Today, 16 October 2019, the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) in association media research company, Focal Points, proclaimsZondo Commissionas its 2019 South African Word of the Year. The South African Word of the Year is a term or expression preferred to reflect the passing year in language.

Candidates for word of the year were reviewed by PanSALB and their merits debated, choosing one that captures the philosophy, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year.  

All findings are based on research conducted by Focal Points on factual statistics found within South African media and serve as credible sources.

Through Focal Points, keywords were tracked for the period October 2018 to September 2019. This media data was analysed to determine the prominence of the keywords within the media and to identify the frequency that they were used in credible print, broadcast and online media.


For 2019, the South African Word of the Year was ‘Zondo Commission’ with 30 775 clippings. The judicial commission of inquiry was established to investigate state capture (2017 South African Word of the Year) which implicated many prominent individuals. The Zondo Commission has turned into a boxing ring where politicians sell each other out on alleged scandals.

The second most widely-used keyword for 2019 was ‘Gender-Based Violence’ with 18 973 clippings. The keyword generated a significant amount of coverage in August 2019 and pertained to various events and initiatives that were against gender-based violence, including the #AmINext movement. Coverage of ‘Gender-Based Violence’ reached its peak at over 7 000 clips in August — coinciding with Women’s Month. The keyword’s rise in coverage is indicative of the topic demanding urgent attention from governing authorities in South Africa. Protests, campaigns, and online social media posts fuelled the conversation further — with online coverage accounting for 55% of the total volume.

Finally, the most talked about online topic in 2019 was ‘Amapiano’ with 2 687 clippings. This fresh music genre took South Africa by storm, where deep house and the soulful sounds of the piano collide. ‘Amapiano’ was chosen as contender for SA Word of the Year based on its potential as a term of lasting cultural significance, a talking point amongst many South Africans, rather than a news issue. With steady growth from October 2018 to September 2019, it’s clear that music is an important part of South African culture and is a way for South Africans to refocus their attention on something that is positive; a silver lining in the midst of what was a considerably difficult year for the country.




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