• 2019 is here and with it, we'll finally get answers to some big questions that have been plaguing us for months.
  • On the political front, the general elections will tell us where South Africans political allegiances lie following a tumultuous couple of years.
  • Some other puzzlers that may well be solved include Steinhoff and Game of Thrones.

Welcome to 2019, the last year before we can use normal names for our decades again!

(What do you call this decade? The teens? The 10s? The post-aughts? No.)

This will also be the year where we get some answers to big questions, including: 

1. Can president Cyril Ramaphosa save the ANC at the ballot box?

South Africa’s general elections will answer the most burning political questions of our time. Will the electorate punish the EFF for VBS? Will infighting hurt support for the DA? Will Patricia de Lille’s new party – GOOD – be good enough?

And, crucially for the ANC, will Ramaphosa stem the tide against party?

In the 2016 municipal elections, ANC support slumped to a record low of 54.5%. The latest poll from the South African Institute of Race Relations shows that it reached 52% in September, but since recovered to 56% by December. Support for the DA declined to 18%, while the EFF (11%) also lost ground.

Analysts are expected lower voter turnout at the polls than in 2014, when 73.5% of eligible South Africans voted in the general elections. Elections this year should take place on a Wednesday in May 2019. 

2. What did the state capture, SARS and PIC inquiries find?

Arguably, 2018 was the Year of The Commission. Ramaphosa set up a total of four commissions of inquiry all related to the abuse and "capture" of state resources in South Africa.

Read: Everything you need to know about all the commissions of inquiry currently in South Africa

The big one – the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo - is expected to conclude its work by August 2019.

It has already claimed the scalp of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who resigned when it emerged during proceedings that he lied about the extent of his relationship with the Gupta family. Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba resigned in November, due in to testimony from former SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus that he lied to Parliament about the state of the entity's financial statements. 

The commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance in the South African Revenue Service (SARS) submitted its final report last month. Ramaphosa already fired SARS commissioner Tom Moyane on the recommendation of the commission, but the commission is expected to propose more changes at SARS.

An inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which is accused of making a series of questionable investments, has to submit its final findings by April. Former CEO Dan Matjila resigned from the PIC in November.  

3. What really happened at Steinhoff?

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. Photo: Jaco Ma
Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. Photo: Jaco Marais

Possibly the largest corporate crash - and fraud - in South Africa's history, Steinhoff investors have lost R200 billion since December 2017.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been busy with a forensic investigation into what went wrong at the company, and will release its final report to the company at the end of next month. 

4. How much dagga can you grow?

The Constitutional Court ruled last year that South Africans are now allowed to grow dagga in a private space for personal consumption. But parliament still has to make a decision on the quantity of dagga that adults would be allowed to grow.

Read:5 things you need to know about growing dagga at home

For now, the police could still arrest you if they have a reasonable suspicion that the dagga that you are growing is not only for your own consumption.

5. Will former president Jacob Zuma finally have to face fraud charges - and forced to pay back R26m in legal fees?

There are sixteen charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, linked to 783 payments that French company Thales allegedly made to the former president in connection with the arms deal, against Zuma. At the end of last year, he filed papers in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court seeking a permanent stay of prosecution, citing "blatant prosecutorial bias". If the court rejects this, Zuma will have to face these charges.

And a separate court ruling may also force him to pay back an estimated R26 million in legal fees, which taxpayers shouldered in the past.

6. Which South Africans properties will be expropriated without compensation?

Parliament is expected to amend the South African constitution to make provision for land expropriation in coming months. The amendment and accompanying legislation are expected to cast light on which properties could be affected. However, implementation of the policy could be delayed by various legal challenges from the DA and others.

Read: 10 questions about expropriation without compensation answered

7. Will South Africans ditch big banks for upstart challengers?

After Patrice Motsepe’s TymeBank – “South Africa’s first digital bank” - was launched at the end of 2018, Discovery Bank and Bank Zero will start competing for your money this year.

Discovery’s new bank will reward good behaviour (saving regularly, paying off your bond etc.) with more attractive interest rates. Bank Zero is expected to be entirely “app-driven”, and may not charge banking fees.

8. What happens after Brexit?

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March this year. 

It is still unclear whether it will be a "hard" Brexit - one without any kind of agreement with the EU, or whether parliament will accept the agreement Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the EU. A no-deal Brexit could have serious implications, including problems with importing medicines.

9. Will US president Donald Trump be impeached?

No one has yet officially accused Trump of any crimes.

That all could change - or not - very soon. When? The moment US special counsel and FBI director Robert Mueller finally hands in his report on the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. It could clear Trump. It could contain accusations so damning that no-one could defend them. This year, we'll find out.

Mueller reportedly started drafting his final report in early November, but we still don't know when (or if) it will be released publicly. 

Another US political question will be answered in 2019: Who's going to run for president?

It might be easier to ask who isn't. There may be a field of twenty on the Democratic side. Elizabeth Warren and Juan Castro are already in. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are next. The real question is: Will a Republican challenge the Trump? Did Mitt Romney just test the waters?

10. What will Meghan Markle name her baby?

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expecting their first baby in February or March.

It was one of 2018's greatest stories: the marriage of a biracial American actress to the Queen of England's grandson, the charming Prince Harry. Here was unity amid division. Now they're about to have their first kid, due in February or March.

11. How will "Game of Thrones" end?

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones

Spoiler alert. If it feels like you haven't seen "Game of Thrones" in years, that's because you haven't. It's been off the air since 2017! On the last episode aired, Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons were getting intimate at the back of a ship, and Tyrion looked pretty upset about it. So were many fans. INSIDER senior reporter Kim Renfro says it's because the romance is a cliché. It doesn't help that the pair are actually aunt and nephew to each other. Follow-up question: Will we have to wait till 2029 for George R.R. Martin to publish the book concluded the series on which the TV show is based?

The HBO show's eighth and final season will premiere  in April 2019.

12. Can Ant-Man save the Avengers and the world?

In 2009, Disney bought Marvel and its 5,000 characters for $4 billion. It's made 19 movies since, grossing over $17 billion. All of those movies had intertwining storylines, culminating in last year's "Avengers: Infinity War."

The film ended with a half of our heroes disappearing in an instant. The bad guy, Thanos, thought it would be better if the galaxy had half as many people.

This spring, Disney will try to match last year's $2 billion haul, and the Avengers will try to save the world.

"The Avengers: End Game" arrives in April 2019, and the trailer indicates they're going to get help from Marvel's greatest hero, Ant-Man.

13. Will the first African Netflix series be any good?

Pearl Thusi
Pearl Thusi (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES)

Netflix has commissioned its first African original dramaQueen Sono, which will star Pearl Thusi as a spy. 

14. Will Star Wars: Episode IX rescue the trilogy?

Disney's 2018 Star Wars movie, "Solo," grossed almost $400 million worldwide.

That might seem like a lot (and it was director Ron Howard's personal best) but the sum was actually a huge disappointment. The three Star Wars movies prior each made more than a billion dollars.

"Solo" was fun enough, but it probably suffered from Star Wars fatigue. Also, the Star Wars right before it, "The Last Jedi," wasn't very good. It's hard to fit so many characters into one story, and no one likes watching grumpy Luke Skywalker.

Can "The Force Awakens" director J.J. Abrams save the trilogy? We'll find out when Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

So! There's a lot to look forward to in 2019.

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