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With great level 2 freedom comes great responsibility

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 💁🏽‍♀

So, let’s dive in:

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: GREAT FREEDOM, GREAT RESPONSIBILITY ✍🏽

You could almost hear the whole country breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday night, when President Cyril Ramaphosa told us in one of his televised addresses (hilariously dubbed “family meetings” by the Twitterati) that we’re moving to Lockdown Level 2.

After months of having almost no social contact, South Africans will finally be able to visit their families, socialise, drink and smoke… with some (sensible?) restrictions. More on this below.

That’s because South Africa appears to have finally reached its peak in terms of infections, meaning that the number of new infections every day is slowly starting to come down. And with our economy taking serious strain and job losses climbing, it was critical to allow business “as usual” to resume.

So we get to leave the house! Sounds great, right?

Not so fast. Government and experts are warning that a second wave of infections is highly likely if we don’t act responsibly. We know, right. We were told to #flattenthecurve, not realising there’d be more than one curve. 🙄 Covid: the gift that keeps giving.

So, just because some lockdown restrictions have done away, that doesn’t mean the virus has.
Several countries, mainly in Europe, are already experiencing a second wave.

Meanwhile, remember how New Zealand earned its prefect badge for its brilliant response to the pandemic? They managed to reduce their case numbers to zero in double quick time. (Largely thanks to prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who we named as one of our fave leaders recently.)

But now even the Kiwis are on lockdown again after the number of cases started to tick up again, after possibly taking their foot off the brakes too soon. (We still love you Jacinda!)

Spain, too, is seeing infections rise again after initially seeing a drop. There are worries that young people gathering in nightclubs may have led to the new wave. (We like a good party as much as the next person, but seriously, Spain? Nightclubs?)

And France is supposedly taking its second wave seriously by making mask-wearing mandatory… but not everywhere and DEFINITELY not in major tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower. 👀 Would you like some highly infectious virus with that croissant, madame?

You do you, Europe.

So please, SA, let’s not get complacent. The SA medical association says our second wave is expected to take place within the next 8-12 weeks. Wear those masks, keep a safe hollering distance and wash those hands. We can do this!

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: LEVEL 2 EXPLAINED 🔓

Congratulations SA, we’ve unlocked Level 2! Perks include legal cigarettes and alcohol served outside of a teapot.

But how did this happen?

We haven’t seen the pandemic completely overwhelm the health system, as we saw in certain European countries. And we reached our peak sooner than expected. We tend to believe the WORST of ourselves as South Africans, but hey, we managed to get a few things right here.

As BBC’s correspondent for Africa, Andrew Harding, noted: Despite the many miss-steps and mistakes in our lockdown… it worked. 🙌🏽

“For all the miseries I’ve seen here… South Africa is still doing a relatively impressive job at defeating this virus,” he wrote last week. “The upward infection curves are starting to climb back down in most provinces. The death rate appears to have stayed surprisingly low. Heroic medical staff are managing, in a very South African way, to create some order out of chaos.”

He also remarked that the ridiculous mask debate that has raged in countries like the US didn’t happen here. “We’re all wearing our masks here in public. Almost everyone. Almost everywhere. No complicated exemptions. No real argument. It just feels like basic common sense.”

South Africa’s hospitals are not filling up as quickly as we feared (there are actually extra beds available!). This means our health system can handle the pandemic better than before – even with the terrible challenges, and the troubling state of some of our hospitals – as we’ve seen in media reports.

So we should be proud. Even with all the awful things that have gone wrong, and the many mistakes that the government has made. As a society… we’re getting there.

Meanwhile, In case you missed it, here’s what you CAN do… and what you still can’t do.

New regulations were gazetted on Monday, meaning these are now law… and we won’t have any ministers contradicting Ramaphosa this time. (Cough, NDZ, cough).

What’s allowed?

▪️ You can travel between provinces.
▪️ You can visit family and friends in small groups but only in groups of ten.
▪️ Restaurants and bars can operate with no more than 50 people at a time. Nightclubs are still closed.
▪️ Guesthouses and BnBs are open but only 50 people are allowed at one establishment at a time. AirBnBs can also open.
▪️ Alcohol and cigarettes may be sold. You can only buy alcohol at a bottle store from 9am-5pm from Monday to Thursday, but you can drink at a restaurant or bar any day of the week until 10pm.
▪️ Gyms will reopen but only 50 people will be allowed to work off their lockdown boeps at a time.
▪️ Parks, beaches and nature reserves are open.
▪️ Concerts and entertainment venues can open, but only 50 people at a time are allowed in.

What’s not allowed?

▪️ You can’t go outside without a mask.
▪️ No international travel.
▪️ No gatherings of more than 50 people, including funerals and religious events.
▪️ No spectators at sporting events.
▪️ No leaving your home between 10pm and 4am.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3.NEWS BRIEFS 📑

🔸 Marikana anniversary

We still #RememberMarikana: Eight years ago, 34 striking mine workers were shot down by police during the Marikana Massacre. We mourn the fact that there has been no real justice for the families of those workers, or for those of the ten people who died in the days leading up to the shootings, on August 16 2012. This includes two police officers and two security guards.

But there’s something to be said here for our refusal to forget as a society. In 2018 superstar Indian author Arundhati Roy visited South Africa, and happened to be speaking in Joburg on the anniversary of the massacre. References to the massacre peppered the discussion, given the timing. She pointed out that we are lucky that the South African media even reports on those mine-sanctioned murders because in India, massacres happen annually, sometimes twice a year, but the press is silent because they are owned by the mines, according to publication Africa is a Country.

It says something about us. So, even though the Farlam Commission into the massacre didn’t lead to any arrests, we still demand they happen.

Thankfully, civil society organisations like the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA and others are doing their bit to help the survivors and the families who lost their loved ones. They’re also keeping the pressure on the authorities to do something about the culprits evading justice.

🔸 Dagga danger: Grow directly to jail

While we were all carrying on with the business of, you know, trying not to get infected by an incurable and deadly disease, some bright spark in cabinet quietly signed off on a new bill on the use of dagga. It says you can go to jail for up to FIFTEEN years if you have more than 1 kilogram of cannabis, or nine flowering plants, in your possession.

It’s highly unlikely to get passed into law – especially considering they may have to start with arresting our finance minister first. 😆 Tito Mboweni often treats his Twitter followers to live updates of the giant cannabis plant he says he found growing on his Magoebaskloof farm, and it seems to have sprouted a couple of babies. As he tweeted earlier this year in his usual tongue-in-cheek style: “Legalizing this thing = more tax revenue. I need more tax (money) urgently!! Radical Economic Transformation!!” 🤣

🔸 Kanye & Jared, sitting in a tree, T-R-U-M-P-I-N-G

Is he or isn’t he? Rapper Kanye West insists he’s still running for US president, although given how irrational his behaviour has been, we don’t know what to believe anymore.

But this week it emerged that Ye had indeed seen the inside of the White House recently – to meet with Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. That’s right: Kanye, who presumably would be running against Trump, apparently met with Kushner to talk policy. 😯

Apparently Mr Kardashian has some good ideas about where the country should be headed, a White House aide told Al Jazeera. If his previous comments are anything to go by, we’d beg to differ. (He believes a coronavirus vaccine would be “the mark of the beast” and, according to Forbes magazine, he’s never voted in his life.)

Kanye has been in and out of the US presidential race for over a month now, making ever more bizarre statements. His wife, Kim Kardashian West, has said the rapper suffers from bipolar disorder, so while it’s easy to lampoon him, Ye’s strange behaviour is actually no laughing matter. We do hope he gets the help he needs… before taking on any more “policy” discussions in or out of the White House.

🔸 Keeping up with Eskom

There has been some confusion around Eskom’s planned power outages. (Shocking, right?) The power utility reintroduced load-shedding last week but backtracked on its decision a day later saying the pressure on the generation system has eased, so no loadshedding was to be expected on the weekend. On Monday morning, however, some areas like Soweto and Ivory Park in Joburg woke up without any electricity. Le sigh. 🥴

Now Eskom is back on the warning wagon, telling us the system is once again “constrained” for various “reasons”, so maybe don’t pack away those rechargeables and candles just yet. We’ve been here before, and we’ll be here again, but as upstanding pillars of our communities let’s do our bit to reduce our power consumption.

That said, if you’re totally over keeping up with Eskom and its troubles, you can explore other power options! Check out our video explainer here.

🔸 ISIS members infiltrate Mozambique

Islamic extremists have once again infiltrated Mozambique 😲. This time at Mocímboa da Praia, a port in the far north of the country, so it’s not too close to our border but… it’s chilling. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands are fleeing the region, which means a new humanitarian crisis is very much on the cards. The country’s troops have now taken position around the port and The Guardian is reporting that South Africa is considering sending in troops to reinforce Mozambique’s military response.

🔸 Big trouble in little paradise

Two weeks ago, the pristine blue waters around Mauritius turned black after a Japanese carrier ran aground on a coral reef, spilling about 1,000 tonnes of oil.

An international team raced to remove the remaining 3,000 tonnes of fuel in the ship’s tanks before it broke in two and spilled more oil into the water. They were largely successful, thankfully.

Even so, the ecological damage from the initial spill is horrendous – as are the implications for the island country’s tourism-driven economy, food security and health. Countries like France and India have sent in military relief efforts, and thousands of Mauritians have volunteered for the cleanup effort, even collecting straw from fields and filling sacks to make barriers against the oil.

🔸 Africa’s first electric bus factory

Could this be the African answer to pollution and congestion in the continent’s busiest cities?
Electric buses will soon become the in-thing in the over-populated and polluted city of Kampala in Uganda. The East African nation is constructing Africa’s first electric bus factory, and is hoping to kick off manufacturing by July 2021. The government hopes that 90% of the e-bus parts – made from steel, lithium and copper – will be produced locally. The only product it plans to import from China is the lithium-ion battery used in electric vehicles.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4.ACCOUNTABILITY 📣

🔹 Corruption drive-by: Transnet exec loses 35 cars

Why have one car when you can have 35? Last week, we told you there’s a real fightback against corruption going on, and several high-profile investigations are on the go. Imagine our delight when City Press reported this week that the Special Investigating Unit confiscated 35 cars, several properties, two farms, and six bank accounts from a former Transnet executive and his family.

All of these assets are thought to be the proceeds of crime – stuff bought thanks to bribes paid by a Transnet supplier. They were allegedly registered in the name of the Transnet executive and his daughter. But why 35?! Were they planning a quick getaway and couldn’t decide on a colour? Were they confused about how to fill up at the garage and ended up just buying a new car every time they ran out of petrol? We can totally relate. Happens to everyone. 👀

In the week ahead:

▪️ The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture will get going again on Thursday, with Brigadier Pharas Ncube and Major General Jan Mabula taking the stand. A cross-examination of Robert McBride, the former chief of the Ekurhuleni metro police, as well as former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head, Johan Booysen, is also expected. We’ll let you know if anything interesting happens.

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That’s it from us. Remember to share the love – tell your friends to sign up for the updates at www.explain.co.za/subscribe. 💫

Till next time, goodbye from Verashni, Sarah, Matt and Aarti ✌🏽