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The DA dices with Cape Town votes

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: WILL THE DA LOSE CAPE TOWN? 🤐

The Brackenfell High School incident saw the DA doubling down on wooing back the conservative white voters it lost to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) in 2019. But at what cost?

The background:

It’s the latest in your favourite show to hate-watch: “South Africans fighting over race”. Some parents at the Western Cape school held a private matric function, after the matric dance was cancelled thanks to Covid-19. The problem? Allegedly, only white pupils were invited.

The EFF, always quick to jump on a Twitter trend, protested at the school. Video footage shows learners’ parents responding violently, leading to a clash.

So how did the DA-led provincial government respond? Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer, tweeted:

“So if you have a private party and invite one race only, that is racial discrimination?”

Uhm, yes, MEC. That is the textbook definition. 😐

And then came this tweet from the party’s official account:

“The Nazi’s [sic] had the brown shirts that went about terrorising the minorities. South Africa has the red shirts.”

That’s right. The DA compared legal protests over the actions of some white South Africans… to the Holocaust. As the South African Jewish Board of Deputies put it, it was “flippant and insensitive”.

The question is not whether the DA has veered towards the right. It clearly has.

Instead, the question is this: will this see the DA losing its hard-won majority in Cape Town or the Western Cape province?

Because the conservative vote they’re chasing could cost them both. There is little appetite in either the city or the province more broadly for the FF+’s politics.

That much is clear from the FF+’s limited vote share:

CT council: 1 of 251 seats

Western Cape parliament: 1 of 42 seats

The by-election results that came out this week show that the DA’s new strategy is not going down well in these areas either. More on that in briefs below.

Yet the DA is moving to the right at the real risk of losing the centre – and its majority. This, without a viable opposition in the Western Cape to pick up that mantle. If it does that, it could cause serious instability for people in these areas.
As we saw in Nelson Mandela Bay, citizens always lose in messy coalition governments.

Whatever the DA’s flaws, on the score of audit outcomes, it has performed better than other provinces. A stable government is also easier to engage with to advocate for better treatment of the poor. It’s troubling for the DA to effectively cede power.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: NO DRESSING DOWN FOR SA AT THE FAMILY MEETING 👏🏽

Phew! We were expecting another dressing down from President Cyril Ramaphosa in his Wednesday night address. Rumours flew for weeks that the government intended to send the country to the naughty corner before the festive season.

But on Wednesday night, Cyril actually LIFTED some restrictions 😵.

ICYMI:

▪️ SA stays on level 1
▪️ The state of disaster is extended for another month. The DA and FF+ have previously contested the legality of the extensions in court, but there’s no evidence that government is using it for nefarious purposes.
▪️ Travel restrictions to South Africa have been lifted for ALL countries (subject to the proper safety and health protocols).
▪️ Normal trading hours for alcohol are back.

However, Ramaphosa stressed all this was to help our economy slowly recover. It’s not a sign that we’re out of the Covid-19 woods.

Government is still worried about a potential second wave, particularly in the Eastern Cape. Some measures are being ramped up, like intensifying contact tracing and testing and ensuring that hospitals are ready.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS

🔸 Everyone’s got Georgia’s Stacey Abrams on their mind

US vice president to-be Kamala Harris is the black woman on everyone’s mind right now, to channel Ray Charles’s classic song. But it’s another black woman who brought a midnight train full of success for the Democrats to Georgia. OK, we’ll stop with the Georgia-inspired music references – but to our point, another name you should know from the recent historic US elections is Stacey Abrams. She’s an organiser who was on the list of potential vice presidential runners, though Joe Biden ultimately chose Harris. She is credited with mobilising community organisers and bringing at least 800 000 voters to the polls last week. This ultimately gifted the state, which hasn’t voted for the Democratic Party in three decades, to the Biden campaign and aided his ultimate victory. Abrams campaigned tirelessly against tactics to exclude certain – usually black and poor – voters. This is called voter suppression and it’s pretty heinous.
Her work, and Harris’s rise, inspired us to look at seven black women smashing glass ceilings. Read it on explain.co.za.

🔸 Grim unemployment stats released

Unemployment increased from July to September this year because of Covid-19, even though more people were allowed back to work during that time as pandemic regulations were relaxed. Official unemployment is now at over 30% in the country. That means 2.8 million people lost their jobs during that period, according to Statistics South Africa. Fortunately, as we reported previously, the government expects the economy to improve slightly in the next few months, and hopefully fewer jobs will be lost.

🔸 Saluting a true civil servant

SA has lost a man who served his country with integrity. Kimi Makwetu was the country’s Auditor-General for seven years. He died on Wednesday following a battle with lung cancer.

Makwetu was just 54 but he leaves behind an amazing legacy. He championed an overhaul of legislation to ensure corrupt officials could be referred for criminal investigation, and was in the process of handing over to Tsakani Maluleke – the country’s first woman AG.

Think of an Auditor-General as a country’s accountant in chief: They are responsible for checking that government departments spent their previous year’s budget responsibly.

But as News24’s Qaanitah Hunter put it: “For him, finding the problems after the fact was not good enough. He was hellbent on creating systems that would preempt the misuse of state funds.”

And he did it, with hope in his heart. “Despite the rot he exposed year in and year out, he did not allow his frustration to overtake his optimism,” Hunter wrote.

🔸 Pull the other one, Jessie

The governing party is fumbling its response to corruption again. In August the ANC’s top body, the NEC, promised a turning point against corruption with a “step-aside rule”, where officials accused of corruption would have to step down from their posts. But two officials have already ignored the rule. Now the party is faltering on the highest level. One of its top six leaders, secretary-general Ace Magashule, is being charged with corruption. (Finally, after loads of claims around his impending arrest). He’ll appear in the Mangaung magistrates’ court on Friday, over one of many failures of oversight during his time as Free State premier, related to dodgy contracts. The party, realising how big this is, addressed the media on Wednesday. It condemned corruption and banned ANC members from creating a ruckus outside court in party gear. But the ANC will not ask Magashule to step aside.

Magashule’s deputy in the party, Jessie Duarte, told journalists that the NEC was taking “serious legal counsel” over the new “step-aside” rule; she said it got complicated when people stepped aside and were later cleared. We’re not sure how complicated that is. Surely they can just resume their work after being cleared? Duarte says the party will discuss it at the next NEC meeting, but it’s incredibly disappointing.

Pull the other one, Jessie 😏.

🔸 DA takes a drubbing in “Super Wednesday” by-elections

Speaking of elections, South Africa just had by-elections on steroids.

By-elections are usually held all the time to replace vacated ward councillor seats – usually when that person dies or joins another political party.

But Covid had put all these on hold since March, so on Wednesday, a whopping 455 voting stations were open for registered voters.

Look, by-elections aren’t usually the sexiest of the polls, and voter turnout is often low. But everyone was excited about this one, dubbing it “Super Wednesday”: it was potentially a measure of how voters feel their politicians have performed since March. This includes the ANC’s (in government) handling of the pandemic, the DA’s recent shifts towards the right, and the EFF’s sometimes violent approach to race relations.

But maybe it was the rain, or just plain 2020 fatigue (it’s been a LONG year, yo 😓) but turnout was even lower than usual. The headline news, however, is that the DA took a drubbing, especially in its usual strongholds. There, it ceded ground to former DA mayor Patricia de Lille’s GOOD party, among others.

As one person put it very aptly on Twitter:

“It turns out giving everyone else the finger in an attempt to win back the hearts of a minority of voters lost to the FF+ in the previous election is not an effective strategy in a culturally diverse country. Who knew.” 🙁

🔸 One step closer to a Covid vaccine?

Could this be the moment the world has been waiting for? Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have just released the interim results of their vaccine trial, and the results are really promising. The vaccine has a 90% efficacy rate – a pharmacological term referencing success in a controlled setting. (Not to be confused with effectiveness, which is how the vaccine would perform in the real world.) It was given to nearly 22 000 people, according to The Conversation. The side-effects? Nothing more severe than those experienced after the flu vaccine, it seems. But is there a way to know that this will be the case if millions of people get the vaccine?

Scientists estimated that only one in 10 000 people are likely to have side-effects. Some governments have already ordered stock, but this is by no means the end of the pandemic ☝🏽: delivery will take a long time, and further trials are needed to make sure it can be rolled out on an international scale.

🔸 Hopewell Chin’ono in jail

The optimism following Robert Mugabe’s fall in Zimbabwe is truly over. The Zanu-PF government grows increasingly violent, and now it’s trying to stop reports about its failings. Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested in July after a series of corruption exposés, and charged with inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against the government. He was released on bail after spending six weeks in appalling conditions. But he was rearrested on November 3 and held in a maximum security prison before he was even charged.

Chin’ono has again been charged with “delaying justice” after tweeting about a gold smuggling case. Chin’ono was asked in court this week to reveal his sources, but he refused. Bodies including the European Union have all come out in his support.

🔸 Sorry Donald: No fraud found in US elections

Sorry Donald Trump, but you lost fair and square 🤷🏽‍♀️. That’s right: officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties told The New York Times that there was no evidence whatsoever of voter fraud in the US elections last week, despite claims from Trump and his allies that such fraud is why he lost.

But the Trump campaign is not convinced and the US’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General William Barr, has controversially authorised an investigation into the voter fraud claims. Trump is also legally challenging the election outcomes in states across the country.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ ACCOUNTABILITY MONITOR🧐

🔹 Probe underway into Lottery Commission spending

Every time you play the lotto, your hard-earned Rands go to the National Lotteries Commission, which is supposed to use them to help deserving non-profit organisations. But the Commission has allegedly been using the cash to prop up dodgy organisations. That’s why we’re relieved to hear that President Ramaphosa has set the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on this important institution. The unit investigates claims of maladministration in the state and has the power to claim back money that might have been wasted. Grassroots reporting outlet GroundUp, which has been doggedly tracking these allegations, reports that the “decision by Ramophosa to involve the SIU comes in the wake of ongoing reporting of corruption involving Lottery grants running into hundreds of millions of rand, and mounting political pressure and calls by civil society for government to take action”.

🔹 Government anti-corruption task team making progress

With all the doom and gloom about corruption in the news, it’s easy to forget that there’s a task team made up of the country’s top cops, prosecutors and investigators from various agencies, working behind the scenes. It is currently working on 200 fraud and corruption cases, Parliament heard this week. The cases are mainly in municipalities, where a lot of corruption happens away from the national news. Good progress is being made, by all accounts, although there are capacity challenges. This means we should be seeing more corruption cases coming through the courts soon, hopefully improving service delivery at the local government level – arguably the most important.

💁🏻‍♀️ Britney’s toxic legal arrangement

Imagine being legally downgraded to the status of a child 😐. That’s what happened to pop star Britney Spears in 2008.

Following difficulties with mental health and substance abuse, which were made very public, Spears was placed under a “conservatorship”, led by her father. Under California state law, this is done when an adult is no longer mentally competent enough to run their own life or finances. The exact details are private, but this meant she lost control of her vast assets… and of making her own decisions.

Twelve years later, the 38-year-old is essentially considered a minor, despite continuing to perform and earn.

Now, Spears is refusing to perform after she lost her latest legal battle this week: she had filed papers to remove her father, whom her lawyer says she’s afraid of, as her conservator. She wanted a licenced professional in his place.

This raises serious concerns about how mental health is perceived, and a woman’s agency. If someone as rich and powerful as Spears is treated this way, what hope is there for other women? But we have no doubt that this isn’t the end of Britney’s career. She is, after all, Britney, bitch 😉.

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, Tash, Aarti, Nontshi and Sarah ✌🏽