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Why Thuli’s ‘corruption amnesty’ is actually a good idea

Hi there and welcome to 15 October 2020 edition of The Wrap, simple news updates for busy people, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 💁🏽‍♀

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🔸Our take: Senekal’s racial tinderbox requires cool heads
🔸The big story: Why Thuli’s “corruption amnesty” is actually a good idea
🔸Briefs: Is it a good time to buy property? Also, Ramaphosa’s great economic plan lands, Cricket SA threatened with government intervention, and Pearl Thusi gets it wrong, again

Plus there’s the best from explain.co.za, and the week ahead. So, let’s dive in. 

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ BIG STORY: THULI MADONSELA CALLS FOR AMNESTY FOR LOW LEVEL CORRUPT OFFICIALS 

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela caused a ruckus this week when she called for amnesty for certain people involved in corruption, in exchange for full disclosure of their crimes. Madonsela was roundly condemned for what critics said would amount to a free pass for those guilty of corruption.

But an important nuance in Madonsela’s suggestion was lost: she explained that her suggestion referred to those who are lower down the rungs – the middle-men, clerks, administrators, public servants and the like, rather than the big fish.

In an interview on Talk Radio 702 this week, Madonsela explained that her suggestion was really about a kind of plea bargain. It was not about absolution.

She said her approach could encourage these people to work with the police and possibly give evidence against those higher up the ladder, who really benefit from corruption. These people also know where the bodies are buried – they’ve been responsible for paying dodgy suppliers, for example – and could be of great help to the police or prosecutors.

This kind of plea bargain already exists within the system and is frequently used by prosecutors to strike deals.

So what’s the problem? Well, the wording. Madonsela seems to have forgotten that “amnesty” is a loaded term in SA. It is what was given to apartheid’s planners, murderers and masterminds in exchange for full disclosure of their crimes during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 1990s. Often, amnesty was meted out without full disclosure.

Better wording next time, Thuli. But hopefully the conversation she’s started will get some low-level officials in the know thinking about doing the right thing. 👼

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ COOL HEADS NEEDED TO DEFUSE RACIAL TENSIONS IN SENEKAL

Senekal is fast becoming the site of converging racial nationalists, both black and white, using the situation for political gain.

President Cyril Ramaphosa tackled the tinderbox situation in the Free State town in his weekly newsletter, saying: “The brutal killing of a young white farmer, allegedly by black men, followed by the spectacle of white farmers storming a police station to get to a black suspect has opened up wounds that go back many generations.”

What began as a protest against violence meted out on farms has re-energised the far right. 

That’s despite protestations by many farmers that this isn’t a race issue, as black farmers are also vulnerable to crime. The far right’s engagement has, in turn, attracted the likes of the EFF; they have predictably jumped on the Senekal bandwagon and responded with threats of violence. On Friday, like vultures that thrive off of rotting racism, the EFF and Afriforum will descend on Senekal. 

EFF leader Julius Malema has already tweeted a picture of a gun, while his MPs tweeted equally incendiary imagery, ahead of his arrival in the tense town tomorrow. Meanwhile, “farm murders” itself is not a neutral term, as academic and analyst Christopher McMichael pointed out in a New Frame op-ed. It is often used as a “dog whistle” by people who want to plug the “white genocide” conspiracy theory. 

Language matters a great deal when it comes to racism.

Police minister Bheki Cele said that while nothing excuses the violence, we can’t discount tensions between farmers and farm workers, or the amount of stock theft that is taking place. It is possible to show compassion for farmers and refuse to buy into racist conspiracy theories at the same time. In the same way, we can reject the way that some farm workers are treated without legitimising brutal crimes.

Compassion, cool heads, and facts are all that will see us through this. 

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▪️ SA’s great economic recovery plan makes its debut

Earlier today Ramaphosa announced the lng-awaited economic reconstruction and recovery plan to Parliament. The plan has been months in the making and widely deliberated upon by various bodies. Now that it’s been released, it looks like experts were rightly worried that the necessary reforms included in previous iterations have been watered down. This includes the idea of banning close relatives and associates of public servants from doing business with the state, an idea we’ve previously reported on. However there are several highlights, top of which is a three-month extension of the special Covid-19 grant for those who don’t already have a grant. As we’ve noted before, it’s proven to have literally saved people from starving. The plan also includes commitments to enable the self-generation of energy and a deadline to finalise spectrum allocation, among others. We’ll be unpacking it in more detail, so stay tuned. 

▪️ Is it a good time to buy a house? 🏠

You would have assumed the pandemic would have crashed housing markets across the world, but that hasn’t been the case in countries like the US, UK and Germany, Financial Mail reports. South Africa also seems to be seeing an increase in property sales; that’s according to Standard Bank, which has a third of SA’s home loan market. The bank saw a 23% rise in mortgage applications from January to September, compared to the same time last year, with particular demand for property priced between R1m and 1.7m. It turns out all that working from home has made some people re-evaluate what they want from their house, while repeated interest rates cuts have made it cheaper to get a loan. In addition, new research by an Australian property group shows that SA is the now the fourth-cheapest country in the world in which to buy a house, measured in terms of cost per square metre. 

▪️ Teenagers’ boozy night out sparks Covid outbreak 

Remember those days of R2 a shot, and sweaty bodies in a nightclub? Well, a number of Cape Town teens are battling both hazy memories and Covid-19, after a night of extremely cheap booze that would have made even the hardiest Rhodes students think twice. 😅 The booze offer saw learners flocking to Tin Roof on Claremont’s party strip, only for a whopping 73 to be infected with Covid-19; two have been hospitalised. Experts are reportedly worried that a super-spreader event is underway and officials have scrambled to contain the outbreak. Now, we love a night of tequila and Bieber as much as the next teenager, but we can’t help wondering whether a night of studying for the upcoming exams would have been more beneficial. Meanwhile, government has extended the national state of disaster by another month to buy them some time to reduce the chances of a second wave happening. That means level 1 stays – for now. 

▪️ Pearl Thusi gets it wrong on colourism, again

We loved her in Queen Sono, but South African actress Pearl Thusi keeps getting it wrong on colourism. She has repeatedly spoken about the pain she says she’s experienced as a light-skinned black woman. Colourism, however, refers to the discrimination against darker skinned people within the same race group, and is prevalent in Black and Indian communities. While Thusi’s experiences are valid, including them in colourism discussions is a bit like a white person constantly responding to black people’s pain with stories of reverse racism. The worst part is that Thusi made the recent comments, and started crying, during an interview with another entertainer, Khanyi Mbau, who is notorious for extreme skin lightening. As one Twitter user put it, it would have been far more interesting if Pearl had acknowledged her privilege without centering herself, and asked Khanyi why she lightens her skin. The answer: to make it in an industry that still is prejudiced against darker skinned women. 

▪️ Mbaks loses it over Carl Niehaus

If you’ve ever watched one of Jacob Zuma’s corruption appearances on TV, you’ll remember Carl Niehaus’ face. He’s the old white dude in military fatigues (or paintball overalls, we can’t be sure) dancing, uhm, enthusiastically. This staunch Zuma supporter claims he is an ANC military veteran, although his comrades say he has never spent a day of his life in military training. He also has a long history of fraud, including faking his own mother’s death for financial gain. Oh, and he’s employed in ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s office as a … we’re not sure. An overall model, maybe? Transport minister Fikile Mbalula isn’t sure either, and he’s pretty pissed off about it. Mbalula went OFF on various media platforms this week about Niehaus, and said in an interview with Newzroom Afrika that he did not know what Niehaus was doing at Luthuli House. Apparently, Mbalula has been keeping receipts. Unfortunately so were several journalists who pointed to a photograph of Mbalula sharing a laugh with Niehaus during the ANC’s 2017 elective conference, when the two were on the same side supporting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Politics. So changeable. 

▪️ CSA under administration

In a move that could spell serious trouble for the Proteas, sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has written to the International Cricket Council (ICC) that he intends intervening at Cricket South Africa (CSA), the body that oversees the sport in SA. It’s an indication of how serious the situation is at CSA, which has had management troubles for a while now. These include allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism. CSA has lost huge sponsorships and has even been accused of banning journalists critical of the body from games. The ICC’s rules say countries have to inform it if they want to intervene in bodies like CSA, as they are supposed to be free from political interference. In a worst case scenario, the Proteas could be banned from playing international cricket. But it could also be a turning point for the sport, if Mthethwa’s move pushes CSA to reform, finally. We’re hoping for the latter. 

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▪️ Citizens push back

At _explain_ we’re particularly interested in how the world can shift towards a better form of political leadership: one that puts the power back in citizens’ hands and allows youth a greater voice. Two developments this week – one right here on our continent and another further afield in Southeast Asia – have given us hope on this front. After weeks of protest, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was dissolved on Sunday. News24 reported that the squad was set up in 1992 to deal with violent crimes in the West African country. But it has since frequently been accused of sexual harassment, torture, extraducial killings and other heinous crimes. Meanwhile, in Thailand, students have done the unthinkable and criticised the monarchy – a crime punishable with prison sentences in that country. They’ve called for reforms and greater accountability. Citizens succeeding in bringing down a violent police unit in Nigeria, or pushing back against untouchable leaders in Thailand: both are an indication of how the world is shifting. Rigid, top-down political control and power is getting harder as people are empowered through digital access and networks. ✊

▪️ Huge early voter turnout in the US

It could have been a scene out of our 1994 election. This week saw snaking queues at polling stations in the US, as American voters turned out in unprecedented numbers for early voting. It was thanks to new rules making earlier voting more widely accessible amid Covid-19 fears, as well as intensified interest in the election. Many stations were overwhelmed and some voters stood in line for up to ten hours. Pundits say that early voters will tend to be Democrats, who were encouraged to vote early by presidential hopeful Joe Biden, while incumbent president Donald Trump has encouraged his base to vote on election day on November 3, saying he doesn’t trust early voting, which includes mail-in votes. It’s a dangerous divide in a historic election, where it is uncertain if the results will be accepted by the current president – a sorry state of affairs for the world’s first constitutional democracy. 😒

▪️ Countries unite to send first woman to the moon by 2024

While you’d instantly recognise the name Neil Armstrong, Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space – is much less known, much like the scores of women who have been central to mankind’s exploration of space. Hopefully all that is about to change. Nasa plans to send the first woman to the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis Accord, the largest cross-continental space exploration agreement ever. The eight countries involved in the Accord have committed to sending the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024 and to explore the rest of the lunar surface, according to Nasa. SA will build a ground station to support the missions too, a hugely exciting development for SA’s amazing scientists who, much like women in space, don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ LOOKING AHEAD

We told you last week that it’s budget time soon buuuuut… looks like we’re going to have to wait. Finance minister Tito Mboweni has asked for a postponement of his budget speech, which was set down for next Wednesday. He didn’t say why, but the Business Day notes Ramaphosa’s advisors are a little annoyed at just how much fat Mboweni intends to cut (and, given his notorious cooking tweets, probably how much garlic he intends to add). 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ THE BEST OF explain

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That’s it from us at The Wrap, a product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀ 

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Till next time, goodbye from Verashni, Sarah, Samina and Tash ✌🏽