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15 April’21 Wrap: The DA’s pale male problem

In today’s edition we look at why things just may be OK despite SA’s paused vaccine rollout; examine the DA’s plans for a new CT `mayor and offer a special tribute to those we lost in the past week. So, let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 😄.

Format

🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here

🗞 For text, keep scrolling.

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ *1. OUR TAKE: DA MAYORAL RACE IS ON* 🔵

If you’re living in the Mother City you’re in for a new mayor with the ruling DA conducting interviews for the top job at the moment. There are three candidates in the running:

▪️ 1. Current mayor Dan Plato, 

▪️ 2. Bonginkosi Madikizela, MEC for human settlements and the party’s Western Cape leader,

▪️ 3. MP, and finance spokesperson Geordin Hill-Lewis. 

It’s increasingly looking like Hill-Lewis will get the job. Plato has been a damp squib of a mayor and isn’t popular inside or outside the party. Madikizela is currently embroiled in a qualifications scandal, and was just suspended today for two weeks. He apparently lied for years about having a BCom degree, according to a Daily Maverick investigation that also found the DA doesn’t vet its leaders’ qualifications. 👀

Hill-Lewis is in with the current faction in the DA, and is close to John Steenhuisen and Helen Zille. He was formerly Zille’s chief of staff. But his selection will double down on the DA’s representation problem, given he’s the one pale male candidate. 

The DA’s race problem is already an election risk, after high profile black leaders like Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba and Patricia de Lille exited and Zille returned. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ *2. THE BIG STORY: VACCINE ROLLOUT ON PAUSE* 😶

If you’ve heard the latest news, you’re probably worried that SA has paused the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This after six women in the US reported blood clotting – a potentially fatal side effect. The US and EU have also hit the brakes on J&J. 

For South Africans this is yet another hope dashed. We had to stop the AstraZeneca vaccine too over concerns about its limited effectiveness against the dominant local variant. The J&J jab was supposed to be our great hope. Are we ever going to catch a break??

But we think it’s going to be OK. Here’s why:

◾️1. ZERO cases of blood clotting were reported in SA among the 290 000 healthcare workers who participated in the first phase of our rollout, the Sisonke trial. 

◾️2. The pause is just that: authorities are hoping it’s only for a few days while they study the link with clotting. Many local experts think we should continue its rollout because there have been no local cases of clotting and “the one in a million risk is very rare”. 

◾️3. With more vaccines becoming globally available, SA has secured enough of a third vaccine, by Pfizer-BioNTech, for 15 million people. The first batch is expected to arrive on 3 May, just ahead of when we’re supposed to start phase 2 of our rollout, targeting vulnerable groups and the elderly. Together with the J&J vaccines for 31 million people SA will have enough doses to exceed its target to vaccinate 40 million of our population. 

Remember: if any person feels uncomfortable, they don’t HAVE to get the vaccine. And if you check the side effects of any medication you regularly take, you’d be surprised at what you’ll find. Don’t get us started on birth control. 😷

Financially, continuing also makes sense. We’ve already made an initial payment for 31 million vaccines from J&J… which is not refundable. Yup. Mkhize said officials tried to push back against this clause but the pharmaceutical company refused. And you’ll remember we were rather desperate for vaccines at the time. Mkhize said they checked with other territories which seemed to have the same clause. (This is one of many unethical practices by big pharma.)

Luckily we seem to have recovered most of our money on those AstraZeneca vaccines we were stuck with. Mkhize says we sold it for what we paid for it, mostly to the African Union seemed to have worked out. Whew. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ *3. BRIEFS*

Star women fight for DNA labs

We love stories about solutions so we thought we’d share this gem from City Press about two women pioneers in forensic science.

In 2004, Vanessa Lynch’s father was brutally murdered. The perpetrators could not be arrested because of the lack of evidence at the crime scene. 

Carolyn Hancock, a forensic geneticist, heard Lynch’s story on Carte Blanche. She reached out to Lynch, a former commercial lawyer, and the two set out to help the criminal justice system through science. 

In 2009, they developed a postgraduate course that is the first of its kind in Africa, preparing scientists to work in labs on DNA evidence. 

Lynch and Hancock also spearheaded the so-called DNA Act, and in 2015 the law made it mandatory for police to collect forensic DNA profiles from convicted criminals and those arrested for serious crimes.

It’s a crucial development for our justice system, especially considering that many criminals are repeat offenders. Many unrelated offences have been solved thanks to the growing database. The two also answered privacy concerns, saying the system does not collect the parts of the DNA “which make us who we are” – our genes. Plus, if a person is found innocent, their DNA is removed from the database. 

Today SA has two of the best DNA laboratories in the world. But there is much to be done still. Government departments need better collaboration with forensic laboratories, and there’s a hefty testing backlog. Thankfully more money is being funnelled into funding this crucial system. 👍

Accountability Monitor: John Hlophe gets his comeuppance

It’s been one of those long-running sagas: Back in 2008, Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe was accused of approaching two of SA’s top judges, Justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde, in their Constitutional Court chambers. He was allegedly trying to get them to rule in favour of then ANC President Jacob Zuma in a matter linked to the arms deal. It was a shocking revelation and would have violated their oaths of office. This week Hlophe was finally found guilty of gross misconduct by a Judicial Conduct Tribunal. 👨‍⚖️

The matter has taken SO LONG to conclude because, much like Zuma, Hlophe used loads of delaying tactics. He is planning on challenging the findings but for now, the tribunal has recommended that he face impeachment. This will require a two-thirds parliamentary majority vote, so it’ll be a test of the ANC’s attitude. It may be an ignoble end to what should have been a great tenure for the first black judge to be permanently appointed to the Western Cape High Court, but whose career was plagued by controversies.

Our judge selection process makes us proud 

Speaking of SA judges, there are two vacancies in the Constitutional Court. This is one of our most respected institutions that has repeatedly kept us as a society on track during the darkest times. So we’re glad to see five solid candidates in the running for the job following recent interviews. 

The interviews themselves are part of a rigorous selection process we should be proud of. It is very difficult for the president or ruling party to influence, unlike in the US where nominations for its top court are made by the president, justices serve for life and candidates do not have to have any qualifications. 😲 SA’s top justices serve for a non-renewable 12-year term and experience and qualifications are everything. The Judicial Services Commission, which includes representatives ranging from established judges to those across the political spectrum, votes for the shortlist via secret ballot after intensive interviews. Our President makes the final decision on the names presented. 

Our fave loud-mouth EFF leader Julius Malema, who is a member of the JSC, grabbed the opportunity to be back in the spotlight and made headlines with his politicised questions of some candidates – and ad lib attacks on the judiciary as a whole. As one columnist noted, the EFF hasn’t had much space to shine during the pandemic given that it relies on the “politics of spectacle”. And storming out of a Zoom meeting just isn’t that theatrical.😂 But his comments won’t go unchallenged, given he was there as a representative of parliament, not the EFF. Parliament has distanced itself from his attacks on judges during the interviews and has been asked by civic body Casac to take action. 

Zoom-boom, but this time for your face 

Remember those first Zoom meetings when you made an effort with your appearance? Ha. It wasn’t long before most of us started pitching up to meetings in our PJs and a blazer. But these virtual platforms mean we’re looking at our faces more often and so, naturally… cosmetic surgery across the globe is on the up. A plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Cape Town reported a 50% increase in appointments for various procedures, while a cosmetic surgeon in Johannesburg said he saw a 30% increase in facial patients, TimesLive is reporting. It’s not just SA: The Economist reports that there’s been a 10% increase in cosmetic surgery in the US, and 20% in France, according to various national bodies. Gives a whole new meaning to “keep your chin up” – and why not? 😉💅🏽

How do you solve a problem like Zuma? 

Leaked audio recordings featuring ANC top dog Jessie Duarte looking for a “solution” to Zuma’s problems have got us humming that famous Sound of Music ditty. 💃The hills of Nkandla aren’t alive with the sounds of music, however – instead they’re ringing with many court processes. Here’s what you need to know:  

◾️uBaba has to foot his own legal bill for the millionth take of his case related to the arms deal corruption. (Yes, it’s still ongoing). This week our second top court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, effectively confirmed a lower court’s decision that the state is not liable to pay. Zuma was hoping us taxpayers would foot ANOTHER legal bill for him. Lol. Instead the SCA found that it would be ‘just and equitable’ for Zuma to pay back the money he already received from the state – that’s about R25 million. Zuma is expected to finally go on trial for those many charges related to the arms deal on 17 May.

◾️Then there’s his more recent case with the Constitutional Court, following his ghosting of the Zondo inquiry into state capture. This week Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked Zuma what sanction he should face. Analysts were surprised, saying an ordinary citizen wouldn’t be afforded this right BEFORE a verdict. Zuma, inevitably, used the opportunity for some more legal theatre. He wrote a 21-page letter refusing, again, to partake in the legal process or to answer Mogoeng’s question, dwelling on his usual “I am a victim” narrative.

How to fast-track vaccinations 

We love the story of Bhutan’s vaccine rollout. The Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom, nestled between India and China, managed to vaccinate 93% of its adult population in just 16 days. After being gifted 150 000 doses by India, it decided to wait till it had enough for a quick and powerful vaccination strategy, and to avoid rationing. 

But the way Bhutan got its religious population onboard by turning the campaign into a lively national event is most interesting. The prime minister is a doctor, and the health minister has a degree in epidemiology. But they didn’t just bash their population over the head with science. They consulted a body of Buddhist monks called the Zhung Dratshang to advise on the most auspicious way to start the inoculations, down to the birth sign of the first recipient. The first shot was administered while prayers were chanted and butter lamps lit, The Economist reported. 🙏 Then an orange-clad national-service corps called the Guardians of Peace helped enact the quick and widespread vaccination strategy. The result? One of the world’s most effective Covid vaccine rollouts. 

Obituaries

It’s been a sad few days for the world as some key figures both locally and abroad passed away.

◾️Locally, we mourn Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl, a humanitarian, medical doctor, health activist and radio DJ. Known for her kindness and humility, Dr van Zyl, aged 45, passed away on 10 April two months after she was diagnosed with Covid-19. When SA learned of her diagnosis and the mounting medical costs, they contributed to a crowdfunding drive organised by her family and friends that raised more than R1 million. Upon her death thousands of tributes started pouring in: perhaps the sweetest of them all were those who, in honour of the woman known for her bold prints and dresses with pockets, posted pictures of themselves celebrating that style. Dr van Zyl’s memorial service was held today. 

◾️The death of anti-apartheid activist and education expert Graeme Bloch is another sad loss. Bloch was suffering from an illness and passed away at the age of 65. During the struggle, he was detained and arrested several times for his involvement in the democratic movement. He is being lauded for his contribution to SA’s intellectual and organisational leadership. 

◾️The untimely death of Anele “Nellie” Tembe, the 22-year-old fiance of rapper AKA, was also a shock for South Africa. Tembe fell to her death on Sunday from the penthouse of the Pepper Club Hotel in Cape Town.

◾️Like many others, we were also shaken after the suicide of a fifteen-year-old Limpopo pupil made headlines. Lufuno Mavhunga took her own life after a video of her being bullied by fellow pupils circulated on social media. “Justice for Lufuno” has been trending, and one perpetrator has been arrested. 

◾️Internationally, we remember American rapper, songwriter and actor DMX, who died from a heart attack after days of being on life-support. 

◾️And, in another instance of police brutality and racism in the US, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot dead by police after he was stopped – allegedly because of air fresheners that hung from his rearview mirror. He was on the phone with his mother moments before, nervously saying he had been stopped by the police. Wright was killed in Minneapolis, the same place where George Floyd was killed by police last year. 😔

◾️Finally, condolences to the English monarchy on the passing of 99-year-old Prince Philip, consort and untiring supporter to Queen Elizabeth in her long reign.  

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_ ✌🏽

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