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30 April’21 Wrap: Here’s what Ramaphosa told Zondo

Hi there_ 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s long anticipated State Capture commission testimony, and why it paled in comparison with the former Mrs Gigaba’s receipts. 

Plus we tell you why we celebrated Freedom Day despite the challenges our country still faces, and how Americans fell for a fake news story saying they could only have one burger a month. 

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 or check out our PDF below.

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: FREEDOM FOR ONE, FREEDOM FOR ALL

On the 27th of April, 27 years ago (happy crown birthday to us!), all South Africans of eligible voting age took to the polls for the very first time in a democracy. It brought a renewed sense of hope and healing to a racially-divided nation. 

After that we were dubbed “the Rainbow Nation” and we all learned the meaning of Ubuntu. But when you take a closer look at South Africa, it’s easy to see the darkness swallowing up the rainbow. So you’re not wrong to ask how a country can celebrate freedom, as we did this past Tuesday, when many of its people don’t have access to water, food, shelter and an education? What’s free about Freedom Day?

Well, there are some things we can celebrate, with thanks to International Relations scholar Oscar van Heerden, writing in the Daily Maverick: 

▪️ In 1994, only 36% of people had access to electricity in their homes; now over 84% have electricity in their homes.

▪️ Nine out of 10 public schools are now no-fee schools.

▪️ 3.2 million free houses have been built since 1994.

▪️ In 1994, only 54% of South Africans could read and write; now 94.3% of people can do so.

▪️ In 1994, 51% of South Africans had access to clean drinking water. Now, 88.6% have access.

Okay cynics, we know what you’re going to say next: what about our corrupt government?

We agree that the nine years under former President Jacob Zuma drilled a gaping hole into our democracy. But unlike many other countries, we didn’t just bury it and move on. When Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, the country’s political parties across the spectrum agreed on “The Pact of Forgetting” to avoid dealing with his brutal legacy.

We have the Commission of Inquiry of State Capture, the Hawks and also the Constitutional Court taking those responsible to task. South Africa’s democracy and those upholding it should not be taken for granted. We know there’s a lot more to be done, but we should also applaud how far we’ve come.

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: RAMAPHOSA DIDN’T DISH THE DIRT

Over the past two days, President Cyril Ramaphosa made his hotly anticipated first appearance before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, in his capacity as ANC president. He will appear again in May to testify about his time as former deputy president of the country, at the height of state capture. But, given the ruling party’s policy of deploying its members into key government positions, the issues bled into each other.

Ramaphosa kicked off on Wednesday with a nearly hour-long opening statement – (not to be confused with his annual State of the Nation address, because it surely sounded like it). Here he emphasised his responsibility towards the commission, perhaps in intended contrast to former President Jacob Zuma undermining the rule of law by refusing to show up. 

The big focus this week was on our wrecked state-owned enterprises, which became a feeding ground for the corrupt, as dubious Gupta-linked officials were deployed to run them. The appointments, according to Ramaphosa, were not endorsed by the ANC’s deployment committee, which he chaired as deputy president. 

He fell short of outright condemning the party’s deployment policies. We’d like to see a depoliticised civil service running our state apparatus, but it looks like we’re a long way away from that. 

Rampahosa also said he wasn’t aware of the state capture project while it was happening. “Some of these state capture issues became only evident in time as we moved on,” he said. He claimed that the Cabinet had a “silo approach” and “almost everybody kept to their lane”. 

Ramaphosa did say the ANC was “accused number one” when it comes to corruption, with the candour he’s regularly practiced when it comes to acknowledging where his party has gone wrong. But it can come across as empty rhetoric. 

However in response to the corruption plaguing its members, he spoke about the now infamous step-aside rule, and said those who don’t do so will be suspended. He’ll get a chance to prove it soon. By our calculations, yesterday was the deadline for the party’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, to step aside given that he’s facing charges. If he doesn’t he should be suspended, if Ramaphosa is to be taken at his word. Will he be?

So: Ramaphosa’s testimony thus far has been very broad, with little detail on specific wrongdoing.

But Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo seems to be on the case. He has repeatedly asked Ramaphosa for details about what exactly the ANC admitted it did wrong during the state capture era – “so that there’s no repeat”.

Ramaphosa agreed to do so by the end of his testimony, which is set to conclude in late May. We’ll give you the full story once it lands. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS

My Octopus Teacher wins Oscar

My Octopus Teacher, the breakout local documentary that became a surprise global hit, won the Oscar for best documentary at the 93rd Academy Awards this week. 

The doccie follows film-maker and diver Craig Foster as he explores an underwater kelp forest near Cape Town, and bonds with an octopus living in the area. You’ve probably seen it on Netflix during lockdown, when the most exploring and bonding you got to do was with your fridge.  If you haven’t seen it, we hope you’ve at least watched the hilarious local spoof, gently teasing the earnestness of the original. 

The film has won a string of previous awards, and beat out some serious competition to take home the famous golden statue. Audiences across the world were deeply taken with the interspecies friendship at the heart of the film, and the environmental issues it raised. Many fans have sworn off eating the animal. 

Directors James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich accepted the award, giving a shout out to South African audiences watching. Previous local winners have done the same in years past. There was Charlize Theron’s best actress win in 2003 and Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, which won for best foreign film in 2006. 

And where was Craig, the man at the centre of the doccie? Why, “up-coast on assignment”, of course. We wonder what nature journey he’ll be taking us on next?

The ongoing fight for representation

In other Oscars-related news, a round of applause and standing ovation for the world’s most prestigious film awards for finally reaching 20th century levels of inclusivity. This year’s Oscars saw a record of 15 women winning 17 awards for sound, production design, original screenplay and documentary feature.

But not all South Africans made us proud. Margaret Gardiner, the former Miss SA who became our first Miss Universe back in 1978, is now a journalist working with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). She has taken to Twitter to defend herself for mistaking one black man for another. 

She claims a Zoom technical glitch was responsible for her seemingly confusing Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya with fellow black actor Leslie Odom Jr during questions in the Academy press room. The HFPA itself, which is responsible for the Golden Globes, has not had a single black journalist among its 87 members since 2002, Variety has reported. We’ve pointed out other problems with this body in our video take, here

Catching up with the Commission

Norma Mngoma, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of former minister of home affairs, finance and public enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, dished the chai, hot and spicy, on the eve of Freedom Day about Gigaba’s involvement with the Guptas. If we could describe it in one word, it would simply be “Yoh”. 

A bit of background: Mngoma turned on Gigaba after their marriage fell apart. She then made a beeline for the Zondo Commission. Buuuuut Gigaba must have managed to persuade her otherwise because she then tried to back out of testifying. Too late, Norma! She was issued with a summons so had little choice in the matter. But that didn’t mean she was a reluctant witness. Oh no. 

Here are her hottest allegations:

◾️The Guptas had a “money counter” that looked a lot like an ATM at their Saxonwold compound, which would dispense loads of cash. Cash seemed to follow her husband, Mngoma said, adding that he paid in cash for all sorts of things including renovations to Gigaba’s father’s home in KwaZulu-Natal and to buy those snappy suits the former minister was so fond of. 

◾️Gigaba visited the Gupta house on several occasions, not just twice as he previously claimed. He tried to delete data from Mngoma’s phone showing repeated visits. 

◾️The Guptas wanted him to head key portfolios like finance, public enterprises and home affairs so they could easily permeate and influence operations but Mngoma said Gigaba started to resent pressure. When he didn’t oblige, he was told to “remember why he was appointed.” 

◾️Gigaba DID try to stop her from testifying and asked her to delete images off her Instagram and phone that showed her lavish lifestyle, Gupta-sponsored holidays and even a picture of her getting henna at the Gupta wedding that took place in Sun City. 

Thanks Norma! You and your Instagram account have done the nation a service. 😆 

Cricket South Africa saved from the brink of collapse

Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) governance has been a MESS for years. It seems a group of cronies have been hanging on to power at the body, which is independent from government and is meant to administer all aspects of the sport locally. Things got so bad that, back in 2012, an inquiry headed by retired Judge Chris Nicholson highlighted issues of corporate governance and mismanagement. 

He called for the appointment of an independent board and independent chairperson. But those fighting against reform have resisted change time and time again, so Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa was forced to step in. Now, look, the government rightfully gets a lot of flack for meddling in state bodies – but this time it was warranted. 

After Nicholson’s recommendations were ignored, Mthethwa appointed an interim board last year. Long story short, the Members Council (MC) – the highest decision-making body and policy-maker at the CSA – continued to make things difficult. It even mounted something of an internal coup against adopting a Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) to allow recommended changes to the board structure. 

This effectively held the entire sport hostage, because Mthethwa had no choice but to step in, and exercised his right in terms of the Sports Act… but the International Cricket Council effectively says there can’t be political interference, so we were at risk of not being recognised internationally, taking us back to pre-1994 isolation days. 😦  

Thankfully following Mthethwa’s decision to play tough – he was planning to gazette the new policy today (Friday) – cricket bosses put aside their differences to save the beautiful game and adopt the new MOI.  

Now we just need the Proteas men to whip up their skill and give South Africa some cricketing kudos. After all, the women’s team has – please learn from them! 

India’s devastating Covid cases

What’s happening in India?? A new Covid-19 variant called B.1.617 is driving a deadly second-wave across that country. Since the start of April, daily infection rates have surpassed 200 000. In the last week alone, 300 000 new cases were reported every day, BBC reported. The capital, Delhi, is most affected but reports suggest that the virus is spreading to smaller cities as well. As the world looks on, hospitals in India are beyond overwhelmed. There aren’t enough beds or oxygen and people who desperately need treatment are being turned away, only for them to die on the streets. 

People have taken to social media to ask for medical assistance. Makeshift cemeteries in car parks and open fields are running 24/7. The variant alone is not the cause of the second wave: the country unwisely lifted its lockdown restrictions in December ahead of election season. People flocked to the election rallies held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, at the same time, people attended huge religious gatherings. Thankfully, foreign aid arrived or has been promised but will it be enough? Authorities fear not, but then they should do more to protect their citizens. 😐

Biden is NOT declaring a war on meat

Can you imagine the face of the millions of meat-loving Americans who thought President Joe Biden wanted to take away their beloved beef, because it’s not sustainable for the planet? Yoh! But Biden is not taking away America’s burgers – it’s just unfortunate that news publication MailOnline reported it that way. 

The publication referred to an academic paper that was in no way connected to Biden, which noted that if Americans reduced their beef consumption by 90%, there would be a 51% reduction in diet-related US greenhouse gas emissions between 2016 and 2030. 

Fox News interpreted that as Biden allowing Americans to eat only one burger a month. The opposition went berserk, using it as leverage to bring down Biden. The panic reached a fever pitch when a former economic advisor to Donald Trump said that Biden even wanted Americans to drink ‘plant-based beer’. Shh, don’t tell them that’s how all beer is made. 😂

Accountability Monitor: UK imposes sanctions on Guptas

Weren’t you just furious when you read about how the Gupta family so easily bought so many of South Africa’s politicians, which led to much of our economic and political demise? Don’t you just want to see them punished? Well, then you’ll be pleased to know that the United Kingdom has placed sanctions on three corruption-accused Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, as well as their associate Salim Essa – aka the “fourth Gupta brother”. 

The US imposed sanctions on the Guptas in 2019. The move by the UK comes as it cracks down on corrupt individuals who are using the country as a ‘safe haven’ for their assets. 22 other individuals from around the globe have also been named. Now if only India and Dubai, where the bros are hiding out, would follow suit. The Guptas withdrew from the Zondo Commission early on, after they were not allowed to testify via video. Extradition can only happen once criminal charges are brought against them. 

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_ ✌🏽