It’s Christmas! Well, not quite, but close enough. So The Wrap team is taking a break for a few weeks and we’ll be back in the new year. Before we go, we catch you up on the BIG news that former president Jacob Zuma may be heading back to jail, important Covid developments you need to be aware of, and what to watch and read as you, hopefully, also take a break after another tough pandemic year.
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.
Our take: follow the facts, not the fakes
The pandemic didn’t just teach us that pineapple beer was a thing. 😆 It also put disinformation and misinformation in the spotlight – from fake Covid-19 news doing the rounds to conspiracy theories around vaccines (do we need to remind you that Bill Gates is NOT using vaccines to track you?).
Take, for example, former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He recently claimed that he cured a couple of HIV/Aids by praying. It’s not the first time he’s made such a frankly dangerous claim: last year he said that if any vaccine was “of the devil”, it should be destroyed in God’s name. 👀 Having faith is not synonymous with poo-pooing science and Mogoeng was taken to task for his comments. It’s deeply damaging when prominent, influential figures with powerful platforms make misleading statements. It also increases the risk that the public will believe false information and eschew life-saving interventions.
That’s why, as The Wrap goes on a break for a few weeks, we thought we’d leave you with these handy tips about questions to ask when you receive a message from that estranged uncle about how bad things are in South Africa or from the cousin who only spews conspiracy theories. With thanks to Africa Check, here’s how you can separate fact from fiction:
- Who wrote it?
- Can you verify the claims with supporting links to sources?
- Does the information make you feel scared or angry? These messages and warnings often prey on our emotions so we’ll share the information with others. Don’t do this without ensuring it’s real.
- Be careful of messages that include shocking images, pictures or audio as these could have been edited or taken from a different time to trick us into believing fake news.
- If you’re still not sure, check online to see if the message is true or has been flagged as fake news. You can use sources like AfricaCheck.org or Snopes.com to verify your information.
Stay safe out there on the social media streets, fam! 😉
The big story: The Zuma chronicles, part 682
It’s today’s HUGE news. Remember the controversial decision to release former president Jacob Zuma from prison on medical parole in September? He had served just 58 days of his 15-month jail sentence for refusing to testify at the state capture inquiry. Today a judge declared the decision unlawful and the former president may spend his Christmas behind bars after all. 😶 The time he spent on medical parole does not count towards his sentence, so he still has 13 months to go.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria made the ruling after the Democratic Alliance and the Helen Suzman Foundation went to court over the matter.
Former National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser, a Zuma ally, made the initial decision to release Zuma, against the recommendations of the Medical Parole Board, which had denied parole. Today’s ruling made it clear that the board should be independent, and that the Commissioner does not have the power to override its decisions on medical parole.
Both Fraser and Zuma must now pay costs.
The Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation Francis Antonie said: “I don’t think people should regard this as a vindictive matter. It’s not. I take no great pleasure in any 79-year-old man going to jail. It’s a victory simply for the rule of law.”
The Jacob Zuma Foundation tweeted this afternoon that Zuma’s legal team had “just delivered his application for leave to appeal”.
The ruling comes just as Zuma added the title of “author” to his CV: on 11 December he released a book telling his side of the story. It’s called “Jacob Zuma Speaks” and documents what he went through during his nine years as president. 🧐 The Jacob Zuma Foundation held a virtual book launch over the weekend and books were sold out of a car boot at a McDonald’s in Sandton (we’re serious). 😫 According to a representative of the Jacob Zuma Foundation 100 books were sold in about 20 minutes. An autographed copy was sold for R1 000 and the money will go towards Zuma’s legal fees – turns out he’s going to need it sooner than he thought.
3. Keeping up with Covid-19
Here’s everything you need to know about the spiky little devil in our midst (don’t panic, Justice Mogoeng, it’s a metaphor):
🔹Yesterday the UK removed South Africa and ten other countries from its travel red list! This means visiting friends and family from the UK won’t have to fork out over R50k to quarantine on their return. We’re hoping this will give our economy some reprieve. 😬 The UK faced a backlash over red listing SA and others, given that the new variant is spreading rapidly there too, and it looks like they were persuaded.
🔹President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for Covid after attending F.W. de Klerk’s memorial service in Cape Town over the weekend. (We say nothing😆). We’re surprised that Ramaphosa has managed to stay safe all this time, given the number of gatherings and trips on his itinerary, but we’re happy to hear that he’s recovering well and is, says minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, in “good spirits”.
🔹If it seems like every fifth person you know has Covid it’s because cases, driven by the Omicron variant, are rising rapidly. Many provinces are entering into the fourth wave. The good news is that those who are getting infected are reporting mild symptoms and our hospitals are quieter than in previous waves. The bad news is that results from a preliminary South African study on the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against Omicron suggest it’s less effective at keeping people out of hospital than it was during the Delta-driven third wave. Between 15 November and 7 December, people who had received two doses of the shot had a 70% chance of avoiding hospitalisation, down from 93% during the previous Delta wave. This means we can expect tighter restrictions soon, with a focus on the size of gatherings, curfews and, most likely, alcohol sales (stock up soon!). ☝🏽
🔹How annoying is it that you have to shell out nearly a grand every time you need to get tested? Thankfully the price of Covid-19 PCR tests in private laboratories, Lancet and Ampath, has been reduced from R850 to R500 after the Competition Commission intervened. The commission found that private laboratories “exploit[ed] consumers by earning excessive profits on essential products or services”, Daily Maverick reported. 😠
🔹Finally, the most important thing you need to know, dear reader, is that you have to keep your guard up – as exhausting as that is the fourth time around. While we may have seen worse before, and you may be vaccinated this time, you can still put yourself and others at risk. If you’re going to be out socialising, remember to wear your mask, keep your distance and wash your hands often. 😷
4. An easy-to-read Zondo summary? Yes please!
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo probably won’t have a restful festive season: he’s got less than a month to complete and submit the highly anticipated report on his findings from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. His d-day is 1 January 2022, after he was granted more extensions than a first-year humanities student. 😆 The inquiry, which cost South Africa almost R1 billion and lasted a gruelling three years, heard testimonies from key figures who were known to be involved in or who witnessed the state capture project, orchestrated by the infamous Gupta family and aided by Zuma & Co.
The Commission also heard from investigator Paul Holden and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, who traced the Gupta’s financial statements, and found that they indirectly stole nearly R50 billion from South Africa. 😒 It’s going to be one helluva report full of legal terms, jargon and perhaps unfamiliar names, so thankfully the Human Sciences Research Council has advocated for the commission’s lawyers to create a short, easy-to-read version for public consumption. We suggest you brace yourself for the findings and arm yourself with the details to continue holding power to account.
5. New Zealand to ban cigarettes for future generations
In huge public health news, New Zealand’s government has announced that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products in their future lifetime, under a law expected to be enacted next year. 🤐 That covers people under 15 and would raise the smoking age year by year until it covers the entire population. The country aims to reduce its national smoking rate to 5% by 2025 and eventually eradicate it.
New Zealand’s daily smoking rates have been dropping over time – down to 11.6% in 2018, from 18% a decade earlier, The Guardian reported. But there is a racial difference: smoking rates for Māori and Pasifika were far higher than among their fellow citizens of European descent – 29% for Māori and 18% for Pasifika.
The government has now introduced major tobacco controls, including limiting where cigarettes can be sold and reducing stores to under 500 from about 8,000.
The World Health Organisation estimates that a billion people will die of smoking-related causes this century but banning tobacco sales, despite the clear public health benefits, has been a virtual nonstarter globally; arguments against it often centre on civil liberties and fears of increased smuggling, the New York Times reported. New Zealand’s government acknowledged warnings about the black market for tobacco – which currently makes up at least 10% of tobacco sales in the country, saying “customs will need more resources to enforce border control”.
6. All hail our superhero scientists
They say not all heroes wear capes and it’s true: today’s heroes wear lab coats, gloves and safety glasses. 👩🏽⚕️ We’re talking about the world’s remarkable scientists. When South Africans first heard about a mysterious virus in China in early 2020, scientists had already identified and sorted the entire genome of the coronavirus and had posted it online. Two weeks later, designs for an antidote or vaccine were already being keyed into machines to “unlock a world that had not even locked down yet”, as Time Magazine put it. That’s why the American magazine named scientists “Heroes of the Year”. (It featured SA-bred boytjie, billionaire Elon Musk, on the cover as Person of the Year). 😬 The magazine put the spotlight on four scientists: Kizzmekia Corbett, Barney Graham, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman were hailed for their sacrifice and hard work in understanding the virus and developing a vaccine. The magazine dubbed them “The Miracle Workers.” We couldn’t agree more!
Closer to home, our own scientists discovered the Omicron variant and worked hard to help the public understand the complexities of Covid. We’re proud of Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Dr Shabir Madhi, Professor Glenda Gray, Professor Tulio de Oliveira and many others: they have driven discovery, research and discussions about vaccine equity, representing SA on the global stage with distinction, expertise and humility. 🙌🏽
7. Adding colour to medicine
A medical illustration of a black fetus has been doing the rounds on social media and it’s the first of its kind! It was created by Nigerian neurosurgery student and medical illustrator Chidiebere Ibe, who said he noticed that the patients in medical diagrams are always depicted as white, so he decided to change that. In a tweet, Ibe said: “I’m black, and black is beautiful! Diversity in Medical Illustration.” Ibe said he was overwhelmed by the positive response: “It was amazing to see how good people felt about it. People could see themselves in the drawing.” Thank you Chidiebere for bringing much-needed diversity to medical illustrations. ✊🏿
8. Shell’s seismic survey: the battle rages on
The battle over Shell’s Wild Coast plans continues. Despite efforts from environmental activists, energy company Shell is going ahead with its seismic survey along the Eastern Cape coast. The survey, which seeks to detect and extract oil in the mineral-rich area, uses sound waves that could potentially harm marine life – especially whales and dolphins which rely on acoustics to communicate. Shell says it will conduct the survey with minimal harm. We told you that environmental lawyers and human rights organisations filed an urgent interdict at the eleventh hour to stop the survey from going ahead at the start of the month. That put a temporary spanner in the works, but the court dismissed the application, saying the effects the organisations warned of were “speculative at best”. 😏 But environmentalists are not backing down; supported by community members, environmentalists and marine experts, they’re headed to the Makhanda High Court this Friday, to try and halt the five-month survey.
9. Lalela has no regrets after Israel controversy
We’ve told you before that the Miss South Africa organisation and Miss SA 2021 herself, Lalela Mswane, were set to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel. This, despite criticism from activists, the public and even the SA government that she would be supporting what Human Rights Watch has labelled an apartheid state guilty of gross human rights violations against Palestinians.
On Sunday, the pageant was held in Eilat. Mswane finished third behind winner Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, and first runner-up Miss Paraguay, Nadia Ferreira.
Mswane used the pageant stage as an opportunity to speak about “cancel culture”, saying: “I believe in cancel culture. In the same breath, I believe in redemption culture and hoping the person has matured, learnt and done better. I hope they do better and are redeemed. I do believe they can grow and should be given the gap to do that.” 🤨
Her supporters have called on the Minister of Arts & Culture to apologise to Mswane for leaving her in the cold without government support. Political analyst Lebohang Pheko took to Twitter to praise Mswane for her resilience. She called out the South African government for its inconsistent policy position on Israel, citing the government’s silence when South Africa’s Rugby 7s team (Blitzbokke) attended a training camp with Israel’s 7s rugby team in Stellenbosch last December.
Earlier last week, Mswane spoke out for the first time, telling the Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview that she had no regrets about competing in the pageant. “If I had not come to Israel to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, I think I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” she said.
10. What to read and watch
If you’re planning to stay indoors these holidays (thanks, Covid-19 🙄), then you’re probably looking for some hot entertainment to keep you occupied. Maybe this is the year you move away from holiday favourites like Home Alone or Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (as funny as it is) and try some of the quality local entertainment on offer? Let’s get to it!
🔹What to watch
1. Season two of South Africa’s hilarious comedy “How to Ruin Christmas” is out. If you missed it last year, you may want to watch the short series about a super chaotic black South African family facing a chain of hilarious events during a family reunion. Think Death at a Funeral, but funnier. 😆 The series stars Busi Lurayi, Thando Thabethe and Clementine Mosimane, and the second season is said to be even better than the first.
2. If you’re looking for drama, season two of Blood & Water on Netflix is a good option. The storyline revolves around upper-class high school students; the spotlight is on Puleng Khumalo as she searches for her biological sister who was kidnapped as a baby. She unravels sketchy information while facing other typical teenage problems, and it’s damn riveting. Think of it as a grittier, African, Gossip Girl. 😬
3. You can also check out Kings of Joburg and last year’s award-winning doccie My Octopus Teacher, if you haven’t already seen it.
4. For movies, take a look at the romantic drama Happiness Ever After, which was filmed in Johannesburg and is about three black women navigating love, life and sisterhood, or Seriously Single, starring SAFTA Golden Horn winner Fulu Mugovhani and comedian Tumi Morake. Both are on Netflix. Plus, doctor and comedian Riaad Moosa’s New Material was released in cinemas in October – and you can also watch its prequel, Material, on Netflix. 😋
🔹What to read
Africa’s literary canon is rich, so you may not know where to start. We love The Conversation’s list of five African books you should read before you die as a primer:
1) Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)
2) Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (1977)
3) Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born (1968)
4) Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (1988)
5) Bessie Head, Maru (1977)
Hit the link above, or in the PDF for WhatsApp readers, for a description of each.
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, happy holidays and goodbye from the team_ 🎄