Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane, Round 2 million ?

Hi! ?? Here’s our latest edition of news you need to know on Verationality – Simple news summaries for busy people ??‍♀️  

With the long weekend and emphasis on larger conversations about women empowerment and Women’s Day, it was a fairly slow news week. 

*Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane* ?

There was more of the same in the ongoing war between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and President Cyril Ramaphosa: legal tussles and public skirmishes. This in itself is part of a larger proxy war, it seems. On one side is Ramaphosa who legitimately wants to clean up government but is faulted for moving too slowly and for favouring big business and elites. On the other side are those who don’t want to lose access to state resources OR to be sent to jail if our prosecuting authority, the NPA, can fix its house and start successfully sending people to jail. This is the former state capture lot and in many senses, their livelihoods depend on continued chaos, so sabotaging Ramaphosa’s clean-up drive is their best bet. 

It’s worth noting, albeit rather depressing, that ALL the news about Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane is a sideshow and not at all central to the most pressing issue facing our country right now: our slow economic growth. This is, by far, Ramaphosa and the country’s biggest challenge. But still, it seems like everyone is talking about the more interesting politicking so check out our summary for the latest ??

⚠️*There were four important developments this week in the ongoing Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane. For our summary of these details, type, scroll to the bottom*⚠️

It may all sound rather defeating but think about it this way: The US and now the UK have heads of state who are more interested in power than doing what’s best for their country. The recent mass shootings in the US were devastating and the spectre of a disastrous no-deal Brexit looms in the UK, but both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have appeared arrogant and clueless in their respective country’s moment of crisis. Every country has its challenges – ours just seems most pressing, albeit when it’s sometimes just a storm in a teacup. 

*Court, shmourt* ??‍⚖️

If you think our legal processes just seem to drag on forever with no end in sight, this next one is for you. You may remember former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, who cried in front of the nation in 2016 while insisting he never visited the Guptas as his cellphone records showed, but instead was at a shebeen in Saxonwold ? 

Well, since then he’s been busy fighting all the way up to the Constitutional Court to avoid returning R10-million of an early Eskom pension payout. He lost this week and will have to cough up.  

*News from one of our many inquiries* ?

It didn’t make major headlines, but the SABC commission of inquiry into editorial interference released its findings on Monday, outlining how it found a culture of fear and anger during its investigation at the public broadcaster. Anyone who has heard of former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng wouldn’t be surprised by that. But here’s what is surprising: the investigation said there was no direct line between ANC headquarters and the SABC, just the “spectre” of political interference. The SABC has announced that it is taking Motsoeneng to court in a bid to recover around R21-million from him. Read a decent summary of it here:

*NHI… again!* ?

Since our last *Spotlight* ? feature, there’s been major movement. The revised national health insurance bill is back in parliament, which means it’s one step closer to being signed into law. This is government’s attempts to bridge the gap between our insanely expensive but very good private healthcare and disastrous public health care. Minister Zweli Mkhize wants all of us to take a look at it and vigorously engage. Check out this link for a good summary of it:

It is scheduled to kick into action in 2026. There is a lot of panic about how this is going to be a complete disaster but it’s worth noting that many are for it – including from the private sector – if it’s done properly. There’s the rub, of course. But affordable quality healthcare for all is a must in a humane society – which is why it’s one of the key issues at the heart of the next US presidential race.

*And now for something different…* ??

In news you don’t ACTUALLY need to know, but that you may come across around the water cooler, the Miss South Africa beauty pageant has become newly-relevant thanks to organisers trying to be more inclusive with so-called “plus-sized” contestants, and one who is openly queer. On Friday, twenty-five-year-old Zozibini Tunzi was crowned as Miss South Africa 2019. Zozibini made waves for wearing her hair in a natural and simple style. Her story is rather inspiring too: from a small village in the Eastern Cape, she made it to the top 12 finalists of the competition in 2017, but no further, leading her to write these touching – and prescient words on Facebook, pictured above. Oh and Metro FM made headlines in the wrong way for running a Twitter poll about whether people REALLY thought she was stunning, which they have since apologised for. 

*Week ahead* ?

– The Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane battle will rage on and become increasingly heated – and confusing. My advice is to not get too swept up in it all. 

– More interestingly, Friday will be the seventh anniversary of the Marikana massacre. Celebrated Indian author Arundhati Roy was in SA this time last year and commented how incredible it was that we took the shooting of these miners so seriously, when so much worse takes place across the world – including in her country – unremarked. Think about that. As intense as we are as a country… apathy is so much more dangerous. 

– Stats SA will release more promising data for the second quarter of this year, this time in retail – meaning our GDP in the second quarter is likely going to be WAY better than the first quarter, helping us avoid a recession

*More on Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane* 

*1. Another week, another court loss for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.* 

This time a court slapped down Mkhwebane’s demand that President Cyril Ramaphosa immediately discipline Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for granting Ivan Pillay early retirement when they were both at Sars. Yes, we’re STILL talking about this nine years later ?. Judge Letty Molopa-Sethosa agreed that Ramaphosa should await Gordhan’s appeal of Mkhwebane’s report on the matter and had some strong words for Mkhwebane legal reasoning. The EFF, who were supporting Mkhwebane in the matter, immediately insulted the judge’s reasoning, sparking renewed debate about attacks on the judiciary. My take: the EFF, Mkhwebane and our president are using the court system – and respecting its outcomes and using appeal mechanisms where they exist. This is a system at work and I would argue freedom of speech protects the EFF’s comments – which aren’t great but aren’t cause for panic either. 

I know all the different threads around our public protector are confusing so I’ll be working on a larger explainer on what’s going on. Let me know if there’s anything specific you want clarity on. 

*2. Stay in your lane, Busi* 

Perhaps stinging from the above loss, Mkhwebane decided this week not to oppose Ramaphosa’s interdict of another report: her finding on donations to his ANC presidential campaign in 2017 from dodgy Bosasa boss, Gavin Watson. Interestingly enough, her decision came after an exceedingly polite letter from NPA head Shamila Batohi, asking whether there had been a “misunderstanding” when the public protector bizarrely instructed Batohi to investigate Ramaphosa for money laundering AND submit a plan to Mkhwebane for approval. It was the NPA’s way of saying: stay in your lane. Ouch. It seems Mkhwebane is as ignorant of the roles of different institutions as she’s found to be on key aspects of the law. 

*3. More leaks*

In the ongoing drama between Ramaphosa and shadowy factions fighting him, yesterday the Sunday Independent reported more leaks naming people who donated and were paid from the campaign. Pre-empting the expose, the Presidency released a statement on Saturday night, noting the that the leaking of confidential banking information of funders is a breach of privacy. 

*4. Ramaphosa requests sealed records*

Ramaphosa has also requested that his campaign’s financial records be sealed in the upcoming court review of the public protector’s report into the donation, when Mkhwebane will make these public as part of her legal papers. He says they are confidential and were also obtained illegally.  All this secrecy may seem rather disingenuous but in the dirty world of party funding, it has to be a case of: show me yours and I’ll show you mine. It’s simply not tenable to expose Ramaphosa’s funding and not EFF Leader Julius Malema, DA leader Mmusi Maimane and so on. 

That’s it for this week! Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to drop me your ideas of what YOU think we can do better.