Welcome back you guys! It’s been a minute since we last spoke, in millennial speak. We enjoyed our hiatus and are back with the news you need to know in a bumper election edition! We’ve included a section on the major news that happened while we were on break for two weeks plus all the good news when it comes to accountability.
So, let’s dive into your weekly update of empowering and easy-to-understand news, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 😄
🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here:
🗞 For text, keep scrolling.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. Our take: Party spats as election draw near
In case you missed it, our local government elections are going ahead on 1 November 2021. Our top court decided against attempts by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to move the polls to give it more time to prepare. That means we’re voting in just two months and now there’s all kinds of craziness, with political parties at each other’s throats.
Remember when we told you in mid-August that the ANC had barely met the deadline to submit its lists of representatives for various locations to the IEC? Well. It turns out the party couldn’t get its act together despite a last-minute deadline extension, and missed out on submitting names for more than 100 municipalities! 🙁
This means that the party could be unseated as the governing party in 35 municipalities or lose its status as the main opposition party without a single vote being cast, according to ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte. Other parties could simply walk into the gaps.
The ANC is still attempting to submit its candidates via court processes but the DA and other parties aren’t having it. The ANC says the others are trying to elbow out the competition instead of winning on their own merits. Maybe. But we say: you should have had your house in order and, boy, is this an embarrassing look for you guys. 🤷🏽♀️
Still, we have to call out DA Federal Chairperson Helen Zille’s Twitter claims that the IEC is somehow in cahoots with the ANC over the whole thing, and also insinuating that the ConCourt tipped off the ANC about its ruling on the election date. She was proven wrong. But her conspiracy theories are SUPER damaging for our democracy and pretty irresponsible given the lack of evidence to back it up.
So what happens next? In a nutshell: lots of court processes. When the ConCourt ordered that elections go ahead between 27 October and 1 November it also ordered the IEC to open up voter registration weekend and make other “reasonably necessary amendments” to allow for a smooth election. It was within these “reasonable amendments” that the IEC opened the candidate submission for the ANC and other parties. The DA is fighting this in court. Suffice to say, the decision of whether the ANC is allowed to submit names for these 100+ municipalities is a fairly big deal. We’ll keep you posted.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2. The big story: Vaccine passports are the future
On Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country would be moving to a Level 2 lockdown. Curfew has been relaxed to between 11pm and 4am, indoor gatherings are limited to 250 people, outdoor gatherings are limited to 500 people, and alcohol can be sold between 10am and 6pm for off-site consumption.
Dressed in a black and white patterned shirt, which caused a hilarious stir on social media, 😂 Ramaphosa also announced that the government would soon provide more information on vaccine passports. That also caused a stir.
What are vaccine passports? Basically, it’s proof that you have been vaccinated. You may have to produce it when travelling to another country or when attending big events. Countries such as France have already implemented vaccine passports. Those who have not been vaccinated will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test result to enter restaurants and other public spaces.
Some South Africans are leery of the idea of a passport, calling it a mechanism of state control, protesting against this and masks. Guys, we hate to break it to you, you ALREADY need passports and sometimes vaccine records to fly to certain countries. 😆
The only way we can get our freedom back is by getting vaccinated.
We can take inspiration from Denmark, which has lifted all coronavirus restrictions, only requesting that people produce proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test when visiting restaurants, bars, cinemas, and some other indoor facilities.
And in case you’re still hesitant, note the following: The Western Cape’s health department compiled the figures of Covid-19-related hospital admissions and deaths of people over 60, from 14 August to 20 August.
- Of the 729 admissions only 30 were vaccinated; and
- Of the 292 people who succumbed to the virus, five were vaccinated.
This speaks volumes of the effectiveness of the vaccine. ☝🏽
Meanwhile, kids could soon be next in line for the jab. Clinical trials of the Sinovac vaccine for children aged between six months and 17 years started on Friday, while the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority announced last week that it had approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 jab, Comirnaty, for everyone over 12. But the rollout will only go ahead after more elderly people are vaxxed.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. Briefs
3. Where fashion meets politics
The Met Gala took place in New York on Monday and we loved watching celebs strut their stuff on the, um, beige carpet. 👀 Kim Kardashian’s all-black outfit complete with full face covering launched a thousand memes, But our winner was US socialist-leaning congresswomen, and all-round badass, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC, as she’s known by her army of fans, pitched up in a white gown with the words “tax the rich” emblazoned in red on the back. The dress was borrowed from conscious label Brother Vellies. The black designer and activist behind the dress, Aurora James, accompanied AOC to the event. It was a massive conversation starter. Some called her out for hypocrisy for attending the event in the first place (she was invited as a rep from the area). We think it was a pretty thoughtful response to, as she put it, being a woman of colour from a working-class background in such an elite space.
Afghanistan woman are also using fashion to make a statement, in an online movement called #DoNotTouchMyClothes to protest the Taliban’s recent occupation of that country. Afghan women across the world post pictures of themselves in colourful traditional attire to reclaim their identities in the wake of the Taliban’s violent takeover of Kabul and its crackdown on women’s rights. The Taliban, which recently announced an all-male government, said that women would not be allowed to hold high positions in government and universities would be gender-segregated.
We love these women’s fighting spirit. ✊
4. Party funding fail
This is the first election since the Political Funding Act of 2018 came into effect. We are pretty excited about this, because it will force parties to declare any funder amounts of more than R100 000, ushering in a new era of accountability. Or so we hoped. Last week Thursday the IEC released its first quarterly report on party funding. Turns out just THREE of the 504 parties registered with the IEC revealed their funders: The DA, ANC and Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA – with a combined amount of just more than R30m. The others said they didn’t have any. The UDM’s Bantu Holomisa hilariously said this was probably a weakness of his party – its failure to raise money. Given his anti-corruption crusading we’re inclined to believe him but we’re not convinced about the EFF claiming they received NO donations over R100K. 😳
According to Malema, no one had given his party a donation of more than R100 000. Given the detailed allegations of stolen VBS Mutual Bank money finding its way to EFF-linked interests, we find that hard to believe.
In terms of the declarations that were made, the DA said it had gathered R16m, R15m of which came from a single donor, Mary Slack, daughter of the late Harry Oppenheimer. She acknowledged donating R15m to the DA, and said she felt the transparency “will be a deterrent for many … a lot of parties haven’t declared anything [because of this]”.
The ANC’s treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile, also claimed that because of the new rules “we are now experiencing a situation where a lot of companies are very reluctant to donate”.
But as Business Day put it: “The bottom line is, as awkward as transparency may be for potential donors, this is a necessary consequence of democracy — and in a country as savaged by corruption as SA has been, the more sunshine that falls on the nexus between funders and political decision-making, the better for everyone.”
5. Bank for your Banksy buck
If you’re a fan of Banksy, London’s famously anonymous graffiti artist, you’ll remember how he punked the high-end art industry on a massive scale back in 2018. His famous image of a girl letting go of a red balloon sold for a cool £1m on auction at Sotheby’s. But as the sale concluded a secret paper shredder built into the frame started whirring away, shredding the artwork! It jammed halfway, creating a neat image of the problems associated with the commercial art world. But trust rich people to turn this into a thing. The half-shredded image became famous and the anonymous European buyer elected to pay for it anyway, lending it out for exhibitions. Now it’s back on auction and “conservative estimates” say it’ll sell for between £4m and £6m! That means the painting will have appreciated nearly 500% in almost three years. Yoh.
6. Accountability Monitor
- EU returns J&J vaccines to South Africa
We’ve told you about this before: In a weird and modern twist on colonialism, the contract between SA and Johnson & Johnson to fill-finish its vaccine had a loophole that required SA to give those doses to the European Union – which already had a stockpile. 😕 But thanks to Ramaphosa’s intervention, the contract has been converted to a licence agreement that relinquishes J&J’s control over where the vaccines can go. The doses were returned, and now the vaccines will go to the African countries that desperately need them.
- Julius Malema guilty of breaching ethical codes
Ah, Julius Malema, the loud-mouth red beret who always has something to say. But this time, his comments have come back to bite him on the backside.
Malema was found guilty for breaching Parliament’s code of ethical conduct on two counts. First, he made a comment on migrants, saying they should find more “creative ways” to enter the country when the hard lockdown was imposed last year. 😬
Malema also breached the ethics code when he questioned judge Keoagile Elias Matojane during the controversial Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews in April. Since Malema is a representative of the National Assembly on the JSC he should not have asked questions about a case that related to him personally, the committee said.
We’re especially glad about this one, because the JSC interviews were a dog show and politicians need to stop turning these processes to select our judges into personal vendettas. The committee has left it up to the National Assembly to take action against Malema, TimesLive reported. According to the code, Malema could be reprimanded by the house and/or have some of his salary docked.
- Deokaran’s alleged killers in the dock
You may have heard about murdered health department official Babita Deokaran. She was shot outside her house on 23 August. Her work at the department of health may have made her a target: she was overseeing an investigation into a R332m corrupt personal protective equipment (PPE) deal. Several politicians and commentators spoke out, praising her work and calling for better protection for people like her.
Justice is thankfully happening quite fast. Six suspects linked to the murder appeared for the second time before the Johannesburg Central Court on Monday.
In another case, two municipal directors in the Eastern Cape had death threats delivered to their door, in the form of bullets attached to a picture of themselves and a note saying “you are next”, News24 reported. The two directors are currently presiding over the disciplinary hearings of at least three managers in the municipality who are being investigated on charges relating to fraud and corruption and negligence.
It is ordinary people like these who are at the coalface of fighting corruption. We must protect them.
What’s a Wrap update without some political news? The office of the Presidency confirmed on Tuesday evening that former spokesperson Khusela Diko would return to work, but in a different position in the public service. She received a written warning from the presidency upon the conclusion of her disciplinary hearing. Diko was put on special leave in February last year for her involvement in a scandalous PPE contract with her late husband and former Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku. The Presidency has not yet confirmed where Diko will be deployed but suffice to say … critics aren’t happy.
Meanwhile, the ANC’s “step-aside” rule drama continues, with suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule suffering another court blow this week. Ol’ Magashule was still arguing that the rule was unconstitutional, and that his hilarious counter-suspension of party leader Cyril Ramaphosa remained valid until set aside. But the judges at the Gauteng High Court were having none of it. Another blow for Ace.
8. What you missed
A lot happened while we took our two-week break and we’ve been itching to break it down for you guys. So here goes:
🔹Zuma flies the coop
Probably the biggest news while we were away was the bombshell on 5 September that former president Jacob Zuma was granted medical parole. He served only 58 days of his 15-month jail sentence for refusing to testify at the state capture inquiry.
The early Christmas present was given to Zuma by one of his former allies, correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser. Fraser made the decision despite the recommendations of the Medical Parole Board, which had denied Zuma parole.
Fraser is legally within his rights to do this but … it looks bad. As the M&G pointed out, President Cyril Ramaphosa removed Fraser from his position as spy boss in the State Security Agency to the (supposedly) more innocuous position at correctional services. It turns out that reshuffling those old Zuma appointees had consequences.
The DA, AfriForum and the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) are challenging the decision in various ways but, given the wording of the legislation, Fraser is probably in the clear. It sucks, we know, but we’re not the only country with these get-out-of-jail loopholes for the powerful. Former US President Donald Trump infamously handed out 144 pardons and sentence commutations less than 12 hours before the end of his presidency, freeing several well-connected Trump allies.
So Zuma has been a free man since 5 September 2021. However, he’s not out of the woods yet. He still faces criminal proceedings in the courts, including the ongoing arms deal trial. But some legal experts have said that even if he is found guilty he may not face jail time because he was granted medical parole. This is because it is unlikely that his health will have improved by the time his trials end. Still, it’s important that justice is seen to be done.
🔹Texas abortion ban
You’ve probably heard about this one and it’s pretty distressing. On 1 September, Texan lawmakers managed to pass an extremely regressive abortion law that the country’s top court declined to strike down. As activists put it, the law “places a bounty on people who provide or aid abortions, inviting random strangers to sue them”. 😲
It effectively criminalises those helping a woman have an abortion after six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant, making no exception for victims of rape and incest.
This is an assault on the nation’s federal values by a very conservative state, but is structured in a way that is very difficult to take on – even for US president Joe Biden, who is pro-choice.
The state doesn’t have to enforce the law. Instead it allows for private citizens to sue facilities that provide abortions as well as anyone who aids in an abortion – from the Uber driver who may drop off the patient to insurance companies, doctors and nurses – and offers a reward of up to USD 10,000. Abortion patients themselves, however, cannot be sued.
One of Texas’ largest anti-abortion groups launched a website to receive tips about suspected violations and says it has attorneys ready to bring lawsuits
Wherever you stand on the issue of abortion, the bottom line is that this law is a near declaration of war on women’s bodies. And it is the poorest, most vulnerable women, driven to dangerous back-alley abortions, who will suffer most. Several court challenges are under way to stop it.
9. #Adulting: voter registration opens
Local government elections are looming, and there isn’t much time to register. The final voter registration week will be this weekend, September 18 and 19. So you can head over to your local voting district to register, if you have not already done so. Only people over the age of 16 can register. Remember to carry your identity document. Or you can skip the queues and register or update your details online on this link: https://registertovote.elections.org.za at any time. Go forth and make a difference!
10. RIP Minster Mkhize
This morning we woke up to the sad news of the death of Deputy Minister in the Presidency Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize. Mkhize was previously minister of higher education and training, and deputy minister of correctional services. She also served as commissioner at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Condolences to her family and her colleagues in government.
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_ ✌🏽