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This week’s winner: accountability (at last!)

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 💁🏽‍♀

So, let’s dive in:

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: A GOOD WEEK FOR ACCOUNTABILITY 🕺🏽

You’d be forgiven for passing Richard Mdluli in a crowd and not recognising him at all. He’s long been absent from the national news and, since the demise of former president Jacob Zuma’s political career, from government and politics in general.

As the head of the police’s crime intelligence, Mdluli was once one of SA’s most important people. But instead of using that authority to go after SA’s criminals, he used it to protect other powerful people. 😕
This week he was sentenced to five years in jail for kidnapping his former customary wife’s new husband and assaulting him. The kidnapping happened before he was appointed as crime intelligence chief, raising questions about why he got the job in the first place. 🤷🏽‍♀️ (It’s the kind of thing you’d hope comes up in a job interview at the police. Ever been involved in a kidnapping? Yes? Thank you, next.)

For years, Mdluli seemed untouchable. Previous efforts to prosecute him cost former top prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach her job. Freedom Under Law, a public interest litigation group that doggedly pursued Mdluli’s prosecution, called the sentencing a “vindication of the rule of law”. Indeed it was – and a huge win for accountability.

Speaking of accountability, this week also saw the arrest of six people alleged to be involved in a dodgy audit of Free State homes with asbestos roofs that wasted money rather than bringing answers. A seventh suspect handed himself in on Thursday. Allegations of bribes to politicians have been whispered in the hallowed halls of the State Capture Inquiry, too.

These arrests came just in the nick of time for National Prosecuting Authority boss Shamila Batohi, since she promised state capture arrests by the end of September. This appears to be the first of many to come. Finally! 😅
And then, before the bubbles in our champagne had even fizzled out, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ANC will have to pay back more than R100 000 to the army for the unlawful use of one of its airplanes – we told you about the ride the party hitched on a government plane to Zimbabwe. 😉 This is part of a larger shift towards transparency. Ramaphosa also released all the tender documents related to the procurement of personal protective equipment for Covid-19. It’s a win for the slow but steady project for accountability in SA.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: UNEMPLOYMENT: SA IS BLEEDING JOBS 😢

“Unemployment” was the unfortunate word of the week after two reports were released highlighting just how many jobs were lost during our super-strict lockdown. No surprises: the picture is pretty gloomy.

The first report was Statistics South Africa’s regular release of unemployment figures. The second was the latest NIDS-CRAM survey. The rather odd acronym stands for the “National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey”; it contacts the same 7000 South Africans, representative of the country’s demographics, every few months to see how they’re coping with income, employment and Covid-19.

The good news? There was a small yet significant reduction in hunger since special grants were implemented in May.
The bad news? So many job losses. We all expected this but now we have the numbers. Stats SA reports that about 2.2 million people lost their jobs between April and June 2020. The unemployment rate now stands at about 42%, on the expanded definition.

Other key takeaways:

▪️ The community and social services sector, including government – SA’s biggest employer – was hardest hit.
▪️ The patterns of those affected are stark: they’re largely women, black and poor.
▪️ Those who could work remotely kept their jobs. Those without formal jobs and contracts in place suffered the most.
▪️ Over 300 000 domestic workers, gardeners, nannies and other staff working in our homes, who are often paid very little and have families to support, are no longer employed.
▪️ Hundreds of thousands stopped looking for work in the last quarter – either because they were discouraged or because lockdown restrictions kept them at home.

Fortunately, the NIDS-CRAM survey shows that social and other grants cushioned some of the pain for the poorest. This is a win: South Africa’s grant system is one of the most sophisticated in the world. However, one of the survey’s authors, Dr Nic Spaull, cautions that the economic “centre” – employed taxpayers – has shrunk while the periphery – unemployed people who need those grants – has grown.

So while our grants are something to be proud of, growing employment is crucial. Check out our explainer check out our explainer on SA’s latest unemployment figures here.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. NEWS BRIEFS ✍🏽

▪️ Cape Town will rebuild!

Poor Cape Town. If it isn’t the systemic racism, the shitty housing policies or the hellish wind, it’s the earthquakes. 😏 No, really. The Mother City was jolted by a series of tremors this week. The whole thing had the internet in stitches, with Capetonians having a good laugh at themselves and promising to “rebuild” after their long-suffering garden chairs fell over. One meme even suggested it was all a ploy to force the Western Cape to physically secede from the rest of the country. 🤭

In all seriousness, the tremors were from a huge earthquake about 1600 kilometres offshore. But Capetonians have nothing to worry about. The chances of them being wrenched from SA by force or other means are about as slim as Helen Zille’s pursed lips. 👀

▪️ Ramaphosa says apartheid statues should be move

Government has always seemed a bit on the fence about this issue, but President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally made his views on statues and towns named after apartheid “heroes” clear: they should be renamed or the statues moved elsewhere. ☝🏽 Ramaphosa said this was not about erasing history, but about what was appropriate for a democratic state.
In a Heritage Day address, Ramaphosa said:

“Monuments glorifying our divisive past should be repositioned and relocated.”

It’s a touchy subject locally for some, but we’ve been ahead of the curve and it looks like history is proving us right. Across the world similar protests have taken aim at divisive historical figures who are still celebrated in public spaces. And hey, maybe some of those statues could find happy new homes in Cape secessionists’ gardens? 😪

▪️ Sun goes down on Pitso Mosimane’s reign

Even if you’re not a soccer fan, you need to know that SA coaching giant Pitso Mosimane dropped a bombshell yesterday by announcing that he’s leaving Mamelodi Sundowns. He’s the most decorated coach in SA’s soccer premiership, winning 11 trophies in his eight years at the local club. But his success extends beyond our borders and he is admired across Africa. Word on the street is that he’s set to take over as coach at Egyptian club giant, Al Ahly. Fans this week alternated between mourning his departure, celebrating his career success and wondering nervously if Al Ahly’s brimming bank account means he could poach some of our local star players. He himself will receive a huge package, rumoured to be in the region of R54-million per annum…excluding win bonuses! 🤑

▪️ Ding ding ding! It’s Zuma versus Zondo at the state capture inquiry

State capture commission chairperson Justice Raymond Zondo appears to be running out of patience with former President Jacob Zuma. Zuma, ever the constitutionalist (snort!), says he won’t be appearing at the commission. The judge has drawn a line in the sand, saying he won’t appease Zuma after months of back-and-forth over the dates of the former president’s appearance. This comes in a week where Zondo heard testimony over dodgy dealings in the Free State, allegedly overseen by Zuma’s ally, former minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Zuma says this is all a… wait for it… political ploy, 🥱 and wants Zondo to recuse himself. But as legal analyst Pierre de Vos has written, that’s unlikely to succeed.
It would seem as though the two are headed for a showdown, but only one has the law on their side and his surname doesn’t rhyme with “puma”. 😉

▪️ SA’s got wings! Here’s where you can fly to:

Desperate for a holiday abroad?? We hear you. New international travel regulations are out, and you can now fly to pretty much anywhere except for 17 banned countries. These include Puerto Rico, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which transport minister Fikile Mbalula says are considered high risk for Covid-19 infections. People from those countries also won’t be allowed to come here. (Oh, and unfortunately you won’t be using SAA for your journey; the national carrier has had its wings clipped over a lack of funds.) 😶
Bon voyage!

▪️ Clarity for matric learners and university students at last

Finally! Some clarity for worried parents trying to help their kids prepare for matric exams and universities. Education minister Angie Motshekga has announced that all exam venues have been audited and are ready for the matric exams, which begin on November 5. Higher education minister Blade Nzimande also announced this week that universities can open at 100% capacity. We’ve lost so much of the academic year, we’re glad things are getting back on track. 🤓

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. INTERNATIONAL 🌏

▪️ Chrissy Teigen’s heartbreak shines a light on miscarriages

Losing a baby is the hardest thing a parent can experience, but it’s rarely spoken about in the glossy world of celebrities. That’s starting to change. Yesterday, US model and chef Chrissy Teigen wrote a tender-hearted and vulnerable post about losing her son with husband, singer John Legend, halfway into her pregnancy. “Driving home from the hospital with no baby. How can this be real,” she wrote. Any woman who has been there can relate. The couple has two other children, and Teigen has been open previously about their struggle to conceive and their use of in vitro fertilisation. This pregnancy, however, was natural, and something of a miracle. We’re fans of Teigen’s general honesty – plus recognition of her privilege as a celebrity. She’s previously answered that tired question about how she “does it all” as a woman with her career and children by pointing out how much help she has. Celebrities being real means less pressure for everyone involved.

▪️ “Just shut up man” – the world to Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump and former US vice president Joe Biden took part in the first round of the US presidential shouting match… er, we mean “debates” 👀. It was more like an hour and a half of Trump shouting over Biden, causing Biden to quip, “just shut up, man” – not exactly his finest moment either. Trump also refused to condemn white supremist groups in the US, would not commit to a peaceful transition should he lose and issued grave warnings about Biden being a socialist (Karl Marx must have been doing back flips in his grave at the thought).

The debate moderator lost control and now there’s talk of changing the structure for a more orderly exchange. But will it help? What started in 1960 as an intelligent and elevated discussion between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon has, like so much in US politics, descended into spectacle. As one BBC correspondent put it, what is supposed to be a job interview has become more like an audition for the role of leading man.
A world where showmanship wins over qualification is a scary world indeed.

▪️ Trump’s trumped up taxes

Speaking of Trump, he was the subject of a whopper of a journalism investigation by the New York TImes, released this week. It turns out the tangerine tyrant isn’t faking just his tan 🤐. He is also allegedly a huge tax cheat who paid just $750 in taxes in 2017 and no tax at all for 11 out of the 18 years examined by The Times. That’s right: the leader of the free world has probably paid less tax than you, dear reader. His businesses are also in serious trouble, yet Trump still enjoys a lavish lifestyle. It remains to be seen whether any of this will hurt his prospects for re-election in November. To put a spin on an age-old saying, two things in life are certain: death and Donald Trump’s unpaid taxes 😕.

INSPIRATION AND SOLUTIONS

🔹 Justice for Rwandans at last?

Last week we spoke about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which saw over 500 000 people killed along ethnic lines in a horrific mass slaughter. Twenty-six long years later, justice is finally coming for the criminals behind that massacre. This week a top court in France ruled that Felicien Kabuga will stand trial for war crimes and genocide in a United Nations court in Tanzania. Kabuga has been in hiding in France for 25 years. It’s a welcome development for Rwanda, given the country’s current slide into authoritarianism. It has just arrested one of the men regarded who sheltered more than 1000 people during the genocide. Kabuga’s arrest is a positive step in the other direction.

Looking ahead

We’re gearing up for a pretty packed October with a special focus on mental health and, naturally, some political drama.

🔹 October is mental health awareness month. Keep an eye on social media for more, and we’ll keep you posted, too, to see if there are ways you can participate. (September was suicide prevention month, and you can catch our video here: https://www.explain.co.za/2020/09/23/video-suicide-how-you-can-care-for-a-loved-one/

🔹 Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan are back at it, this time at the Constitutional Court. Mkhwebane wants Gordhan fired over a really complicated yet snooze-worthy pension payout issue, while Gordhan says the whole thing is rubbish. Yet the case will settle the important question of how far Mkhwebane’s recommendations can go, and how the president should discipline (allegedly) errant ministers. Like Harry Potter and Voldemort, we know only one of them can survive, politically. Watch this space to find out who makes it out alive. 😉

ICYMI:

Our eds’ picks this week:

🔸EXPLAINER: Camps Bay mansion occupation explained here

🔸 And look out for our map on Covid-19 second waves around the world PLUS what SA’s second surge might look like.

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 Natasha ✌🏽
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