24 June ’21 Wrap: ‘This is not a wave; it’s a tsunami’

We’re presenting you with a sober edition today, but that’s because the facts necessitate it. Things are bad, Covid-wise. Take heart, though: we can stay safe and stop it from being any worse. Plus we bring you this week’s funnies (anyone seen Ramaphosa’s iPad?) and what we can be grateful for. 

So, let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 😄


🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here:

1. Our take: Take action, Gauteng 

“This is not a wave; this is a tsunami”.

These are the words a doctor working at a private healthcare facility used to describe the deadly increase in Gauteng’s Covid-19 infections. 

By now you may have heard just how bad things are in South Africa’s most populous province. The daily infection rate is exceeding 10 000 – way worse than what was seen in the first and second waves. Everyone is being affected. No one expected it to be this bad. 

The doctor, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, said: 

“With the hospital overrun, there just aren’t enough resources to care for everyone.” 

“People are waiting outside; ambulances are standing in queues at hospitals waiting to offload the sick.”

We’re seeing the nightmare scenarios that played out early on in hospitals in Italy and New York, with doctors having to decide who gets to live and who has to die. As the doctor said:

“We are trying to help the survivors versus every sick person because we can’t help everyone.”

Remember: that’s at a PRIVATE healthcare facility.

Another healthcare professional said that new people were being put into beds barely 30 minutes after the previous occupant had died.

Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University and Jonny Myers, Emeritus Professor in Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town, wrote in the Daily Maverick that the shortage of beds in Gauteng resulted from poor planning and was being exacerbated by the closure of the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital due to a fire in April. That hospital’s reopening keeps being pushed back.

Plus, we don’t even have the makeshift facilities at Nasrec that we did during the first two waves: they were underused and expensive to run, so they were shut down. The delay in completing dedicated separate treatment facilities, which would have housed at least 1 400 beds, has also made matters worse. 

As much as we hate to be the bearer of bad news, it is our responsibility to inform you that this IS the reality unfolding in our country right now. It’s not looking good, and while you might say President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to introduce stricter restrictions in Gauteng, we’re here to tell you, don’t wait for him. At this point it’s about what YOU need to do to protect yourself and your loved ones. We know you’re tired, South Africa – we all are – but young or old, you need to take every precaution you can to keep safe. Covid-19 is in the air and we don’t know how long it’s going to take for things to get better. But rest assured, it will get better, you just need to play your part.

The big story: Thank you , auditor-general

South Africa’s first woman Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke, who has been at the helm since November 2020, has been doing a sterling job at one of our crucial institutions. Every year the AG releases a report which tells us how municipalities are spending their money. Usually, the news is not particularly good. South Africa has 278 municipalities and most are very poorly managed in terms of finances. 

This week she presented her 2019/2020 municipal audit report to parliament’s watchdogs, the standing committee for public accounts (Scopa). It monitors all things related to government expenditure. She also briefed the committee about municipal spending related specifically to Covid-19. The depressing news is that the pandemic didn’t stop municipalities from doing a shocking job on procurement. 

Over 80% of our municipalities incurred irregular expenditure of R26 billion, while only 27 received clean audits for the 2019/2020 financial year. 😕

This means that more money was unreasonably spent or was not processed in keeping with the relevant legislation. 

Many of South Africa’s municipalities are in a bad state – frequent service delivery protests make this evident, and financial mismanagement and corruption are often to blame. 

One example highlighted by Business Day was that municipalities pay consultants exorbitant fees – as much as R1 billion –  to compile their annual reports and financial statements. But these still have not been up to standard. Maluleke said at least 74% of municipalities made recurring use of consultants and the reports submitted were not adequately reviewed; there was also a lack of documentation, coupled with poor project management – all of which, she said, is wasteful expenditure. 

She also highlighted how some municipalities, specifically two in Kwa-Zulu Natal, were paying for services that had not been rendered. She said money was paid to these so-called “ghost employees”, adding that more needs to be done to control the municipalities’ internal payroll. 

Had it not been for the AG and her team’s hard work, this information would be lost and those responsible would never be held to account. So, even if the numbers depress you, just know they’re being revealed for the greater good of our democracy. With local government elections coming up this year, there’s an opportunity for citizens to hold accountable those messing up their municipalities. And, judging by the African National Congress’s (ANC) performance in the last local government elections, South Africans are certainly not afraid to punish poor governance at the polls: the party suffered its worst defeat since the end of apartheid and lost its majority in key metros across the country. 


3. iHad my iPad, but now it is missing 

What is South Africa without some light-hearted mockery of our president’s sometimes comical ways? This week’s missing iPad mystery had us in stitches! Before a press conference at the National Ports Authority in Cape Town, Ramaphosa misplaced his iPad, and wondered out loud if it had been ‘stolen’. Hugo, bel die polisie! 😆

Ramaphosa could be heard saying, rather calmly, all things considered: “Somebody has decided to dispossess me of my iPad… Can I have my iPad, please? So they stole it. I had my iPad. Do you know where they took my iPad to?”. 🥺

Shame Cupcake, we see how distressed you were, but also, wow! Imagine a whole president losing his iPad? What if it got into the wrong hands? Thankfully, after an awkward two minutes, Ramaphosa was ‘repossessed’ of his device. The incident prompted SA musician Max Hurrell, responsible for the 2020 lockdown jam “When people zol”, to whip up a new tune … winter kitchen dancing, here we come!

4. Changes in schools could spell disaster 

We’re pleased to hear that teachers across South Africa this week started receiving their vaccines. The plan is to vaccinate 582 564 teachers over 14 days. The sooner this is done, the quicker students can get back on track with their schooling, which has been stressful for teenagers, kids and parents over the past 15 months. The conundrum, however, is that while teachers are out getting vaccinated, students are left waiting or are attending school every alternate day.

Experts say this arrangement is likely to have a very negative effect on learners, especially those in the public school system, in the years to come. Experts told the Sunday Times that, to mitigate this problem, primary school pupils – who are due back on July 26 – should return to class immediately while the education department develops a credible catch-up plan for the learners. High school students will still be attending class on alternate days. Education Minister Angie Motshekga has, however, said that once all teachers have been vaccinated, there will be no reason for teachers to stay home, which should get things back on track. As a parent, try your best to support your children through this. We know it’s tough to juggle everything at once, but diligence and encouragement will give your child that extra boost to stay ahead. 

5. A rush for diamonds, uhm we mean crystals

Given all the minerals lying beneath South African surfaces, surely you’ve wondered at least once whether your own backyard was a hidden gold mine – no? Just us? Well, apparently we’re not alone. Thousands of residents in KwaZulu-Natal’s KwaHlathi region flocked to a field after something shiny was spotted in the ground.

It was thought to be a diamond, so locals began digging and many found shiny rocks, assuming their fortunes had changed forever. But to their dismay (honestly, ours too) scientists confirmed that the shiny rocks were quartz, not diamonds. Quartz are basically crystals: they have no monetary value but are sometimes considered to have healing properties. It may have been a glimmer of hope for the population of nearly 300 000 people, where jobs are scarce and poverty is rife, but sometimes all that glitters is not gold… or diamonds. 

6. Fresh details on Lindani Myeni killing

We told you previously how South African club rugby player Lindani Myeni was shot dead by police in Hawaii in April. Myeni lived in the US island state with his American wife and two kids. At the time there were huge question marks over what went wrong: police released very selective footage that didn’t explain the whole story, while defending their actions. One police boss said his men were “fighting for their lives”. Now more details have been obtained and released by the Myeni family’s legal representatives – and it appears from this new video footage that Myeni was effectively murdered by cops.  

Raw footage from a doorbell recording shows Myeni enter a building after removing his shoes at the entrance. He is wearing an uMqhele, a traditional ceremonial Zulu headband, and may have confused the building for a similar-looking public temple next to it. Myeni was reportedly a deeply spiritual person. He then interacts with a couple, who loudly claim that he is trying to break in, while he repeatedly apologises. The woman screams hysterically and calls 911, reporting Myeni, who has by then revealed his identity and said he is South African. Myeni is seen leaving the house and apologising again to the residents. As he walks away, the 911 operator confirms to the woman that police are on their way. The police arrive, attack Myeni, tase him and shoot him dead – all while he tries to defend himself. Only then do they announce themselves as police. Myeni was unarmed and did not have any weapons, nor did he threaten the couple, the woman confirmed to the 911 operator. The couple later testified that Myeni never came closer than one to two metres and made no physical contact. 

It’s a horrific story. Myeni was a gentle giant, and it seems – as the #BlackLivesMatter movement has highlighted all too often – the colour of his skin trumped all other protocols. His 29-year-old wife Lindsay Myeni is demanding justice. She said: ‘100%, I know in my heart if it was a white man … if it was me, I’d still be alive. I’d be walking around”.

7. Demystifying Imphepho  

Imphepho is a sacred African herb, often used for ceremonies small and large, like Umembeso – a ritual where the groom presents the bride’s family with gifts before the wedding. Believers say lighting the herb and smelling its aroma puts them in touch with their ancestors and fills them with peace and calm. 

But many modern believers don’t have time to draw on the herb in their daily life. Enter Gugu Majola, a sangoma,  who was inspired by the frequent use of Impepho at her initiation school, and wondered what else it could be used for. After feeling she’d got the go-ahead spiritually, she started experimenting and found the herb can be consumed, as well as used in candles and soaps. 

Now she has a thriving business that aims to help believers use the herb every day while also combating the negative stereotypes associated with it. 

It presents a small opportunity to cleanse the bad energy away and start every day over.  So, everyone, go and buy as many candles as you can: we need to collectively cleanse the country’s energy, ASAP. 😂

8. Ace heads to court

Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule appeared (virtually) before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg today to challenge the ANC’s decision to suspend him and to ask that the court declare the party’s step-aside rule unconstitutional. Before his matter could be heard, the court dismissed three separate applications that sought to intervene in the case relating to Magashule’s suspension, saying a proper argument regarding the urgency of those applications had not been made. A refresher: last year the state charged Magashule with fraud and corruption relating to the multi-million rand Free State asbestos case.

Because he was criminally charged, ANC rules required him to step aside or face suspension. Magashule’s defiant self refused to step aside and – after some dilly-dallying – the party suspended him. He was NOT happy about this, so he attempted to suspend Ramaphosa and at the same time challenge the step-aside rule. Where does this guy get the energy to be so brazenly defiant on a national stage, while most of us are out here overcoming imposter syndrome? 😆 Magashule has a steadily diminishing troop of supporters, one of which is former prez Jacob Zuma. His case is being heard by no-nonsense Judges Jody Kollapen, Edwin Molahlehi and Sharise Weiner. We’re keeping an eye on it. 

9. SA soldiers want swanky new togs – with a R200m price tag

If you were the head of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and were given a budget of R200 million, what would you spend it on? Improving operations, equipment, compensation? We’d think so, but instead, the SANDF has decided to spend this huge amount of money on army uniforms. 😕 Did the fashion police come at them for their poor taste in clothes? No. The change comes to “restore the dignity of the army to its rightful glory” in the country, its spokesperson said. The current pattern on the uniform has been in use since 1994 so the hope is to change the perception around the army. Additionally it aims to accomodate all body forms, because it was found that the fit is not “female-body-profile friendly”, while also attracting more youth to join the force (influencer much?). 💁🏽 The sudden change seems a little nonsensical, especially since the SANDF is facing a budget reduction of R15-billion which will heavily impact its spending on more important things like equipment, the Mail and Guardian reported. Look, we’re all for nationalism, identity and inclusivity, but during a pandemic, we’d like to think the money could be funnelled to more pressing issues. 

10. Melville has one of the coolest streets in the world

If you’re a Joburger with a taste for the hipster, artsy life, then you know that Melville’s 7th Street is the place to be. With its vibey and arty alleys, vintage shops and good food at a reasonable price, it’s definitely one of the coolest streets in the world. Don’t believe us? It’s true: the street was placed 12 out of 30 others in cities across the world by Time Out magazine. Kalk Bay’s Main Road in Cape Town ranked 22nd, while Smith Street in Melbourne came out tops. That’s great for Australia, but we’ll stick to local brews with our local brus in Melville! 😅

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


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_Till next time, goodbye from the team_ ✌🏽