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South Africa breaks vaccine deadlock

🗣️ Breaking news: SA has JUST secured enough vaccines for all its health workers and we couldn’t be more thrilled. But the vaccine issue is a tricksy one, which we break down for you in this edition. We also give you the lowdown after the shock news from the US yesterday, as pro-Trump supporters stormed a Congress gathering to confirm the incumbent’s defeat. The violence left several dead. Then there’s the must-know international news, celebrity gossip we think is still kinda noteworthy and our trademark Accountability Monitor.

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

Format

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: LESSONS FOR SH*THOLE COUNTRIES 😤

What should have been just a routine process to certify Joe Biden’s win in the US presidential elections quickly devolved into violence yesterday.

To refresh your memory… Donald Trump is STILL the president of the US. He was due to relinquish power on 20 January but until yesterday continued insisting, with no proof, that his November defeat was fraudulent. 😕 No court has found this to be true, and most have thrown out the dozens of cases brought by Trump’s team for lack of evidence.

Undermining citizens’ faith in their electoral system is the stuff civil war is made of. Trump addressed thousands of supporters in Washington DC, saying “we will never concede”, just before Congress met to finalise his defeat.

Hours later, an angry mob wearing pro-Trump paraphenelia stormed the Capitol – the US’s rough equivalent of our parliament. Offices were vandalised, art looted and police attacked. One woman was shot dead and three others later died. (Many noted police treated the white protestors far more gently than they did those from the Black Lives Matter movement.)

But the house reconvened later to certify Biden’s win. Trump has finally conceded there will be an orderly transition, albeit while still insisting the election was fraudulent. Twitter has locked his account. 😬

This didn’t happen in a vacuum. Trump tried to pressurise his deputy, Mike Pence, who chaired the certification proceedings, to somehow disqualify votes from certain states who voted for Biden. Pence refused – his first act of defiance, citing loyalty to the constitution.

Trump also tried bullying officials in swing state Georgia to “find” him the missing votes to assure his victory. They were Republican, but also chose loyalty to their constitution over a party or person.

He even tried the trick of dictators the world over: stacking the military with loyalists.

The upheaval unfolded on a day when Democrats also managed to win effective control of the Senate, meaning Biden won’t be completely obstructed in passing bills.

It shows that while Trump nearly brought one of the world’s oldest democracies to its knees, he couldn’t quite break it. It’s a relief in an age where democratic norms are under attack, and dangerous demagogues seem to flourish.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: THE GREAT VACCINE RACE 🤞🏽

Let out a cheer: the Department of Health made the amazing announcement today that it has sourced vaccines for our health workers! 🙌🏽

We’re still awaiting the details, but this is great news given growing concern about SA’s vaccine plan. However, this issue is not straight-forward.

You may have read that SA’s authorities haven’t done well in securing vaccines for the country. This may be true, but not because of ineptitude. In the unprecedented race to develop a vaccine, there are hundreds on offer to countries, with little guarantee if they will work amid largely secrecy-clad negotiations by big pharma. Richer countries can afford to buy up many multiples for their populations, and bet against one of them working out. We just don’t have the financial muscle to do that. Even various new deals that see rich countries helping poorer ones, like the Covax facility you may have heard about, are a big gamble. (Within Covax, SA won’t get financial help as we are considered a middle-income country.)

Meanwhile, big pharma has come under pressure; activists are demanding that they make details of taxpayer-funded deals public. Billions in government and philanthropic funding have gone to these companies, and while they have committed to not making a profit off vaccines during the pandemic, they’re at liberty to decide when that commitment ends.

The irony is, at least four Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials are being conducted in SA, and two vaccines are potentially being manufactured right here.🤞🏽 But there is no guarantee of preferential pricing or supplies for South Africans.

But take heart: if you belong to a medical aid scheme, you’ll receive the vaccine as a prescribed minimum benefit, according to Business Day.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS ✍🏽

🔸 Give your WhatsApp to Facebook or go

You may recently have been asked to agree to WhatsApp’s new Ts and Cs. If you did, you have given WhatsApp permission to share your information with Facebook. WhatsApp will collect user phone numbers, other people’s phone numbers stored in address books, profile name and pictures, status messages and diagnostic data collected from app logs, according to tech publication ArsTechnica. Under the new terms, Facebook has the right to share collected data with its family of companies. If you choose not to agree, you will no longer be able to use WhatsApp.You have until 8 February 😣 In a world of rapidly declining privacy and ever-growing tech giants, this is what many will feel is yet another impossible choice. There are no easy answers: we’re as conflicted as you. 😶

🔸 Looking ahead into the Zondo Commission

Three years later, with over 250 testimonies and nearly R800 million spent, the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture will draw to a close this year. It was meant to end on March 31, but Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has asked for three more months to put together his report, City Press reported, (we’re still unsure if it will be granted). The commission was a turning point for our country; witnesses, from Bosasa’s former COO Angelo Agrizzi to former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, dropped several bombshells. There were several denialists and even someone walking out (we won’t mention names 😉).

But before it ends, some top folks are yet to appear – President Cyril Ramaphosa, for one, will appear sometime before March to talk about his tenure as Deputy President when state capture and corruption in the public sector was rife. Zondo said his work would be incomplete if Ramaphosa doesn’t testify. Then there’s one Jacob Zuma (OK, we will mention his name) who really tested Zondo (and the country’s) patience with his rambling testimony and attempts to avoid appearing. Will he do so? That depends on the ConCourt backing up the summons Zondo has issued, and even then we don’t know if Zuma will turn up – and if he’ll say anything useful. Before he wraps, Zondo must also, er, capture oral evidence from SAA, the SABC, Eskom, Denel and Transnet. It’s going to be a busy last few months from arguably SA’s most important public hearings since the TRC.

🔸 Matric results

Thanks to the delay caused by the lockdown in 2020, the stress of online learning and leaked exams, last year’s matriculants will only know their fate on 22 February. That’s when results, which usually come out in early January, are expected to be released. The Department of Basic Education said marking should be completed by 22 January. That could be a challenge, though: the Sunday Times reported that some markers fear contracting Covid-19 at marking centres, where the script is passed between several people. Marking started in all provinces this week; already more than 74 markers were sent home in the Eastern Cape after contracting Covid-19, News24 reported on Tuesday. And 800 markers in Gauteng withdrew on Thursday, citing Covid related concerns. They have all reportedly been replaced. As a precaution, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said there should be compulsory screening and mask compliance at the country’s 181 marking centres over an 18-day period, TimesLive reported. It’s just another in a long list of Covid-related obstacles our learners have faced this past year. We can’t wait for them to finally get their results. 🙏🏽

🔸 Havo no avo {have no avo}

If your 2021 resolution is to eat healthy and swap burgers for avo on toast, you may want to consider an alternative. Syndicates with troops of pickers, transport fleets and their own pack houses are said to be targeting avocado farmers across Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, TimesLive reported. These syndicates allegedly raid orchards for avocados, dubbed “green gold” as demand for the premium crop increases. The supply of avocado has drastically decreased because of these thefts. We suggest you try peanut butter and banana on toast instead. 😬

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 4. ACCOUNTABILITY

🔹 Public protector needs protection from herself

Busisiwe Mkhwebane, South Africa’s errant public protector, has made headlines again and again for her court defeats over legally dubious reports. These seemingly played into the state capture fightback agenda, taking aim at Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. This year, things will come to a head for Mkhwebane, who has undone much of the good work her predecessor Thuli Madonsela achieved. She faces an impeachment process in parliament, scheduled for February this year. But Mkhwebane, Trump-style, is fighting it tooth and nail – disputing the process to remove her in a separate court matter. She’s nearly lost whatever dark battle she was helping fight: Girlfriend needs to move on. 🤷🏽‍♀️ Or better still, focus her attention on what the public protector is supposed to do: investigating concerns about government service on behalf of ordinary citizens. Think housing allocation, service delivery and so on. The stuff that really matters.

🔹 There’s a lot more accountability in store for us in 2021

A slew of folks alleged to have corrupted our democracy face justice this year. Courtesy of TimesLive, here is a round up of some of the people who will appear before our courts this year. The case against ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule will run into 2021. ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo will also get his turn in the dock. Another is high-flying businessman Edwin Sodi, who is among those implicated in the Free State asbestos case in which Magashule has also been named. Former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and his co-accused Mthembeni Mthunzi will also appear in court, as will the senior police officials involved in the “blue lights” tender, who are facing 392 charges between them. Then there’s former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, who is set to appear alongside former ANC MP Vincent Smith some time this year too. You get it, justice trundles on. 🙌🏽

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 5. INTERNATIONAL NEWS 🌎

🔸 Covid mutations on the prowl

First the UK and then South Africa: new coronavirus variants are springing up across the world.

While those nations got all the heat for the new variants, the reality is that both just happen to have advanced genome-sequencing processes to look for mutations, the Economist reported. (Thank South Africa’s world class scientists for that.)

Around 30 countries have reported some sort of variant; early evidence shows current vaccines will still combat these.

Most strains are different from each other. It’s not deliberate, this happens with viruses: they change so they can spread more and thrive. Cheeky little b*stards, we know. 😒

As the Economist pointed out: “Evolutionary biologists have shrugged at the appearance of the mutations: this is how viruses behave, for natural selection favours variants that are more transmissible and less deadly. Some viruses that cause common colds may have started out as vicious as SARS-CoV-2 and moderated in their old age.”

But nothing is certain yet, and a lot is still being studied. Again, just wear your mask. 😷

🔸 Kimye over? Say it ain’t so

Here at The Wrap, we’re not beneath a little celebrity gossip – especially when it offers a larger comment on the human condition. So, the news that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West may be getting divorced got our attention. It’s been interesting to watch how Kim has managed the very public challenges of her husband’s bipolar disorder. Kanye refuses to take medication for his condition, 😓 saying it stunts his artistry – not uncommon for those with the condition.

In the middle of last year, the rapper went through a sustained bipolar episode, with all the hallmarks of textbook mania, with the added bonus of millions at his disposal and global attention. He made rambling, shocking statements, staged a series of bizarre meetings with Trump and ran for US president. During this time he severely undermined his wife, attacking and exposing her. She defended him and called for compassion as he battled the condition. He later apologised for these mishaps, but one can only imagine the toll this would take on any partner.

Apparently, the two, who have four kids together, have gone for marriage counselling. In the past they seem to have benefited from each other’s influence. Kanye became calmer – committing to his faith as a Christian and starting a weekly church service of sorts. Kim became less superficial, studying to become a lawyer and working in prison reform. Sure, there’s more important things to care about in the world, but there’s also a little space for us to hope they pull through. ✨

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 the team ✌🏽

  • Correction: We said the WhatsApp agreement expires on 8 January, but have corrected it to say it expires on 8 February. We regret this mistake.