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05 August ’21 Wrap: Why so coy, President Ramaphosa?

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at why people who choose not to be vaccinated will increasingly find other choices made for them and help you make sense of what a Cabinet reshuffle – if and when one next happens – entails. Plus, the latest from the Olympics and a look at fashion inspired by…corruption?

So, let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 😄.

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Our take: Vaccine hesitant? think again

South Africa’s Bill of Rights enshrines our right to equality and freedom, and the responsibility to uphold it with dignity and pride. So, when Covid-19 vaccines became available, the government gave us the freedom to choose whether we would like to get vaccinated or not. 

As more people get vaccinated and life slowly begins to return to normal, there’s a new debate emerging: life vs the quality of life. That’s because, increasingly, refusing a Covid-19 vaccine will limit your access to certain spaces, hinder your ability to travel and might even get you in trouble at work.

New rules are being introduced for people who choose not to be vaccinated: if you open a new policy at Discovery and haven’t been vaccinated, your premiums will increase because you’re considered high risk. The new rule kicked in on 29 July and only affects new policies. 

And, while it’s not mandatory to be vaccinated before returning to the office, you will have to provide a valid constitutional or medical reason for refusing the jab (we’re afraid conspiracy theories won’t save you here.) 👀 Travel options will also be limited – most countries require you to be vaccinated before travelling. 

South Africa is no exception. In France, people will have to prove they have been vaccinated before entering a restaurant, bar or cultural event. In Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, officials are debating whether those who choose not to get vaccinated should be fined – so your choice will hit your wallet. 💸 

The point is, dear reader, that while you may choose not to get vaccinated, other choices will be made FOR you in future. Instead of making the circle bigger, as the 2009 hit would have it, your life will shrink. And it’s not just the big stuff: those who prefer not to party with the unvaccinated may shun you, and you may even limit your romantic opportunities as dating apps emphasise just how sexy it is to be vaccinated. you pose a risk to people in your social circles too. Do you really want to have to add “unvaxxed” to your Tinder bio? 😕

You absolutely have the right to say no. But individuals, organisations and entire states have just as much right to turn you away. Plus, we all have the responsibility to help protect those around us. Let’s choose wisely. 

Briefs

Hands off Rassie

We have to confess that, no matter how hard we try (see what we did there?), we’re just not that into rugby. But we are big fans of Rassie Erasmus, SA’s no-nonsense, big-hearted director of rugby. As head coach he led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019, also ending years of ridiculous debate about merit vs quotas by showing how BOTH are crucial. So when he was charged with misconduct by World Rugby this week, we sat up and took notice. 

Here’s the background: the British & Irish Lions are in Cape Town playing three Test matches against the Boks. But the first of the matches, on July 24, angered local fans after the match officials and referee made a series of what seemed like very questionable decisions, putting SA on the back foot. We lost badly. We’ve all shouted at the referee from the safety of our couches, but Erasmus took it one step further with a 62-minute video in which he called out 26 mistakes. He took particular issue with the lack of what he called “respect” for Team SA. In one clip he featured, the referee turned his back on captain Siya Kolisi and seemed to laugh at his concerns while talking respectfully to his Lions counterpart. Many think Erasmus leaked the video just in time for the next test match last Saturday. If he did, it worked – SA won convincingly. 

World Rugby essentially says it’s against its rules to question referees and has charged Erasmus under clause 18 of its code of conduct. It’s worth noting the Lions also criticised officials, albeit not as thoroughly, but were just rapped over the knuckles. 😕

The larger issue here is a highly flawed refereeing system that continues to go unchallenged and displays very little transparency. Being the popular figure that he is, Erasmus has won support. The US-based majority owner of the Sharks tweeted on Wednesday that he has “a team of New York lawyers ready to take care of Rassie and SA Rugby. Let us put World Rugby on trial…”

If Erasmus is found guilty he could face anything from a warning to his suspension from coaching or administration roles in the game. Meanwhile, the final deciding match is on Saturday. Go, Bokke – and go, Rassie, we’re behind you all the way. 

Olympic update and a mea culpa

We pride ourselves on carefully checking everything that appears in our Weekly Wrap – but last week we made two mistakes. First, we misspelt our gold medal hero Tatjana Schoenmaker’s surname, and then we said her silver medal win earlier in the week was for a 50m event. It wasn’t: she scooped silver in the 100m breaststroke. We’re really sorry, Tatjana, and sorry to you, our readers, for the errors. We’ll make sure we pick up our game and go for gold with every fact in future!

On that note, Schoenmaker’s gold – made even shinier because she smashed the 200m breaststroke world record to win it – had us hitting the ceiling with delight. Her achievement was hailed by the first (and last, until now) SA woman swimmer to score gold at the games, Penny Heyns. Heyns scooped two golds at the 1996 Atlanta Games in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. Sadly it’s been otherwise quiet on the medal front; by Thursday afternoon, SA had three medals (Schoenmaker’s two and the silver that Bianca Buitendag earned in the women’s shortboard surfing contest). Our heavily favoured track and field athletes worked hard but nobody placed among the medals. 

Good thing that Olympians from several other countries on the continent gave us plenty of pan-African pride: we’re particularly thrilled for 18-year-old Namibian Christine Mboma, who picked up silver in the 200m sprint. Mboma and her teammate Beatrice Masilingi were declared ineligible for the 400m race because of what the New York Times describes as a “genetic condition that raises their testosterone levels”. The silver, then, may be a little bittersweet – imagine having to outpace not just other athletes, but controversial rules that many see as another way to police women’s bodies. A reminder that such rules are the reason our beloved Caster Semenya isn’t at the Olympics this year. She may be missing out on the track action, but Semenya’s personal life is extremely happy; she and her wife Violet Raseboya announced in late July that they’re expecting a second child together. 🙌

Where fashion meets politics

Politically-conscious fashion? We’re here for it! Thebe Magugu is a 27-year-old South African fashion designer whose work has reached the wardrobes of international artists like Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Issa Rae. But he is no ordinary fashion designer: Magugu aims to take South Africa’s politics and stories to the world. In an interview with Metal Magazine, Magugu said his designs are inspired by Mandy Wiener’s book “The Whistleblowers”, Zapiro’s iconic cartoons and articles published in Daily Maverick. His clothes tell a story, as he told Metal Magazine: “I think fashion is at its weakest when it’s just a product for a product’s sake and it is at its strongest when it’s addressing society and bringing certain issues to light.” Magugu won the coveted LVMH Prize, awarded by the luxury brand, in 2019 and his first full menswear collection debuted at Pitti Uomo, an influential trade show held annually in Italy. Thebe Magugu: remember the name. 👯

Eskom’s Medupi is almost complete

It’s taken seven years longer than planned and its final price tag is set to be R135 billion – way higher than the planned R80 billion – but the Medupi power station, the biggest dry-cooled and most expensive power station in the world, is almost complete. Construction is done, at last; making the announcement on Monday 2 August, Eskom said it will take another 24 months to implement technical solutions for some mechanisms. Once that work is done, Daily Maverick reported, Eskom promises that “Medupi will reliably deliver power to the national grid at full capacity, helping increase energy security for the country”. That’s a relief: problems at Medupi and its (still incomplete) counterpart, Kusile, are largely responsible for the power outages often experienced in South Africa. This week’s news is long overdue progress, so we’re cautiously celebrating. Together with the recent announcement freeing up independent power producers, our energy future isn’t looking quite as dim. 

Lotto’s first big win for 2021

An unemployed mother in the North West province used her banking app and R15 to play the PowerBall on 27 July. She selected her usual numbers, manually: 5, 12, 15, 28, 29, and PowerBall number 14. Imagine her shock when she became the second-highest PowerBall jackpot winner in the history of the SA lottery, winning R158 million! “I kept on checking the numbers throughout the day to ensure that I was not mistaken or that I would wake up from a dream,” she’s been quoted as saying (she has chosen to remain anonymous). 

We love her level-headed plans for the money. She intends to build the house she always dreamed of and invest the rest for the future and her children’s education, while a portion will go to charity. But our favourite bit is her plan to take a trip to Durban with her family as she has never been to the seaside before. 😻 Here at explain.co.za, we love to celebrate wins big and small of our fellow South Africans, so cheers to you, mama, and to your dreams coming true. 🙌🏽🎉

Adulting: Careful with your property investments 

If you’re a property investor, take note. With the economy still recovering from the pandemic, landlords have been forced to accept significant cuts to their rental fees – particularly in retail and office space. Meanwhile, the residential property boom has meant losing tenants as they become first-time home owners. 

This week, the Sunday Times reported that Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), which lists retail properties such as Sandton City, saw rental decreases averaging 21% and 26.6% for offices and retail, respectively. In terms of residential, growth was negative in November 2020, according to PayProp’s latest rental index. That’s a first since the index was launched in 2012. 

Experts say it is far better to keep tenants even if they pay far less than you’d like, rather than having vacant space. No one knows when demand for retail and office space will pick up again. Some properties could still be vacant for six months, or possibly even longer. But property owners are optimistic that with eased lockdown restrictions the second half of the year will see smaller cuts to rental fees. 😬

Abuse in the spotlight

There have been a number of developments around abuse accusations levelled against high profile men, so we thought we’d round them up. 

🔹South African celebrity Somizi Mhlongo has been accused of physically abusing his estranged husband, media personality Mohale Motaung. The celebrated marriage between the pair – the subject of a reality show and many column inches – has come apart with rumours of infidelity and a pending divorce floating about. On Sunday, Motaung made explosive domestic abuse allegations against his husband in an audio interview, Channel 24 reported, saying he was threatened at knifepoint and beaten up. Since the accusations emerged, Mhlongo has taken time off from presenting a show on Metro FM, the station said. Mhlongo himself declined to comment, saying lawyers are handling the matter. 

🔹Further abroad, R&B singer R.Kelly’s sex trafficking trial will kick off next week. The singer, who has been in jail for the past two years, has been accused of racketeering, bribery and sexual abuse – he allegedly ran a criminal scheme in which women and underage girls were recruited to perform sexual acts with him. 🤮  

🔹Also in the US, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has formally been accused by the state’s Attorney General of sexually harassing 11 women. Cuomo was first accused of sexual misconduct last year, but following a press conference last week, several other women came forward with their testimony and experiences, going as far back as 2013, the Daily Mail reported. The governor denied the allegations and said he will not resign. 

Farewell Shona Ferguson

Producer, writer, creative director and actor Shona Ferguson succumbed to Covid-19 on 30 July and was laid to rest on Wednesday. The co-founder of Ferguson Films, affectionately known as ‘Uncle Sho’, will be remembered for being an innovator and pioneer. Go well, Uncle Sho. 

That’s it from us at The Wrap, an award-winning product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀ 

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Till next time, goodbye from the team ✌🏽