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Covid corruption: ANC not getting off lightly this time

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

Happy Women’s Month to all our subscribers. Plus we’d like to announce a new member to the explain.co.za team: talented journalist Sarah Evans, formerly of News24 and the Mail & Guardian, is joining us as editor. We’re excited to have her onboard!

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🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. THE BIG STORY: ANGER AGAINST THE ANC MOUNTS 🧐

As we’ve said before in this newsletter, SA dodged a bullet when Cyril Ramaphosa won the ANC presidency. But while we avoided full-scale state capture — where entire government departments are corrupted at the top — it seems we are back to the garden-variety corruption that has plagued our country for so long. Every day brings new stories of Covid-related contracts awarded to a bigwig’s pal — including the husband of the president’s own spokesperson, Khusela Diko.

This time though, South Africans aren’t just seeing through the spin, they’re properly gatvol, and aren’t being skaam about letting their leaders know about it. It also didn’t help that when a who’s who of the ANC gathered in huge numbers for ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni’s funeral, there was almost zero social distancing — while army soldiers stood around smoking cigarettes without being asked for receipts by Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Anger with the ANC over tender corruption is now off the charts – inside and outside the party. Here’s the thing: we’re not the naive country we were before the Guptas landed. Now we know if we make enough noise, we can see action. 💪🏽 And this time the ANC itself is also spooked. It ran a (failed) social media campaign on Friday trying to whip up support as accusations against the party grew on Twitter and elsewhere. The hashtag #ANCFriday sank like an LED balloon, and was quickly drowned out by the hashtag #VoetsekANC.

At a meeting of its top leadership meeting this past weekend, the ANC even floated the idea that party corruption should be investigated by former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, according to leaks in the Sunday papers. Before we could get too excited, though, the idea went up in smoke thanks to the usual factional stalemate in the governing party – which is really the crux of the ANC’s problem. Meanwhile, the party’s integrity commission is reportedly angry at being continually ignored, according to a leaked memo.

Our take:
We’ve had Ramaphosa’s back, so far. But the deep-seated corruption and issues in the party he governs is not something we can ignore, and his tendency towards compromises is a problem. Given the crisis we’re living through, there just isn’t time for waffling about. But we’re also not holding our breath waiting for other political parties to effectively hold the ANC to account: As Justice Malala argued in his latest column in the Financial Mail, we need a strong opposition, and fast!

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. NEWS BRIEFS

▪️ WTF, IMF?

South Africa has joined 78 other countries in accepting a $4.3-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help the country weather the Covid-19 storm. As we’ve said previously, this is a big deal for our country, which has long been allergic to the idea of help from the IMF. News of the loan has been met with cynicism on both the left AND the right of the political spectrum (think: socialists vs capitalists). Here’s what the two sides are saying:

The left:
Fears that the loan will give the government a handy excuse to switch to austerity mode and strangle the economy in the process, kind of like what happened to Greece after the global economic crisis. “Austerity,” it turns out, is code for cuts, cuts and more cuts to government spending, affecting education, health, social services and a whole lot more.)

At first we thought this particular Covid-related IMF loan didn’t come with too many strings attached, but it turns out that the government made promises to the IMF about things it would do, like shackling itself to a so-called “debt ceiling”. This would set a limit to how much SA can borrow, and we have to stick to it no matter what. Sounds like a good, responsible idea in theory, right? But analysts like Dick Forslund from the Alternative Information and Development Centre think the government SHOULD be allowed to borrow more money during a crisis so that by spending more it can jumpstart the economy again.

The right:
Sees the loan as inevitable given SA’s financial position but it’s super anxious that the government won’t follow through on the reforms the IMF usually requires, like reining in spending and state salaries, and already considers it a foregone conclusion that the money will be plundered by politically connected tender pirates.

Corruption is on everybody’s minds thanks to the Covid-19 stuff (see The Big Story above), and naysayers are convinced the government is incapable of spending the money prudently, anyway. Some analysts say that when loans like this are granted, they are rarely managed well, and there are fears that the government will not have the political will (or the political power) to cut the public sector wage bill.

Our take:
Whether you lean more to the left or right of the debate, this much is clear: transparency is urgently needed to make sure the money is spent properly, and those doing the lending AND the borrowing must lay all their cards on the table instead of building collapsable houses out of them.

▪️ Drama at the Gigabas

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, right? Norma Gigaba, the wife of former finance minister Malusi Gigaba is facing charges of assault and malicious damage to property — after doing some damage to his car. We wouldn’t deign to give any credence to any rumours that the honourable former minister has acted somewhat dishonourably in his marriage. We deal only in facts, which here include that he laid charges against her, which led to a night in prison for his dearly beloved. ONLY THEN did he try to backtrack and deal with it personally, but it seems it was too late for that: law enforcement are super invested in this case now for some reason, and have linked it — and Norma — to unrelated previous claims from Malusi Gigaba that hitmen had been hired to assassinate him 😳. Boy, does he live a dramatic life. So now the Hawks are investigating whether the domestic dispute had anything to do with the threats against his life. You read that right: THE HAWKS. We’re also wondering how a unit set up to investigate grand corruption and serious financial crimes suddenly has the time, resources and inclination to poke around in Gigaba’s marital affairs. Norma made a brief appearance in court on Monday and is expected to challenge the charges in the high court.

▪️ Is Nikon under the influence?

Camera brand Nikon’s latest marketing campaign bombed big time this week, with its attempt to showcase its latest camera in an ambassador campaign featuring a host of (supposedly) glamorous South African snap-happy influencers … which included just one black person. The rest were all white. The campaign has been called everything from tone deaf to downright racist. We’d love to know which country the person who came up with the disastrous campaign lives in. As well known photographer Victor Dlamini put it on Twitter: “It’s as if @Nikon_SA popped into the neighborhood mall in Centurion & grabbed random white shoppers to make this testimonial video.”

▪️ SA’s still doing a heck of a lot of crime

Our latest crime stats came out on Friday, covering the 2019/20 year. Our overall crime levels have dropped compared to previous years according to the latest crime stats, but the number of contact crimes, such as murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault and robbery are still high. Unsurprisingly sexual offences, discovered as a result of police action, increased by 20.5%.

We’ve previously explained what our police can do to make our country safer. One of the biggest and simplest tips was… to release stats more often and more promptly. We’re looking into the past with these annual crime stats, instead of using real-time trends to inform responsive policing. Watch the video here: https://www.explain.co.za/2020/06/17/black-lives-matter-in-south-africa-too/

▪️ The People’s Dialogue is gaining steam

Is Herman Mashaba’s party becoming a thing?? It’s certaining growing. Former Tshwane DA leader Abel Tau is the latest biggish name to jump ship from Mashaba’s previous political pontoon. In the long ago before times of last year, Mashaba flew the DA’s colours as mayor of Johannesburg. But he quit the mayorship and the party in October 2019 when former DA leader Helen Zille bulldozed her way back into party leadership, and started his own political outfit, The People’s Dialogue. At the time, Mashaba cited the rise of “right-wing elements” in the party. His new fellow Dialoguer Abel Tau is of a similar mind, telling City Press that the DA is no longer the party he joined in 2016, but rather a playground for federal chair Zille to enforce her own agenda, which was most often anti-black.“We’re having a Helen Zille DA problem, and it’s not about to change anytime soon,” said Tau. In March, DA CEO Paul Boughey and former Joburg chairperson and caucus leader Funzela Ngobeni also joined the People’s Dialogue. The party is due to launch formally — and virtually — on August 29. Would you consider voting for them?

▪️ One person, one vote… in one poll?

Speaking of elections, the ANC and the EFF have thrown their weight behind a proposal to postpone next year’s local government elections and hold a single poll in 2024, for both national and local government elections. One of the arguments in favour of this is to avoid having parties constantly being in “election mode” every two years, creating instability in the political space. But the DA says there is no need to fix something that is not broken, and says holding local elections between national and provincial ones in the style of the US “mid-terms” provides voters with an opportunity to take stock of parties’ performances. 🤔

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Zimbabwe rises 🇿🇼

ZimbabweanLivesMatter! Security forces are violently cracking down on anti-government protests over corruption and economic hardship in Zimbabwe. Protesters, activists and journalists are being harassed and arrested while businesses have been forced to close as well. The protests have sparked the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter movement and calls for the African Union to intervene are also escalating. We stand with our neighbours and call for stronger action from the AU!

Trump’s TikTok tantrum 🤳🏽

In yet another weird flex, US President Donald Trump wants to ban TikTok in the United States. The rapidly growing social media app has frightened authorities and lawmakers who think it’s being used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, denies any links to the Chinese government, and anyway is talking to Microsoft about a potential buyout. We do wonder if this has anything to do with the legion of K-pop fans who used the platform to tank one of his rallies 👀 😂. TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered hundreds of thousands of tickets for Trump’s Tulsa rally in June as a prank, and then obviously never turned up — leaving the president with egg on his face after his team promised a huge attendance.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. INSPIRATION AND SOLUTIONS 💅🏽

Beyoncé’s latest visual album dropped on Friday and it was everything Africa was hoping for and more. The album, Black is King, was inspired by her work on The Lion King soundtrack last year. When the trailers for her take on the story dropped, people were sceptical, what with all the animal skins and cheesy stereotypical images of this continent of ours. But Black is King has received rave reviews and makes the simple and important move to give the stage to African performers. Beyoncé uses her enormous platform to highlight distinct cultural traditions as well as modern-day lifestyles and ambitions while giving the stage to performers from across the continent. She reimagined the story of Simba the lion as a young black orphan finding his destiny. Goosebumps all around, with gorgeous costumes, set designs and dance sequences, all paying homage to African cultures. South Africa was well represented with local actress Nandi Madida taking on the major role of Nala, Simba’s love interest, and musicians Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly featuring prominently. It’s a welcome soul boost in the midst of an otherwise difficult time.

Week ahead

▫️ Will they or won’t they open schools?? That’s right, we’re STILL waiting for confirmation, but it looks like the government finally gazette the regulations on the (second) closure of public schools this week. As you know, “gazette” is the technical term for giving new laws and rules an official public shout-out after the prez or the minister signs it into effect.

▫️ Pre-Covid news (remember that?) is still ticking along. Once upon a time the newspapers were FULL of the battle between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan, regarding the so-called “rogue Sars unit”. The matter is back in the high court on Thursday and Friday so expect to hear some rumblings about that.

▫️ And lastly, a quick word to the wise: don’t forget to fill up before petrol prices increase by 5 cents a litre on Wednesday!

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, Sarah and Aarti ✌🏽