Here at explain, we pride ourselves on having a sense of humour. So we were counting down the days until April 1, delighted to be sending out The Wrap on such an auspicious day. We toyed with several ideas to “fool” you. But we have to admit defeat, dear reader. 😅
Between the ongoing push for the Western Cape to secede from South Africa, led by a few folks with a burning passion and a shared Photoshop account; a stuck container ship single-handedly (or single rudderly, maybe?) pitching global supply chains into crisis; and Ace Magashule being given more time to clear his desk and leave a whoopie cushion for his replacement than most of us ever get to exit a job – how could we invent anything simultaneously more believable yet utterly absurd than the real headlines?
Here’s hoping the globe’s strong prankster energy eases up soon, or satirists and comedians everywhere will be out of a job. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about some of these stories, and more. Enjoy this week’s edition of The Wrap, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the rest of the team at explain.co.za. 👩🏾
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🗞 For text, keep scrolling or check out our PDF below.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: THE CARDS ARE OUT – WILL ACE PLAY THE GAME? ♠️
The ANC’s top dogs in its National Executive Committee (NEC) drew a line in the sand on Tuesday: those accused of corruption or serious crimes must step aside within 30 days or be suspended. This is a victory for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who managed to sway the 86-member NEC in a torturous weekend meeting, after months of intense internal factional battles. The step aside rule has preoccupied the ruling party – and dominated political news – since last year. It’s not new – it was first approved at the NEC conference in 2017 – but resurfaced last August as public pressure increased on the party to take action against compromised leaders. There are many of these, all who have defied the rule, but the star of the show is ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Magashule’s list of alleged crimes is long, but he’s been charged and briefly arrested related to a dodgy R255 million asbestos deal when he was Free State Premier. The contract failed to remove the damaging substance from Free State homes. 😠 Instead the costs were VASTLY inflated, allegedly funneling cuts to Magashule’s cronies. (The good news is that the Hawks were quick to seize and freeze assets of many of those accused.)
So, with the verdict out, will Ace play the game? Unlikely. In an analysis for the Daily Maverick, Stephen Grootes wrote that: “Magashule is likely to refuse to step aside. That will lead to a process of suspension. And he is likely to challenge that in court. This would create a situation in which the legal representative of the ANC, the secretary-general, is taken to court by the secretary-general of the ANC. It would look like legal nonsense, which may well be Magashule’s aim.”
Magashule has also said he’ll be “seeking counsel” from previous party leaders in this time. Read: Jacob Zuma, as the likes of Thabo Mbeki have already made their disdain clear. (Watch our video looking at how Mbeki honoured this rule on our Youtube channel: explainza.)
Ramaphosa made it clear in reading the decision that it was final. But a month is a long time.
At this point we don’t know what card Ace has up his sleeve (ha ha 🙃) but that doesn’t mean he plans to start his own party, as some might speculate. Magashule confirmed to News24 that he would “never establish a new party”, adding that “I remain a loyal member of the ANC”. If that’s the case, Mr Magashule, then maybe you should start acting like it.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: SA VACCINE ROLLOUT DEMYSTIFIED
We know we spoke about this last week, but there still seems to be some confusion over what’s happening with SA’s vaccine rollout strategy.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions and misunderstandings.
◾“Government bungled the acquisition of vaccines and that’s why we’re behind THE ENTIRE WORLD.”
SA authorities were slow to the party, true, but there are many other factors at play: unequal access to vaccines is a global issue, with developed countries hoarding the lot. Most developing countries were only able to start roll-outs in March.
◾“SA is far behind on its rollout plans.”
This one is true. The initial plan was to inoculate South Africa’s 1.5 million health workers by the end of March, but the AstraZeneca vaccine we purchased was shown to be of limited use against the dominant local variant. It would have been a huge risk to go ahead and roll it out anyway.
◾“Phase 1 of the rollout has been a mess.”
What is often misunderstood, probably because of government’s waffled communication, is that the current “rollout” phase 1 isn’t really a full rollout: it is part of the clinical trial phase – a study.
Given that it’s a test, the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines used in the study arrived in batches of 80 000 about every two weeks. This, of course, limits the rollout. The full rollout will have millions of vaccines and thousands of rollout sites are planned.
◾“We’ll never get enough vaccines.”
This week Ramaphosa said that, in addition to the 11 million J&J vaccines already procured, another 20 million J&J doses have been secured, along with 20 million more from Pfizer. Negotiations are underway to procure other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V. Countries in the developed world will soon hit a surplus of vaccines, given that they procured more than their populations needed, and we’ll benefit from that.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS
South Africa bids a warm farewell to broadcasting beauty
For nearly four decades, Noxolo Grootboom has greeted SABC news viewers tuning in for the isiXhosa news. A calm, warm professional, this public servant – because at our best, that’s what all journalists are and should aspire to be – has kept millions informed. Her last broadcast, on Tuesday night, generated national interest that reached all the way to the top office in the land:
at the request of South Africans, the president postponed his scheduled Covid update by half an hour so that people wouldn’t have to choose between him and Grootboom! The 60-year-old broadcaster was so moved by this decision that she broke down in tears.
When 7pm rolled around, Grootboom was ready. She was dressed in a stunning black and white umbhaco (isiXhosa regalia) designed by Nombuyiselo Zinco, a small business owner from Gqeberha, who came all the way to the SABC studios in Johannesburg to give her the outfit. It was a beautiful garment for a beautiful occasion. Grootboom bowed out with her trademark phrase: ‘Ndini thanda nonke emakhaya’; this translates to “I love you all at home”.
At home, we loved her too – and loved the reminder that South Africa, for all its weird and wild moments, recognises greatness and knows how to celebrate the people who matter most. 🇿🇦
ICYMI here’s what you’re allowed to do this weekend
As we anticipated, President Ramaphosa announced some changes to lockdown regulations ahead of the Easter holiday. We’re still on level one, but here’s a quick recap of what you can and can’t do over the long weekend.
▪ Curfew remains 00:00 to 4:00am.
▪ Beaches, parks and dams are open provided all Covid-19 protocol is observed.
▪ Interprovincial travel is allowed, if crucial.
▪ The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be prohibited on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but will be allowed on-site from restaurants, shebeens and bars up until 23:00.
▪ You won’t be allowed to travel with alcohol if you’re going to visit family and friends.
▪ Indoor gatherings are limited to 250 people or 50% of the venue’s capacity and the figure is 500 for outdoor gatherings.
With that in mind, enjoy the weekend and be safe. 🐣
SABC bites the bullet on retrenchments
It was a difficult decision but the SABC finally got its way after valiantly fighting through political pushback: 621 employees were retrenched after the process began in 2018. It had to happen. The SABC has a crazy wage bill of R3bn and Business Day reports that employees earn R800 000 a year on average! Us taxpayers can’t keep bailing them out. But that didn’t make it any easier to watch so many people lose their jobs – or take the hit for years of mismanagement by head honchos and government. 😔
One broadcaster, Desiree Chauke, broke down in tears while reading a bulletin. 346 employees opted for voluntary severance packages, while 275 employees were let go because the positions they occupied were redundant. As Business Day put it: “CEO Madoda Mxakwe has made a bold move by doing what he promised — it’s a decisive break from the past.”
Suez Canal: the great ship blockade
You know how bad traffic can get when just one car breaks down in the middle of the highway? Now imagine that happening at sea – except it’s not one car, it’s a massive 400 meter long container ship, and instead of the highway, it was wedged in Egypt’s Suez Canal for a WHOLE week. About 12% of global trade – mostly liquified gas, crude oil and coffee – goes through the Suez, according to Bloomberg, so trade delays were inevitable. For example, Europeans might have to go easy on the coffee because containers of the robusta coffee, the type used in Nescafe, were caught up in the traffic jam. The ripple effect will be felt throughout the globe.
You know what else is going around the world? Memes. You may have seen a few doing the rounds. Our personal favourite is the popular one showing the HUGE ship beside a smaller crane trying to help it out – people are using the large ship as a metaphor for big problems and the crane as the solution that hardly helps. Say: My to do list (big ship) my progress (small crane). We can relate. 😬
What’s happening in Mozambique
You may have heard that Isis is on our doorstep in Northern Mozambique and OMG WHAT THE HECK? 😱 But… it’s not as simple as that.
The situation has caught our attention because at least 43 South Africans have been caught up in ongoing attacks on civilians and foreigners in the Cabo Delgado province, according to News24. Scary reports emerged of South Africans and others holed up in a hotel. Comms have been cut off, so we can’t tell how many have been killed.
But the impoverished region has long been a battleground, as the country’s gas, ruby and mineral wealth was funneled to business and political elites and the poor saw no change in their circumstances or future. This is fertile ground for radicalism. Since 2017 there have been repeated attacks by armed militants, leaving scores of people dead. Thousands have been displaced. Total previously stopped operations until authorities could guarantee stability. The recent attacks took place after the company re-started its work.
Locals armed militant groups behind the attacks are seemingly Muslim minorities. The organisation and others use the local name for the insurgents, al-Shabaab, which means the youth (and has no links to other al-Shabaabs), one expert on the conflict and area, Joseph Hanlon, wrote for New Frame. Amnesty International and other analysts have agreed. But that hasn’t stopped the Islamic State (IS) aka ISIS from claiming responsibility for the attacks, and US military and other Western powers getting involved.
So now this conflict is being turned into a global fight against IS.
But as Hanlon put it: “If jobs were created and marginalisation reduced, the war could be stopped. Sadly, it looks as if the gas companies, the Frelimo elite and the US building a new cold war would rather fight mythical global Islamist terrorists.”
Finger lickin’ is not good
KFC dropped its trademark slogan ‘Finger lickin’ good” in August 2020 because it says that licking fingers is not advised during Covid-19 times. No really, this isn’t a joke. So it took to the world’s best advisory committee, Twitter, for some help. It’s looking to borrow a slogan from another company #UntilWeCanFingerLickAgain and wants to know what people think will suit it best. We at explain also like to join in on the fun: so KFC, how about a play on “Redbull gives you wings” to “KFC gives YOU wings”? Ok, now we’re hungry. 😂
Accountability monitor: Police reforms
It’s too easy for our attention to move on from injustice and for us to lose track of the slow process to create justice. The deadly Marikana massacre in 2012 is a case in point. The Farlam commission of inquiry, which investigated the massacre, wrapped up in 2015. That wasn’t the end of it. Following that inquiry a panel of experts has put together 134 recommendations on how the police can properly handle protests and large crowds, to try and prevent another Marikana.
On Monday police minister Bheki Cele announced what his department is doing – and will continue to do – to comply.
Core issues being addressed include the SAPS’ strategy and policy, the professionalism and demilitarisation of the police, as well as more transparency and accountability within SAPS units. The officers involved in the massacre are being criminally prosecuted, and the families of the victims have been compensated.
There is much more to be done, as illustrated by the recent killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba, who was shot dead, allegedly by police, during protests by Wits University students just weeks ago; Collins Khosa, who was killed during lockdown, and many more. So we welcome any moves that see our police becoming the people’s servants, rather than our enemy. ✊🏾
As we usher you into the Easter Holidays, a celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ for Christian believers, we would also like to wish our Jewish community well as Passover comes to an end. We hope you feasted well in celebration of the liberation of your ancestors from Egypt – and hold tight, you’ll be able to eat bread again soon.😉
To our Hindu community, we hope you had a bright and beautiful Holi, a celebration of love and the triumph of good over evil; and finally, to our Muslim community, we wish you well ahead of the fast during the coming holy month of Ramadaan. Have a splendid break, explainers!
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 ✌🏽