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Time to unite SA, there’s a war coming!

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

We’ve restructured The Wrap. We’re prioritising the news you really need to know, along with what it means for you. Our goal is to leave you informed and empowered. 💪🏽 Drop us a comment and let us know if it works for you.

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  1. NEW: Editorial – It’s time to unite SA, there’s a war coming 🦸🏽
  2. The big story: The court’s ruling on lockdown and what it means for you 🧑🏽‍⚖️
  3. NEW: Anything but Covid-19 news 🏅

Plus other news you need to know, our international round-up and a new weekly dose of humour. 😅

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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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. EDITORIAL: TIME TO UNIFY

In today’s video, we share the story of a nurse who died at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic in our country. There are many more. Others, meanwhile, are fighting for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Our national conversation has been fixated on the minutiae of often incomprehensible lockdown regulations. South Africa’s coronavirus crisis has been dominated by anger over bans of cigarettes, open-toed shoe sales and rotisserie chicken.

This is not the debate the country should be having as we prepare for our peak of infections and the true horror of the pandemic at its worst – on our lives and economy.

The real story here is our actual readiness to deal with this pandemic.

There are question marks over how many ventilators, critical care beds and PPEs are available in our country. And our current compliance measures aren’t shaped in a way that the majority of people can actually adhere to, as outlined in a new paper by economist Professor Miriam Altman.

This is where our attention should be. Instead, most South Africans have fractured along the usual lines of class, race, and party alliance, bickering over the details.

South Africa seems to love spectacle: inflated details and alarmist headlines. It ends up dividing us even more.

If we are going to get through this pandemic as best we can, we need unity of purpose – not quibbles over how lockdown has suspended the routines of our usual daily life. We must put all our attention towards flattening the curve, and holding officials to account over the things that really matter.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2.THE BIG STORY: LOCKDOWN RULING FALLS FLAT

You’ve probably heard about the damning judgment on lockdown regulations. It declared almost all the rules issued by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, under the Disaster Management Act, as “invalid and unconstitutional”.

But, most legal experts agree that the ruling itself has unfortunately turned out to be as unclear as the regulations it was pronouncing on.

The case was brought by the relatively unknown “Liberty Fighters Network”, who state on their website that they fight on behalf of the economically oppressed against a “corrupt legal system”. Judge Norman Davis handed down the ruling at the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday.

Experts say the judgment has so many flaws, it’s likely to be overturned by the government appeal. This is despite the fact that the case tackles some very important constitutional issues. Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said the judgment should have been more “clear, concise, accurate, professionally reasoned and persuasive”. Ouch. Others, such as law firm ENSAfrica and constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos, agree.

While many of us feel that quite a few of the lockdown regulations don’t pass the test of rationality, the weakness of the court ruling has failed to make that link clear enough.

What does this mean for me?

Long story short, a bunch of legalese means you STILL need to obey the lockdown Level 3 rules. So: no cigarettes, salons, gyms and entertainment centres, and we’re still expected to stay home as much as possible. ☝🏽

What’s next?

The Minister will appeal and probably win, as we said. Government has also extended the national State of Disaster, as a declaration can last for a maximum of 90 days under the Act, and would have expired on June 15. This will be followed by month-to-month extensions, which is… a little concerning.

On the other hand, this is a good example of our legal system working.

While this legal challenge is likely to fall flat, De Vos states there are several others in the works, on concerns such as:
▪️ The constitutionality of sections of the Disaster Management Act
▪️ The delegation of vast powers to the Dlamini-Zuma, in terms of the Act, and
▪️ The murky role of the National Command Council

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. OTHER NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW

🔹 Covid-19 across the country

We are now in the thick of things when it comes to Covid-19. The wait is over and the grim reality is here, and set to get worse in the next few weeks. Brace yourselves.

This week, South Africa reported its highest ever daily jump of new cases – 3 267 on Thursday. The sudden increase is thanks to weeks of testing backlogs being cleared but… getting the results so late is not really worth it. The patient is often no longer infectious. There’s not much we can do about it, in terms of interventions that prevent new infections.

As we said last week, backlogs are due in part to a global shortage of test kits. One solution mooted by Professor Madhi is to discard tests that have not been processed within 48 hours, together with a more focused testing approach. The Western Cape is already switching to testing high-risk individuals only, in order to make better use of scarce resources.

The province, the worst hit with 30 379 cases, is foreshadowing where the rest of the country will soon be. The Eastern Cape could reach that point in two weeks. Gauteng, with over 5 500 cases now, will look a lot like the Western Cape in four weeks, according to Professor Shabir Madhi, who chairs one of the committees in the Ministerial Advisory Committee. Cases in the Western Cape will be three times worse than what they are now.

Several experts have said we need to move to the community management part of the response. This means engaging deeply with communities to get buy-in for containment strategies that are workable in crowded settlements, and on public transport.

🔹 Wits researcher wins international award

Wits researcher Michael Lucas has won a top innovation award from the International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control in Switzerland, for developing an Antimicrobial Coating Technology. This self-sanitising surface will strengthen infection control in medical facilities. Another example of home-grown innovation we can be proud of.

🔹 Shopping app entrepreneur goes big

Johannesburg-based start up and grocery delivery service, Zulzi, is growing in popularity and securing millions of rands in investment amid social distancing and lockdown. The e-commerce service does your shopping, and delivers your groceries to your doorstep, something it started long before lockdown came around. This local business is planning to use over R40 million in funding to expand its services to more middle-to-lower income consumers.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. ANYTHING BUT COVID-19 NEWS

🔸 Public Protector is coming for Mashaba

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is expected to release her findings on the investigation into Herman Mashaba, and his alleged wrongdoing during his tenure as Mayor of Johannesburg. The investigation comes as Mashaba releases his own book “The Accidental Mayor”, uncovering corruption committed by the ANC-run administration before his tenure in 2016. Get the popcorn.

🔸 SpaceX rocket launch a success

For the first time in history, two humans travelled to the International Space Station on a commercial craft. Developed by SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer founded by Elon Musk, the “Crew Dragon” had a successful landing on the International Space Station 19 hours after its launch. This astronomical milestone comes 18 years after Musk founded SpaceX.

🔸 Is plausible deniability for social media giants fair?

We noted last week that US President Donald Trump started a legal process that would in effect force social media platforms to take responsibility for what’s published by users on their platforms. Read: Look the other way when it comes to misinformation and hate speech. While Trump’s move was dubiously motivated given his ongoing spat with Twitter, it raises a larger question. As tech columnist Toby Shapshak noted: “Facebook, Twitter, Google and Youtube have hidden behind this shield for too long. Watch how quickly their efforts to get rid of racism, misogyny, hate speech, anti-Semitism and the rest of the craziness will suddenly proceed when they are liable.”

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 5. INTERNATIONAL ROUND-UP

▪️ Black Lives Matter

We kick off the international update with the mass protests across every state of the USA. Over 100 American cities have seen violent clashes with police in response to the alleged killing of Geroge Floyd by cop Derek Chauvin a fortnight ago.

Not only do many African Americans still live in areas with the worst schools, the worst health care and the worst jobs, but Floyd’s harrowing death reinforces the reality that different rules apply when it comes to the civil rights of black people.

While this incident has opened deep wounds around racial inequality in US society, it also puts a spotlight on specific problems on the country’s policing system. For a developed country, America is a dangerous place. 50 officers lose their lives in the course of duty every year, policing a nation awash with guns and ammunition. Research shows American police have tried to answer violence with violence, resulting in cops that are heavily armed and trigger happy across the country. The results? Around 1 000 people die at the hands of police in the US every year.

The Obama administration tried to bring critical reforms to this sector, amounting to about 18 000 law enforcement agencies across America. But the fight for change was met by fierce opposition by the nation’s notoriously powerful gun lobby and other interest groups. Donald Trump has spent his first term undoing a lot of that work on police reform.

So what you see now is in many ways what America has seen before – violent clashes between citizens and police, amid calls for a more humane and just society.

Of course, there are many parallels for South Africa. One study found our police to be twice as deadly as those in the US. Look out for our video this week exploring those parallels.

▪️ Social media vs. social justice?

Hundreds of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to do nothing in response to controversial social media posts from Trump himself over the protests. This while Twitter’s leadership made the decision to start labelling Trump’s tweets for glorifying violence or spreading false information, Facebook has said it doesn’t want to play judge to what people say online.

▪️ Sweden’s failed experiment

While Sweden’s authorities were very careful not to bandy about the phrase “herd immunity”, that was the great hope for one of the few countries that decided not to implement a lockdown. The New York Times did a study on immunity, or the development of antibodies, in hard-hit cities globally. Sweden’s capital, Stockholm came in at a paltry 7.3% of their population. 60% is the minimum estimated population size that needs to carry antibodies for herd immunity to kick in. None of the cities studied were anywhere near that – with New York being the highest at 19.9% immunity.

Meanwhile, according to John Hopkins University’s data tracker today, Sweden’s fatality rate is a whopping 10.8%. Just across the border, their neighbour Norway implemented lockdown protocol and had a death rate of 4.48%. South Africa? We so far have just 1.57%. Experts say our younger population, hard lockdown and delayed flu season have all played a role.

▪️ Israel’s complex coalition

If you thought South Africa was the only place with a bloated cabinet, Israel’s new coalition government just announced a whopping 34 ministries will govern its country of only 10 million people. Benjamin Netanyahu is sharing power with Benny Ganz, and as part of a complicated coalition government including 8 political parties, many positions are needed to keep people happy.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ NOT THE NEWS

We introduced our satirical section, Not The News, on our website a while back. Now, we’ll be giving you occasional tasters of it in your Weekly Wrap. 😜

One from our archives reads: “Cele calls for testing to be extended to cover illicit kissing”. Little did we know, kissing would ACTUALLY be banned by Cele at a briefing a month later!

Favourite quote (from the satirical piece… that is):

“Why during the lockdown must DSTV continue to show romantic films, where people are shown always together and getting ready for the bedroom? The time for hanky-panky is over. I’d much prefer if movies where people are lost or not with others are shown. Home Alone 2? This is what our people should be watching.”

Read it on our “Not the news” section on explain.co.za.

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

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