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COVID-19: Time to hold each other accountable

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️… January 2021, is that you? Not quite: unfortunately, 2020 and it’s Covid-19 drama is not done with us just yet 😓. This week, we wonder whether it’s time to start holding each other accountable for the mess that is the Covid-19 second wave. The country isn’t quite winning on that score, but someone who IS winning is President Cyril Ramaphosa, who appears to be one point up on Ace Magashule. Herman Mashaba is finally allowed to run for political office again, and you’ll never guess what Donald Trump’s Twitter password is😆. But an ethical hacker did, and it’s absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!

So, let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 😄.

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: TIME TO HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE 💁🏽‍♀️

Hollywood actor Tom Cruise made headlines this week after losing it with Mission Impossible crew members who weren’t social distancing on set. His language was colourful, but his cause was understandable: the seventh instalment of the blockbuster franchise has been delayed repeatedly thanks to Covid, and jobs in the industry at large are hanging in the balance. Cruise referenced people “losing their homes because our industry is shut down” and not being able to pay for food or college.

Why are we telling you about Tom Cruise? Because with holidays looming in SA, the party is getting started and the risk of a livelihood-crushing second wave is real. We’re just as desperate as you for a holiday, but what are the rules again and how can we be responsible citizens?

Here’s a quick reminder of the new restrictions Cyril Ramaphosa announced this week:

▪️ All beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape’s Garden Route are closed, while limited restrictions apply to KwaZulu-Natal beaches.
▪️Alcohol can only be sold from Monday to Thursday, between 10am and 6pm.
▪️ Restaurants and bars everywhere close at 10pm.
▪️ Curfew is in place from 11pm to 4am.

There have been calls to put social media’s “call-out culture” to good use, and start naming and shaming those who don’t comply. It’s a controversial technique: in the age of fake news, social media can easily be used to spread hatred or lies about innocent people. We certainly would never encourage trolling or online bullying.

But when entire supermarkets don’t put basic social distancing measures in place, calling them out publicly could be a way to make them comply. 🗣️

It’s heartening though how many people – and industries – are being proactive. For example, the Beer Association of SA has deployed 500 patrollers outside liquor stores to ensure Covid-19 protocols are adhered to, EWN reported. This is to avoid job losses should the government implement another booze ban.

In the name of social solidarity, perhaps it’s time that we stopped looking to the government for solutions, and started holding each other accountable. ☝🏽

So yes, you’re definitely allowed that much-needed relaxation this holiday. Just be sure you do so safely – be sure to read our guide on six Covid must-knows while holidaying here.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: ACE TO STEP ASIDE – RAMAPHOSA’S LONG GAME PAYS OFF ⏰

Ramaphosa’s critics may have to eat their words. This week’s bombshell news is that, contrary to being the place that complaints go to die, the ANC integrity commission has shown some steel.

It recommended, in no uncertain terms, that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule must step aside after his arrest on charges of corruption. He appeared before the commission last weekend – a body of party elders that is supposed to make sure party members act ethically – following weeks of back and forth.

The commission’s three-page response leaves Magashule with little wiggle room: they focus on the political and reputational impact for the party, not the various legalities of the charges against him that he will face in court in February.

His referral to the commission was initially seen as a sign of weakness for the Ramaphosa camp. Ace is clearly ethically compromised – why doesn’t Ramaphosa just act against him? 🤔

But if there’s one thing we know about Ramaphosa, it’s that he plays the long game. And he plays by the rules, meaning there’s limited room for backlash from his enemies.

He was able to institute credible leadership at SARS and the NPA by doing things by the book. Reform in those institutions has been slow, but it has been happening. He could be doing the same thing with Ace.

So, what’s next? If Ace doesn’t do the honourable thing and step down, as others have, the NEC will have to suspend him. But will they? We’ll find out in the next episode of… The Days of Our NEC 😜. The party says they’ll be meeting in January, after the holiday break. For now, it looks like Ramaphosa’s long game is paying off. 🙌🏽

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS ✍🏽

🔸 Herman for mayor… again?

Herman Mashaba’s political party ActionSA has finally been registered – months after it hit a legal battle over its name and logo being too similar to the otherwise obscure, Party of Action.

Mashaba, famous for his rags to riches story as millionaire founder of the Black Like Me hair product range, made a splash when he entered politics under the opposition DA. He became City of Joburg mayor in 2016, following the enormous electoral upset that saw the ANC lose control in several key metros that year.

Mashaba was a popular mayor, albeit controversial at times, especially given his concerning views on migrants. But his high profile leadership of the city came to an abrupt end in October 2019.

Mashaba, like several other leaders, left the party and his mayorship in October 2019 as a more reactionary Helen Zille made a return to party leadership, and the DA became increasingly conservative, especially in terms of race. 😏

His new party is centre-right, promoting free-market principles and non-racialism, and appears to be growing in popularity, especially in Gauteng. Mashaba claims the party has 160 000 volunteers all over the country.

According to City Press, ActionSA has been poaching DA leaders – especially in the Joburg region – which makes for a spicy situation.

Local elections will take place next year, and the City of Joburg is going to be a very interesting one to watch. It has since reverted to ANC rule and the current mayor, Geoff Makhubo, is mired in corruption allegations.

Joburg voters have been most willing to punish the ANC at the polls over corruption. Mashaba has shown himself to be adept at holding down difficult coalitions – previously with the EFF – and just may be able to pull it off again.

🔸 Arch Desmond Tutu named Human Rights Global Treasure

South Africa celebrated Reconciliation Day on Wednesday, and what better way to do it than with a celebration of a national icon, and the inventor of the Rainbow Nation concept: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. 🌈

The 89-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner is a global treasure… but you already knew that. And now it’s official!

Tutu was named the Human Rights Global Treasure of 2020 by US-based NGO Article3.org for his courageous commitment to human rights around the world, from his past opposition to apartheid to his present outspoken stance against discrimination based on sexual orientation in countries like Uganda.

The award ceremony saw distinguished speakers lauding Tutu as a devoted advocate for marginalised communities around the globe. Halala Tutu, halala! 🙌🏽

🔸 Court challenge over beach closures

Government’s decision to close beaches along the Garden Route this week was welcomed by some as a necessary measure to stop the spread of Covid-19, after the area was declared an infection hotspot. But a group of businessmen from the Garden Route are taking the government to court over the decision.

Local business owners say the economic impact of the beach closures will be severe. Garden Route municipality mayor Memory Booysen said the tourism industry felt the impact within hours of the announcement. News24 reported that Knysna’s accommodation sector lost 80% of bookings, and Plettenberg Bay is expected to lose about R200m in revenue from tourism. 😥

The town and businesses were ready for the holiday visitors, and had put all precautions in place to avoid the spread of Covid, News24 reported.

The business owners will ask the court to decide whether the government based its decision on scientific evidence – much like the controversial tobacco ban. This week, a court found it had not been based on scientific evidence.

The Garden Route case will be another important way to test whether the government is using science when making these far-reaching decisions.

🔸 Salim Abdool Karim gets (another) prestigious award and it’s a biggie

In another boon for SA’s scientific community, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, who leads the government’s group of advisors on Covid-19, has received one of the biggest awards in science: the 2020 John Maddox Prize. 🎉

This year it was shared between Dr Karim and the US chief scientist on Covid-19, Dr Anthony Fauci. Fauci is a highly respected scientist, and came to global prominence when he pushed back against former US President Donald Trump’s Covid-19 denialist policies early in the pandemic. Sharing a prize with Fauci is a pretty big deal, and it’s also kind of sweet as the two are already friends. 🥺

The prize is handed out by UK-based NGO Sense about Science, in honour of scientists who “promote sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, facing difficulty or hostility in doing so”.

Both men have profoundly affected how people on both sides of the Atlantic now understand the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s great to see our very own Dr Karim getting the recognition he deserves. 🕺🏽

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. INTERNATIONAL NEWS 🌏

🔹 Boko Haram claims responsibility for Nigerian school boys kidnapping

Remember Boko Haram? They’re the terrorist group that kidnapped over 200 girls in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014 – sparking the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that had everyone from Michelle Obama to Kim Kardashian showing their support.

On Friday, the same group struck again. They kidnapped over 300 schoolboys – this time in the country’s North East region, showing the spread of their activities.

17 boys have since been rescued, but we’re concerned about the rest. Boko Haram, whose name literally means “Western education is forbidden”, has killed more than 30 000 people since 2009, according to the Institute for Security Studies. They’ve suggested it may be time to hold talks with the group, as military campaigns alone aren’t working.

🔹 Why the pandemic is causing spikes in break-ups and divorces

If hell is other people, what is… several months stuck with your significant other?

Lockdown has wreaked havoc with relationships. Studies from the US, UK, China and Sweden have shown astronomical increases in break-ups since the onset of the pandemic. Now, lawyers, therapists and other experts are starting to understand why.

In the UK, more women are initiating divorces, and speculation is that this is because they had to take on extra household and childcare responsibilities, while their husbands did not pull their weight. Then there’s the increased strain on mental health and finances, plus the lockdown magnifying pre-existing problems.😕 Get up and do the dishes before it’s too late!

🔹 Too many women in Paris government?

Reading this headline had us thinking we’d woken up on another planet. Can a government hire too many women? Apparently so, and in the progressive country of France, no less. 🙃

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was fined $110 000 for hiring too many women. Women were appointed in 11 out of the city’s 16 top posts.

Ironically, Hidalgo’s desire for more women in government was in line with a 2012 French law aimed at putting more women in the civil service – fines could be imposed if there was a gender imbalance in government. In 2019, that law was amended to say there would be no fines… but Hidalgo did the hiring in 2018 when the fines were still in place.

Hidalgo said the fine was “absurd”, but happily paid it anyway, saying she would personally deliver it to the ministry that issued it.

🔹 Make Hacking Great Again? Ethical hacker cracks Trump’s Twitter

Can you guess former US President Donald Trump’s Twitter password? “BuildTheWall!!”? How about: “WhiteHousePassword1234”? 🤣 Nope, it’s even easier than that.

A Dutch hacker actually breached Trump’s Twitter account by guessing the password: “maga2020” – his 2016 presidential campaign slogan, according to The Guardian. It’s a step up from Trump’s 2016 password, “yourefired” – a throwback to his previous reality TV hit, The Apprentice.

The hacker, Victor Gevers, will not face prosecution as he is what the Dutch consider an “ethical hacker” – he immediately alerted US authorities and the US Secret Service that he’d managed to hack into the President’s Twitter, to alert them to the enormous security problem that was right under their noses.

(We can’t help but wonder whether Gevers would have done the world a favour by shutting down the account first…)👀

Looking ahead 🧐

On 29 December, you’ll hopefully be putting your feet up, turning off your phone and enjoying some well-deserved (socially distanced) downtime with the family.

But in case you’re a sucker for drama like us, you’ll be watching this: the Constitutional Court will be hearing an application by the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The Commission wants the court to force Jacob Zuma to give evidence related to his alleged role in state capture – something he’s refusing to do.

If the Commission succeeds, Zuma will finally have to tell us whether he let the Gupta brothers run the country (spoiler alert: he kinda did), or whether it was all a made-up plot by spies who are out to get him (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). 😬

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 Sarah, Verashni, Aarti, and Nontshi ✌🏽