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11 November’21 Wrap: FW de Klerk’s complicated legacy

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at FW de Klerk’s death and legacy, a few possible post-election coalitions, plus the big talking points from today’s Medium Term budget speech. 

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:

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1. Our take: FW de Klerk: A divisive , pivotal part of SA’s story 

FW de Klerk has died. He was apartheid South Africa’s final president and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for their roles in navigating the country towards democracy. Dave Steward, spokesperson for the FW de Klerk Foundation, told News24 today: “The former president died earlier this morning at his home in Fresnaye [Cape Town] after his struggle against cancer. He was 85-years-old. He is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and his grandchildren.”

De Klerk was a divisive figure. Some have argued that without him, the relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy would never have happened. He made himself unpopular with many members and supporters of the ruling National Party when, in 1990, he unbanned the ANC and other liberation organisations. Days after De Klerk’s historic speech, Mandela was released from jail. It was the very public beginning of the end of formal apartheid. But, as academic and author Professor Christi van der Westhuizen wrote for The Conversation Africa today, these actions  “should not be read as a Damascene conversion to the principle of black majority rule…Rather the announcement was made by De Klerk the pragmatist. He was taking a strategic risk to regain the initiative, in a situation where the options beyond intensified military repression were rapidly shrinking.”

De Klerk was one of two deputy presidents to Mandela in 1994’s Government of National Unity, (the other was Thabo Mbeki), but left the post in 1996. He was heavily criticised for refusing to accept responsibility for brutal state crimes against anti-apartheid activists on his watch; he insisted he did not know about the atrocities. He also drew international ire by arguing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the late 1990s that apartheid was not a crime against humanity – a stance he reiterated several times, including as recently as last year. After his 1997 retirement from politics, De Klerk remained a public figure. He established the FW de Klerk Foundation and Centre for Constitutional Rights, and was a popular speaker at events both at home and abroad. 

News of De Klerk’s death will no doubt elicit varied reactions from South Africans across the political spectrum. But his central role in our country’s recent history – in all its complexity – cannot be denied.

2. The big story: The coalitions edition

The local government elections are done, and most of you probably don’t yet know who is running your city or town. That’s because more than a quarter of all municipalities were hung with no clear majority – a first in our democratic history. Parties have been forced to the negotiating table to work out power-sharing deals. That’s why so much election news may be confusing: no announcements about clear winners, just lots of rumours and conflicting reports about who is talking to whom. 

There will be more clarity after 23 November, the deadline parties have been given to form power-sharing agreements. We will then tell you what’s been finalised and what to make of it all. 

For now, here’s a snapshot of a few metros:

Johannesburg:

Parties: ANC: 33.6%, DA:26.14%, ActionSA: 16.05%, EFF: 10.63%

Joburg voters aren’t impressed. The ANC shrank by over 10 percentage points since the last election and the DA by over 12! The EFF also shrank slightly, while Joburgers seem to remember their former mayor Herman Mashaba fondly, giving him potential kingmaker status. Who will govern the city of gold? No two parties have enough to do so together, except the DA and ANC, which looks like a no-go. Party chair Helen Zille was keen on the idea but leader John Steenhuisen has since scuppered it. 

They’re not the only ones. Mashaba says he won’t partner with the ANC but is open to partnering with his ex-party, the DA, on certain conditions. A DA-ActionSA coalition in Joburg would still fall about 8% short of a majority and would have to work with smaller parties, including the EFF, which the DA has sworn not to do. 

Cape Town

Parties: DA: 58.22%, ANC: 18.63%, EFF: 4.13%, GOOD: 3.81%

The DA had better watch out. It won the city it’s ruled for years, but fell sharply from its previously comfortable majority of 66.61%. That kind of drop should be a warning sign: the ANC saw a similar dip before losing outright control in other metros. The ANC also shrank from 24.36% while Patricia De Lille’s GOOD clearly ate into the DA’s support – a similar story to Johannesburg, where a former DA leader of colour left acrimoniously and went on to take votes from the blue party, which has battled with issues of race for some time. GOOD is walking away from coalitions completely, saying constructive opposition is better than coalitions when trying to run a ward.

Tshwane/Pretoria: 

Parties:  ANC: 34.62%, DA: 32.03%, EFF: 10.69%, Action SA: 8.64%

The only two-party coalition that would work in Tshwane is between the DA and the ANC. If this doesn’t happen, it will take at least a three-party coalition to rule the Tshwane metro, with the EFF, FF+ and ActionSA — very possibly all three — likely to play a significant role in what happens next, TimesLive is reporting. 

So, the game is on for these parties and we’ll see who actually has South Africa’s interests at heart. As columnist Justice Malala points out: “The people of SA have given no party a clear mandate to govern. The message is clear: have some humility, introspect, and work with others.”

Briefs

3. What’s next for the economy

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana presented his maiden medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) to parliament today, and boy! He faced a lot of pressure to fulfill the promises made by his predecessor, amateur chef Tito Mboweni.

Remember, the MTBPS is more about policy and strategy than it is about numbers. It also follows a torrid 12 months of Covid-19, July’s riots and chronic loadshedding. But take heart: the economy rebounded more positively over the past year than expected, a result of the global economy reopening and improved exports from our commodities and agricultural sectors. Things are not looking as bad as we thought they would thanks to that commodities boom we told you about last month.

Here are three big issues from Godongwana’s speech: 

  1. Debt and GDP

Our debt levels are pretty high, but some recent estimates show that the economy could get some reprieve on the back of the commodities boom, plus the fact that a Stats SA review found the 2020 economy was 11% bigger than previously expected. GDP growth will help us narrow the budget deficit, so Godongwana’s announcement that GDP is expected to grow 5.1% this year, much higher than the February forecast of 3.3%, is encouraging. We’re looking for more growth prospects like these. 

  1. Social grants

The basic income grant (BIG) is a BIG topic. Many households suffered financially due to the pandemic and unrest. Following those July protests Mboweni announced the R350 BIG would be extended to March next year. But the country’s finances are already stretched and economists say a long-term solution is needed to sustain the grant. The minister said plans for the BIG will be outlined in the February budget. 

  1. State of SOEs

Many of our state-owned enterprises are a mess. The priority, though, is (you guessed it) Eskom. 💡 The parastatal is R402bn in debt and others like SAA, Denel and Transnet are also in hot water. Godongwana announced today that National Treasury will try to avoid further bailouts to parastatals and will instead work on restructuring them and even letting go of some. 

We’ll be watching these developments. 

4. Lalela, listen to the people

Less than a month after being crowned Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane is knee-deep in controversy. Walking away with the crown means she must represent the country at December’s Miss Universe pageant. 

But Miss Universe is being hosted in Israel this year and many South Africans are unhappy at the thought of our flag flying on an Israeli stage. The United Nations has labelled Israel an “apartheid state” on several occasions because of its illegal occupation of neighbouring Palestine and brutal attacks on often unarmed Palestinians. South African foreign policy recognises Palestine’s independence.

A number of pro-Palestinian organisations have called for Mswane to boycott Miss Universe to show her solidarity with Palestineans. Mswane has not personally made her stance clear on the issue but the Miss SA organisation, a private entity, says she intends to attend the pageant and insists it is not “involved in politics”. A little rich, some argue, coming from a pageant whose 2021 contestants were asked to share their views on issues like trans women’s representation, education policy and gender-based violence during the finale.

 The organisation’s CEO also says a boycott would rob Mswane of her voice and not change much, adding that her attendance would be more impactful than a stay-away. We’re not convinced.

5. #Adulting: An app to speed up service delivery

With all this talk of local government elections, you’re probably wondering if service delivery will get going in your neighbourhood. How do you get that gaping pothole or broken street light fixed? Thanks to an app called My Smart City, you can now report such issues fairly easily.

The app, introduced in July by a company called Acumen Software, allows you to report potholes, monitor power or water outages, communicate with local municipal officials, and more. It’s integrated with the relevant city’s call management system, though for now it’s only available to those in the cities of Cape Town and Joburg. Now let’s hope our freshly-minted elected officials ensure the app leads to action…

6. COP26: activists fear it’s all just hot air

Jeff Bezos, who regularly swaps the world’s richest man spot with Elon Musk, has come out in support of Planet Earth rather than space for a change. He pledged US$2 billion (R30 billion) to combat climate change and address food security and reforestation, among other commitments, at the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Will he stick to it? Bezos’ pledge is one of many made to aid poorer countries.

 But history shows such promises often aren’t kept. A recent report showed wealthy nations missed their 2012 promise to contribute $100bn a year in aid to poorer nations. COP26 has been awash with generous pledges as pressure mounts on the wealthy, but activists are concerned about “green washing”  – lots of talk and no action. It ends tomorrow, so next week we’ll tell you the news you need to know. 

7. A good week for gay rights

Ag, we love it when South Africans stand up for each other! So we were delighted to read that SA singer Kelly Khumalo said, “No homophobia on my watch” when her long-time friend, media personality Somizi, ran into some haters. Somizi is an openly gay man – a fact that saw churches in Harare, Zimbabwe, block him from attending an event there. Khumalo was asked to come in his place but said no to the gig and defended Somizi. We’re proud to see her standing up for gay rights and freedom, especially to other countries. 

Speaking of gay rights, Kwa-Zulu Natal’s uMngeni Local Municipality is set to welcome South Africa’s first openly gay mayor-elect. Chris Pappas, 30, won a majority for the DA in the region, a first for the blue party, and now he gets to be a rainbow first, too! 🌈 Pappas has been the DA’s deputy provincial leader since 2021. He will be joined by 26 year old Sandile Mnikathi as deputy mayor. 

8. Could cannabis be the right crop to mop up Gauteng’s mine toxins?

You may be aware (😉) that cannabis has many wonderful uses. Now SA scientists are exploring another potential application: sucking up pollutants from the many wastelands created around Gauteng by mining and other heavy industries, the Mail & Guardian reports. 

Activists have long warned about elevated levels of toxic and radioactive metals in parts of Joburg, given the city’s mining history. Cannabis, meanwhile, has previously been proven to outperform other crops in its ability to suck up toxic metals. Why? Three reasons: a rapid growth rate,  high stress tolerance and a long root system that can get deep into toxic soils. It’s been put to test in the toughest of circumstances – after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Another environmental “plus” in cannabis’ column is that it can also capture 22 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare, way better than any other crop. 

But the plant’s reputation as a drug has slowed down research. We reckon it’s high time (sorry) to change that, so we’re glad to see these sorts of studies being conducted.

9. Kidnapped Moti brothers safely home

Everyone who has followed the dramatic, harrowing story of the Moti brothers can breathe a sigh of relief: the boys have been safely returned to their parents. The four brothers, aged between 15 and 7, were kidnapped by seven armed men while en route to Polowane’s Curro Heuwelkruin private school on 21 October. Anxious weeks have followed, with many South Africans rallying behind the family to offer prayers and support. On Wednesday night the boys’ parents received a phone call to collect their children who, according to reports, arrived at a house in Vuwani, also in Limpopo, after being dropped off on a nearby road. Police have confirmed that the boys are in good health but they’re very tightlipped on the details – they say revealing too much would compromise the investigation and they’re still hoping to make arrests.  

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

Today’s Wrap was sponsored by King Price Insurance. To advertise with us, mail info@explain.co.za for a quote. 

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