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A win-win solution for growing SA’s economy

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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  • Our take: Whether SA stands or falls depends on us
  • Solutions: A win-win solution for growing the economy
  • The big story: To go to school or not?
  • News in brief: SA hit song goes viral plus racism in cricket
  • International news: Johnny Depp’s hella messy divorce case

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

Let us know what you think of this new delivery time, and how it works for you! 😉

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 the web version here:

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: DEMAND AN ALTERNATIVE FUTURE 🇿🇦

It’s difficult not to feel dismayed as South Africa’s Covid-19 cases and deaths soar, and stories of poor conditions at hospitals multiply. We’ve had one of the harshest lockdowns in the world — and it succeeded in delaying our peak. But over the past week concerns have been voiced in many media outlets that the time was not used wisely. Our national leaders like President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize have led us well, but planning seems to have broken down at the provincial level. This has exposed chronic failures in local governance that Ramaphosa’s reform has not been able to reach. Stories of shocking conditions in Eastern Cape hospitals are extremely concerning, as are those of Gauteng field hospitals that are still not ready to receive patients. The number of cases is high, but thankfully our death rate is very low compared with the rest of the world: 1.38% vs over 4%. Writing about these concerns in the Sunday Times yesterday, former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas struck the right balance between caution and hope. He quoted famous political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who has pointed out that the pandemic has exposed populist leaders and proven the mettle of effective, stable governments. Which one SA falls into depends on us: “This is the moment that civil society, the private sector and the citizenry at large need to awaken and demand an alternative future.” We agree.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. SOLUTIONS: AN ECONOMIC WIN-WIN 🛤️

Last week, hours apart, both the ANC and a coalition of businesses released plans for rebuilding our economy. They’re from the opposite ends of the political spectrum. The ANC, with the more leftist “developmental state model”, which veers towards socialism; and Business for SA’s (B4SA), whose plan was far more detailed. But both plans agreed that in order to drive economic growth, we would need to use South Africans’ savings and retirement funds to finance infrastructure projects.

The idea of using retirement funds to bail out the economy has been controversial. Especially when the idea of “prescribed assets” has been floated. This basically means forcing us to invest part of our retirement in certain assets. (Imagine if that asset was Eskom. 👀)

The consensus now however, is far less intimidating — and voluntary. It involves a change to regulation 28 of the Pensions Fund Act, which controls how much of your retirement funds can be invested in different kinds of assets. The regulation is in place to ensure your money is put into diverse investments: property, equity, etc. However, investing in infrastructure isn’t really allowed for. Changing this will free up money to help drive our economy again. It could be a very lucrative investment for our retirement money: considering that the government’s infrastructure plans include a space hub (yes, outer space) and a whole new city right by Durban. In addition, a focus on infrastructure in general means building and improving schools, clinics and roads and helps us meet developmental goals. And it creates jobs — lots of them — for the low-skilled workers who need them most.

The first in-depth study of unemployment in South Africa, thanks to the pandemic, has been released and it’s chilling. The National Income Dynamics Study: Coronavirus Rapid Mobile — which has possibly the worst acronym ever invented (Nids-Cram, seriously?) estimates that as many as three million jobs may have been lost. And most of those affected are low-income, black earners.

If done right, the change proposed both by the ANC and business — to allow access to funds to drive growth — may be a win-win solution. It’s a big “if”, but you can be sure we and many others will be keeping an eye on that, and keeping you in the loop.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. THE BIG STORY: SCHOOLS TO STAY OPEN 🧑🏽‍🏫

It’s the biggest debate this week: Should schools stay open or should they close as the national peak draws closer?

All five of SA’s teacher unions are unanimous in their support for the immediate closure of schools, but school governing body associations are divided, the Sunday Times reported yesterday, in what amounts to a stand-off between rich and poor,

On one hand, public teacher unions are at the forefront in the call to close schools and re-open in August, when SA is expected to be past the peak. They are concerned about a rise in infections, especially among teachers — more than 20 have died in Gauteng alone.

On the other hand, an alliance made up of private schools; the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools; the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC); and the Anglican Church want schools to stay open.

The SAHRC said that schools needed to be open because:

  • Poor children rely on the school feeding schemes for their daily meal;
  • School is often a sanctuary for many children who otherwise face an increased risk of child abuse and mental health issues, with rising rates of depression and anxiety; and
  • If schools were closed, vast numbers of children would have to stay home alone while their caregivers go to work.

What next?

The grades currently back in school are: R, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12. Grades 3 and 10 returned today.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to make an announcement soon on this ongoing back and forth, and will hopefully find a workable middle ground between the two camps. Citing insider sources, City Press says the department is considering closing schools for two to three weeks in a concession to unions.

Remember though, as a parent, you will still be free to choose whether YOU want to send your kids to school.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. NEWS IN BRIEF 🗞️

▪️ Vaccine hopes soar

Just as we were going to press, word came through that the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University — and being trialled right here in South Africa — has had very good early results, producing antibodies and immune cells that target the virus in human subjects. It’s probably too early to get properly excited, but a little hope sure goes a long way!

▪️ Shorter self-isolation

On Friday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the self-isolation period for Covid-19 has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days — the catch is that this is only if the patient does not have a fever, and that their symptoms are beginning to improve.

▪️ SA song trends worldwide

After being snubbed by the South African Music Awards (better known as the SAMAs) Master KG’s December hit song Jerusalema is getting its revenge — globally. The laid-back house track has got the world dancing to the trending #jerusalemadancechallenge, with dancers across the world doing their version of SA’s famous “bus stop” or Ibhasi dance, you know the one. It’s the co-ordinated square dance we all kick into when Mafikizolo’s Ndihamba Nawe plays at weddings.

▪️ Court orders DBE to provide food to millions of learners

Angie Motshekga must be hanging her head in shame. As if the schools debate wasn’t enough, the basic education minister has been slammed by the high court for stopping the country’s crucial feeding schemes at schools during lockdown. The programme is meant to be providing meals to about nine-million poor learners in South Africa. The department argued that the National School Nutrition Programme was not part of the educational legislation — despite receiving a conditional grant for this very purpose, the Daily Maverick reported. The high court in Pretoria ordered Motshekga to ensure the scheme is properly implemented without delay. (They also noted she had breached her constitutional and statutory duties for failing to do so. Ouch!)

▪️ The lid comes off racism in SA cricket

Remember the uproar we told you about last week over Black Lives Matter and cricket? It’s exposed all kinds of long-running racial wounds in the sport. On Friday, Makhaya Ntini, who in 1998 was the first black African cricketer to play for South Africa, revealed the enormous burden he carried behind his trademark smile all those years. He said he preferred to run between stadiums and hotels where the Proteas were based, instead of taking the Proteas team bus, because of how his teammates avoided him. “You’d watch friends calling each other and then [making] plans right in front of you, and then you’d be skipped,” Ntini said in an interview with the SABC. All sorts of wounds are coming to the fore, and while Cricket South Africa has gone to ground, many cricketers — black and white — are coming forward, saying things need to change.

▪️ Today in the Zondo Commission of Inquiry

Remember when former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi told the Zondo Commission of Inquiry how his company bribed ANC and other officials? One of the most awful examples he gave was of former minister of environmental affairs Nomvula Mokonyane, who he said received Christmas groceries, an Audi A3 for her daughter, and a R50,000 monthly bridge payment. Now her reckoning is here: Mokonyane is in the hot seat at the commission this week. She is being questioned about her relationship with the family of former Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, who died in a mysterious car accident last year. Bosasa has been reported to have paid huge bribes to the state to secure state contracts. Mokonyane concedes that her relationship with the Watson family goes back to the struggle against Apartheid. But she denies receiving any bribes, of course. 🙄

▪️ ICYMI: No more load shedding…for now

Lockdown is looking a little brighter 😉 after Eskom, in a surprise announcement on Thursday, suspended load shedding, saying four generation units had been returned to capacity and that available capacity has risen to the highest this year so far. Let’s hope it lasts.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 5. INTERNATIONAL NEWS

🔹 Tensions escalate between the West and China

Both the UK and the US are upping the ante with China over the latter’s crackdown of freedoms in Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses of its Uighur citizens, who have been photographed being herded handcuffed onto trains. US president Donald Trump signed an executive order ending Hong Kong’s privileged trading status with America, and the UK has excluded Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network, and may suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. China is not taking this kindly, of course. Expect an ongoing diplomatic tit-for-tat. Already, China has announced sanctions against two Republican senators.

🔹 Just how messy can a divorce case get?

VERY, if Hollywood actor’s Johnny Depp court war with his ex, Amber Heard, is anything to go by. Movie franchises they star in could be affected given the fall-out, from the Fantastic Beasts, the Harry Potter spin-offs featuring Depp, to the DCU Aquaman series featuring HeardTA. Other actors like Depp’s former partners Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis are getting dragged into the mudslinging. Or rather… poo-slinging. As USA Today nicely summarises, the trial has so far featured claims from boths sides about: “Trashed rooms. A lopped-off fingertip. A teacup Yorkie dangled out a car window. Translations of Depp’s antique American slang (“haymaker” and “porkie-pies”) for the British judge. And, ickiest of all, human faeces in a bed.” Ew. Legal pundits are also saying the outcome of the case could change how the media may write about domestic violence going forward. Depp is suing the publisher of_ The Sun_, News Group Newspapers, and its editor for describing him as a “wife-beater”.

🔹 Famous civil rights leaders passes on

John Lewis, a famous American civil-rights leader who helped organise the voting-rights march in Selma, Alabama, among others and became a leading liberal voice for decades in the US House of Representatives, died on Friday at the age of 80. Even after more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and injuries, Lewis continued to advocate the philosophy of non-violence. He fought for a better world till the end, fighting against some of Trump’s most harmful policies. And he cared about universal rights: he was arrested twice at the Sudanese embassy demonstrating against genocide in Darfur, and once outside Congress calling for immigration reform. We love our featured photo today, courtesy of the US embassy in South Africa, of Lewis meeting with Nelson Mandela. When Mandela died seven years ago almost to the day, Lewis said: “Through his action in defence of human dignity, his unjust, brutal imprisonment, and his attempts to heal a nation he demonstrated to all of us that we must never become bitter or hostile. He showed us that we each, despite our tribulation, have the power to forgive, that we can be reconciled with the worst offender. When he walked out of prison with grace, dignity and pride, he taught us how to thrive as members of the human family.” We’re sure Mandela would have said the same about him.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ WEEK AHEAD

▫️ The South African Reserve Bank will announce its latest interest rate decision this week. The investment community is expecting yet another cut — making it the fifth for this year. We’ve previously explained what this means in this video, if you need a refresher, check here

▫️ The restaurant industry is expected to stage a massive protest, called the “million seats on the streets” on Wednesday to highlight the impact that lockdown restrictions have had on the industry. Tables and chairs will be used to block roads outside various restaurants between 12pm and 2pm as part of the peaceful demonstration.

▫️ You can also expect more explosive (or not) details coming out of the Zondo Commission, more details on lockdown regulations, and the status of schools.

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 and Aarti and the rest of the explain.co.za team ✌🏽