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7 May ’21 Wrap: How the ANC found its backbone

_Hi there_ 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we tell you how the ANC finally found its backbone and suspended Ace Magashule, examine the likelihood that the Covid variant wreaking havoc in India could find its way here, and introduce you to the DA’s rather promising mayoral candidates in Gauteng. 

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: SOUTH AFRICA ON HIGH ALERT

South African authorities are on “high alert” after three travellers, who came from India via Doha to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport, tested positive for Covid-19. Fortunately, the trio were not carriers of the B.1.617 variant that’s wreaking havoc in India right now. 

Two of the travellers were asymptomatic and are in isolation; the other is in isolation at a health facility. At the same time, crew members from an Indian bulk carrier cargo vessel docked at the port of Durban are being isolated after one of their number died. 

Health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed on Wednesday that the double mutant variant has NOT been detected in South Africa. Phew! 

But just in case, the department of health is seeking advice from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on how it can appropriately prevent the B.1.167 variant from entering South Africa. This is what we know so far: 

▪️ There are no direct flights from India. This, however, does not mean that Indian nationals cannot enter South Africa – travellers could come here via other countries, like the United Arab Emirates for example. 

▪️ Ports of entry are a major concern and are being dealt with urgently, Mkhize said. “Stringent containment procedures” are used to minimise the importation of Covid-19. 

▪️ Authorities are also on high alert over variants of concern from other countries. 

▪️ Some members of the MAC are calling for tighter travel restrictions from India, especially ahead of a possible third wave in South Africa, News24 reported. 

Although things have been pretty calm here, the health department has warned that there has been a significant increase in cases, especially in Gauteng, which could result in a third wave. And although Mkhize said South Africa is capable of dealing with the burden of new, harmful variants, it’s important to note how things are devastatingly panning out in India, whose government took its eye off the ball when their first wave wasn’t as bad as they feared.

What can we learn from India 

A few months ago, things were under control in India, but the virus was still around. Restrictions were eased but people became complacent. Non-pharmaceutical interventions were ignored and life went on as if normal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a massive election rally and religious festivals were attended by scores of people. It was the perfect recipe for disaster. The new variant was first detected in October but with India’s density, things eventually spiraled out of control. The double mutant variant, as scientists are calling it, contains genetic mutations found in two other variants of Covid-19. One part of the mutation makes it easy to transmit and the other makes it resistant to vaccines, but the evidence is not conclusive. The variant has also been detected in the UK. India’s dense population of 1.4 billion people makes it harder to control the spread of the virus. As we reported last week, at least 300 000 new infections are reported daily, the country is running out of oxygen supply, hospital beds and drugs. Hospitals are packed to capacity that people who desperately need help are being turned away. Scores of people are laying on the streets hoping to be helped and many of them end up taking their last breaths right there. 

The last rites of individuals are not even performed fully, as the New York Times’s New Delhi bureau chief describes: 

“Crematories are so full of bodies, it’s as if a war just happened. Fires burn around the clock. Many places are holding mass cremations, dozens at a time, and at night, in certain areas of New Delhi, the sky glows. Sickness and death are everywhere”

Obviously we don’t want to see this happening in South Africa and because new variants can emerge, as it already happened here, we need to take care. Mkhize has asked the nation to remain calm and adhere to health protocols, adding that measures will be taken to ensure we prevent importation while also maintaining economic activity. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. THE BIG STORY: ANC IN SUSPENSE 🚫

We’ve been telling you about this since last year and it’s FINALLY HAPPENED. The ANC has suspended its secretary-general (SG) Ace Magashule after an exhausting back and forth.

Some background: Magashule had until 30 April to step aside from his role, but predictably did not, instead creating endless political drama you’ve no doubt heard about. 

This comes after the ANC said at its 2017 conference that members charged with corruption should step aside while matters are investigated. This isn’t a new rule, but was revived in an attempt to clean up the party’s battered image. Magashule was one of 30 members affected; he faces criminal charges relating to a R225 million asbestos project in the Free State when he was premier. (They were meant to remove the asbestos. They didn’t.) 🙄 That trial is ongoing. 

The rest of his peers in the ANC’s “top six” leadership found their backbone after he missed the deadline. On Wednesday the ANC’s deputy SG Jessie Duarte issued Magashule with a notice of his temporary suspension, which came into effect on 3 May. This means Magashule may not carry out his responsibilities as SG, represent the party publicly nor mobilise ANC structures. He will still get paid though – his salary is a whopping R133 000 a month!

But this move cements Ramaphosa’s influence over the party, as many have been questioning his political clout. 

You’d think this comes as a blow to Magashule, but boy do we have news for you. Magashule then said with the “powers vested” in him he would… wait for it… suspend the president of the ANC, not to mention our country, Cyril Ramaphosa. 

As broadcaster Ashraf Garda put it on Twitter: “That’s like the player giving the referee a red card in response to the red card he has received. South Africa is alive with possibilities.” 😂

Magashule also hit back at his deputy, Duarte, saying she didn’t have the authority to issue the suspension, adding that until his appeal has been heard, his ‘suspension is thus wholly suspended’. The word “suspension” promptly lost all meaning. 😵

He’s wrong though. According to  Rule 25.7 of the ANC constitution, Duarte can suspend him, as the Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee highlighted.

So what’s next? We’ll get more clarity after the larger National Executive Committee meets this weekend. Until then the ANC has asked Magashule to respect its decision or face a disciplinary hearing. 

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. BRIEFS

A divorce worth Bill-ions…

Power couple Bill and Melinda Gates this week announced their decision to end their marriage after 27 years. In a statement the pair said that, following a great deal of thought and a lot of work on the relationship, they had decided to split as they do not believe they will be able to grow together in the next phase of their lives.😢 

The two jointly run the foundation that carries their names, and which has transformed the health philanthropy game. They have spent billions fighting infectious diseases and encouraging vaccinations in children, among other things. They said they will continue to work together at the foundation and still believe in their mission to help others. Seems pretty perfect and powerful, right? 

So what could have gone wrong? We don’t know the full story and we don’t like to speculate, but a surprising detail about Bill dropped our jaws in shock. It was revealed that Bill had an arrangement with Melinda to allow him to spend one weekend a year away at a beach house with his ex-girlfriend, Ann Winblad. That’s a whole new level of “Hall Pass”, Bill. But we’re sorry that the relationship didn’t Excel as you may have wanted it to and we hope you both have a better Outlook. Word! 😆 Relationships, huh? 

Got money?

When the pandemic hit, did you have a plan for your finances, especially knowing that you could lose your job or have your salary cut? Or did you continue spending thinking you’ll always have money in the bank? It seems more of you did the former. The South African Reserve Bank found that more people are saving instead of spending their money due to the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. This is unusual given South Africans’ usually lackadaisical attitude towards savings. 

One analyst pointed out that, with the prospect of growing unemployment and a shrinking economy, South Africans who could afford to save, did exactly that. The data showed that savings increased by 3.36 percentage points from February last year to February 2021. In 2020, gross savings by households was 2% of GDP, compared with 1.2% in 2019. The Reserve Bank significantly cutting interest rates last year also didn’t change the fact that people saved more (when interest rates are low, people have more buying power and tend to spend more and save less). Well done guys. It’s tough to do, but ultimately the right thing.  

Biden makes good

When Joe Biden beat out Donald Trump for the US presidency, the best most people could say about him was that he wasn’t Donald Trump. A doddering figure who came out of retirement to run, he didn’t exactly inspire confidence. 100 days into his presidency, which was marked this week, Biden is emerging as one of the US’s most progressive presidents. 

He is a darling of liberals with his more than making good on his campaign promises to tackle climate change, support for unions, a commitment to diversity and more. As the New York Times puts it: “After breaking through in the Democratic primaries as a centrist, Mr. Biden has surpassed his party’s expectations for the scale of his vision and moved sharply to the left in his early days in office.” 

He’s spending his way out of the Covid-19 economic crisis with a nearly $2-trillion stimulus package designed to get the economy moving, and has increased the ridiculously low taxes on the wealthiest Americans while creating more of a safety net for those who are vulnerable. But what we are most impressed with is Biden getting on board with the global issue of vaccine apartheid.

Last October, South Africa and Indian approached the World Trade Organisation about setting aside vaccine patent rules, to allow developing countries to produce vaccines faster. Wealthy nations fought back, saying this would stifle innovation. The two countries are trying again, and while intellectual property isn’t the only issue preventing developing countries from getting vaccinated, it’s an important cause. Biden has backed the proposed waiver on vaccine patents – and we’re here for it. 

DA’s Gauteng mayoral race

The DA’s mayoral race in Cape Town hasn’t been pretty to watch. There has been little thought geared towards transformation and there was the furore over Bonginkosi Madikizela’s fake qualifications. But the Gauteng race is looking a lot more interesting – and racially representative. 

In Tshwane Sylvester Phokoje is challenging the incumbent, Randall Williams, who is a favourite of the party. What has been nice to watch is both stating that they’re friendly and wishing each other the best of luck. If only all politics was so polite. 😊

In Johannesburg, Leah Knott is going up against Mpho Phalatse. Knott is the former MMC, which is sort of like a city minister, for economic development. She has a background in community activism and as a legal professional. Party insiders say she already has the support of the interviewing panel, City Press reported. Phalatse joined the DA in 2015 and served under former mayor Herman Mashaba’s administration. 

The DA does things differently from the ANC when it comes to mayors. Candidates are interviewed by a panel and the names of those who will represent the party in each metro ahead of local government elections are announced. Elections are set for this October. Before 2016 this approach was largely wishful thinking on the DA’s part as it was unlikely to win outside of Cape Town. 

But that all shifted in 2016 when the party scored major metros in coalitions, putting several of its mayors in power. Most of those alliances fell apart, though. It will be interesting to watch how the DA performs this time round but indications from recent byelection results – local ward elections that happen between major elections – don’t look promising. It increasingly seems the party has alienated many voters of colour with its swing to the right at a national level. Local candidates, no matter how deserving, may be punished for it. 

Big brother is watching … if you let him

Lately it feels as though we’re seeing more targeted adverts – like products you happened to Google – than actual posts from the people we follow. Apple has decided to put an end to this form of data-driven advertising by giving users a clearer chance to say no to their activity being tracked online. With its new iOS update, before you use an app, a notification will pop up asking if you would like your information to be shared with third parties such as advertisers. 

While the update has been a bit buggy, it’s a game-changer where privacy policies are concerned. Apple is betting on consumers increasingly caring more about their privacy and of course the likes of Facebook, which could lose billions, aren’t happy about it. Small businesses and retailers may also face the consequences of these software changes, because those targeted ads do tend to sway us to buy something. 

While we’re here, remember the privacy changes that WhatsApp announced in January? These come into effect on 15 May. But as we mentioned before, nothing much is changing, and it’s aimed mostly at business accounts as WhatsApp further integrates its services with its owner, Facebook. 

Although it IS a concern that WhatsApp shares some of our information like your phone number, transaction data and information on how you interact with others (including businesses), we can assure you that both WhatsApp and Facebook CAN’T read your messages. If you haven’t accepted the new terms, you’ll have to jump to another platform that cares about privacy. Popular options include Telegram and Signal. Local player Moya, which is data-free, is also an option. 

Gqeberha reaching day zero

Day zero is looming in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape, due to a long drought and poor management and infrastructure. The dam, which farmers rely on and which supplies about 20% of its capacity to Gqeberha, is currently 4.59% full. Once the dam level reaches 3.1%, the water level is below the sluices and cannot be pumped out, TimesLive reported. This could spell disaster for the people of Gqeberha – but it’s not completely new. 

After six years of drought the whole Kouga subsystem that supplies the larger Nelson Mandela Bay metro is down to 13% of its capacity. Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu is looking for solutions to the water issue in the region, saying that a desalination plant would be ready next year, plus there are plans to repair leaking pipes. 

By then it could be too late: people in the city’s townships will suffer the most, and what Gqeberha needs is quick and efficient intervention. Could this be a job for those overpriced Cuban engineers that the department controversially brought in? We hope so. 

“Teeth have become the new boob job”

Remember how we told you that the Zoom boom has resulted in more people wanting to undergo plastic surgery because they’re seeing their faces more often? Clearly without enough to do at home, people are looking to improve the appearance of their teeth – especially with all the fake smiling we have to do (jokes). 

Toothpaste is no longer just toothpaste, it’s a lifestyle. Brands like Spotlight, Kendall Jenner’s Moon, Better & Better and Swiss vVardis have developed toothpastes that cost R700 – we’re serious. Plus, people have turned to using a blue light to participate in a #teethwhiteningchallenge. 

Becoming an oral care influencer is very much a thing now, and brands are playing into it by making products eco-friendly with cute packaging that appeals to millennials and Gen Zs who want to make a good impression in their selfies. Whatever will brands try to make us feel insecure about next? 😬