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A plan to fix Eskom

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 💁🏽‍♀

Big news! The Wrap is moving… again. We want to get you news that’s a little fresher, so we’re going to be sending out our weekly update on Thursdays from next week. We’ll send you a little reminder on Monday in case you miss us. 😉

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: IT’S TIME TO SHOW OFF OUR HERITAGE

On Thursday we celebrate Heritage Day, and now that it’s level 1 (woohoo!) you’ll be free to spend the day with friends and family, after the president lifted most of the remaining restrictions. Check out our quick explainer here.

Much as we all love a good braai, we know Heritage Day is about more than that. Originally meant as an olive branch in 1996 to the Inkatha Freedom Party to honour King Shaka, the day is now meant to be a celebration of our country’s richly varied cultures and diversity. 

And the timing couldn’t be better: we are about to open our borders again to let tourists in. 

You’d be forgiven, however, for feeling cynical about such rainbow-nationism. Take the EFF’s divisive campaign around the racist Clicks advert, for example. The ad, calling black women’s hair dry and damaged, showed how untransformed SA’s marketing industry is, several decades into democracy, while the EFF’s violent reaction showed how easy and dangerous it is to exploit our divides. 

But we would do ourselves a disservice if we did not appreciate how much we have going for us as a nation of incredible diversity. We can be legitimately proud of how we’ve repeatedly overcome the temptation to descend into hatred, and of how many of us are still committed to building a just society. That’s before we even get to our country’s astounding natural beauty, and the energy of our cities and people that are drawing tourists back to marvel, to celebrate, and to spend. SA has a positive tourism trade balance –  meaning visitors spend more money in SA than citizens spend abroad. This translates into employment. According to a 2018 tourism report, 4.5% of all the jobs in the country are in tourism.

So it’s a huge relief that our international borders are open for visitors again.

Now we just need authorities to let the country know who can come in, and who can’t. The government has mentioned a list of countries whose citizens will be banned from coming here if their national Covid-19 infection rates are still too high. Understandable, but the sooner we have clarity, the better: both to rebuild our economy, and to show off our proud diversity. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY:  WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT THIS NEW PLAN TO FIX ESKOM

A new plan is on the table to fix Eskom, and, miracle of miracles – everyone involved seems to agree on what to do. Hallelujah! 😄 

Although the plan revives many older ideas, what makes this a big deal is the renewed sense of urgency. The fact that government, business and labour have come to terms is a big step in the right direction. Plus there’s the centrepiece of the deal: Allowing people – especially businesses – to produce their own power, which they can sell back to the government, according to The Financial Mail. This will be a gamechanger, if it goes through. It will help Eskom make up for the shortfall in its own supply.

Sure, this was technically possible before, but it has involved so much red tape and bureaucracy that making money out of private energy generation has been just about impossible. The new Eskom plan has the government promising to remove those barriers urgently – with deadlines attached, as the Daily Maverick reports. For example, business is supposed to fulfill its end of the bargain by generating 2500 MW within the next 18 to 24 months.

That may sound like an eternity in real time, but in the world of government policy implementation, it’s a blink of an eye.

The pandemic showed us what we can do when we move together, fast, as a society. More of this please! 💪 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. NEWS BRIEFS

Tito’s Gordhian knot

Could there be a ministerial deathmatch looming between Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, over SAA? That’s what Sunday Times columnist Peter Bruce thinks. Gordhan has become a little obsessed with saving our failing airline. But Mboweni is refusing to fund it from our nation’s anaemic wallet. Gordhan’s ministry said on Friday that “cabinet” is committed to finding the R10.5-billion the airline needs to come out of business rescue. From where? Yes we need to save jobs, but we also need to be realistic. 😶

Cyril recruits frenemies to jump-start SA economy

In the wake of the economic devastation brought about by Covid-19, the government has announced a draft plan to get the economy going, with buy-in from business and labour. Dubbed the “employment centered-growth plan,” according to Daily Maverick, the plan focuses on improving the state’s infrastructure, from broadband spectrum to independent power production and rail, road and water. There are also plans to reduce red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. Leaders from business, labour and government are going to meet monthly to make sure the plan doesn’t just lie on some minister’s desk gathering dust. 

Hateful hashtags of the ‘war’ on foreigners

Xenophobic sentiment is getting worse on social media and, frankly, we’re worried. This week #NigeriansMustGo started trending on South African Twitter again. The Centre for Analytics and Behavioral Change says the hate is spreading – by the end of April about 12,000 users were engaging with tweets marked by the hashtag and by the end of May that number had grown to 50,000. But while those engagements are genuine, the source of the hatred is not – with about 80 fake accounts responsible for initially spreading the hashtag and fanning the fires it starts.

Are police ready to stand up to SA mafia?

One of South Africa’s top cops was recently gunned down outside his home. Lieutenant Colonel Charl Kinnear had been investigating some of the most high-profile and dangerous underworld figures in the country, and had reportedly been on a hit list for a while, City Press reported.

Kinnear was given round-the-clock protection, but this was mysteriously withdrawn in January.

Now Police Minister Bheki Cele has admitted that the police failed Kinnear spectacularly, and has sworn that heads will roll.

Mark Shaw, an organised crime expert, told the Sunday Times that this shows how powerful and brazen organised crime networks have become in South Africa. 

DA shoots self in foot, then shoves foot in mouth to shut itself up

The DA’s internal leadership race, set to take place at the end of October, is heating up, and supporters for both the current (interim) leader John Steenhuisen and KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli have rolled up their sleeves, taken off their earrings and asked their friends to hold their beers and handbags. Party leaders, meanwhile, are clutching their pearls in alarm after Ntuli challenged Steenhuisen to a public debate. But Steenhuisen and his supporters say this is tantamount to trashing the party in public. Sounds like the party’s leadership agrees. According to the Sunday Times, they’re clamping down on public campaigning. 

Our view: What a pity – and a missed opportunity. The DA used to stand for a different kind of politics, based on merit and transparency. Isn’t that what a public debate is about? Previous DA leaders like Mmusi Maimane and Helen Zille used to make a big thing out of challenging Jacob Zuma to debates during his presidency. This seems like a double standard, not to mention the fact that they’re telling the only black woman left in the room to mind her manners. Not a great look – but then we guess it depends on what kind of voter you want to appeal to. 

SA’s contact-tracing app – kiff or kak?

There’s been a mixed reaction to SA’s new contact tracing app, but experts agree the government-backed app does NOT pose a risk to your privacy. Some people are concerned the app will store all your data (NOPE!) and others like SA musician David Scott aka The Kiffness joked about it requiring your credit card details (NOPE!). 

Look, we did the homework: the app does not steal your money, your details or your data. It simply exchanges a code with other app users, using your phone’s Bluetooth and location. We reckon it’s a good thing to install, and will help prevent the spread of the virus. 

Check out our explainer here.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ INTERNATIONAL

Rwanda cracks down on hotel hero

We hear a lot about Rwanda’s impressive development as a country under President Paul Kagame, but the flipside of that coin is the increasing human rights abuse in that country, and its slide into authoritarianism. Now Kagame’s arrested Paul Rusesabagina, the famous hotel manager who sheltered 1,268 people from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, as told in the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda movie. In a video the former hotelier called for political change using “any means possible”.  He is now the leader of a coalition of opposition groups, all in exile, which the New York Times reports includes an armed wing. 

Facebook still sucks at not being a racist free-for-all

Once again Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant baby is in trouble for either not noticing or not caring that a right-wing Facebook page was (surprise!) spreading hate speech, Business Times reported. The page’s community appeared to support the shooting of a black man by police last week.

Some pundits are even wondering whether Facebook has a deliberate policy of protecting the far right, many of whom support US President Donald Trump. Business Insider reported that the Trump campaign was the biggest political advertiser on Facebook in 2019, spending $21-million that year.

A Facebook board member even gave a speech endorsing Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016, according to The Nation.

For now, it seems pressure is mounting on Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder. The Nation reports that his own staff are revolting, (although we’re sure they’re not really that bad, they just appear to be because they work for Facebook), and many celebrities temporarily boycotted the company last week – including Instagram. According to The Telegraph, Kim Kardashian “wiped millions off Facebook’s value” by boycotting Insta. What do you think: Will this make a permanent difference, or is the influencer stock-drop just Zuckerberg’s version of a fad diet – he’ll end up putting it all back on again?

Men are from Mars, tiny fart bugs are from Venus

When David Bowie penned the infamous words, “Is there life on Mars?” in 1971, who could have imagined that we’d be asking this question – seriously – about Venus, in 2020. But British scientists have discovered that a noxious gas produced only by microbial life-forms is floating around in Venus’s atmosphere. And where there’s noxious life-gas, there are aliens! Maybe.

With its clouds of sulphuric acid and its surface so hot it melts lead, Venus has long been out of the running for the coveted title of “Earth 2.0”. But at the rate things are melting here, who knows, it might start looking like an attractive alternative sooner than you think. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes on

US Supreme Court justice and giant of the women’s rights movement, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died on Friday. Despite facing an onslaught of sexism from the US legal fraternity throughout her career, Ginsburg made huge strides in the courtroom as a lawyer, tirelessly crusading for equal rights for women.

Ginsburg also battled cancer for large parts of her time on the bench. But, as the New York Times aptly put it: “Through it all, she never wavered in her commitment to the court as a vehicle for a more just and more equal America. She was a dogged, tireless fighter…”

Her death has also raised the volatile question of whether her successor can be appointed in an election period, given how highly politicised court appointments are in the US. The concern is that the Republicans in charge of the US Senate – a bit like our Parliament – will appoint someone chosen by President Donald Trump and this would make the court biased in the event that the US election results are contested in court.

We hope her proud legacy won’t be sullied by politics. 

INSPIRATION

We love Justice Malala’s Business Day column this week on how SA has come back from the brink before, reminding us that we can do it again. Read the excerpt below:

“In the late 1980s internal pressure on Botha and his regime, international outrage, mass mobilisation by the United Democratic Front and various other factors led to SA’s change in course. From 1989, the racist laws began to collapse, and the next year, political prisoners and political organisations were unbanned.

There is another parallel. In 2015, when Jacob Zuma was playing Monopoly with the economy and Dudu Myeni was running Eskom, SAA and other entities from Zuma’s house, many thought this was the end of us as a country. Yet now the state capture crowd are being exposed every day and, fingers crossed, they face a real threat of being jailed.”

Week ahead

As of this week Monday, Level 1 is officially here, which means increased alcohol sales and greater economic activity in general. Statistics South Africa will also release the latest tourism accommodation figures for July, but don’t expect much from that one, given the pandemic. On the political front, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has planned protests across the country this week over the state’s plan to cut back on government salary increases.

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, Aarti and Matthew_ ✌🏽