Level 1, is that you?

Hi there and welcome to The Wrap simple news updates for busy people, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team 💁🏽‍♀


▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. THE BIG STORY: LEVEL 1, IS THAT YOU? 😁

Just a few months ago we were telling you South Africa was expecting its peak of infections in September and now… we’re already at Level 2 as we avoided the worst of the pandemic. Plus, it seems we may have dodged the second wave experts were worrying about (fingers crossed!) 🤞🏽.

So, the current talk of the town is that Ramaphosa might announce a move to Level 1 THIS WEEK. This follows telling comments to journalists made separately by both Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. City Press is reporting the de-escalation could take effect in a week or two. Can you say: international flights, here I come?? 🙌🏽

Before we get too excited: nothing is confirmed yet and… we don’t really know what Level 1 would look like. A lot of the restrictions we expected to remain were lifted during Level 2 already. The big rumour is that our borders will open again – goodness knows our tourism sector desperately needs it – but that of course is dependent on other countries’ travel policies, too.

But don’t pack away those masks just yet. Social distancing and all it entails will be around for some time, and some restrictions on gatherings are still likely.

Still, we can be proud: we pulled together as a country, and have largely gotten through it all. Now to rebuild the economy 😬.


We told you earlier this year about the deaths of the last remaining Rivonia Trialists: Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg. This week, one of the last living members of the famous defence team also passed on: George Bizos 😔.

Quick explainer: the Rivonia Trial was the seminal case in the sixties that brought global attention to the anti-aparthied struggle, while driving the movement underground thanks to the lifelong imprisonment of key leaders: Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and more.

Bizos, like so many of the people connected to that famous struggle, was a giant of a man: selfless and tireless in his fight against injustice.

He was 92 when he passed away on Wednesday from natural causes. Bizos escaped the Nazi occupation of Greece in a small boat with his father as a 13-year-old, and settled in SA after a long journey. He went on to become close friends with Mandela and other struggle leaders while studying law at Wits University, a period that saw him becoming politically aware.

The remarkable thing about Bizos is how he put his formidable legal skills to use again and again to help the downtrodden and seemingly hopeless, till his dying day.

His work at the height of the struggle against apartheid would have been enough to cement his legacy. But even when many would have rested, he kept going, well into old age. During the 2017 inquest into Ahmed Timol’s torture and death in police detention, Bizos attended court every day for six weeks, offering advice to the legal team. He was 89 at the time.

Bizos died just a few days before the 43rd anniversary of Steve Biko’s death: the leader of the black consciousness movement who was arrested and beaten to death by apartheid state security officers. Bizos led the inquest into his death – and many others.

As New Frame puts it: “It was Bizos’s humanity that drove him to pursue the truth in seemingly futile inquest after inquest into the suspicious deaths in police detention of activists such as (Steve)Biko, Neil Aggett, Ahmed Timol and others, despite the crushing inevitability of apartheid’s magistrates finding “no one to blame”.

It would be easy to feel at a loss as, one by one, we lose these giants of our past. But, if anything, their struggle should remind us to celebrate the freedoms they helped achieve for us – and to keep fighting for a more just world. 💫

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 3. NEWS BRIEFS 📜

▪️ Cyril takes aim at ANC’s flights of fancy

The Sunday Times reported that an ANC delegation, led by party secretary-general Ace Magashule took a sho’t left with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to Zimbabwe in a state military aircraft. In other words, using state funds to help out a political party – strictly verboten!

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said the minister was just giving the ANC delegation a “lift” (LOL!😝 ). She had another meeting at the same time in the country, and the delegation was on a “‘political mission”, to meet with Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF’s secretary of administration over the socio-political and economic turmoil in the country. You’re telling us, this couldn’t have happened over Zoom 😑.

The commander in chief of the SANDF, Ramaphosa – still on his drive to root out corruption – was not impressed by this trip and is looking for answers. He gave minister Mapisa-Nqakula 48 hours (so, yesterday) to provide a detailed report on the circumstances that led her to sharing a flight with the ANC delegation. If she’s responded, we haven’t seen it yet. But, as TimesLive points out, Ramaphosa somewhat knew about the trip because he was at the post-NEC briefing where it was first made public. Did he ask the right questions then? Because details around the ANC delegation suddenly boarding the state aircraft is sketchy. We just want the plane truth 😬. But wait, there’s more! The trip ALSO broke lockdown regulations. Ugh. 🙄

▪️ Caster’s race for justice runs out of road

In the eyes of World Athletics, Caster Semenya, South Africa’s star athlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist does not have the right to participate in the 800m title in the Tokyo Olympics next year. Why? Because of her high testosterone levels. Semenya has long faced public humiliation and has had to undergo tests to verify her gender because of her naturally high testosterone levels. And now she has lost an appeal in her battle to put an end to the restrictive testosterone regulations that are imposed on ALL female athletes. In response to the ruling, Semenya tweeted: “I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. #youcantstopus”. In our eyes, Caster, you ARE a SHERO. ✊🏽

▪️ Funeral strike goes from bad to hearse

Forget worrying about overloaded morgues thanks to the pandemic. We have a new problem when it comes to burials. A group of 17 South African funeral associations and forums are planning a 3-day strike starting today, over a long list of concerns it wants the government to address, aimed at opening up access and racial transformation in the industry. A number of requests are aimed at the Department of Health’s strict certification and legal process, which determines who can do certain work in the industry. But the department says it will continue to hold the industry to a high standard. Incorrect handling of bodies is, after all, a public health concern, which makes the strike all the more troubling. If a member of your family passes on in the next three days, and you can’t get a registered funeral service provider to assist you, you will have to ask the police to bring forensic personnel to remove the mortal remains from your home. 👀

▪️ Good news! There’s hope yet for the economy

We knew it was coming, but we didn’t know HOW bad it would be. Last week’s GDP numbers showed that on a quarterly basis, South Africa’s economy contracted by 51% in the second quarter of the year and by 17.1% year-on-year – the lowest it’s ever been, according to Trading Economics. This was “the annualised” rate, which assumes the trend between the two quarters will continue for the full year. The big drop was thanks to the country’s strict lockdown and the pandemic (obvs). Other countries were similarly affected, with the US experiencing a 32.9% contraction quarter-on-quarter. The good news for South Africa however is that, even if things look awful now, economists say data from July and August show that the economy will bounce back to pre-lockdown levels, albeit at a slower pace. Whew. Keep supporting small businesses wherever you can. Our economy was in a bad state even before lockdown and needs all the help it can get. 🤞🏽


▪️ America is burning, this time literally

Climate change is a hot topic again. Wildfires have been ripping through California for almost a month now. Although this is the fire season in the American West, the New York Times says this year the fires are more deadly than before. They were triggered by a rare lightning storm in August, forcing many residents to evacuate. Not everyone escaped the flames, sadly. At least 20 people have died. Of course, this is not the first record-breaking fire disaster this year. Australia and the Amazon have also suffered severe losses due to wildfires, which are having a field day, thanks to climate change.

On the subject of the environment, watch our explainer on South Africa’s air pollution crisis and how we can solve it here.

▪️ Boris burns Brexit bridges over troubled border

Yes, we’re still talking about this. Even though Brexit officially went ahead on January 31 this year, both sides still need to work out the rules for their new relationship before the December 31 deadline. One of the stickiest points is the Irish border. Quick explainer: Northern Ireland is still part of the UK while the Republic of Ireland is not. They’re two separate states. Therefore, after Brexit, Northern Ireland will be outside the EU with the rest of the UK, while the Republic of Ireland will remain inside the EU. Only problem is, the Republic of Ireland is then cut off from the actual EU. This becomes a bit of a nightmare when it comes to trade, with the different rules, but NO ONE wants to set up checks along the Irish border, given the violent history between the two territories, known as The Troubles. This was a big part of the agreement around Brexit. However a new bill proposed by Boris Johnson’s government will override that part of that agreement, in the event of the two sides not agreeing on a future trade deal. It’s all quite technical, but the upshot is that the UK is trying to sneak in a piece of legislation undermining an international treaty, over a very sensitive issue, and it’s drawn a LOT of criticism – from all sides of the political spectrum.

▪️ The Kardashians can’t keep Keeping Up

Love them or hate them, the Kardashians have definitely made a name for themselves (sometimes we still wonder how). But their eponymous reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians is coming to an end next year after, wait for it, TWENTY, seasons. It first catapulted the notorious family to fame in 2007, and fans watched the two youngest siblings, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, literally grow up in front of the cameras. Thirteen years later Kylie has built a billion-dollar make-up empire, while Kendall is a majorly successful supermodel. Their older sisters, Kim, Khloé and Kourtney, have all branched out into lucrative business deals under the eye of their “momager”, Kris Jenner. (that’s a lot of Ks). So it’s goodbye to the KUWTK as it became known. For some it’s the end of an era, for others, it’s just another day. 😏


🔸 Zim novelist in the running for Booker Prize

Here at explain HQ we like to celebrate African writers and literary heroes, so we find this story particularly inspiring. Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga’s latest book Tambu is in the running for the prestigious Booker Prize. The prize is one of the highest accolades for literary fiction published in English. While it’s a huge accolade for the renowned author, it comes as protests heat up in Zim. The 61-year-old author has been active in the protests and has even been arrested. She is being charged for inciting violence and contravening lockdown regulations. Dangarembga’s novels include the classic Nervous Conditions, This Mournable Body and several others and they collectively look at the theme of colonialism, inequality and the search for freedom. After her arrest, she tweeted: “Friends, here is a principle. If you want your suffering to end, you have to act. Action comes from hope. This [is] the principle of faith and action.” ✊🏽

Week ahead

🔹 We can expect the president to make an announcement on the move to Level 1 of the lockdown while two financially troubled state-owned enterprises, South African Airways and the SABC, come under scrutiny. The government has until Thursday to answer to SAA business rescue practitioners about funding for the airline, and on Wednesday, executives at the SABC are planning to engage the media about the issues facing the state broadcaster.

🔹 On Thursday, we’ll also hear the Reserve Bank’s latest interest rate decision. We might get yet another rate cut, economists say.

🔹 Parliament is in recess until October 5.

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 Verashni, Sarah, Aarti, Samina and Matthew ✌🏽