By Aarti Bhana and Verashni Pillay
Hi there and welcome to The Wrap simple news updates for busy people, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and explain.co.za 💁🏽♀
▪️ Editorial: South Africans can offer global solutions
▪️ The big story: A turning point for our democracy
▪️ Six stories you should know
▪️ Week ahead
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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1.EDITORIAL: SOUTH AFRICANS CAN OFFER GLOBAL SOLUTIONS
If you were tired of only hearing about Covid-19 news, this week sure did provide some respite. 😬
Remember how South Africa was ablaze over colonial statues a few years ago*? Well, the rest of the world has caught up, following the killing by white police officers of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American man, last month. It’s reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, and people from the US to the UK are demanding public monuments to historical racists must FALL. Check out our opinion piece on it here
Of course, just as we saw in SA, there’s the counter argument that one shouldn’t erase history. We’d like to quote Trevor Noah in response: “How will people learn their history? Read a book, motherf***er. The bubonic plague was a major event in history, but we don’t go around putting up statues of rats.” 😂
*Quick history lesson: The University of Cape Town ended up removing the statue of Cecil John Rhodes following the 2015 #RhodesMustFall protests. BUT parallel protests to change the name of Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape failed. In 2017, the university decided against it, basically saying it couldn’t afford the change AND felt it would affect its international recognition. Well. Three years later, and perhaps history has proved them wrong? This could have been an ideal opportunity to carve out an amazing case study for other universities facing the same crisis three years later – from Oxford to Harvard.
We’re a messed up society in many ways – the death of Tshegofatso Pule this week, for example, has brought gender-based violence depressingly to the fore. But while there’s so much going wrong, we often fail to realise how much we have to offer the world.
Many South Africans have long been doing the work of fighting racism and inequality, which should put us ahead of this moment. Yet, we tend to spend so much time doubting ourselves, or scoring own goals, that we miss the opportunity to reach for greatness. The pandemic has exposed that inequality, racism and poor leadership are not South African problems: they’re global.
Instead of bemoaning our lot, or looking for greener pastures, we have the means to pressure test solutions in our friendships, communities, and how we live our lives as the middle class in South Africa – and then tell these stories to the world. We need to make these micro changes as individuals. 💪🏽
Or you could think big and… run for President?
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 2.THE BIG STORY: A TURNING POINT FOR OUR DEMOCRACY
That’s right. There was a game changer of a ruling by the Constitutional Court this week, regarding how elections are run in South Africa. The court’s decision means that ANYONE – you, me, your weird co-worker – can stand for general elections, as soon as the NEXT national election!
If you’re wondering why this is a big deal: the way it usually works in South Africa is someone can only run to be a president of the country, or premier of a province, if you’ve managed to navigate the Machiavellian inner workings of one of the country’s political parties. You have to fight your way to the top, AND then have your party win a majority.
It’s a mix of something called proportional representation, and the list system. This hybrid was meant to ensure maximum representation across the board, in a country as divided as ours. It hasn’t worked out that way in practice.
Now, candidates may have to answer to the constituency who voted for them. No smoke and mirrors.
So how’s it going to work? Are we going to have 30 pages of candidates to choose from at the ballot box??
There’ll probably be a system to make sure it’s manageable. After all, independent candidates have been a common feature in South Africa’s local government elections since 2000. These candidates require a nomination by 50 people on the voters’ roll, plus a R1 000 fee, for the candidate to make the cut. City Press pointed out that the numbers of independent candidates have grown steadily through the years.
Besides, South Africa is one of the few countries not already following this system. Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo told SABC News that Germany, Britain, Botswana, Tanzania and many others follow a form of this system.
Of course, directly electing individuals also has its drawbacks. It could turn into a popularity contest, or require loads of money to make it to the top. It could even create MORE divisiveness. As Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana noted in The Conversation: “Political parties often bring together diverse individuals around common values”.
But even he preferred to dwell on the potential of this exciting shift.
As Indian author Arundhati Roy once said, despite all the many injustices she has covered in her work: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” 🙌🏽
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS WEEK
1. A solution for test backlogs
The Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) – the panel of experts advising government through Covid-19 – has proposed that Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize immediately halts mass testing, and turns the focus on health workers and hospitalised patients. The country’s testing system has been buckling amid the massive testing backlogs at laboratories, coupled with the global shortage of test kits.
To date, South Africa has conducted just over one million tests.
This equates to 17 352 people tested per million, to put it in globally comparable terms. This is nearly on par with France, who are at over 20 000 per million. Many richer countries, however, like the UK, US, Singapore and Italy, are testing at levels over 70 000 per million. This is according to statista.com, who are measuring publicly available data globally.
But while our numbers are climbing as we enter the next phase of the pandemic, South Africa’s death rate is half the global average, at just 2.19%. The global death rate is 5.48%.
Professor Shabir Madhi, vaccinologist, dean of the Wits University Health Faculty and member of the MAC, told News24 that “a prioritised approach was recommended to the Minister”.
Minister Mkhize acknowledged that the test backlog of 63 000 tests, according to the National Health Laboratory Services, is a problem. In response, the Health Department will adopt a more focused testing strategy, which includes prioritising infection hotspots.
2. Our second pandemic: GBV
South Africa once again mourns a slain sister. This week, Tshegofatso Pule was eight months pregnant when she was killed. Her body was found hanging on a tree in Roodepoort. Public outcry and demands have been directed towards Police Minister Bheki Cele to have the same energy towards gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa, as he does to those breaking lockdown regulations. 🙄
Cele says he has launched a manhunt to find the suspected killer. In the Western Cape, the case of Naledi Phandingawo is being heard, who was also stabbed to death. The man arrested for her murder made his second court appearance this week.
Crime stats for March 27 to May 19, 2020 showed a 68% year-on-year drop in cases of GBV reported to police, but President Cyril Ramaphosa himself has noted the real number of incidents have probably risen, particularly after that period, as women are locked down with their abusers.
If you want to find out what’s being done by local activists, check out the Sonke Gender Justice ongoing campaign here:
3. Striking a delicate balance: Schools
This was MEANT to be the week learners could return to classrooms, and parents could drink wine at midday in sheer relief. But many schools across the country were forced to close their doors once again, after a number of Covid-19 cases began to emerge in schools.
In Gauteng, 54 schools have had to shut, with another 61 schools in the Western Cape. As we noted previously, the Western Cape is ahead of the Covid-19 curve, and seeing the worst of the pandemic. Two teachers there have died, 100 have tested positive, and over 1 000 learners are infected.
But Deputy President David Mabuza insists this is no reason to pause the schooling year again. He says despite the increase in cases, schools will remain open and the academic year will be saved.
The UK is grappling with the same problem. The Economist reported that the British government has conceded that plans to return children to school in England were unworkable. After weeks of resistance from teachers and local authorities, barely half of the pupils in primary year groups that could have gone back, have done so.
4.Transnet fires executives
Transnet CEO Portia Derby has given the boot to three senior executives at the SOE, for their involvement in the state capture saga. It’s another win for justice and reform.
This comes as Derby plans to restructure and clean up the state-owned company, following years of state capture – the best known example being the purchase of multibillion rand trains that were TOO TALL for SA’s rail tunnels! 😶 (Those contracts were thankfully cancelled, and the offending companies liquidated to reclaim some of the money already spent.)
5. Taxi industry
The South African National Taxi Council is demanding a R4 billion bailout from the government to help it pull through Covid-19 times. The taxi leaders say they want R20 000 per taxi, per month of the lockdown. With nearly 200 000 taxis across SA, this amounts to R4 billion, that the government says it doesn’t have. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is firm on only offering R1.1 billion.
Taxis are the lifeline of South Africa’s economy, and the Council says it will halt operations if demands are not met. This also comes as taxis hiked their fares between 10% – 25% on the back of reduced demand and petrol price increases – a blow to ordinary commuters too. If you hire domestic workers using these systems, consider asking what they are spending on transport, and seeing if you can assist at all.
6. An ode to Arden
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden is winning hearts again. Here’s two reasons why she’s our #WCW. Yes it’s a Sunday. We don’t care.
▪️ While the rest of the world is scrambling to get its house in order, New Zealand is easing into normalcy. Thanks to 75 days of restrictions, the island nation has managed to completely eliminate Covid-19. Arden said that she did a little dance when she found out there were no longer any active cases in the country. Of course she did. 💃 She also laughed her way through an ACTUAL earthquake during a live interview. We’re not fan-girling. You are. 😋
▪️ The City of Hamilton in New Zealand removed a statue of British naval Captain John Hamilton, after a local Māori elder threatened to do so himself. The statue, like many others being contested across the world, represents the country’s dark colonial history and racism.
On that note, check out our video of how women leaders have been 👏 showing 👏 us 👏 how 👏it’s 👏 done!
June should be celebrated for two reasons:
👉🏽 June 16 is Youth Day, where we commemorate the lives of all the students who died at the 1976 Soweto Uprising, while protesting the Apartheid regime and the Bantu education system. We thank them for forging the way forward for our new South Africa and… taking a pause. Turn off the computer, yeah? We all need to reflect and stop working nonstop!
👉🏽 It’s Pride Month – we celebrate our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community. Thank you for adding colour to our world. 🏳️🌈
That’s it from us at The Wrap, a product of https://explain.co.za/ – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾♀
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Till next time, goodbye from the explain team ✌🏽