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23 September ’21 Wrap: The Dickason Killings double standard

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Now, on to the serious stuff: From explaining the Karpowership deal to addressing the double standards in coverage of the Dickason killings, 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. 😄

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Our take: Double standards in Dickason killings coverage

One of the biggest stories this week is the murder of three young children by their mother. Lauren Dickason, her husband and three children – twins, aged 2, and their sister, just 6 – recently moved to Timaru, New Zealand from South Africa. Lauren is a general practitioner; her husband Graham, an orthopaedic surgeon, landed a job in New Zealand and the five arrived in the country about a month ago. Last Thursday night, according to media reports, Graham came home to find his wife had strangled and killed their children, allegedly using cable ties. Lauren Dickason has already appeared in court once; she will remain in custody at a forensic mental health unit until October 5, when she’s due back in court.

Media coverage of the crime has thrown double standards in reporting into sharp relief. For instance, Canadian broadcaster CTV News tweeted a photo of the family’s SA nanny, a black woman, under the headline: “Mother charged with murdering her three daughters”. In SA much of the coverage has leaned heavily towards finding excuses for Lauren Dickason’s actions: many outlets are referring to what is, in law, a crime, as “the tragedy”. One outlet quoted a source saying: “The nicest person it could happen to is that woman”, as if she were the victim.

Lauren Dickason was previously on chronic medication but stopped it ahead of the family’s move, apparently out of fear that it could be used against her visa process. It is not yet known what she was treating, but commentators latched onto mental health, hinting she may have come under stress due to the move and the strict quarantine measures New Zealand imposes on travellers. 

Now consider the tale of another “killer woman”, Rosemary Ndlovu.

The former cop, a black woman, is in the dock here at home for ordering multiple hits on family members to cash in on their life policies. There have been no think pieces on what led to her actions, or attempts to excuse or understand what she did. And previous instances of filicide (mums killing their kids) involving black families haven’t received nearly the same volume of coverage – nor garnered the same attempts to explain away the crimes. A similar debate is raging in the US at the moment. 

We’re not suggesting that any one life matters more than another. What is crucial, though, is that the media doesn’t engage in the sorts of double standards that make one killer a helpless victim and the other a vicious villain. 

The big story: NERSA and Karpowership

“Karpowership”: it’s not an anime series about ninjas on ships, though that would have been awesome. Instead, it’s the company at the centre of an SA government energy deal that will see a foreign-based company raking in the big bucks and locking us into its terms for 20 years. 👾 Smells a bit too much like the arms deal for our liking…

🔹So who is Karpowership?

It’s a Turkish company that produces power from gas-fired power stations on ships. 

It came onto the SA scene in March when, given our energy crisis, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) ran a programme to invite Independent Power Producers to fast-track around 2 000 MW of new electricity. 

If you were thinking this should have been along the lines of solar panels and wind farms, you would have been right. Instead Gwede Mantashe’s department bizarrely chose a gas-guzzling, eye-wateringly expensive ship as its preferred bidder. 😕

🔹What’s the problem?

The contract, if approved, will cost us R10.9-billion A YEAR. Gulp!

In June, Barbara Creecy’s national department of forestry, fisheries and the environment refused to grant an environmental permit. It noted – among other concerns – failure to conduct public participation, plus inadequate studies on the potentially harmful effects of underwater noise. Karpowership is appealing the decision. 

The company also faces a legal challenge from a rival bidder that claims the process was fraudulent, PLUS an inquiry by Parliament. Mantashe’s department has been very accommodating of Karpowership, extending deadlines that seemed solely to accommodate the company’s battle with the environment department. 

Why is it in the news now? Despite the ongoing legal fight and environmental concerns, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) on Tuesday controversially issued licences for the company – an important regulatory hurdle. 

🔹What’s next?

Now it falls to civil society, as usual, to fight back. Environmental group the Green Connection says it’s considering taking legal action and Outa – the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse – is already on the case, asking Nersa to provide reasons for its decision. 

As DM’s Ferial Haffajee pointed out on Twitter: 

_“Comment: looks like @NERSA_ZA is captured? Why on earth approve @KarpowershipSA for emergency generation when it will take five years to build the ships before deploying them.”_

Given the existing concerns, including by a government department, civil society may prevail, scuppering the deal. But civil society shouldn’t have to keep saving us from these attempts at corruption on a massive scale. 🤷🏽‍♀️

Briefs

4. Michaela Cole’s inspiring call to ‘disappear’

The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards aired Monday morning, our time.

Some of the nominees we were rooting for didn’t get an award, such as our very own Trevor Noah for the Daily Show or South African-born actress Thuso Mbedu, who had Oprah Winfrey gushing about her performance in the widely acclaimed The Underground Railroad. 

But we were thrilled at Michaela Coel’s win for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for her HBO drama, “I May Destroy You,” after she was snubbed at the Golden Globes. Cole wrote, directed and starred in the searingly honest and deeply thought-out take on her own experience of sexual assault. She is the first black woman to collect the award. 💪🏽

She did so in a beautiful fluorescent yellow two-piece, and dedicated the series to every single survivor of sexual assault. 

We absolutely love this quote, directed at other writers, from her speech: “In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible – for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success – do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.” 🤩

5. Voter registration: some good news, pity about the glitches

With a little less than six weeks to go until the local government elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) held what it describes as a successful final voter registration weekend last Saturday and Sunday. 

There are a few big numbers worth celebrating. For starters, nearly 400 000 new people were added to the voters’ roll. It’s also great to hear that many 18 and 19-year-olds took advantage of reaching the legal voting age. The IEC says that registrations in this age group more than tripled during registration weekend, from 44,079 to 169,068. Plus, we’re delighted to see women leading the way in this arena as in so many other South African spaces: overall, they represent 55,17% of registered voters.😁

Unfortunately the weekend was marred by technical glitches; the commission’s CEO Sy Mamabolo called these “unfortunate” and suggested that they couldn’t have been predicted. 😞 

But the glitches weren’t just frustrating: they mean that many people were unable to register and won’t have another opportunity to do so before 1 November. The IEC’s initial target was to register 800 000 new voters – it reached only half that number. The current voters’ roll has about 26 million registered voters; 40 million of us are eligible to vote, leaving a shortfall of 13 million

If you missed out on registering, take heart: there are plenty of ways to be an active, election-engaged citizen. Read parties’ manifestos online; ask your elected representatives tough questions online or on their doorsteps (that is, if your ward councillor is as accessible as they ought to be). You could also help get people to the polls on 1 November if you’ve got time and a vehicle, and guide others through applying for a special vote by 4 October. 

6. Zuma takes aim at NPA’s Downer

In a world full of uncertainty, it’s rather comforting to know that some things are inevitable – even if those things are death, taxes and former president Jacob Zuma finding a way to dodge the day in court he insists he really wants. 🙂

As we’ve told you previously, his legal team’s latest tactic is to question prosecutor Billy Downer’s impartiality. Who is Downer? He is set to lead the State’s case against Zuma on charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering, all related to the notorious, decades-old arms deal. Zuma has long maintained his innocence. Downer has been on the case for YEARS, as one tactic after the other has delayed the case from being heard. Now he finally gets to argue it and… Zuma’s team is saying he’s got a vendetta. On Tuesday and Wednesday, his lawyers argued before the Pietermaritzburg High Court that Downer is not impartial and has made prosecuting the case a personal legacy project. 🥱 It’s really just another delaying tactic in a case that has yet to hear its first witness!

Meanwhile Zuma’s medical records, and his health more generally, have become central to the ongoing case, after he was granted medical parole earlier this month after being convicted of and imprisoned for contempt of the Constitutional Court. There was more back and forth about that between opposing legal teams this week. The upshot of all this is that you’re in store for LOTS more of these micro arms deal trial updates. When will the actual trial start? Hopefully, after the matter of Downer’s impartiality is settled. Judge Piet Koen has promised he’ll try to deliver a written judgment on October 26 on this aspect.

7. Musicians straying into anti-vaxxer territory

We’re appalled that some celebrities are using their platforms to cast doubt on Covid vaccines. First there was global superstar rapper Nicki Minaj’s rather awkward tweet last month, claiming her cousin’s friend in her native Trinidad had, um, swollen testicles after getting vaccinated. 👀

The poor guy apparently then got dumped by his fiancée, Minaj claimed. Trinidad’s clearly annoyed health minister said the whole thing was a lie, and lamented how much time was wasted investigating it. As MSNBC host Joy Reid put it: “You have 22 million followers on Twitter. For you to use your platform to encourage our community to not protect themselves and save their lives … my God sister, you could do better than that.” 🤦🏽‍♀️

Critics have called out Minaj for creating the debacle to distract from her husband’s failure to register as a sex offender in California. The duo also has a looming court case for harassing his victim since they got married. 

Some SA celebs aren’t covering themselves in glory, either. Local musician Amanda Black may be living up to her lyrics about “drifting away into the darkness” with her ongoing Twitter campaign against vaccines. Medical practitioners on the platform, like the popular Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, are calling Black out by trying to report her Twitter account to help curb the misinformation she’s spreading. 

8. Have a good life now, Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to hand over the baton after 16 years in power. She will not stand for reelection in the country’s elections, which take place on Sunday. 

Under Merkel’s calm, rational leadership, Germany shone on the world stage. As the Economist put it: “If the rest of Europe is nervous over Merkel’s departure, it is because she has made herself the indispensable European: brilliantly briefed, invested in personal relationships, and possessing almost superhuman negotiating stamina.” 🙌🏽

Merkel was the country’s first woman chancellor, outlasting international peers like George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi and even weathering the Donald Trump era. One expert pointed out that Merkel’s focus was more on policies than on politics. As a trained physicist with a PhD in quantum chemistry, she followed the facts only, which we lauded in her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. But she tended towards sometimes damaging austerity and often failed to act decisively – particularly on climate change. 😬

As The Guardian points out, this will be the most unpredictable election in recent history and for a whole generation, will mark the first time they will not be led by a woman. 

9. Seeing red over UK’s irrational decision

The United Kingdom has irrationally decided to keep South Africa on its “red list” despite countries like the US, Germany and Mauritius moving to open their borders to vaccinated South Africans. This also allows their citizens to visit us, which is crucial for our struggling tourism sector, and economy. The reason? The UK says the Beta variant, which was first identified by scientists in South Africa in late 2020, is still dominant here and has the potential to “circumvent” vaccines. 

Lol. 🙃

As Professor Francois Venter, an expert in communicable diseases at Wits University, told the Financial Mail, this view is “insane… There is no scientific reason to be on the red list.”

The variant does not circumvent the vaccine, according to scientists. But most importantly, the Beta variant has been completely pushed out in recent months by the Delta variant, which is now the most prevalent strain in almost all countries, including both SA and the UK! The hypocrisy, you guys. 😭  

According to Business Day, SA’s red list status means that SA travellers going to the UK must spend 10 days in quarantine at a personal cost of more than £2,000 (R40,500). Eek! 😓 Countries like Nigeria are better off than us despite less than 1% of their population being fully vaccinated, versus our 13%.

The department of tourism is on the case: SA scientists will soon provide further evidence to the UK. For now, the status quo stinks. 🙄

10. Accountability Monitor: billions of rands recovered from crime proceeds

The government’s efforts to recover money lost to criminals have paid off. Close to R3.39 billion was recovered in the last financial year. It’s all thanks to Fusion Centre, the A-team that’s fighting and preventing financial crime, along with the Financial Intelligence Centre. 🦸🏽‍♀️

The amount recovered was significantly higher compared to the previous year’s R2.97 billion. 

Plus there’s the separate category of frozen assets, which amounted to R613.2 million, up from R70 million previously.

The Fusion Centre has to date helped recover hundreds of millions of rands in unpaid taxes and opened over 200 cases, Business Insider reported. Unfortunately it has no power to make arrests or order investigations. Still, we like the spirit – and the return of ill-gotten gains! ✊🏽

11. Rest in power, Jolidee Matongo

The City of Joburg has seen its second mayor in a few months pass on! Jolidee Matongo died in a car crash on Saturday, just a few months into the job. His predecessor Geoff Makhubo died from Covid-19 in July. 

Matongo was one of the first ANC mayoral candidates to go through a proper interview process and he was an inspiring choice, with even the DA singing his praises. His father was from Zimbabwe, which led to some disgusting xenophobic comments around his appointment, but he was always a child of South Africa. He will be laid to rest on Friday. 🙏🏽

Local government elections are just weeks away, so the pressure is on for the ANC to find a strong candidate – especially with former Jhb mayor Herman Mashaba in the running on his own platform. 

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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