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19 August ’21 Wrap: Joblessness, elections…and vibrators?

Hi there! 🙋🏽‍♀️We’ve been putting out this Wrap without a break for a while so we’re taking a trip to the Bahamas (jokes) 😄 We ARE taking a two-week break, though, so we can rest and recharge. We’ll be back on 16 September, with your weekly update of empowering and digestible news, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. But before we go, let’s dive into the news you really need to know!

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ Our take: An election like no other

Sometime in the next few months, South Africans will vote in the country’s sixth local government elections since 1994.

You may not have realised it, but a few recent developments make this an election like no other. 

🔹Timing 

For the first time in our democratic history, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it just won’t be ready for the date the government proclaimed, 27 October 2021. Thanks, Covid. 😐 The IEC, which pulled off our first election in 1994 despite huge obstacles, is waiting on the Constitutional Court to rule whether this year’s planned poll can be moved to February 2022. 

The ANC has sided with the IEC, saying the pandemic means parties, the commission and voters will be constrained in preparing. The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution oppose any postponement, arguing that this would be a constitutional breach.  

🔹Funding

This will also be the first election where voters know just who finances political parties, because of the new Political Party Funding Act, which came into effect on 1 April. The IEC has access to parties’ accounts and, the FF+’s Corné Mulder told News24, if the name of a donor of more than R100 000 doesn’t appear, that money is divided between all 14 parties in Parliament. Yikes! Smaller parties generally rely more on the multiparty fund and will flourish – but this policy will probably come as a huge blow to larger parties. 

🔹ANC under pressure

Speaking of party finances, the ANC’s are HELLA messy. It owes so much in taxes that the money it receives from the multiparty fund – calculated in proportion to a party’s share of the vote – was immediately taken by SARS in the last quarter. The party is expected to receive R69.2m from the fund in this financial year, according to City Press, and reportedly owes about R80m in taxes. Salaries were delayed and staff went on a go-slow, meaning a whole governing party nearly missed the Monday deadline to submit its lists to the IEC! This lists the people, in order of priority, who will represent a party in parliament, based on the number of votes it wins. A last-minute extension, granted with only a few hours to spare, saw all parties meet the deadline. The IEC will release everyone’s final lists on 7 September. 

We’re excited that independent candidates will be in the mix, following the landmark Constitutional Court ruling in June last year that cleared the way for independents to stand in provincial and national elections. 

It’s going to be a very interesting election, even if you’re feeling jaded. Developments like more transparent funding and the introduction of independent candidates to the ballot mean our system is maturing. The idea that SA’s election results are always the same is no longer true: dynamics are fast shifting, and we’ve seen coalition politics become the norm over the past few election cycles. Your vote, no matter who earns it, matters.

The big story: More joblessness in SA

South Africa’s unemployment rate hit a new high in the second quarter. This week Statistics SA released its quarterly labour force survey and found that unemployment increased to 34.4%, jumping from 32.6% in the first three months of the year. Covid-19 was the main reason for job losses. But that’s not the worst part. The recent numbers do not reflect July’s unrest, which cost the economy nearly R35 billion and resulted in thousands of jobs being lost. Brace yourself: unemployment will deepen in the next quarter. 😔

South Africa isn’t the exception when it comes to high Covid-related job losses.

The global unemployment rate rose by 1.1 percentage points to 6.5% in 2020, according to the International Labour Organisation’s recent report on the issue. 

Nigeria recorded a 6 percentage point jump in unemployment in December 2020 to 33.3%, while Botswana’s unemployment rate increased by 5 percentage points to 23.3% in December 2020. 

So, where does this leave us? We previously explained how countries like Greece and Spain, who were in a similar boat to South Africa, were able to steady the ship. They brought state spending under control, restructured state-owned enterprises, slashed their public wage bill, and reformed labour policies to boost hiring and grow their economies. 

Thankfully, new finance minister Enoch Godongwana seems to have impressed the markets during his introductory address to investors last week. He said that the solution to SA’s fiscal challenges is faster growth, Business Day reported. We hope to see more economic green shoots and, if you’re keen on getting the economy and jobs back up, start a side hustle and employ more people, support small businesses and spend money at your local stores. 

Briefs

3. A new way to turn people on to vaccines?

Vaccines can save your life. But some people need an extra nudge to get vaccinated, like a free cup of coffee at Wimpy, wine, perfume or… a chance to win a vibrator? Capetonian Jolene Samuels runs three daily Facebook raffles for people with proof of vaccination. The draw has become enormously popular – and a little risqué. “This is a place to share information in a way that people can understand. The internet is littered with false information, and people don’t understand medical jargon and don’t want to sit through long press briefings,” she told TimesLive. Things got interesting when a chain of sex toy shops decided to donate vibrators for her next raffle, and it created QUITE the… um, buzz.  😂 Whatever it takes, right?

4. World Athletics study fail

A few years ago governing body World Athletics commissioned a study that examined the relationship between high testosterone levels in women athletes and their performance. The study, which appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017, paved the way for the organisation to introduce a highly contested rule in 2019: women athletes must take medication to suppress their testosterone levels if they want to participate in World Athletics sporting events. That rule scuppered our star athlete Caster Semenya’s chance to compete at the 2021 Olympics and defend her 800m title. 

Now the study’s authors have issued a correction, saying their work was “exploratory” and does not prove that there IS a causal effect between high testosterone and performance in women. So, back to the international stage for our Caster? Nope, or at least not right now: South African sports scientist Ross Tucker has pointed out that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where Semenya took a complaint against World Athletics after the new rule was introduced, already knew that the study was flawed and lacked evidence. Semenya, who – quite rightly, we say – refuses to take medication to suppress her testosterone levels, has also taken her fight to the European Court of Human Rights. 💪🏽    

We would say World Athletics ought to hang its head in shame, but the organisation has proven before that it doesn’t seem to have any when it comes to policing women’s bodies. We’re 100% Team Caster.

5. Public Protector impeachment process paused

Will Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s deeply flawed chapter as Public Protector EVER end?!

After court rulings trashed a number of her findings in various matters, Parliament began to navigate the tricky terrain of constructing an impeachment process involving an office-bearer whose independence is sacrosanct. The PP is supposed to act like an ombud for government services, but Mkhwebane has acted more like a Jacob Zuma acolyte who hasn’t noticed that her faction has fallen apart. 😝

She’s now scored a rare (though fairly minor) victory after heading to court to challenge the constitutionality of impeaching the head of a chapter nine institution such as herself. She made 12 arguments and the court ruled in favour of two, finding that it was unconstitutional that:

1. Her lawyer isn’t allowed to participate in the part of the impeachment process conducted by a parliamentary committee.

2. The independent panel which cleared the way for the impeachment process was chaired by a retired Constitutional Court Justice – this, the court ruled, was a violation of the principle of the separation of powers. 

Now parliament’s hands are tied, as these two issues mean the process it’s about to embark on is already flawed. So, like seemingly everyone else these days, parliament is appealing straight to the Constitutional Court for a decision (those justices must be busy!). 

If the court rules in favour of the appeal, the impeachment process will go ahead. If not, the entire process will be deemed invalid, aaaaand the National Assembly will have to start from scratch. 😕 How many lives does Mkhwebane have?? 

In other Mkhwebane news, she could be facing her third charge of perjury. This, after President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate Mkhwebane’s conduct in relation to her CR17 campaign report. She claimed before parliament that Ramaphosa lied about receiving a donation from Bosasa for his 2017 presidential campaign; this allegation made its way to the ConCourt, which ruled against her. Ramaphosa also filed papers on Monday asking the ConCourt to dismiss her recent attempts to rescind that ruling. Clearly, he’s not a fan. And at this point, with ALL her missteps, neither are we. 

Nevertheless, it’s crucial any process to remove her is completely above board. Let’s see what the ConCourt says. 

6. Prelims underway for Matrics of 2021

If you’re a millennial, the word “prelims” will probably give you disturbing flashbacks to your school hall, frustrating late nights trying to understand the Pythagorean theorem, 😭 and the tart taste of Red Bull on your tongue. Oh, the horror! Well, that nightmare kicked off for the Matric class of 2021 this week – and they have it WAY worse than we did. Last year’s Covid-19 disruption was enough to bear. Then this year’s third wave slowed things down even further; so much so, that the mid-year exams were scrapped. These, then, will be the first formal exam most grade 12s sit in their final school year. It’s scary and a little gloomy, but take heart: some schools are pulling out all the stops to support their matrics. The students at Dendron Secondary School in Limpopo took lengthy evening classes from 6pm, six days a week, allowing teachers to complete the syllabus by the end of May. Students were then able to write the mid-year exams, Times Live reported. It was strenuous, but the strategy has helped the students and the school stay on top. For ten years, its pupils have placed among South Africa’s top 30 matriculants. 🙌🏽 We’re holding thumbs for the entire class of 2021. We believe in you! 

7. Battle of the online retailers

The Olympics may have come and gone, but the competition is hotting up for South Africa’s online retailers. Massmart, which owns Makro and Game stores, among others, is gunning for Takealot’s gold in online shopping. 

Given Takealot’s dominance, we’re a little sceptical that this could work! 2019 data from Statista shows that SA’s top four online stores – Takealot.com, Superbalist, Mr D Food, and Mr D Courier, all owned by Takealot – made up 43% of net online sales.

Experts say that Takealot achieved its dominance by selling stock at cost and below in its first five years. The current online shopping experience at Makro and Game, meanwhile, is a little archaic. 

The past year has seen enormous growth in online shopping. Mastercard estimates that 68% of South African consumers have been shopping online since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Massmart’s new strategy to take on Takealot rests on creating its OneCart platform, which will allow consumers to shop from various partner retailers such as Pick n Pay, Makro, Dischem, Clicks, Woolworths and others, and have these delivered in a single cart. 

That may get us switching online stores! Either way, more competition is good news for us as consumers. 

8. #Adulting101: Approach debt review with caution

SA may have strong financial regulations that protect consumers more than many other places, but opportunists still can exploit those in financial distress. You may have heard of debt review, where a debt counsellor is assigned to liaise with your credit providers to negotiate a repayment plan without losing any of your assets.   

But beware: the long term restrictions are onerous, says personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French. Once you enter into debt review, which generally takes up to five years (but may take even longer depending on how much debt you have), you cannot apply for new credit, you cannot voluntarily withdraw from the process easily and you will be flagged at credit bureaux, but not blacklisted. Ouchie! Fisher-French warns that it’s easy to get caught in the trap of a debt counsellor because they often don’t share the Ts and Cs of the process. And thousands of people, who are under even more financial pressure because of the pandemic, are being targeted by call centre agents pushing the product on them.

WhatsApp has made the process even faster; the necessary documents are digitised and instantly generated. Consumers often sign up, thinking it’s just an assessment. But once they sign, they have triggered the debt review process, which starts within five days.

So a reminder: don’t sign anything without really knowing what you’re getting yourself into. A honey jar is sweet until you get your hand stuck in it. 😏

9. Accountability monitor: Bathabile Dlamini’s date with the law  

It turns out politicians can’t lie and get away with it – at least, not when they’ve been fibbing under oath. 

Remember former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini? She’s the one who nearly scuppered our precious social grant system in 2017 thanks to a dubious contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). 

In the legal drama that unfolded around that crisis, Dlamini seemed to have made a habit of lying. 

Judge Bernard Ngoepe, who chaired an inquiry into the crisis, criticised Dlamini for submitting false evidence under oath in both affidavits and oral testimony. She would also conveniently forget key issues related to her department’s work. 

This week she was formally charged by the state with perjury committed during the inquiry. It’s been a good few years since Ngoepe made his findings, but justice is finally happening. She will appear on 21 September at the Johannesburg Regional Court. It was a bad week for Dlamini, who is the chairperson of the ANC Women’s League, on the health front, too. The party announced on Tuesday that she’d been hospitalised for Covid-19 treatment. We wish her a speedy and full recovery.

Back to the legal issue: Dlamini joins the likes of Malusi Gigaba, who resigned as home affairs minister in 2018, shortly after being found guilty of perjury. He lied under oath about allowing a company owned by the billionaire Oppenheimer family to operate a private immigration terminal at OR Tambo International Airport. 

This isn’t the first time Dlamini is facing accountability. She previously had to personally pay for 20% of Freedom Under Law and The Black Sash’s legal costs after they hauled her to court to end the CPS contract. The years of impunity are coming to an end. 💪

10. Beyoncé’s diamond gaffe

How do you make a blood diamond look good? The answer is, you can’t – even when superstar Beyoncé is wearing it. On Monday, Luxury US jeweller Tiffany & Co rolled out its controversial Tiffany Yellow Diamond for a new ad campaign titled ‘About Love’. 

The 128-carat diamond, worth over R400m, was found in Kimberly right here in South Africa in 1877. Given that it was mined during colonial times and bought by the company’s founder for a steal, many think of it as a blood diamond. 

The diamond adorned Audrey Hepburn in publicity photographs for the iconic 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Beyoncé drew on Hepburn’s look for the ad campaign, which itself is inspired by the film. There are a lot of firsts in the ad: the first time a black woman wears the jewel, the first time Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z appear together as brand ambassadors and a first look at a previously unreleased painting by influential late African American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.  

Given Beyoncé’s activism on behalf of black rights, many questioned her decision to wear the controversial gem. Tweeps were irate, saying Tiffany & Co should return the precious stone to South Africa. An album dedicated to Africa will not save you this time, B. You should have known better. 😬

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

The Wrap is sponsored by explain’s agency division. We specialise in content marketing for purpose-driven organisations, often with a pan-African reach. Mail info@explain.co.za for a quote. 

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Till next time, goodbye from the team ✌🏽

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