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28 October’21 Wrap: Here’s how we’ll end loadshedding

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at this week’s rapid escalation from stage 2 to stage 4 loadshedding – we have to use a torch, thanks Eskom, and why this makes the push for greener energy more urgent than ever. Plus, we tell you why Nando’s has waved goodbye to Gareth Cliff and introduce you to John Wick…no, not that one, a mysterious vigilante in Mamelodi… 

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. 😄

Format

🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here:

🗞 For text, keep scrolling or check out our PDF below.

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Our take: Opportunity amid SA’s electricity crisis

South Africans were still reeling from Stage 2 loadshedding earlier this week when we were klapped with another unwelcome Eskom statement that announced stage 4 loadshedding.  

That escalated quickly. 👀

This, as government representatives prepare to go to Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th global climate talks beginning on Sunday. 

If anything should scream, “We need to move to green power NOW” this ought to be it. 

Dirty and debt-ridden Eskom cannot keep the lights on. Plus recent emission statistics show that SA is now the 8th-largest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases… in the world. 😨 But any crisis worth its salt lends itself to real opportunities. 

The hot topic at COP26 this year is financing for developing countries like ours to transition to green sources of energy while protecting vulnerable jobs and communities that depend on the coal industry. It’s a contentious topic that led to the breakdown of talks last year. SA is off to a promising start this time: Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy announced on Friday that we will receive up to $500 million from the Climate Investment Funds, a global fund that helps countries reduce their reliance on coal. The exact amount will depend on the type of investment plan we develop.

It’s a start but still a drop in the ocean; analysts estimate that SA needs at least $27 billion. But it’s great that people like Creecy are taking the lead alongside Eskom leaders like CEO Andre de Ruyter, who are pro-renewables, rather than dinosaurs like Gwede Mantashe who are still tied to coal.🙄 Even President Cyril Ramaphosa’s landmark announcement in June that independent power producers could produce 100 times more of their own power without getting a licence shows things are slowly shifting. 

It looks like global forces may finally force SA’s to kick its dirty coal addiction, and hopefully save us from the unacceptable loadshedding we’ve been exposed to again and again. 

The big story: The final countdown

In just four days you’ll be choosing your local government leaders!

So, in our final pre-election explainer, we want to talk about coalitions. 🤝

The last local government elections in 2016 saw shock losses for the ANC in major cities, while opposition parties banded together to keep the ruling party out. 

The DA coalesced with smaller parties to retain power in the City of Joburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane metros. But we’re new at this and things got messy. Smaller parties became kingmakers, and switched allegiances, while unstable coalitions repeatedly fell apart as ideologically different parties like the EFF and DA couldn’t make it work.  

Nelson Mandela Bay saw one mayoral change after another while citizens’ needs were sidelined by political infighting, and Tshwane was put under administration. 

We’re far from the mature coalitions that have seen good outcomes for citizens elsewhere. News24’s recent Out of Order index on municipalities found that only one local municipality in the top 10 had a coalition government. 

Recently the DA showed its hand after a leaked recording from 2019 surfaced in which chairperson Helen Zille is heard saying the DA should consolidate its support at 20% and enter into a coalition with the ANC. She quickly backtracked this week, but the DA’s increasing focus on a conservative, largely white minority shows it’s not really serious about governing on its own. 

So what’s your takeaway from all this? Simply put: your vote matters more than ever. A couple of seats in a council can make or break the strength of a coalition government. Go out and choose a party with a good track record in your city or an independent candidate you believe in. We’re living in an era where their voice really can make a difference. 💪🏽

Briefs

3. “Taking the knee” takes a turn for Proteas

This week SA’s senior men’s cricket team made headlines, not for their on-field abilities, but because they had to be forced by the board of governing body Cricket South Africa (CSA) to “take a knee” against racism.

The gesture, first used by American athlete Colin Kaepernick as a silent protest against the murder by police of a black man, George Floyd, has become a universal anti-racism symbol. Some Protea players have knelt before international games, while others have remained standing. The CSA board issued a statement shortly before the team’s T20 World Cup tie against the West Indies on Tuesday saying it was compulsory for players to take the knee. A bombshell followed: star batsman Quinton de Kock withdrew from the match. He was widely excoriated by commentators and fans, though some celebrated his stance. 👀

Today, De Kock issued a thoughtful statement in which explained that his unhappiness lay not with the gesture, but with being blindsided by the directive: “When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning. If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society.”  

We agree, but De Kock didn’t entirely cover himself in glory. Mentioning his family members of colour in the statement played into the “some of my best friends are black” trope. Many still didn’t understand why he didn’t show his support AND voice his opposition to the directive. 

But, like all of us (hopefully), De Kock is on a journey. 🤷🏽‍♀️

We hope this will spark more discussion – especially given how much has emerged in the past year about the racist treatment of black cricket players, allegedly by people including current men’s head coach Mark Boucher. 

We look forward to seeing De Kock front and centre with other senior teammates pushing for change. 💪🏽

4. More damning Facebook leaks

Ah, Facebook! Every time you log in, another person’s had a baby, you realise you forgot your uncle’s birthday, again, and your random cousin is still sharing inappropriate memes.😏 It’s a weird, wonderful space, buuuut… it’s also deeply problematic. We told you last month how former Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen outed the social media giant for, among other things, prioritising profits over people’s safety. This week, Haugen released more documents to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and THEY ARE DAMNING. 🤯 Here are some of the findings

  1. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally agreed to demands by Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party to censor anti-government dissidents if it wanted to avoid being knocked offline in the Asian market. Additionally, Facebook ignored internal complaints about political posts packed with misinformation and conspiracy theories from before and after the US’s 2016 election.
  1. Facebook’s regulation in Middle Eastern and African nations is very thin. It did very little to quell the spread of hateful and violence-inciting content amid Ethiopia’s civil war. Haugen said “the raw version [of Facebook] roaming wild in most of the world doesn’t have any of the things [related to online safety and curation] that make it kind of palatable in the United States”. 
  1. People living in the Middle East used Facebook to buy and sell maids who were then abused, a human trafficking violation flagged by employees that Facebook didn’t do much to correct.😶It also allowed anti-Muslim and hateful content to spread and even failed to monitor Iraqi militias who shared images of child nudity on the platform. 

During an internal question-and-answer session at the company, Zuckerburg denied these allegations and said the company was working on improving the product. Facebook was also reportedly set to announce a new name today (it hadn’t done so at the time of writing), in hopes that the rebranding will improve its image. But as experts say: “Simply unveiling a new brand will only serve to reinforce consumers’ fears that Facebook is only concerned about itself.” 

5. We salute journalists speaking truth to power

At explain.co.za we’re passionate about news because we know it’s under attack in an age of misinformation and failing business models. That’s why it’s so gratifying that amazing Filipino journalist Maria Ressa and her Russian counterpart Dmitry Muratov won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize! 🙌🏽 It’s the first time working journalists have won the award since 1935!  The Norwegian Nobel Committee commended the two for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. In 2012 Ressa co-founded Rappler, a digital investigative journalism outfit that fights misinformation at its source – social media. 

In a recent podcast interview, Ressa said Rappler “was a way to imagine what technology in journalism would look like if we wanted to use the social media platforms to build communities of action”. 

Ressa is a thorn in the side of the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte because of her fearless exposés of his regime’s violent rule and use of misinformation on Facebook. She has been served with 10 arrest warrants in less than two years and has been the target of a vicious social media hate campaign. 😯

Journalism, at its best, can make the world a better, fairer place. We salute Ressa, Muratov and all the other journalists speaking truth to power against outrageous odds. Thank you for reminding us why we do what we do.🙌

6. A rollercoaster nightmare

Imagine: you’re at Gold Reef City’s theme park getting onto the Anaconda, a rapid, steep and thrilling rollercoaster. The ride kicks off…then, midway, loadshedding strikes! You’re stuck mid-air, screaming your lungs out because what in the Final Destination is this?! 😳 This was the horrifying reality for 35 people stuck at the peak of a rollercoaster at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka last week. Some riders were hanging upside down for nearly two hours, reports say. It’s all due to a power outage (hey, it’s not JUST a South African thing). Thankfully, no one was injured and staff were able to lead the riders down a passageway to safety. Fancy a ride on a winding rollercoaster? No, thanks. We’ll stick to the Teacups. 😌

6. Sudan and eSwatini stand up for their rights  

Civilians are standing up for democracy in two African countries, risking life and limb to do so.

🔸 Pro-democracy protests in our neighbouring country, eSwatini (Swaziland), started in June and have escalated over the past two weeks; armed police have used force and authorities temporarily shut down internet services. Protesters, most of them university students and civil servants, want the right to democratically elect a leader; a full transition to democracy and better living conditions. eSwatini is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and has been ruled by King Mswati III – who enjoys obscene luxury while ordinary citizens live in extreme poverty – for 35 years. South Africa has sent envoys from the region to engage with Mswati 

🔸 Further north in Sudan, the military has seized power and overthrown the uneasy transitional government it was part of with civilian leaders. This interim government was supposed to help the country transition more fully towards democracy, with an election in 2023, but these hopes are now imperilled. Sudan’s people are not taking it lying down: we’re seeing a repeat of scenes in 2019 that led to the downfall of the country’s brutal leader, Omar al-Bashir. The north African nation has also resorted to shutting down the internet, a dirty and desperate trick of authoritarian despots everywhere. Ten people have reportedly been killed with several others injured. The US, UK, African Union and others are in discussions with Sudanese authorities. 

7. Zuma vs justice: the games continue

We’ve been telling you for some time how former president Jacob Zuma has tried to delay his decades-old arms deal trial. His most recent tactic was to argue that the lead prosecutor is biased. (This is separate from the drama around Zuma being released on medical parole after he was imprisoned for standing up the state capture commission). 😓 Judge Piet Koen on Tuesday dismissed Zuma’s “special plea” to have prosecutor Billy Downer recused. 

Zuma will now have to stand trial for the infamous deal with French arms manufacturer Thales, which dates back to the 1990s. 

Koen’s decision would have meant the trial could proceed from April 2022 in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. But it doesn’t take a genius to predict what happened next. Zuma intends to take the ruling on appeal in Bloemfontein’s Supreme Court of Appeal, a move straight from the Stalingrad handbook that will only delay justice, some more. The back and forth is exhausting, but we’re cautiously optimistic Zuma will get the day in court he claims to want…in this lifetime, maybe. 

9. Gareth Cliff’s (peri-peri) wings clipped

Fast food giant Nando’s has pulled its sponsorship of Gareth Cliff’s podcast, after years of Cliff falling foul of the line between freedom of speech and just plain being an ass. Cliff – well known for controversial statements – outdid himself last Thursday by shouting down a black woman’s experience of racism. The fracas occurred on Cliff’s podcast, The Burning Platform; he was in conversation with DA leader John Steenhuisen and One South Africa member Mudzuli Rakhivhane about the upcoming elections, independent candidates and racial issues in SA.

The ‘ish hit the fan when the controversial Phoenix DA posters came up. Rakhivhane said the posters were deeply racist and spoke to her experiences of structural racism. Cliff promptly dismissed these experiences as “anecdotal” and “unimportant to all of us”. He and Steenhuisen insisted that service delivery, not race, was all that matters in an election. 🤦🏽‍♀️ 

It’s startling that a whole opposition party leader doesn’t realise how much race matters to voters, whether he agrees with them or not. It doesn’t just show up his and Cliff’s lack of empathy, it questions their competence as public figures if they can’t grasp something so basic about the citizens they’re speaking to. 

Video footage showing Steenhuisen smirking as he yelled “service delivery” over Rakhivhane’s attempts to speak was particularly troubling. 😖

Nando’s put out a rather mild (haha) statement hours later, saying it takes the right to freedom of speech very seriously and would be reviewing the content. It later pulled its sponsorship of the show, citing the fact that Cliff spoke over Rakhivhane and shut her down as its reason. We were expecting more… well, peri-peri…in its response, but it was the right thing to do. Freedom of speech IS important – and so is recognising SA’s painful past and how it continues to play out in very real ways for black South Africans. 

10. SA news eclipses Hollywood’s best efforts

Between claims of government trafficking Tembisa’s most famous babies, to John Wick stalking the streets of Mamelodi, some of the news got us laughing this week. 😜  

The #Tembisa10 story is back in the headlines; Independent Newspapers has doubled down on its bizarre tale of a woman they claimed broke the world record by giving birth to ten babies. Its reputation was thoroughly muddied after no proof was found to support the claims. But the media group’s owner, controversial businessman Iqbal Survé, and journalist Piet Rampedi, have now spun an ever wilder tale involving a shady Nigerian doctor in cahoots with government officials. The same government that can’t keep the lights on? Yeah, sure. 😆 

In a nearly three-hour press briefing, Survé left us with more questions than answers. But stay tuned, folks – he’s promised to deliver those answers through a 10-part series à la Netflix. 😂

Meanwhile, further north, John Wick strode into Mamelodi. No guys, not Keanu Reeves in his famous action role, but a vigilante murderer targeting members of the so-called Boko Haram gang that terrorises people in Mamelodi, particularly foreign shop owners, extracting a “protection fee” of R300. We do not condone vigilante behaviour, but SA’s reaction had us chuckling: some asked this John Wick to visit their communities, while others told America to stop filming the new John Wick movie – after all, we’ve already seen it. 😉

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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