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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane dominates the news

Hi! ?? Here’s explain.co.za’s latest edition of Verationality – Simple news summaries for busy people ??‍♀️

Format ???
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In a nutshell, the news headlines this week are going to sound a little hysterical but that’s par for the course. Things are a little crazy politically but it mostly because corruption is getting cleaned up – albeit slowly and with a lot of resistance – and a lot of people don’t like that. And in news you DON’T hear often enough, our economy is making a slow comeback! Yay economy!

Busi’s keeping busy ?
The news week ahead is dominated by Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane, who is seemingly engaged in a war against President Cyril Ramaphosa and his allies. Her latest – and most serious – move was Friday’s damning report on Bosasa’s R500k donation to Ramaphosa’s ANC president campaign, which the president is taking on urgent judicial review. Critics of the report note she got the financial facts wrong, overreached her mandate and selectively instructed Ramaphosa to publicise all his donors while not asking other political parties to do so. You’re going to be hearing lots of accusations from various factions jumping on to this explosive fight. Our advice is to stick to Mkhwebane’s written report and Ramaphosa’s 51-page response if you want to make up your own mind on the facts, and to ignore the mud-slinging that’s going to dominate the headlines.

Zuma’s running out of tricks ??‍⚖️
Former president Jacob Zuma’s attempts to play dumb at the state capture inquiry this week didn’t quite work. His talk of spies and attempts on his life didn’t stop the commission seeking his response to serious allegations against him, like interfering with the appointment of key officials to benefit the Gupta family. He threw his toys out the court when things got too detailed – the point when someone who is lying is likely to trip up – and withdrew from testifying. Commission chair Raymond Zondo worked out an agreement to bring him back by giving him access to areas he’ll be questioned on beforehand. It’s a compromise but a smart move to prevent him playing the victim card as usual and storming off.

*Justice!” ??
And if you think justice NEVER happens, in related news, the NPA will consider perjury charges against Zuma for being caught out on a red-faced lie – under oath. In 2016 he claimed former public protector Thuli Madonsela did not interview him ahead of her state capture report. She later dropped the tapes, Kim Kardashian-style, and proved Msholozi was lying.

More rands to you ?
Other big news last week include the 0.25% interest rate cut. If you have bank loans, it means a few extra rands in your pocket. It’s not enough to boost our stagnant economy but it does show the Reserve Bank is doing a good job of focusing on its mandate despite being used as a political football by ANC factions throwing around ideas like nationalisation of the bank and quantitative easing.

Good news! ?
And your good news story of the week: Victoria Yards in Joburg’s east is modeling a gentler approach to city rejuvenation than gentrification: one that brings in money but insists on including the poor into a “wellbeing economy”. It’s a complex project but it’ll restore your hope in humanity. Read it here:

More good news! ???‍♀️
And MORE good news, because frankly, the political news can sometimes seem more important than it actually is: our economy is showing signs of life. PepsiCo, the world’s third-biggest food and drink company, is buying South Africa’s Pioneer Foods Group Ltd – a big vote of faith in our country’s economic prospects. And another big company, Ford, said it will increase its South African workforce by more than 25%, meaning 1200 more jobs! Also, people are shopping more than expected, which means our GDP figures will look a lot better than they did in the horrid first quarter – and we’re probably going to avoid entering a technical recession.

Week ahead?
Coming up this week: This week at the state capture inquiry features the notorious Estina Dairy Farm case, where money meant to empower black farmers was allegedly diverted, in part, to pay for the Gupta family’s lavish Sun City wedding instead. As with much of the other testimony at the commission, you may have heard the details previously thanks to the Gupta Leaks but now we’re hearing it straight from the people actually involved. Again, the blow-by-blow accounts can be tedious so be sure to check in next week when we give you the summary.

It’s going to be another busy week for our Public Protector. The Constitutional Court will decide whether she has to cough up personally for her disastrous handling of a previous report that was overturned in courts, regarding Absa and a banking deal that took place over twenty years ago that had ALREADY been investigated by Judge Denis Davis in 2002.

This seems to be Mkhwebane’s speciality: Earlier this month she also dusted off the “Sars rogue unit” matter, already exhaustively covered in other investigations, and made an adverse finding on that too. On Tuesday the Pretoria high court will hear public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s urgent application to pause the disciplinary action she’s demanding while he seeks to overturn the report entirely. Gordhan, former head of Sars, is a key ally of Ramaphosa and tasked with cleaning up our state owned enterprises, where much of the state capture robbery happened.

Whew! That’s it. That’s a lot of news so if you want anything explained in more detail, drop us a note and we’ll consider it.

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