is the Disney franchise, which showcases more than 80 wines from SA, particularly at its Animal Kingdom.
When frequenting international forums it’s surprising how few people know that Nando’s originated in South Africa. Many a British and Portuguese citizen have argued, claiming the franchise as their own.
While the franchise has become famous for their risque advertising and remarkable decor, the food shop opened its first restaurant in Rosettenville, Johannesburg. Robert Brozin had defied his dad’s wishes of becoming an accountant, choosing to open a Portuguese-African takeaway shop, originally called Chickenland. The brand has also been named one of the top 30 hottest marketing brands in the world by Advertising Age magazine and indeed named Nando’s as the 6th best private sector employer in the UK in 2018.
Just like Champagne, Tequila and Prosciutto di Parma, the name Rooibos is legally protected and can only refer to the plant and its extracts if these are sourced from South Africa.
Rooibos is not the same as other teas, since it doesn’t come from the same plant, but it has similar benefits and more. After studying the plant for years, it has been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-mutagenic properties which protect the body from free radicals. Since its first use, not a single side effect has ever been recorded. Rooibos is also useful as a natural dye, due to its rich garnet colour.
Although Prue Leith has been a household name in South Africa for decades, given her famous culinary school, she’s become most famous of late for her role as presenter on BBC’s Great British Menu as well as The Great British Bake Off, having replaced Mary Berry as judge on the latter in 2017.
Leith is Chancellor of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. She opened her first restaurant, Michelin-starred Leith’s, in Notting Hill in 1969 and founded Leith’s School of Food and Wine. After selling the business in 1993, she focused on South Africa, founding the Prue Leith College (later Prue Leith Chef’s Academy). She is the first woman appointed to the British Railways Board (1977) and has been a columnist for various publications such as the Guardian, Daily Mail, Sunday Express and Daily Mirror. She serves as member on various boards and non profits.
Although the exact date of this yummy South African staple isn’t known, it is believed that the bunny chow was created by the Indian community of Durban in the 1940s. The dish quickly became popular in other regions and was a popular dish served in Gwelo, Rhodesia during World War II.
There are many stories about where it may have originated and how it came about. One of these postulates that since the traditional Indian starch used for meals is a roti, which was impractical to use while on the go, so workers in the cane fields and elsewhere decided to hollow out a loaf and pack it with meat, veg, atchar and other accompaniments, closing it up again by stuffing the hollywood out bread on top.
A favourite across SA, the melktert dessert originated among settlers in the Dutch Cape Colony in the 17th century as an alternative for mattentaart (a Dutch cheesecake-like dessert).
Though other countries have similar meals, such as the chip butty, the Gatsby which originated in Cape Town is peculiar for its name, as well as the sheer divergence of fillings you can find in it.
In 1976, food shop owner Rashaad pandy wanted to make a quick meal for workers renovating his shop, and decided to fill a large round loaf with slap chips, polony and atchar. One of the workers said that it was a ‘Gatsby smash’, hinting at the showing of the Great Gatsby which had been screening at an Athlone cinema at the time.
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen was the first African chef in history to win a Michelin star.
The honour was awarded for his restaurant, JAN, in French city Nice. Jan worked as a chef in his family resort’s restaurant before completing an apprenticeship and entering formal training. He then joined fashion magazine ELLE as contributing food editor before jetting off to France. After a stint as executive chef for the Champagne house PIAFF and two years on a luxury vessel in Monaco, Jan opened his own restaurant in France.
Longest wine route
The Cape Winelands found along Route 62 is the longest continuous wine route in the world, with more than 200 cellars stretched over 850 kilometres from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
Situated in the tiny town of Paternoster, Wolfgat is not on many tourists’ radar, and yet this restaurant made headlines for receiving the no.1 spot in the World Restaurant Awards in Paris in 2019.
– Mrs Balls Chutney
– Malva pudding
– Boerewors rolls
– Cape Malay curry
– Pap & sous/sheba
– Walkie talkies/robots (chicken feet)
Given we have the second oldest air force in the world, established in 1920, South Africa has quite a bit to boast about on this front.
South Africa’s military history may not be one to brag about in general, but from this history many inventions were borne. The Casspir was based on South African Hippo armoured personnel carriers developed in the 1970s and came to fruition in the 1980s. It was the first and only mobile mine-armoured tactical military vehicle in existence, allowing occupants to drive over landmines without impact to themselves.
This defense was achieved by the V-shape of the hull which directed the force of explosions outward, thereby preventing the vehicle from absorbing the full energy of blasts and safeguarding the inner shell. The US Marines used the Casspir and as a template for their mine resistant and ambush protected MRAP vehicles.
First use of camouflage
Given how common the word is today, it’s strange to think that the concept in modern warfare, coined by the French in WWI was actually tactically incorporated into war for the first time by the boere in the Anglo-Boer Wars.
Until that time, ‘camouflage’ had been mostly employed to hide specific buildings and weapons, or to obscure hunters from the view of prey. Most warring nations had chosen khaki as the optimal solution to partial invisibility, but the Boers were the first to create tactical patterned outfits worn by one and all for guerilla warfare. They wore it during the First Anglo-Boer War in 1880 to 1881 and again in the Second Anglo-Boer War from 1899 to 1902.
The French then subsequently replicated these patterned outfits and used them for tactical units during World War I. They also coined the term ‘camouflage’ as it is colloquially used at the time.
Developed by Atla Aircraft Corporation, a predecessor for Denel Aviation, the Rooivalk was a military marvel at the time. The attack helicopter developed in 1984 sported two staggered cockpits and two turbine engines with the main and rotor blades developed to withstand hits from small arms. It supported a 20 mm cannon on the nose, with capacity for air-to-air and anti-armour missiles. It had a fire-control system as well as advanced Doppler radar and GPS. The first prototype took to the skies on 11 February 1990.
The helicopter was the first attack helicopter capable of doing a full 360-degree loop, allowing the craft to momentarily fly upside down.
Decommissioning of Nuclear Arms programme
South Africa is the only country to date to have voluntarily decommissioned our nuclear weapons programme.
Entertainment, fashion & culture
With the world’s second oldest film industry (1915), it’s no surprise that we are big on entertainment, with much to boast about. Trevor Noah and Charlize Theron, as the most prominent celebrities, have been featured numerous times on our own blog and on other forums. We’ve also noted musicians from SA such as Seether, Dave Matthews and Dean Geyer, so although we absolutely adore these stars for putting SA on the map, we’ll focus on other entertainers for now.
Most people will recognise this song as a feature of Lion King, known colloquially as Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), but the original was thought to be the first example of misheard or misinterpreted lyrics which was taken over by Peter Seeger after Solomon Linda and his troupe, the Evening Birds, recorded it in the 1930s.
When you think of bands and musicians like Crowded House, David Bowie, Boy George and Björk, you may not immediately think of Neal Snyman, but he is, in fact, the man behind the music.
Snyman is a record producer, sound engineer and recording artist who has worked with tonnes of famous names. In addition to the ones we’ve already mentioned, he has also produced, recorded and/or engineered for Collective Soul, Live, Faith No More, Heather Nova, Tom Jones, Johnny Clegg, Cassette, Mango Groove, Black and the Springbok Nude Girls.
Whether you deem public speaking as entertainment, business or politics, you’ll be happy to know that South Africa has claimed the world title in this skill.
Price was awarded Toastmasters World Championship title in 2021. She is not only the 6th woman to win this title in the 80 years of the championship’s existence, but the first African to win the title.
A name which may have been forgotten over the years, Basil Rathbone is undoubtedly one of SA’s greatest entertainers.
Though he made a name for himself as stage actor, he swiftly moved on to film – earning two Academy Award nominations and three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rathbone starred in films like David Copperfield, Romeo and Juliet, The Adventures of Robin Hood and is most famous as playing Sherlock Holmes in 14 Hollywood films between 1939 and 1946.
A whole decade before the rest of the world replicated the system, South African Percy Tucker from Benoni created the first electronic ticketing system. Tucker travelled to the US in 1969 to find the best computer to manage a computerised inventory and returned to SA, establishing Computicket in 1971.
Although most of the world believes the hit single ‘Substitute’ to be a US creation, the song was a South African production by Johannesburg rock group Clout, established in 1977. The song wasn’t written by Clout, and was a rearrangement of the Righteous Brothers’ song
DJ Arch Jnr
South Africa’s got Talent winner, DJ Arch Jnr is not only the youngest winner of the talent competition, but Guinness World Records’ official youngest DJ in the world. He secured the title at the age of 5 years and 38 days. To win the world record, DJ Arch Jnr had to play an uninterrupted set of 60 minutes at a club. The record was clinched at Platinum Lounge Bar in Cosmo City, Johannesburg while playing to an audience of 100 people.
South Africans aren’t known for making a significant impact in the field of haute couture, but our designers have been making waves of late for all the right reasons.
In March 2021, Cape Town-based designer Lukhanyo Mdingi was named one of the top 20 finalists in the LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) Prize of 2021, and in September 2021 Mdingi was named the joint winner of the special Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
Most people won’t know his name, but South African musician, composer and songwriter has been working hard behind the scenes. He is, for instance, responsible for various soundtrack and timelapse commissions for Hermitcraft, which includes work for the world’s most popular game, Minecraft. Other commissions have been featured by gamers like Grian and Mumbo Jumbo. His work has been viewed on Youtube billions of times and he has been featured on many radio and chat shows.
Not many people can boast with making it into the multi-million dollar Marvel franchise, but those people aren’t John Kani. Although he’s made a name for himself in various other films and series such as Lion King, Murder Mystery, Wallander, the Ghost and the Darkness, Endgame and White Lion, Kani is most famous for playing T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa, in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.
Dubbed South Africa’s first and only supermodel, Josie Borain was one of the most famous models in the world during her career. Her face was plastered on the biggest billboards, including the most famous billboard in Times Square, and she was the top model for designers like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Steven Meisel, Bruce Webber and Richard Avedon. She created South Africa’s most comprehensive database of model agencies on the web, and became a fashion photographer later on, shooting for publications like Elle, Photo Magazine and Visi.
Considered the unofficial South African anthem in 1980, Paradise Road (the most famous of Joy’s songs) would not only make waves locally, but become a chart topper internationally. The band, comprised of Felicia Marion, Thoko Ndlozi and Anneline Malebo was first performed in Sharpeville.
Born in Johannesburg, Sursok moved to Australia as child. She clinched her first role in the Australian series Home and Away, then moved to the US to pursue opportunities in music, releasing her first solo album in 2005.
Sursok returned to the screen in 2006, starring in series and films like Aquamarine, The Young and the Restless, Spectacular!, Hannah Montana, Pretty Little Liars and Flicka 2.
Echoing our previous entry, the song Jerusalema is unique in being one of the few non-English songs to ever go global. Not only that, but the song did so during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Jerusalema challenge hitting 100-million views on Youtube alone in 4 weeks as it sparked a global dance challenge. Various renditions of the song are available online, with the Master KG arrangement currently standing at 447-million views. Remixes by Burna Boy and Micro TDH & Greeicy currently stand at 47 and 53-million views respectively.
South Africans were quick to point out that the dance sequence was not unique to SA and originated from Angola’s kizomba and kuduro’s styles.
Multiple countries have taken part in the challenge, including groups from the USA, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Vietnam, Morocco and Ireland.
Four Jacks and a Jill
The reason for Four Jacks and a Jill’s obscurity as a saffa band is perhaps due to their original stage name, the Nevadas.
Not only did they make the Billboard Hot 100 and reach no. 1 status in the UK and 9 other countries, but their hit songs ‘Timothy’ and ‘Master Jack’ are still sung and played internationally to this day.
Thando Hopa from Sebokeng South Africa is a world famous model, activist and lawyer. She is the first woman in the world with albinism to be featured on the front cover of Vogue Magazine. She was also the first South African woman of colour to appear in the Pirelli Calendar. A woman with a wide scope of talents, she has starred in the miniseries Troy: Fall of a City, recognised with the 100 Women award by the BBC and is a fellow of the World Economic Forum narratives lab.
The youngest cast member of the hit TV show Pretty Little Liars is Jozi born and bred, Sasha Pieterse. Sasha was homeschooled and graduated at the age of 14, giving her much free time to hone her skills. She made her debut in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D, and also starred in Stargate SG-1, X-Men: First Class, Dancing with the Stars, Geek Charming, Good Luck Chuck and Inherent Vice.
Though South Africa has produced many Hollywood stars over the years, Arnold Vosloo is the man who paved the way for saffas. Born in Pretoria in 1962, Vosloo was well known locally as a star of various local films and tv series.
He moved to the US and made his film debut in 1992, subsequently taking up roles formerly held by stars like Liam Neeson and starring alongside actors like Jean-Claude van Damme. His most famous role, however, is undoubtedly playing Imhotep in the Mummy and The Mummy Returns.
Madeleine made a name for herself as Cherry Blossom in the hit tv series Riverdale, but many people don’t know that she grew up between countries, spending much of her time between South Africa and the USA. This may have been more obvious had the media included her full name, Madelaine Grobbelaar Petsch.
J. R. R. Tolkien
Although this one is a bit tenuous, we still like to claim him as one of our own. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author famous for works like the Hobbit, the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings, was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 1892.
Although his family moved to the UK while he was still a young child, he is still a saffa to us.
Gavin Hood made a name for himself as actor on local and international screens before turning his focus to directing. As actor he starred in numerous series and films such as American Kickboxer, Kickboxer 5, Operation Delta Force, Ender’s Game, A Reasonable Man and Stargate SG-1, but it’s in his role as director where he truly shines.
He clinched the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2005 for Tsotsi and has also directed films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ender’s Game, Eye in the Sky and Official Secrets.
Copley’s most famous role to date is undoubtedly his lead in the science-fiction film, District 9. With his unique style, it’s easy to forget his South African roots once you venture outside this blockbuster given his dexterity.
Copley got a leading role in the film adaptation of the hit tv series the A-Team in the role of H.M. Murdock alongside Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Quinton Jackson. He has also starred in Spike Lee’s remake of the film Oldboy, in Maleficent, Gringo, Elysium and Hardcore Henry.
Brandt was born in Cape Town in 1981 and moved to New Zealand in 1999.
In New Zealand she starred in local productions such as Diplomatic Immunity, Shortland Street and This Is Not My Life. She then set her sights on productions with more of an international audience, such as Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, CSI: NY, Legend of the Seeker, Memphis Beat and Zombie Apocalypse.
She featured in films such as Drift and Duke before returning to series, starring in Single Ladies, Gotham and The Librarians. She is most famous for her role as Maze in the tv series, Lucifer.
As with some other sections, we’d like to give a shoutout to other famous entertainers and trendsetters:
– Neill Blomkamp
– Ndlovu Youth Choir
– Manfred Mann
– Alice Krige
– Pretty Yende
– Enoch Sontonga
– Steven De Groote
– Miriam Makeba
– Sarah Oates
– Abdullah Ibrahim
– Dr Victor
– after HOURS (game)
– Belle Delphine
– Mango Groove
– Die Antwoord
– Shannon Kook
– Jani Allan
– Jeremy Loops
– Bright Blue
– Nick Boraine
– Embeth Davitz
– Rapulana Seiphemo
– Adhir Kalyan
– Noa Noa
– Ladysmith Black Mambazo
– Tanya van Graan
– Sean Cameron Michael
– Vusi Mahlasela
– Lucky Dube
Architecture & construction
South African architect, Jaco Booyens, received the 2020 gold award from SAOTA in Italy for architectural restoration in South Africa. The restoration was completed on an ensemble of heritage buildings on the Buffelsdrift Farm in the Klein Karoo. What made his undertaking so noteworthy is that all restoration was done using traditional methods and techniques which honour the history of the buildings and showcase the elements used in the original construction.
It may seem like a silly invention for most laymen, but Dolosse have saved countless human lives, livelihoods and reduced environmental degradation of coastlines around the globe.
The complex geometric shape weighing up to 80 tonnes each and randomly positioned around each other was invented in 1963 by either Eric Mowbray Merrifield or Aubrey Kruger (accounts vary) in an effort to protect the East London harbour from extensive destruction caused by storms and breakwaters. This was not only effective, but a low-cost solution to safeguarding harbours and coastlines from environmental damage. Dolosse can be seen around the world along the coastlines and harbours in the USA, South America, Asia and Europe. Along Port Ngqura, the dolosse protecting the coast is festooned in the colours of the SA flag.
Given our history and socioeconomic challenges, it should come as no surprise that South Africans would take top honours in an affordable housing challenge. Capetonian Martin Pretorius won the San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge in 2020 for his Rethinking row-houses/apartment blocks project. Pretorius’s concept of reimagining row-houses to more efficiently use space while incorporating greenery into urban living spaces was chosen as the no.1 concept among 20 000 other entries across the globe.
Largest themed resort hotel
The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City has held the record as the largest themed resort hotel in the world since it was opened in December 1979. Developer Sol Kerzner had bypassed apartheid sanctions at the time by establishing Sun City resort in Bophuthatswana.
Although the region was not recognised as autonomous internationally, the world still steered clear of questioning this autonomy, and nations were weary to intervene as the venue’s image was bolstered by artists like Queen, Elton John, the Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, Status Quo and Frank Sinatra who performed there in the early 80s. The region was officially reincorporated into South Africa in 1994.
The Lost City at Sun City opened its doors in 1992. The venue has a 20 km circumference and has two of the most prestigious golf courses in the world, designed by Gary Player.
Serpentine Pavilion, London
It may not be locally based, but the Serpentine Pavilion in London was reinvented (2020) by none other than three South African architects from Johannesburg. They are the youngest architects in the Pavilion commission’s 20-year history to be honoured with this prestigious task.
Africa’s tallest apartment block, Ponte City, is not merely unique for its strange architecture when it was constructed in the 1970s, but the building has become a famed showcase in post-apocalyptic films and games. It was featured in District 9, Chappie and the 54-storey block of flats was a prominent feature in Resident Evil, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Dredd, Seal Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines and many music videos filmed by international artists over the years.
We’ve shared the Bosjes Farm in Breedekloof Valley with our readers in previous articles, marveling at its amazing architectural designs and ambience. Apparently we’re not the only ones enamoured with Bosjes, as the venue has won the International Architizer A+ Awards 2021. The two buildings were designed by Coetzee Steyn of Steyn Studio (now based in London) and had already made waves when it received recognition as a Special Honouree in the awards in 2019.
Most of us would pull up our noses at a concept such as urine bricks, but in 2018 three South African students made news headlines worldwide for their concept. The idea not only repurposes human waste for practical purposes, but dramatically reduces carbon emissions. Regular bricks need to be kiln-fired at temperatures around 1 400°C, while the urine bricks are reinforced by allowing particular types of bacteria to cement sand together at room temperature. The bricks take between four and six days to grow a suitable amount of bacteria, and the urine smell is completely eliminated by day two, with all harmful bacteria killed through the careful regulation of the bricks’ pH. It’s the same strength as limestone brick, although the team states that the bricks become harder the longer you leave them.
Nature, travel & geography
We all know that South Africa is home to the Great Five, and that we have many other unique species and places. We take a quick look at some of the greatest feats.
Cape Floral Kingdom
The Cape Floral Kingdom around Table Mountain has a few claims to fame. It is not only the smallest of all six floral kingdoms in the world, but has the highest concentration of plant species in the world and is the only floral kingdom located wholly in one country.
To put this into perspective, the nearest rival in biodiversity of plant species is the South American rainforest which contains but a third of the number or species of the Cape Floral Kingdom. What’s more, 70% of the plant species grow nowhere else on earth.
World’s smallest butterfly
The Oraidium butterfly, also known as the blue dwarf, is endemic to South Africa and has a wingspan of 1,4cm, the smallest in the world. The tiny insect weighs less than 10mg.
Earth’s oldest fungi
Fungi-like fossils discovered in South Africa in 2017 once more put us on the map for paleontological marvels. These fossils, dated at 2,4 billion years old, were discovered in the Ongeluk Formation of the Northern Cape.
The fossils were discovered accidentally by Professor Birger Rasmussen who was examining minerals to date the age of the rock. The discovery has significant implications for the theory of evolution, as it is the earliest evidence of possible fungi by 1 to 2 billion years and the earliest of eukaryotic life by 500 million years.
The discovery has also made scientists change direction, as they’d mostly been searching for fungi fossils on land, yet the section where the fossils were found are said to have been under water while they were alive.
World’s oldest meteor scar
The oldest meteor crater (astrobleme) on earth, the Vredefort Dome is located in Parys, South Africa and is also a UNESCO World heritage site. The dome has a radius of 190 km and dates back to 2,023 million years ago.
This is also the oldest and most scarred and is said to be one of the reasons South Africa has managed to unearth so many minerals such as gold, since the impact of the bolide pushed certain deep layers of the earth’s crust upwards in such a way that the horizontal layers settled diagonally or vertically, creating the area commonly known as the gold fields.
Most (projected) shipwrecks
Although Sable Island near Halifax, Nova Scotia, is widely publicised as having the most shipwrecks, this number of 350 recorded shipwrecks pales in comparison to the 3 000 shipwrecks discovered off the coast of South Africa, a number which is believed to but touch on the official wreckages scattered along our waters.
The reason for this exorbitant number, of course, is the location of SA which used to be the only route of travel between continents in the days of yore. The Cape of Storms made seafaring and reaching the harbour difficult, and since reaching the coast was crucial for those who had been on open seas for so long, this is the reason for so many ships wrecking en route to the shore.
Largest man-made forest
The claim may be slightly misleading, given how forests are generally categorised, but with more than 10 million trees, most of them Jacarandas which can be seen in bloom during Spring each year, South Africa can claim the largest man-made urban forest in the world.
A rather odd factoid is that the closest relative to the elephant is the dassie, also known as the rock hyrax. Although measuring at 30 to 70 cm more closely resembling rabbits, the dassie is most closely related to the elephant of all other animals on earth.
The South African luxury train, Rovos Rail, is considered the most luxurious train in the world. The train caters for rides from 2 to 15 days across South Africa and caters for a maximum occupancy of 72 hosted in luxurious suites.
Largest bio-mass migration on the planet
The Sardine Run which occurs annually between May and August. During this migration, sardines spawn en masse in the cool waters of the Agulhas bank and move around the coast towards the warm waters of the Indian Ocean near Mozambique.
The run coincides with the humpback whale migration and attracts a host of other whales, dolphins, seals, birds and sharks who follow the route of the sardine migration to feast on the rich banquet.
Shoals have measured up to 15 km long, 4,5 km wide and 40 m deep and are so significant that they are visible from space.
– Hole in the wall
– Cango Caves
– Kruger National Park
– St Lucia Wetlands
– The big 5
– Die Uilhuis
– Adam’s Calendar
– Table Mountain
– Machadodorp baKoni ruins
– Sagole Baobab
Are you a South African living abroad?
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