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The gospel of Ramaphosa: Level 3

Hi there and welcome to The Wrap: Simple news updates for busy people, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 💁🏽‍♀

Just one more day and you can exercise whenever you want AND buy alcohol! We explain the spike in Covid-19 number, the debate over schools and churches opening, and point out where the system IS working.

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EMOJI NEWS INDICATOR

Covid-19 update: The eve of level 3 🔓

  1. The for and against on churches opening – plus our take ⛪
  2. Schools: Will they or won’t they open tomorrow? 🧑🏽‍🏫
  3. The United States erupts in riots and other global news 👮🏽💥

And for your weekly dose of inspiration: How the wheels of justice continue to turn 🧑🏽‍⚖️

So, let’s dive in:

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🔊 _For the audio version of The Wrap, go here


🗞 For text, keep scrolling, or check out our PDF attachment

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ COVID-19 UPDATE 🔓

Latest numbers: 31 May 2020

🔸 701 883 tests conducted
🔸 30 967 confirmed positive
🔸16 116 recoveries
🔸14 208 active cases
🔸 643 deaths

Our curve is starting to tilt steeply upwards as expected, as the lockdown only delayed the inevitable. Over 1 800 new cases were reported on Friday alone – the highest daily increase South Africa has yet seen. Saturday was similarly grim. This comes as SA prepares to enter level 3 of the lockdown. It’s worth noting however that this is according to the plan as outlined by Dr Abdool Karim, who is leading the government’s expert advisory committee on Covid-19. So we shouldn’t panic as the numbers start sounding scarier and scarier – we’re basically seeing what happened in the US and parts of Europe play out here on a delayed timeline, with the difference that we had more time to prepare.

And the numbers will keep climbing. Particularly since SA is reportedly facing a Covid-19 testing backlog. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said there were at least 96 000 unprocessed specimens awaiting Covid-19 testing, due to a shortage of testing kits here and around the world.

Cape Town remains the epicentre of the virus in South Africa and accounts for nearly 10% of all cases in the whole of Africa. To find out why cases in Cape Town have been skyrocketing, check out our explainer video.

The Eastern Cape has also come under the spotlight for its high number of cases and how it has handled the pandemic so far. In April, the health minister sent a team to assist with tracing, screening and testing, particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay – now also declared a hotspot.

In a few hours time, we’ll be entering level 3 of the lockdown. A lot is about to change but some things will still stay the same. In case you missed the lowdown on what is and isn’t allowed, check out our infographic attached to this update.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. THE BIG STORY: CHURCHES RE-OPEN ⛪

“Designated places of worship” are allowed to re-open from Monday, under lockdown level 3 rules, with 50 or fewer people allowed to gather. President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement earlier this week after consulting religious leaders. The announcement sparked an outcry with many churchgoers themselves worrying the move will see Covid-19 infections rise. After all, a church gathering was responsible for an early spike in cases in the Free State. Here’s the for and against, plus our take:

For:

▪️ Faith-based communities have provided crucial support on issues such as homelessness and hunger during the lockdown, Daily Maverick pointed out. But religious staffers could only do so much as they were not declared “essential workers”. This changes under level 3.
▪️ Ramaphosa noted faith leaders provide essential spiritual comfort during extremely stressful times such as the current pandemic – he’s not wrong.
▪️ Faith leaders can help spread important Covid-19 information to their followers
▪️ Churches and other faith-based organisations are suffering financially without collection plate offerings, which limits the work they can do.

Against:

▪️ Churches in crowded, high-risk areas like townships don’t always have the capacity to enforce the stringent regulations they would have to adhere to if they wish to re-open.
▪️ Some churches have thousands of congregants. It’s unclear how the 50 worshippers will be chosen and the rest turned away without causing chaos and risking further exposure.
▪️ Predatory religious leaders will financially exploit the poor further to extract offerings.
▪️ Major church groups like the ZCC have opposed gatherings. ▪️Many religious communities are already accepting digital offerings, making the need to gather less urgent.
▪️ Many sectors are struggling financially – not just churches.
▪️ The massive effort required for faith leaders to be compliant would be better spent on the excellent work already being done to help vulnerable communities.
▪️ Churches and other buildings could be better used as quarantine sites, test spaces or homeless shelters – work faith communities are already doing.

Our take:

Those against have it, in our view. Church leaders can be made essential workers without having to allow congregating. The decision to allow church gatherings, even with stringent measures in place, is a step backwards in our fight to flatten the curve, particularly given how townships are flaring up as hotspots. Our advice? #WaitToCelebrate – an awesome initiative by a number of church leaders committed to NOT gather. See more at waittocelebrate.org.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. SOME SCHOOLS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS 🧑🏽‍🏫

Certain school grades were MEANT to open tomorrow, but that decision is now going down to the line.

Last night, several parties issued a joint statement to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, asking her reconsider allowing schools to open grades 7 and 12 from June 1 if they wish to do so. Motshekga is expected to announce her final decision tomorrow morning, so maybe hold off on packing those lunch boxes for now.

Concerned parties:

About five teacher unions have intervened, along with school governing bodies, the South African Human Rights Commission and even ex-DA leader Mmusi Maimaine – now the leader of One South Africa Movement. The SAHRC and Maimaine said they will go to court to stop schools from re-opening.

Concerns:

▪️ The dominant argument is that schools are just not ready to open and safety is not guaranteed.
▪️ Delivery of water tanks and mobile classes in impoverished areas apparently could not be done due to level 4 restrictions.
▪️ The unions and the school governing body associations say there is a shortage of masks for both teachers and students in eight provinces.
▪️ They add allowing schools that are ready to open, risks “leaving behind most of the disadvantaged schools in our country”.
▪️ Over 30 staff members in at least 32 schools in the Western Cape have already tested positive for Covid-19.

The Sunday Times is reporting that Motshekga herself told five unions that “the system is not completely ready”, and that some provinces were “really far behind” in terms of their readiness to re-open schools.

South Africa’s inequality is once again under the spotlight. Schools without basic resources such as water and sanitation facilities risk spreading the virus. These are the same schools and learners that can’t afford online teaching and technology. Under the circumstances, they are most likely to lose out.

Independent schools have the advantage – with sufficient resources, technology and facilities to ensure regulations and social distancing measures are met.

Our take:

We’d hate to be in Motshekga’s shoes on this one. On one hand, the opposition DA and much of the business community is screaming for the economy to open and pupils to go back to school. On the other hand, the DA’s own former leader is arguing for the opposite, along with a group of very important stakeholders. It’s a delicate balance between continuing the school year and making up for lost time AND protecting the lives of the many vulnerable pupils who have no other choice but to return. We say delay the opening and do it right, instead of rushing now and regretting it later.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3.US RIOTS AND OTHER GLOBAL NEWS 👮🏽💥

US:

Even with a global pandemic changing the very nature of our lives, some things remain depressingly the same. This includes police brutality against African Americans. The US exploded in protests after an unarmed George Floyd, 46, was killed when four police officers apprehended him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.

What followed isn’t exactly clear but Floyd was held to the ground by three policemen with one officer – Derek Chauvin – pinning his neck down with his knee.

Floyd died on the scene after being held like this for more than eight minutes.

Protests erupted across Minneapolis and in major cities across America, with some areas seeing looting and fires.

But Trump’s response to protesters turning violent was hardly edifying. He tweeted he’ll send in the National Guard because “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. In an unprecedented move, Twitter hid the tweet behind a message that said it “violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.” Users could still click through and view the full unedited tweet.

This week also saw Twitter start appending fact checks to Trump’s most misinformative tweets. This is massive, coming from the notoriously hands-off social network giant. 😯 We hope Facebook and Google will follow suit, as misinformation gets worse and worse, particularly from populist leaders like Trump.

Naturally there has been a backlash from the White House, which retweeted the initial offensive post from its official account. Trump also signed an executive order seeking to strip social media companies like Twitter of legal immunity for the content they carry. The move was slammed by critics as a legally dubious act of political revenge.

Hong Kong:

As we explained last week, the Chinese Communist Party’s recently unveiled plans to assert more control over the semi-autonomous Hong Kong with new – and immensely controversial – national security laws.

We wondered if this would re-ignite last year’s wave of protests in the city, despite the restrictions of Covid-19. It looks like it did. Hong Kong riot police fired pepper powder pellets at demonstrators during protests over the proposed laws on Wednesday. We could be seeing the beginning of a new wave of protests.

Brazil:

Brazil has the second-highest number of total and active Covid-19 infections in the world, and has recorded nearly 30 000 deaths. This is after the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro, dubbed “Trump of the Tropics”, made sure there was no meaningful national lockdown in South America’s biggest nation.

INSPIRATION AND SOLUTIONS💫

As always, we want to remind you how the wheels of justice continue to turn, long after the outrage has passed out of the headlines. It isn’t true that corrupt officials always get away with it.

Dudu Myeni

This week, the high court in Pretoria declared former South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni a delinquent director – for life!

Myeni used to be a pretty big deal. She was appointed non-executive director of SAA’s board in 2009 and then became acting chairperson in 2012, and chair in 2016 until 2017. She was also one of the people responsible for the demise of a pretty important deal between SAA and Emirates. The deal could have saved SAA from future financial woes or help strengthen its finances. According to presiding Judge Ronel Tolmay, Myeni “was a director gone rogue” – basically she didn’t care much for the company she was heading. Myeni was also a close ally of President Jacob Zuma (enough said). Gurl bye. 🚶🏽‍♀️

This deal and a number of other cases are under investigation. But the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and the South African Airways Pilots Association, who took the matter to court in the first place, said they wanted to see her held accountable. This ruling is a victory for them and for justice.

Glenda Gray

The board of the Medical Research Council (MRC) has dropped its investigation into its president, Professor Glenda Gray, after the president himself emphasised that scientists like her have freedom of speech, and that robust debate is welcome. A brouhaha erupted after Gray, who is part of a 51-body advisory committee to government, called the lockdown nonsensical and unscientific in an interview with News24. She also made a mistake regarding malnutrition figures at a hospital. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize showed leadership by responding calmly, with facts, while welcoming debate. But his acting director-general, Dr Anban Pillay, crossed the line by requesting an investigation by the MRC. The whole matter has thankfully slunk away from the headlines, leaving academic and scientific freedom intact, and visibly bolstered.

Collins Khosa

In a case of justice not particularly well served, the family of the late Collins Khosa, who was allegedly killed by the SANDF in April, are not accepting the latest finding from the SANDF inquiry that cleared soldiers of causing Khosa’s death.

Background: Collins Khosa was allegedly in his house in Alexandra when members of the defence force stormed in after seeing half a glass of beer outside his home. They beat him up, using so much force that he died. The family took the matter to court where Judge Hans Fabricus ruled that SANDF, SAPS and JMPD members who were present at the scene should be suspended and authorities must complete the investigation into Khosa’s killing.

The defence force’s investigation – into the defence force – found that the soldiers were not responsible for Khosa’s death as their actions – which, according to their statement, were just ‘
“slaps and claps” – were not in line with the injuries Khosa sustained. But his family and their legal team are not buying it.

This was not the first death at the hands of an SANDF member – a number of other cases are pending.

To read more on what happened to Khosa, read our explainer here.

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🔹 We’re awaiting an announcement from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on the fate of schools, which were meant to re-open tomorrow.

🔹 Tomorrow also marks the start of level 3 lockdown, and more announcements on regulations can be expected from various departments.

That’s it from us at The Wrap, a product of https://www.explain.co.za/ – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀

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Till next time, goodbye from Verashni, Nickolaus and Aarti ✌🏽