Relief. Joy. Hope. All. The. Feels this week, as the country’s first Covid-19 vaccinations went ahead. It was kinda cute when President Cyril Ramaphosa squirmed over the needle jab. 😄 But he’ll need more than a brave face when, as one of the ANC’s top six officials, he tries to get Jacob Zuma to appear before the Zondo commission. As we report this week, even Zuma’s friends are a little irritated with his constant ghosting act. Plus, we have some good news on the jobs front this week, and we’re crying a river for Justin Timberlake (#FreeBritney!). Let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 😄.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: WRITING’S ON THE WALL FOR ZUMA 🗣️
Jacob Zuma’s outright refusal to cooperate with the State Capture Commission of Inquiry is irritating even those in his own ranks. His attempt to spin the commission as being part of a plot to undermine him is not gaining much traction. 😕
Zuma once again refused to appear before the commission this week – and this time, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is mad. Like, really mad. And he’s not the only one. Zondo said he will now ask the Constitutional Court to impose a prison sentence on Zuma. That’s a big step for him.
The Sunday Times reports that the ANC’s top six officials want to meet with Zuma over his refusal to appear. On Thursday, police minister Bheki Cele headed to Nkandla for a chat with Zuma. Officially, Cele isn’t saying why, but speculation is rife that he’s having that conversation with the former president. 👀
No less than justice minister Ronald Lamola made an impassioned plea for everyone to respect the commission, during a debate in Parliament this week.
According to the Mail & Guardian, he said: “The Zondo commission shows us that democracy is ultimately held together by citizens and civil servants alike, who commit to the rule of law in their daily lives. There are some in our ranks who refuse to let anarchy and the flood-gates of counter-revolution prevail.”
Business Day columnist Natasha Marrian says Zuma is likely to give in and appear at the commission in the end. She says that Zuma’s political capital is “utterly spent” and that despite his efforts to whip up support, no one is really playing ball. Even his support base in KwaZulu-Natal isn’t exactly setting the streets on fire with aggrievement over Zuma’s alleged mistreatment.
That leaves him with a faction of the ANC’s military veterans association for support, a group of suspiciously young cadres strutting about in fake army uniforms They’re not a very powerful, nor convincing bunch. Pics of them elicited mostly laughs on social media. In the absence of any real support, and with the law not on his side, the writing is on the wall. Zuma is the only one who can’t see it. 🤷🏽♀️
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: A SHOT IN THE ARM – OF HOPE 💫
Relief. You could see it on the faces of healthcare workers receiving the first Covid-19 vaccines this week, and feel it in the air as the country took in the news. Nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi, four other healthcare workers, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, all received SA’s first vaccines in Khayelitsha on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa looked away as he received his dose and tried to put on a brave face. Afterwards, he promised that the procedure was painless, but it’s endearing that even the president is a little squeamish about needles. 🤭
Don’t be fooled by the president’s wince: Wednesday was anything but painful. From Khayelitsha to Soweto, healthcare workers rejoiced – literally – as the first Covid-19 vaccines subsequently arrived across the country. 🙌🏽
News24 reports that jubilant Soweto healthcare workers received their jabs, while staff at the Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape threw their hands in the air with cries of joy when the box of vaccines arrived, according to the Daily Maverick.
In a country reeling from a deadly second wave of the coronavirus, where until recently, a vaccination programme didn’t seem guaranteed amid global vaccine inequality, watching the first doses being administered brought a lump to the throat of even the gruffest South African. 🥺
This was especially so, given last week’s disconcerting news that the AstraZeneca vaccine had to be placed on hold. A study showed that it was less effective against mild cases of the new Covid-19 variant, but the study did not test its efficacy for more severe illnesses. Johnson & Johnson stepped in, providing the country with 80 000 vaccines that it had available. Mkhize told Parliament this week that the country has now secured enough vaccines for the majority of the population, although they will take a while to reach the entire country.
Ramaphosa’s ouchie aside, his endorsement of the vaccine was a powerful statement in a climate of vaccine scepticism. And with the first jab that was administered this week, the country got a shot in the arm of the one thing we’ve so dearly needed since this wretched pandemic broke out: hope. 💫
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS ✍🏽
▪️ Why your medical aid isn’t just buying up vaccines
You’re a medical aid member, and you pay your fees religiously – though, let’s be honest, it ain’t cheap. 🤷🏽♀️ All this, in the hopes that you’ll be protected in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency. Cue 2020, the medical emergency of a lifetime. But where is your vaccine? You wouldn’t be the first to ask why your medical aid hasn’t yet purchased some jabs directly for its members.
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore explained why this week in a letter to members. Firstly, vaccine producers only sell to national governments not private companies like medical aid schemes, he said. Secondly, even if they did, schemes have a duty, driven by social solidarity, to make sure they’re part of a national programme. That means medical aid members shouldn’t be able to skip the queue, and that all vulnerable people should be vaccinated first. It’s a sensible approach, and one we’re totally behind.
▪️ Jacques Pauw’s fake news is bad for journalism
“Write drunk, edit sober,” was the mantra of the great writer Ernest Hemingway. One South African journalist took this a little too far this week, causing huge damage to the journalism industry. Jacques Pauw wrote a piece for the Daily Maverick documenting his own arrest, claiming it was for not paying his bill at a Cape Town restaurant. He claimed that he’d been unlawfully arrested, that the management of the business was to blame, and that the police had stolen his money. A few days later, Pauw retracted the entire thing, saying he was drunk at the time and had gotten his facts wrong. Ouch. 🤕
Pauw is the author of the best-selling The President’s Keepers, which exposed how former president Jacob Zuma abused his power.
Several high profile journalists and media organisations have condemned Pauw’s latest piece, noting how he abused his power and privilege. The Daily Maverick said it tried to fact check his claims, and apologised for publishing the piece. They will no longer publish his work. We need a media that is trustworthy and accountable, and actions like Pauw’s threaten to break down the public’s trust in journalism. And that’s bad for all of us.
▪️ Rihanna’s Hindu god reference falls flat
Rihanna made news again this week for all the wrong reasons. The Barbados-born singer posted a picture of herself modelling her latest lingerie collection, Savage X Fenty. She was topless, albeit with her arms across her chest, and wore lavender coloured silk shorts. So far so normal for a pop star. But she also, inexplicably, wore a prominent pendant of the Hindu god Ganesha. The picture caused an uproar on social media; many objected to Rihanna’s appropriation of Hindu culture and religion for aesthetic purposes. Her tattoos of traditional Indian henna designs were also prominently displayed. Last week model Jhardan Reign wore lingerie items from the same brand, while posing provocatively in front of a Hindu temple. If they’re trying to reference the Hindu faith in this new line, it’s rather distasteful.😶 And not particularly well done. Plus the brand has been here before. Last year they had to apologise after using sacred Islamic verses in a song during a lingerie fashion show. We love Riri for mainstreaming different body types and skin tones in her various brands. Now she needs to do better at honouring religions.
▪️ Euphonik/Fresh story puts rape culture in the spotlight
Popular DJs, Fresh and Euphonik, will not be going on trial after allegations of sexual assault were levelled against them. The National Prosecuting Authority announced this week that it had decided not to prosecute the DJs, who were sacked from Primedia Broadcasting following the allegations. In a statement, the pair said they had been exonerated. But that is not true. Prosecutors sometimes decline to prosecute cases because they don’t think a winnable case can be brought to court. That doesn’t mean the person was found not guilty, or that the allegations weren’t true. It must be hard news for the woman in question, who, unbelievably, was notified via WhatsApp, News24 reports. But that is the least messy part of this story. 😣 Fresh took to Twitter, saying a family member of his accuser had called him to say she lied about the allegations. The family responded to say that was not true either. If you’re concerned about rape culture in SA, tune in to Euphonik or Fresh’s Twitter feeds at your own peril. Much of the celeb world has come out in support of the woman, and we hope she’s getting the support she needs.
▪️ Recovery on the jobs front
After a torrid 2020, which saw about 3 million people losing their jobs in the first half of the year, we have some good news thanks to the survey with the worst name ever (National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey aka Nids-Cram). Whatever its name, it’s pretty reliable: a huge national household survey by more than 30 well-regarded researchers. They found that between June and October 2020 there was a strong recovery in employment. About 2.1 million people found a job during this time. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the 3 million who previously lost their jobs lucked out: “Only half of [those who lost their jobs] have regained employment. But a third of those who were unemployed before the pandemic have now found work,” Business Day reports. So it’s largely swings and roundabouts. South Africa’s official unemployment rate is currently at 30.8%, but the latest rate is expected on Tuesday and Trading Economics forecasts that unemployment will drop by at least 1%. 🤞🏽
▪️ Electric cars and bitcoin? Not so fast
Into saving the environment but not keen to pay in Rands? You can now buy electric cars made by Elon Musk’s Tesla with Bitcoin. But if you’re really into saving the environment, that’s probably not the smartest thing to do. 🙁
Bitcoin, despite having no physical presence, is a huge electricity guzzler given the amount of energy used across its blockchain structure for just one transaction. Bitcoin’s entire network power usage is estimated to be more than Ireland’s!
Which makes you wonder why Musk is such an ardent fan of the currency, given Tesla’s green credentials. He regularly endorses it, helping bolster its price when he does so. Tesla also recently made a whopping $1.5 billion dollar Bitcoin purchase. But questions are being asked about that as the board member who reportedly approved the deal is also a cryptocurrency investor, who sits on the boards of two major crypto firms. Sounds like a conflict of interest to us. 👀
▪️ SO-NA, So good
In case you missed it, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address last week covered the basics, but didn’t inspire enough confidence.
It’s the same old story: good ideas and goodwill for Ramaphosa, but a faction-riven governing party and bloated cabinet getting in the way. As Business Day’s Carol Paton points out: “What is needed is a single-minded focus on driving growth.”
Paton noted that there HAVE been some interesting successes in the past year thanks to a special delivery unit in the Presidency aimed at unblocking problems. They’ve had success with the scarce skills immigration list, changes to the visa regime, and allowing greater self-generation for independent power producers. But as Paton also points out, Ramaphosa has the backing of organised business and labour and must ask faster before his goodwill runs out.
Other than that, you need to know that social net benefits implemented for the pandemic will be extended, as expected: the R350 Covid relief grant covering the most vulnerable who are not already getting a grant, and the Covid-19 TERS benefit, will be extended until 15 March 2021 for sectors that have not been able to open and operate. Most experts agree this is necessary.
Now we need to see laser focus on growth to sustain that social net. 🤞🏽
▪️ #FreeBritney gains momentum after doccie
The #FreeBritney movement is gaining momentum following a new documentary by Hulu and The New York Times that details the shocking mistreatment of Britney Spears after her breakdown in 2007.
The documentary shows how the media built Spears up into a teen idol, relentlessly sexualising her and scrutinising her life, then shaming her into near oblivion after her bruising 2007 fall.
Britney has been under her dad’s conservatorship since 2008, which means she doesn’t control her own finances. Her fans started the #FreeBritney movement in an attempt to rally support for the 39-year-old singer.
Her ex-boyfriend, singer Justin Timberlake, reportedly played a role in her downfall, and this week released a statement apologising to her for his behaviour, as well as how he treated Janet Jackson (that’s a whole other, equally upsetting story). Cry us a river, Justin. 😓
▪️ Loadshedding in Texas?
Rolling blackouts consumed the Southern US state of Texas this week, making us wonder whether Eskom had opened up a corner shop across the Atlantic.🤔 But it turns out the unseasonably cold weather that recently swept the globe – the result of human-caused climate change – is to blame, The New York Times reports. At least 25 people died as freezing temperatures caused some power stations to freeze over; other stations were unable to cope with the increased demand for electricity, cutting off the state’s power. Texas is typically scorching hot and its grid isn’t designed to deal with such cold temperatures. Now some climate scientists say fierce winter storms could become more common, even as the overall weather gets hotter. Changing the state’s grid is costly, especially as its electricity system has the opposite problem to ours: too little government regulation. Power providers in Texas are privatised. Letting market forces dictate what happens on the grid is partly why many didn’t have backup power plants in reserve.
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, Nontshi, and Tash ✌🏽