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 obvious 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, an anti-apartheid activist who was convicted of fraud post-apartheid, 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:
|No.||Name||D.O.B. – D.O.D.||Role|
|1.||Nelson Mandela||(1918–2013)||first president of post-Apartheid South Africa and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner|
|2.||Christiaan Barnard||(1922–2001)||pioneering heart transplant surgeon|
|3.||F. W. de Klerk||(1936–)||former president and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner|
|4.||Mahatma Gandhi||(1869–1948)||political activist|
|5.||Nkosi Johnson||(1989–2001)||child HIV/AIDS activist who died of the disease|
|6.||Winnie Madikizela-Mandela||(1936–2018)||politician and 2nd wife of Nelson Mandela|
|7.||Thabo Mbeki||(1942–)||second president of post-Apartheid South Africa|
|9.||Jan Smuts||(1870–1950)||statesman and philosopher|
|10.||Desmond Tutu||(1931–)||cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner|
|12.||Charlize Theron||(1975–)||actress and Academy Award winner|
|13.||Steve Biko||(1946–1977)||political activist|
|14.||Shaka Zulu||(1787–1828)||founder of the Zulu nation|
|15.||Mangosuthu Buthelezi||(1928–)||politician and a Zulu prince|
|18.||Mark Shuttleworth||(1973–)||Web entrepreneur, founder of Thawte, distributor of Ubuntu Linux and second fee paying space tourist|
|19.||Hendrik Verwoerd||(1901–1966)||former prime minister and primary architect of Apartheid|
|20.||Chris Hani||(1942–1993)||political activist who was Secretary General of the SACP when he was assassinated|
|21.||Bonginkosi Dlamini||(1977–)||also known as "Zola", poet, actor and musician|
|22.||Patricia de Lille||(1951–)||politician|
|23.||Johnny Clegg||(1953–2019)||also known as "The White Zulu", musician|
|25.||Eugène Terre'Blanche||(1941–2010)||founder of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging|
|26.||Pieter-Dirk Uys||(1945–)||political satirist and entertainer|
|27.||Paul Kruger||(1825–1904)||four times president of South African Republic|
|28.||Anton Rupert||(1916–2006)||businessman and environmentalist|
|30.||Leon Schuster||(1951–)||filmmaker, comedian, actor and prankster (entertainer)|
|31.||Oliver Tambo||(1917–1993)||political activist who spent 30 years in exile|
|32.||Steve Hofmeyr||(1964–)||musician and actor|
|33.||Walter Sisulu||(1912–2003)||political activist|
|34.||Cyril Ramaphosa||(1952–)||fifth president of post-Apartheid South Africa, politician and businessman|
|35.||J. R. R. Tolkien||(1892–1973)||English author, wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; born in Bloemfontein|
|36.||Beyers Naude||(1915–2004)||cleric and anti-apartheid activist|
|40.||Trevor Manuel||(1956–)||draftsman, minister of finance and politician|
|41.||Albert Luthuli||(1898–1967)||cleric, politician and 1960 Nobel Peace Prize winner|
|42.||Robert Sobukwe||(1924–1978)||former political activist and founder of the PAC|
|43.||Tokyo Sexwale||(1953–)||politician and businessman|
|44.||Danny Jordaan||(1951–)||politician and soccer administrator|
|45.||Fatima Meer||(1928–2010)||scientist and political activist|
|46.||Ahmed Kathrada||(1929–2017)||political activist|
|47.||Joe Slovo||(1926–1995)||communist politician|
|48.||Natalie du Toit||(1984–)||disabled olympic swimmer|
|49.||Jomo Sono||(1955–)||soccer coach|
|50.||Francois Pienaar||(1967–)||captain of the Springboks, the winning team in the 1995 Rugby World Cup|
|51.||John Kani||(1943–)||actor, entertainer, writer, and Tony Award Winner|
|52.||Penny Heyns||(1974–)||olympic swimmer|
|53.||Jeremy Mansfield||radio and TV personality|
|54.||Lucas Radebe||(1969–)||former Bafana Bafana and Leeds United soccer captain|
|55.||Mamphela Ramphele||(1947–)||political activist, academic, businesswoman and mother to the son of Steve Biko|
|56.||Cecil Rhodes||(1853–1902)||businessman and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony|
|57.||Albertina Sisulu||(1918–2011)||political activist and wife of Walter Sisulu|
|58.||Aggrey Klaaste||(1940–2004)||journalist and or who advocated Nation Building during the struggle years|
|61.||Zackie Achmat||(1962–)||HIV positive AIDS activist and critic of government AIDS policies|
|62.||Doctor Khumalo||(1967–)||soccer player|
|64.||Bruce Fordyce||(1955–)||ultra-marathon runner|
|65.||Enoch Sontonga||(1873–1905)||teacher, lay-preacher and composer
wrote "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"
|67.||Sol Plaatje||(1877–1932)||journalist and political activist|
|68.||Danie Craven||(1910–1994)||rugby player and administrator|
|69.||Alan Boesak||(1946–)||cleric and politician|
|70.||Felicia Mabuza-Suttle||talk show host, public speaker and businesswoman|
|71.||Yvonne Chaka Chaka||(1965–)||musician|
|72.||"Baby" Jake Matlala||(1962–2013)||boxer and junior flyweight champion|
|73.||Kaizer Motaung||(1944–)||founder of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club|
|74.||Basetsana Kumalo||(1974–)||former Miss South Africa, presenter and businesswoman|
|75.||Antjie Krog||(1952–)||poet, novelist and playwright|
|78.||Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma||(1949-)||Politician and Activist. Jacob Zuma’s Ex wife|
|80.||Nadine Gordimer||(1923–2014)||1991 Nobel Prize-winning author|
|81.||Daniel François Malan||(1874–1959)||former Prime Minister responsible for laying the groundwork for Apartheid|
|82.||Frederik van Zyl Slabbert||(1940–2010)||politician|
|83.||James Barry Munnik Hertzog||(1866–1942)||former Prime Minister|
|84.||Hector Pieterson||(1963–1976)||a young boy whose death has become the symbol of the Soweto uprising of June 1976|
|85.||Sewsunker "Papwa" Sewgolum||(1930–1978)||golfer|
|86.||William Smith||(1939–)||TV teacher and presenter|
|87.||P. W. Botha||(1916–2006)||former prime minister and state president|
|90.||Jody Scheckter||(1950–)||Formula One world champion|
|92.||Mbongeni Ngema||(1954–)||playwright, actor, choreographer and director|
|95.||Mrs Ples||(2 million BC)||Australopithecus africanus; the oldest hominid skull found at Sterkfontein cave|
aka "Dollar Brand"
|97.||Govan Mbeki||(1910–2001)||political activist and father of Thabo Mbeki|
|98.||Jamie Uys||(1921–1996)||film director|
|99.||Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef||(1886–1957)||artist|