- Our take: Closed beaches and bars: can we stop the second wave?
- The big story: Hope for Covid…and HIV
- Briefs: Bid to remove Ramaphosa falls flat, NPA fines Eskom over pollution and food growers at the beach
- International news: Mexican cartels put the Tik in TikTok, and which country has a pop star running for president
- Plus the usual from our Accountability Monitor.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: COULD CLOSED BEACHES STOP A SECOND WAVE? 🌊
Put those beach plans on hold: for those of us living in Covid-19 hotspots, or heading there for the holidays, Dezemba is about to be severely curtailed 😓. President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to make an announcement about this on Thursday evening. At the time of writing, nothing had been confirmed yet. But if leaks to journalists are anything to go by, localised restrictions may be announced in the next two weeks because of infection spikes in certain areas. Both News24 and Business Day report that hotspots like Cape Town, the Garden Route and parts of the Eastern Cape, will be facing tighter restrictions on booze and gatherings.
The Eastern Cape has reportedly asked Ramaphosa, provincial leadership and the National Coronavirus Command Council to close its beaches too.
This, as the province sees an alarming hike in cases. Nelson Mandela Bay alone now counts for more than 50% of the country’s cases, according to TimesLive. Annual matric Rage parties along the country’s coastal towns are possible super-spreader events, experts have warned, but many of these post-matric gatherings are going ahead anyway.
Gauteng is still on the ‘safe side’, so greater restrictions are not needed, yet. BUT the province, the economic hub of the country, is at risk with people bringing back the virus from coastal areas after the holidays… which could then lead to a national second wave early next year. 😓
On the bright side, SA is much better equipped to handle a resurgence now, with our experience of the disease and our beefed up medical facilities. Still, our system is not bullet-proof, and it’s no reason to get complacent. 2020 has been a rough year and we all need to unwind, but keep doing it safely.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: HOPE FOR COVID…AND HIV 💉
This week news broke that, in under a year, scientists have developed a vaccine that’s 100% effective at preventing severe Covid-19. In science speak, that’s a pretty big deal. The vaccine by pharmaceutical company Moderna is 94% effective at preventing the disease in general, giving us hope that life can one day soon return to normal. 🙌🏽
But Covid-19 is far from the only disease on the block. December 1 was World AIDS Day, which serves as a sobering reminder that another virus, HIV, leads to millions of deaths each year. No viable vaccine has been developed for it, yet.
But there are many reasons to be optimistic. Huge strides have been made in the fight against HIV, and they’re worth celebrating. As we continue our end of year series of the big moments from 2020, here are our highlights:
▪️ Several new drugs have been developed, with increasing efficacy. For example one such drug, delivered by injection, has proven to be 89% more effective at preventing HIV in women than Truvada, an HIV prevention pill currently on the market. It gives women who struggle to take a daily pill more options, too.
▪️ A new drug developed by pharmaceutical company Cipla will go a long way to ease experts’ concerns over HIV and children. It’s proven difficult to get children to stick to sometimes onerous treatment regimes, with kids often vomiting up the foul-tasting medication or refusing to drink it. New medications, which are better tasting and easier to administer, are now available to children.
▪️ Mother-to-child transmission of HIV in SA has dropped dramatically. In 2007, 40% of HIV infected moms transmitted the virus to their babies. That number is currently at 1%, thanks to successful prevention programmes and mothers taking ARVs.
▪️ The idea of a vaccine for HIV used to seem impossible. But now, at least three significant HIV vaccine trials are underway. One of these is currently testing a vaccine to prevent HIV in young women, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, which is great news for SA.
Read more on this here.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS ✍🏽
🔸 Attempt to sack Ramaphosa falls flat
When the little-known African Transformation Movement (ATM) asked Parliament to hold a motion of no confidence debate in President Ramaphosa earlier this year, most people wrote it off as a joke. How could a party with only two seats in Parliament hope to remove the president? 🤷🏽♀️ But as we explain here this week, ANC factional politics is once again at play, and the ATM shouldn’t be written off. At the time of writing, the debate had been postponed after a failed court bid to try to have Parliament hold the debate by closed ballot failed. So it was a big brouhaha… and now we wait.
🔸 The unusual lottery numbers: 20 people are now richer
Twenty South Africans woke up with a bigger bank balance on Wednesday morning thanks to a mysterious pattern in the Powerball numbers on Tuesday evening. The winning numbers were beautifully sequential: 5,6,7,8,9 and the Powerball number was 10. What are the odds? 🤔 Ithuba, which operates the lottery, was accused of rigging the sequence, but said while the sequence is unusual, it’s not uncommon. The 20 people will each get a share of R114 million. What’s your lucky number?
🔸 Ramaphosa CAN tell Ace to step aside after all
We reported last week that the ANC received legal advice which said it could not suspend members suspected of corruption. But an independent new legal opinion says it can, according to News24, as this is in line with a rule adopted by the NEC. Ramaphosa’s allies are pushing for the same, Daily Maverick reported. As we also reported last week, ANC leaders accused of wrongdoing have stepped aside when asked to do so in the past. The new opinion could strengthen Ramaphosa’s hand when he goes to an NEC meeting this weekend – a meeting that, reportedly, could decide ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s fate.
Speaking of corruption, the ANC is not alone in having endless talkshops about corruption when the answers are right in front of it. The government has yet another anti-corruption plan on the cards. Approved at a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, the plan involves creating an anti-corruption advisory council, and a range of plans and policies. In our view, instead of spending money on more salaried positions and talkshops, the government should just make sure the NPA and the police are properly funded to ensure that they can do their jobs.
🔸 Mexican cartels put the Tik in Tik Tok
TikTok, the social media platform of amazing dance videos, hilarious skits and most recently, the Jenner sisters, has taken on a more sinister face. The New York Times reports that Mexican drug cartels are uploading videos featuring drugs, armoured vehicles, weapons and poppies being watered to the sound of love songs… to recruit young would-be gangsters into their world. 😟 Mexico is reportedly expected to break records with its murder rate this year, so the use of social media as a marketing tool for gangsters is worrying. Meanwhile, the country this week also legalised marijuana after a protracted legal battle to get the country’s lawmakers to do so.
🔸 Possible solution over civil servant wage deadlock
Workers in government sectors, like nurses, police and teachers, have been threatening to strike for some time over wage freezes. The government previously signed a three-year wage increase deal with the public sector unions, but then said it cannot be implemented because the government is broke. Public sector wages are the biggest item in the national budget, and that’s one of the reasons the ratings agencies have downgraded SA. But the unions this week took the government to court, arguing that the government was obliged to honour its commitment. At the last minute, the government reportedly opted to settle. According to Business Day, the mooted agreement entails a once-off bonus and a year’s pension holiday, but the finer details of the offer are still being ironed out. Let’s hope this is resolved to spare the country a protracted strike – and court battle – which would badly affect government’s work and those reliant on its services.
🔸 “Got any good series recommendations?”
Expect that question to get complicated as Netflix spends $1bn expanding its studios to produce more content. That, coupled with market movements at home, means South Africans will have even more streaming choices. SA company MultiChoice has decided that “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so they’re integrating Netflix and Amazon Prime to their service. Thanks to discounts, Showmax also saw a jump in usage during lockdown. Government entities are joining the party too: Telkom is launching a streaming platform with SABC content, Financial Mail reports. We live in an age of prestige television, so get the popcorn out and enjoy. 🍿
🔸 Miscarriage of justice for Meghan Markle
The past week has seen yet another outpouring of hate for the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. But this time, it was over her decision to pen an op-ed about her miscarriage – something stars like Beyonce, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman have all spoken openly about. In September, model Chrissy Teigen shared her miscarriage story on social media, too.
Markle is no stranger to criticism from British tabloids, having been lambasted for everything from her nail polish choice to eating avocado on toast. So when Markle opened up about her miscarriage, her heart-wrenching description of clutching on to her firstborn while losing her second born was met with some vocal criticism.
One of the most critical voices came from SA’s own former leader of the DA, Helen Zille, who referred to Markle sharing her story as “victimhood with virtue”. Fortunately, Zille was roundly condemned, with even those in her own party calling for a more caring society. Markle also received a lot of support. Hopefully, Markle’s experience will go some way towards creating one, given that roughly 15% of all pregnancies result in miscarriage worldwide.
🔸 Guatemalans light a fire under their politicians’ bums
We love this story via The Economist: Thousands of Guatemalans protested against the budget passed by the country’s Congress. Some SET FIRE to Congress itself. (Emphasis our own.) 👀 They were angry about, wait for it, the budget – including extra money for congressmen’s meal allowances but less for the judiciary, malnutrition and health. Congress backed down. It’s a fairly extreme way to hold power to account, which we wouldn’t advocate, but it does provide a lesson in citizens taking government decisions very seriously.
🔸 Hope in the time of Covid-19
The pandemic undoubtedly took a lot from many of us, but for a group of homeless people at a Durban beachfront, it was an opportunity to grow (literally) and give back. The ten men living in an emergency camp on Durban’s beachfront used Covid-19 as an opportunity to start a vegetable garden on vacant land nearby, and it’s FLOURISHING! 🌿 They started growing spinach in June and now they’re supplying their fresh harvests of tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, onions and more to big time grocers like Boxer, the_ Mail & Guardian_ reported. They’re now speaking to the municipality to give them access to more land so they can increase their productivity and grow their business. By the end of November they had generated R30 000 for their members. Now that’s fresh! 😄
🔸 Bobi Wine: The Ugandan star threatening the country’s dictator
If you haven’t heard of Bobi Wine yet, you’ll want to. Born in Kampala’s slums, the young Ugandan MP seems to be good at everything he does: singing, acting and… politics. He is running for president in Uganda’s January 14 election, hoping to end Yoweri Museveni’s 34-year rule. But the popular Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has been harassed at every turn. He’s been arrested, as have other candidates, and youth protests against his arrest have left over 50 people dead. Museveni took power before 70% of Ugandans were born. His time is up.
🔹 Hawks make headway in matric paper leak probe
There have now been three matric paper leaks, but the authorities are making progress in their investigations. Court proceedings have already kicked off with a suspect arrested over the mathematics paper 2 leak and the Hawks are investigating the source of the Physical Science and Life Sciences leaks. And we can’t stop laughing about reports of learners using their masks to hide their exam cheat sheets. So, it’s a win-win situation all round…
Kidding. We know it sucks for innocent learners who may have to rewrite – authorities are yet to make a call on that.
🔹 Eskom faces huge fine over pollution
Criminal charges for pollution? That’s right. In an unprecedented case, Eskom is in the dock over its Kendal power station emissions. Eskom allegedly not only exceeded the limits of the pollution it’s allowed to emit, but lied about it too, according to the M&G. The publication reported that the already cash-strapped state utility is now facing a R5 million fine for breaching the air quality legislation. This is the first time the NPA has taken such action against Eskom and it’s a huge deal, because it shows that the environment is finally being treated as the priority that it is. It’s also reassuring to know that our laws allow for us to hold polluters of our environment to account. The case will be heard in January at the eMalahleni regional court.
Keep up with the biggest accountability developments on our Accountability Monitor.
That’s it from us at The Wrap, a product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾♀
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Until next time, goodbye from Verashni, Aarti, Nontshi, Sarah and Tash ✌🏽