Great South Africans
Great South Africans was a South African television series that aired on SABC3 and hosted by Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu and Denis Beckett. In September 2004, thousands of South Africans took part in an informal nationwide poll to determine the "100 Greatest South Africans" of all time. Votes were cast by telephone, SMS, and the website of the state-run South African Broadcasting Corporation television channel, SABC3, which aired a series of profiles and documentaries in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the top 100. The programme was modelled on the BBC's Greatest Britons series.
In South Africa, the list was headed by Nelson Mandela, a predictable and highly popular choice, given his global stature as a statesman and symbol of post-apartheid liberation and reconciliation. Other popular choices ranged from Professor Christiaan Barnard, the pioneering heart surgeon, to General Jan Smuts, wartime Prime Minister and co-founder of the League of Nations, to Shaka Zulu, the 19th Century warrior leader of the Zulu Nation, to Internet entrepreneur and civilian space traveller Mark Shuttleworth.
Two days after the list was announced, Nelson Mandela had already received several thousands of votes more than any other candidate.
At the time when the competition was announced, in June 2004, the SABC gave the assurance that the South African show would not ban certain political figures, as was the case in the German version which banned Nazis from the list. They soon came to regret their decision when the SABC became embroiled in a national controversy over the high rankings accorded to some South Africans who were less widely regarded as "great".
For example, Hendrik Verwoerd, the "Architect of Apartheid", ranked higher on the list than Albert Luthuli, South Africa's first Nobel Peace laureate, or Chris Hani, a famous anti-apartheid activist. Also present on the list was Eugène Terre'Blanche, the head of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging.
Other controversial choices included an 11th placing for Hansie Cronje, the disgraced former captain of the South African cricket team, who admitted to taking bribes to influence the outcome of test matches.
On 14 October, the SABC announced that the show was being cancelled, leaving positions 2 to 10 still formally undecided.
Letter columns in some newspapers called the show a farce and used the term "whites with cellphones" to explain the presence of Hendrik Verwoerd and Eugène Terre'Blanche high on the rankings. This view was rebutted by Afrikaans singer-songwriter Steve Hofmeyr who pointed out that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, post-apartheid convicted fraudster, scored high on the list as well. According to Peter Matlare, CEO of the SABC, the show was stopped because "wider participation in the voting process" was necessary.
When the competition was announced, the SABC defined a Great South African as someone who contributed to the "country's life and development". When the show was stopped, the SABC claimed that their definition of a Great South African was actually someone who contributed to South Africa's development "and the promotion of humanity". and the fact that quite a few people on the list did not fit this description contributed to the decision to stop the show.
This is the original list of "100 Greatest South Africans", with positions 2 to 10 still to be confirmed by public vote, before the show was taken off the air:
- Nelson Mandela, first president of post-Apartheid South Africa and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (1918–2013)
- Christiaan Barnard, pioneering heart transplant surgeon (1922–2001)
- F. W. de Klerk, former president and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (1936–)
- Mahatma Gandhi, political activist (1869–1948)
- Nkosi Johnson, child HIV/AIDS activist who died of the disease (1989–2001)
- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, politician and 2nd wife of Nelson Mandela (1936–2018)
- Thabo Mbeki, second president of post-Apartheid South Africa (1942–)
- Gary Player, golfer (1935–)
- Jan Smuts, statesman (1870–1950)
- Desmond Tutu, cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner (1931–)
- Hansie Cronje, cricketer (1969–2002)
- Charlize Theron, actress and Academy Award winner (1975–)
- Steve Biko, political activist (1946–1977)
- Shaka Zulu, founder of the Zulu nation (1787–1828)
- Mangosuthu Buthelezi, politician and a Zulu prince (1928–)
- Tony Leon, politician (1956–)
- Brenda Fassie, singer (1964–2004)
- Mark Shuttleworth, Web entrepreneur, founder of Thawte, distributor of Ubuntu Linux and second fee paying space tourist (1973–)
- Hendrik Verwoerd, former prime minister and primary architect of Apartheid (1901–1966)
- Chris Hani, political activist who was Secretary General of the SACP when he was assassinated (1942–1993)
- Bonginkosi Dlamini, also known as "Zola", poet, actor and musician (1977–)
- Patricia de Lille, politician (1951–)
- Johnny Clegg, also known as "The White Zulu", musician (1953–)
- Helen Suzman, stateswoman (1917–2009)
- Eugène Terre'Blanche founder of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (1941–2010)
- Pieter-Dirk Uys political satirist and entertainer (1945–)
- Paul Kruger, four times president of South African Republic (1825–1904)
- Anton Rupert, businessman and environmentalist (1916–2006)
- Jonty Rhodes, cricketer (1969–)
- Leon Schuster, filmmaker, comedian, actor and prankster (entertainer)
- Oliver Tambo, political activist who spent 30 years in exile (1917–1993)
- Steve Hofmeyr, (1964-) musician and actor
- Walter Sisulu, political activist (1912–2003)
- Cyril Ramaphosa, (1952-) politician and businessman
- J. R. R. Tolkien, English author (wrote Lord of the Rings) (1892–1973)
- Beyers Naude, cleric and anti-apartheid activist (1915–2004)
- Ernie Els, golfer (1969–)
- Miriam Makeba, musician (1932–2008)
- Patrice Motsepe, (1962) businessman
- Trevor Manuel, (1956-) draftsman, minister of finance and politician
- Albert Luthuli, cleric, politician and 1960 Nobel Peace Prize winner († 1967)
- Robert Sobukwe, former political activist and founder of the PAC (1924–1978)
- Tokyo Sexwale, (1953-) politician and businessman
- Danny Jordaan, (1951-) politician and soccer administrator
- Fatima Meer, (1928-2010) scientist and political activist
- Ahmed Kathrada, (1929-2017) political activist
- Joe Slovo, communist politician (1926–1995)
- Natalie du Toit, (1984-) disabled olympic swimmer
- Jomo Sono, (1955-) soccer coach
- Francois Pienaar, (1967-) captain of the Springboks, the winning team in the 1995 Rugby World Cup
- John Kani, (1943-) actor, entertainer, writer, and Tony Award Winner
- Penny Heyns, olympic swimmer
- Jeremy Mansfield, radio and TV personality
- Lucas Radebe, (1969-) former Bafana Bafana and Leeds United soccer captain
- Mamphela Ramphele, (1947-) political activist, academic, businesswoman and mother to the son of Steve Biko
- Cecil Rhodes, (1853-1902) businessman and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (1853–1902)
- Albertina Sisulu, political activist and wife of Walter Sisulu (1919–2011 )
- Aggrey Klaaste, (1940-2004) journalist and editor who advocated Nation Building during the struggle years
- Alan Paton, author (1903–1988)
- Harry Oppenheimer, businessman (1908–2000)
- Zackie Achmat, (1962-) HIV positive AIDS activist and critic of government AIDS policies
- Doctor Khumalo, (1967-) soccer player
- Jan van Riebeeck, first colonial administrator (1619–1677)
- Bruce Fordyce, ultra-marathon runner
- Enoch Sontonga, teacher, lay-preacher and composer wrote "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"
- Zola Budd, athlete (1966–)
- Sol Plaatje, journalist and political activist (1877–1932)
- Danie Craven, rugby player and administrator (1910–1994)
- Alan Boesak, (1946-) cleric and politician
- Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, talk show host, public speaker and businesswoman
- Yvonne Chaka Chaka, (1965-) musician
- "Baby" Jake Matlala, (1962-2013) boxer and junior flyweight champion
- Kaizer Motaung, (1944-) founder of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club
- Basetsana Kumalo, (1974-) former Miss South Africa, presenter and businesswoman
- Antjie Krog, (1952-) poet, novelist and playwright
- Dullah Omar, (1934-2004) politician
- Mandoza, (1978-2016) musician
- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, (1949-) politician and former wife of Jacob Zuma
- Raymond Ackerman, (1931-) businessman
- Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Nobel Prize-winning author (1923–2004)
- Daniel François Malan, former Prime Minister responsible for laying the groundwork for Apartheid (1874–1959)
- Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, politician (1940–2010)
- James Barry Munnik Hertzog, former Prime Minister (1866–1942)
- Hector Pieterson, a young boy whose death has become the symbol of the Soweto uprisings of June 1976
- Sewsunker "Papwa" Sewgolum, (1930-1978) golfer
- William Smith, TV teacher and presenter
- Pieter Willem Botha, (1916-2006) former prime minister and state president (1916–2006)
- Hugh Masekela, (1939-2018) musician
- Bulelani Ngcuka, (1954-) politician
- Jody Scheckter, Formula One world champion (1950–)
- George Bizos, (1928-) lawyer
- Mbongeni Ngema, (1954-) playwright, actor, choreographer and director
- PJ Powers, musician
- Mimi Coertse, (1932-) musician
- Mrs Ples, the oldest hominid skull found at Sterkfontein cave
- Abdullah Ibrahim, aka "Dollar Brand", (1934-) musician
- Govan Mbeki, (1910-2001) political activist and father of Thabo Mbeki
- Jamie Uys, film director (1921–1996)
- Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, (1886-1957) artist
- Athol Fugard, playwright (1932–)
- Other countries have produced similar shows; see Greatest Britons spin-offs
- List of South Africans
- They Shaped Our Century, a survey by Media24 in 1999 about 100 most influential South Africans (and people associated with South Africa) of the twentieth century
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