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22 July ’21 Wrap: South Africa is in your hands

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at how ordinary South African citizens are the future of this country, plus why we need to keep telling about you the legal travails of one Jacob Zuma even if they continue well into the year 2100. 😵

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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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ Our take: South Africa is in your hand

Following last week’s riots, it’s been disheartening to watch our government leaders this week. Instead of making up for failing to anticipate the looting or responding quickly, key government leaders have dissolved into petty fights, blame-shifting or disagreeing on a basic definition of what happened. (The president says it was an insurrection, his defence minister said differently days later.) We won’t bore you with the details but it’s startling to watch and it makes us feel all the more alone. 

…Which may not be a bad thing if we look at how South Africans have responded. Several commentators have made a key point: if this was genuine, widespread civil unrest, it would still be raging now. You’d be barricaded in your home, worrying about your dwindling supplies. The fact is that the vast majority of South Africans said “not in my name” and CHOSE not to join in the looting. Some, like Soweto community leader Nhlanhla Lux, stepped into the leadership gap, spending five sleepless days guarding Maponya Mall. There were also many heartwarming stories of cleanups by a cross-section of society. 

So: our leaders failed us but ordinary citizens stood up. What does this mean? Firstly, our resilience does NOT justify their ineptitude. We should not have to do the work of the government.

The long term solution is to keep pushing for the right leaders. And lucky for us, local government elections are coming up soon. The poll was scheduled for October but a recent investigation by the Independent Electoral Commission, chaired by former deputy chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke, has recommended it be postponed until no later than February 2022 because of the pandemic. 

Our current main political parties leave a lot to be desired and most of them are under pressure at the polls if the last results are anything to go by. South African voters aren’t endlessly forgiving. But what are the alternatives? We’re pretty excited about recent legislative changes and movement around independent candidates. If ordinary citizens can take a water treatment plant from experiencing regular sewage spills to almost blue drop status, equip and prepare a field hospital for Covid patients, and quickly supply food and medicine to those devastated by looting – well, we can definitely run parts of government. 

The big story: Zuma: The ghost of our past, present and future

The year is 2100. The world has ended. The seas have risen. Cockroaches are now the main sentient life form – and one of them is creating a news update for The Wrap on former South African president Jacob Zuma’s latest attempt to avoid court. 🙈

That’s honestly how we feel every time we have to tell you about ANOTHER development in the Man From Nkandla’s legal battle. Will it ever end? Why do we even have to keep talking about this? 

As much as we’d ALL LIKE TO MOVE ON, telling you how his legal battles are playing out is part of accountability and justice being served. It’s a bit like a rash that won’t stop itching until you remedy it.😆

This week, Zuma’s decades-old arms deal case was set to go ahead before the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Zuma, as you know, is facing 16 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering related to the arms deal, which dates back to the 1990s. Zuma appeared virtually but the case was – yet again – postponed, this time to August. Zuma applied for a postponement because proceedings were being held virtually; they sort of had to be … he’s in jail!.  

Speaking of that, in a separate legal matter, we’re waiting to hear the Constitutional Court’s decision to effectively free Zuma from prison. The highest court in the land heard an exhausting ten hours (Dali Mpofu was A LOT) of argument last week to “rescind” Zuma’s 15-month sentence, related to refusing to appear before the state capture inquiry about how he allegedly sold the country to the Guptas. 🙄 The court has reserved its judgment, so Zuma stays in jail. 

Zuma’s successor, though, is on a legal roll. The Economic Freedom Fighters lost their bid this week to have bank records for Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC election campaign made public. This is another legal victory for Ramaphosa, after a Constitutional Court ruling earlier this month confirmed that public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into the whole business was basically nonsense. As we’ve said before, the whole CR17 spat has been just another political battle, so this is fine. But the larger issue is that politicians really should disclose the funds they get to run internal campaigns. 😕 

 Briefs

3. Fear and violence as taxi wars grip Cape Town.

Things may have been calmer in KZN and Gauteng this week, but Cape Town has been rocked by its own crisis: taxi violence. A dormant dispute between the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) over the Paarl to Belville route flared up into open warfare once more. There were some clashes about the route earlier in July, but within four days the rival associations and government officials had signed a ceasefire agreement. If this sounds like war talk, that’s because it is. Not even a day after the signing a Codeta-affiliated taxi driver was shot and killed in Khayelitsha; on 13 July, three more taxi drivers were shot dead, also in Khayelitsha. 

The violence has escalated in the past week. Golden Arrow Bus Services had to limit its presence on the roads after one of its drivers was shot and injured, allegedly by taxi drivers. Reports suggest that up to 100 000 commuters have been left stranded; many businesses have ground to a halt because their employees can’t safely reach work or return home. Some people have been rising even earlier than usual and walking long distances to get to work. It’s a huge, dangerous mess. Provincial and national government representatives have engaged with the taxi associations to end the violence. But how long will any newly brokered deal last? The government needs to pro-actively invest more time and money into building a competent, safe state-owned public transport system. 

4. Ready, set, go! Tokyo Olympics 2021

After a year-long delay, the Olympic Games officially start tomorrow in Tokyo. The event comes with some complications, though: many participants have already tested positive for Covid-19. Officials seem determined to carry on regardless. Pandemic aside – we wish! – we would like to celebrate the 185 South African athletes representing us at the Olympics. We’re hoping our star swimmer (and cutie – remember that time he accompanied a fan to her matric dance?) 😉 Chad le Clos will bring back a few more medals to make SA stand tall. Le Clos is the first South African to bring home four medals from the Olympics. SA will participate in 17 of the 33 sports, including skateboarding, climbing, judo and surfing. We wish our athletes the best – bring it home! 🏅

5. Climate crisis wreaks havoc across the world

From China to Germany, Belgium, India and the United Kingdom, we’ve seen some worrying images in the past few weeks that show how the climate crisis is escalating. 

In China, 33 people were confirmed dead at the time of writing. They were victims of torrential storms and floods that have ravaged the city of Zhengzhou since last week. 

Similar flooding images have emerged from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – but on a larger scale. Hundreds of people have died in these three countries and many remain missing. 

Mudslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have wreaked havoc in India’s most populous city, Mumbai; more than 20 people are dead and many homes and buildings have been submerged by the water.

People living in London and other parts of England, meanwhile, are braving a heatwave as temperatures soar past 33 degrees. We know, we know: it’s easy to laugh at English people suffering from “heatwaves” that are our summer-y norm. But the country wasn’t made for high temperatures. Some of its roads are literally melting… and now, confusingly, it’s expecting hail!

Scientists say these are yet more serious warning signs of the earth warming up. The good news is that the world’s most powerful countries, from the US to China, are on board to tackle climate change. Now we just need them to hurry up. 

6. SA is making strides in vaccine rollout

Yesterday we heard some great news: Pfizer and BioNTech have partnered with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town to manufacture and distribute 100 million doses of the vaccine to the African Union’s 55 member states, annually. “Biovac will obtain the drug substance from facilities in Europe, and manufacturing of finished doses will begin in 2022,” the companies said in a joint statement. This is a huge win given ongoing vaccine apartheid and hoarding by developed countries. The news also follows last week’s announcement that will see Johnson & Johnson vaccines manufactured and distributed under licence in South Africa. If you haven’t noticed, South Africa is becoming an African pioneer when it comes to ensuring vaccine equality on the continent. This is something we love to see! 😁

As far as vaccine rollout is concerned, we’re doing much better than before. In recent days more than 230 000 people have been vaccinated on a single day. The spike (ha!) comes as more age groups are incorporated into the rollout. Last week, people over the age of 35 began registering to get their shot and you’ve PROBABLY heard by now how enthusiastic that elderly millennial cohort is about the whole thing. 😂 This will hopefully put us back on track to reach our target to achieve herd immunity by 2022. So keep at it, y’all! By the way, the third wave is still in our midst, but things are beginning to slowly simmer down. 

7. Justice for Life Esidimeni victims

It’s been five years since 144 mental health patients, who were recklessly moved from the Life Esidimeni facility to unprepared NGOs, passed away. No one has been held accountable or criminally charged; the families of the deceased still cry in bereavement and seek closure. This week an inquest into the tragedy began and put the department of health in the spotlight for its role in the patients’ deaths. It was revealed that clinicians at the Life Esidimeni facility warned the health department that moving the patients – as part of a cost-cutting exercise – could be fatal to them. But the department failed to heed the warnings, saying it was under “political pressure” to carry out its tasks as government officials.

Doctors at the facility, however, accused officials of intimidating them when they spoke out against moving the patients. The consequences were inevitable, they said, especially since most NGOs were ill-equipped to care for mentally ill people. A tragedy like Life Esidimeni could have easily been missed were it not for our stellar investigative reporters. The inquest, which is ongoing, will also ensure the dirty details are aired and – hopefully – hold the right people accountable.  As always, we’re grateful for a country where things like this aren’t swept under the carpet and forgotten. It’s taken a while to get the inquest started, but it’s important to get closure – and justice. 

8. #Adulting 101  

🔹This is a friendly reminder to file your tax returns. Tax season opened on 1 July and will end on 23 November. Log onto the South African Revenue Service’s e-filing system to get it done. 😊

🔹If you’ve contracted Covid-19 in the last month it’s advisable that, depending on the severity of the symptoms, you wait at least 30 and up to 60 days before getting your shot; check in with your GP to ascertain what’s best for you. 🩺

🔹Part of being a responsible citizen is sharing information that has been verified and comes from a reliable source. With both the unrest and Covid-19, a lot of fake news has been circulating over WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Some of it is pretty convincing! The wrong information can create unnecessary stress – so read, research and verify before sharing. 

9. The miseducation of Busi Mkhwebane

Any activist dreams of shaping our Constitution in some way. But trust our bumbling Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to end up doing so completely by mistake. 😕

Quick explainer: the office of the public protector is essentially an ombud for all government services. It’s supposed to hold the government to account when citizens are failed. But the incumbent has used much of her time in office to not-so-subtly support the pro-Zuma ANC faction. Her terrible findings, effectively fighting Zuma’s battles, have been scathingly set aside by the courts so many times it’s become a joke. Some critics have said that the errors she has made in law wouldn’t be expected even of junior lawyers.

That’s why Parliament has been talking about how it should go about maybe removing her from the position. It’s been super cautious, because this is unheard of: there’s a reason that players can’t arbitrarily remove the referee. So, the process was carefully mapped and, this week, Parliament announced the committee members and chairperson – the ANC’s Richard Dyantyi – who will oversee the inquiry into the possibility of impeaching a sitting head of a Chapter 9 (as designated by our Constitution) institution. This sort of inquiry is unprecedented. We’ll keep you updated when the committee begins the nuts and bolts of its work, hearing evidence for and against Mkhwebane. Kudos to the Public Protector: South African case law is much richer for her mistakes. 😂

10. It’s one giant dick leap for mankind 🤭

The billionaire space race continued this week. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ventured into space aboard a rocket built by his own company, Blue Origin. Bezos and his three co-passengers hit a maximum altitude of 66.5 miles (that’s about 107 kms to those of us in SA). This, CBS News reported, is “more than four miles above the internationally recognised 62-mile-high ‘boundary’ between the aerodynamically discernible atmosphere and space”. Earlier this month another billionaire, Virgin founder Richard Branson, also flew into space. There were several takeaways from Bezos’s trip.

He was praised for taking 82-year-old Wally Funk along for the ride; her dreams of becoming an astronaut were repeatedly dashed thanks to rampant sexism, but she had the last laugh on Tuesday. Another common headline centred on Bezos’s obscene wealth and criticised his obsession with space while most Amazon employees barely scrape by. And then there was the rocket. Social media couldn’t help but notice that Bezos was heading for lofty heights in – there’s no other way to put this – a gigantic phallic object. Cue many jokes about size, endurance and the male ego following a rather public divorce. Being the richest man in the world probably eases the sting of any jokes, and we’re sure Bezos was just relieved the flight itself wasn’t a gigantic cock-up… 😇 

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_ ✌🏽