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Shot dead while passing a protest

Student protests at Wits University turned deadly when a bystander was fatally shot, allegedly by police. The death of Mthokozisi Ntumba has renewed debate around police brutality in the country. We tell you what’s being done, and why we must keep the pressure on authorities. Plus we have the inside scoop on racism allegations against Eskom CEO André De Ruyter, and why the much-anticipated Coming 2 America movie should have stayed in America. Enjoy this week’s edition of The Wrap, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 😄

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: A RIGHT ROYAL BOMBSHELL 💣  

Whether or not you’re interested in the British royals, it’s an interview so explosive, it got nearly everyone talking. Former actress and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry sat down with America’s favourite talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. The broadcast on Sunday dropped several bombshells aimed at The Firm, as the British royal institution headquartered at Buckingham Palace is known. 

Meghan and Harry alleged that:

1. She was given no support by the palace during the British tabloids’ vicious coverage of her. Things got so bad, she considered suicide. She said she was denied psychological help when she asked for it. 

2. Before they stepped down as senior royals, they learned their son would not be granted a title and therefore get no security protection, despite the heightened risk the family faced. 

3. Asked to speculate why that may be, Meghan said – in the most explosive claim – that someone had “several conversations” with Harry about how dark their child may be. Oprah’s expression in response said it ALL! 😦 Both refused to name the person, but Harry subsequently said it was neither the Queen nor her husband Prince Phillip. Both spoke very warmly of their regard for the respected monarch but were frank about Harry’s estrangement from his brother and father. 

The fall-out has been dramatic. The Queen put out a brief statement saying: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”

Love them or hate them, there is something powerful about seeing a prominent couple speak out against an age-old institution that, by now, should have changed its ways and caught up with the modern world, where mental health is taken seriously and racism isn’t tolerated. 

Meanwhile, we’ve written about how the pair’s plan to move to South Africa or another Commonwealth country was scuppered, and what it reveals about the powerful forces inside the monarchy that often act against its interest. Read it here

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: TRIGGER-HAPPY COPS UNDER SPOTLIGHT 👮🏾

How on earth did police manage to allegedly kill a bystander, using rubber bullets? And why was such force even needed? That’s the question police must answer after the shock killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba on Wednesday, as police tried to control fresh protests that broke out at Wits University. Students are protesting the financial exclusion of about 6 000 students who cannot register at the university this year, because of historical debt. 

Ntumba was shot three times at point-blank range with rubber bullets. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said it was investigating the incident. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed during a visit to the family home today that Ntumba was a Masters graduate working for the department of human settlements. He leaves a wife and three children, the youngest still a baby. “It is a sad situation to look at,” Cele told journalists outside the family home. “It is something that you can’t really be able to live with it as a human being.” 

So why do we still have to live with it? As explain has previously reported, our police brutality is far worse than that in the US, where the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted systematic abuses. In our case, it’s almost always black lives on the line. 😔

For too long our country’s policing leaders have confused a tough approach on crime with disregard for human rights. Now Cele says, action is being taken. “The Ipid, every single month, give me a long list of the names of SAPS members that are supposed to be referred to the NPA.” He added that they have also started implementing the Farlam report, which investigated the Marikana massacre where 34 miners were killed by police. “One of the elements where Farlam was very hard on it was the training of public order policing. That is happening,” he said.

It can’t happen soon enough. The student protests themselves are a tinderbox fuelled by historic inequality, and already brewing tensions over police actions when #feesmustfall protests first rocked universities in 2015. 

Cele seems to be realising his trigger-happy approach to policing is not working, and his rapid appearance at the family home shows he and other authorities know how terrible this looks. Let’s keep up the pressure till things change. ✊🏾

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS

Coming 2 America should have stayed in America

Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 classic Coming to America, was one of 2021’s highly anticipated blockbusters. But it’s turned out to be another tone deaf attempt by American’s to embrace Africa. The film was released last week on Amazon Prime and mostly panned by reviewers. The filmmakers’ efforts took us back to a pre-Wakanda Africa – and made us all cringe. While Black Panther did the work to make the fictional African country of Wakanda authentic, and pay homage to real African cultures, the “Zamunda” of the Eddie Murphy movie held none of that nuance. 🙄

The sequel was haunted with the patriarchy, sexism, and outdated humor of the original – which only worked because it was the ‘80s and, quite honestly, we didn’t know better. 

In one silver lining, South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha was one of the film’s breakout stars, catching the hearts of global audiences. Local audiences, however, were quite confused when they heard her “African” accent on screens. We’re still trying to locate its origins. If you find them let us know?

Swiss voters back a ban on face coverings

In a regressive move, 51% of Swiss voters favoured a ban on face coverings, aimed at Muslim women in public, the BBC reported. This comes after a referendum was proposed by the right-wing party Swiss People’s Party. It’s a rather heavy restriction, especially in a country where ONLY 5% of the entire population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, according to research by the University of Lucerne in Switzerland – and, it found, almost no one wears the burka and all of 30 women wear the niqab. In case you don’t know the difference: a burka is a one-piece garment that fully covers the woman’s face and body while a mesh screen covers the eyes. A niqab covers the face fully, but the eyes are visible; a hijab is a scarf that covers the head and neck, 🧕 according to a lecturer in Middle East Politics and Islamic Studies. Arguments that a Muslim woman’s decision to cover her face represents a form of oppression worthy of state intervention is tenuous at best. In reality, the ban is another confrontation with a small Muslim population, following similar bans in Denmark, Austria, France and others, BBC reported. Thankfully, South Africa is on the other side of this, with our broad acceptance of religious faiths and their choice of dress. 🏳️‍🌈

Building a greener Joburg

Johannesburg’s electric vehicle (EV) rollout may be accelerated with the UK’s help; it just gave us R64 million to fund ten green projects. One is ambitiously aiming for all new buildings in Johannesburg to be “net-zero carbon” by 2030 and to support electric vehicle rollouts. 🚙 NPO Sustainable Energy Africa, which is spearheading the vehicle project, proposed the conversion of minibus taxis and busses to electric power, adding that the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system is also a prime candidate for EV conversion, Business Insider reported. 

But this will also require sufficient solar-powered charging stations. Electric vehicles are not new to South Africa – you may have seen a few. BMW and Nissan’s Leaf are the pioneers of our country’s EV project, while Jaguar Land Rovers are also in the mix, Bloomberg reported. The UK’s generosity is a bid to drive climate recovery. The British High Commissioner, Nigel Casey, said: “I am delighted that we are launching this range of projects aimed at supporting green, resilient and inclusive economic growth in South Africa,” Business Insider reported. 

Racism charge in ongoing row for Eskom’s André De Ruyter

It’s not all good news on the energy front. The job of Eskom CEO remains one of the toughest in SA. The man previously in the hot seat, Phakamani Hadebe, resigned in July 2019, citing “unimaginable demands” which were impacting his health. 

So it’s been a relief to watch current boss André de Ruyter last this long, while doing a fairly decent job of steering clear of politics and doing the slow and laborious work of trying to clean up the trainwreck of a utility.🕯️

As part of these efforts, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan probably thought he was doing De Ruyter and others a favour by making Solly Tshitangano its chief procurement officer (CPO). The role is an important one, given that procurements are where things went so wrong for Eskom previously. Tshitangano built a name for his integrity when he blew the whistle on the Limpopo textbook scandal in 2012 as acting CFO of the Limpopo Education Department. He went on to become the chief director of governance at the National Treasury – but he seemed to struggle making a real dent in Eskom’s spend on goods and services. It’s led to a breakdown in the relationship between him and De Ruyter, with De Ruyter finally suspending Tshitangano. 

“We spend R140-billion buying goods and services. We are paying more than what we should be paying. R2-billion savings is not a lot, it’s about 4% of R140-billion. That is exceptionally modest, but Solly has not delivered what was asked of him,” De Ruyter said.

Now, Tshitangano has responded by accusing De Ruyter, a white man, of racism. 😲

He has based this on what he alleges is De Ruyter’s treatment of black suppliers. 

Eskom’s board will appoint an independent senior counsel to investigate the racism claims. 

It’s a helluva complication to an already complicated matter. 😬

If De Ruyter really is guilty of racism there should be consequences, but if he isn’t it would be terrible to lose him. Similarly, Tshitangano is clearly a man of integrity. In an ideal world, our public service would find a suitable place for them both. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ ACCOUNTABILITY MONITOR: STEINHOFF EXECS FACE GERMAN JUSTICE

Remember the 2017 Steinhoff scandal? Senior execs at the furniture and household goods multinational blatantly cooked the books to falsely inflate profits. CEO Markus Jooste promptly resigned… but four years later has yet to be charged. It was South Africa’s largest-ever private sector fraud and accounting scandal, and the lack of arrests has made the public feel pretty cynical about corruption being tackled in the private sector. After all, this isn’t just a case of some rich shareholders losing some dough: given Steinhoff’s size, most pension funds would have had some exposure to its stock, and suffered when R200-billion was summarily wiped off the company’s market capitalisation after the scandal. That means ordinary people like you and me, and anyone with a pension or investment product in South Africa, would likely have been affected. 😠

Now Germany is leading the way: the country has charged three top Steinhoff executives for accounting fraud, which carries a maximum of three years in prison. Their system doesn’t allow for those charged to be named but it’s a fair bet one of them in Jooste – who may finally taste justice for what he did. Steinhoff was founded in Germany but later moved its headquarters here. It has a primary listing on Germany’s Frankfurt Stock Exchange and a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

So what’s taking South Africa so long? Well, consider that German public prosecutors had to conduct a six-year investigation before getting to this point. SA’s investigations started later, and our National Prosecuting Authority was of course decimated by years of state capture and needed to rebuild capacity to put together a case that could win in front of a judge. 

Meanwhile, there has been fresh unhappiness over Steinhoff’s donation of R30 million towards the investigation. But this donation is for the police, not the NPA, the latter clarified this week. It will fund auditing firm PwC’s forensic report into the complicated mess. While there are concerns about a possible conflict, various measures are in place to try and manage this. It’s just not that easy to do financial forensics… after all, look how long it took the Germans. 👀

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ WEEK AHEAD

Grammys

The 2021 Grammy Awards take place on Monday, 15 March 2021. This year’s ceremony will be hosted by one of our favourite exports, South African comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah. 🙌

The 2021 Grammys came under fire after The Weeknd, who performed at the 2021 Superbowl and had one of the biggest hits of 2020, had zero nominations. Elton John, who is listed as a co-writer on the Weeknd’s After Hours Album, criticised the snub, as did Kid Cudi and Tinashe. 

All of those songs you couldn’t escape due to TikTok’s rise in popularity during quarantine are nominated. Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s Savage Remix is nominated for the coveted Record of the Year alongside Doja Cat’s Say So. Justin Bieber’s TikTok anthem Yummy is also nominated in the Best Pop Solo Performance category. Deceased rappers Pop Smoke and Nipsey Hussle received nominations in the Best Rap Performance category.

If you watch it, it’s going to be a lowkey affair with most attendees dialing in from home. 📺

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 the team ✌🏽