South Africa! 🙋🏽♀️ Jacob Zuma woke up in jail this morning and that’s a pretty big deal. We tell you why, plus bring you the Covid successes we’re starting to see in SA, the billionaire space opera between Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, and more!
So, let’s dive into your weekly simple news update, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 😄
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1. Our take: Limpopo’s boss vaccine rollout
Gauteng is still the epicentre of Covid-19 in South Africa. Hospital admissions continue to climb, but the province may turn a corner soon; some experts say it may be at its peak, meaning that cases will soon begin to drop.
When the government announced that people older than 60 needed to register with the Electronic Vaccination Data System, Limpopo’s health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba knew it would be a problem for the province’s elderly and illiterate people; this, coupled with the lack of resources and network, meant something needed to be done. Enter youth community healthcare workers who went door-to-door to register the elderly and illiterate people in the largely rural province. Ramathuba said that, given the government’s initial lag and backlog, the province could not rely wholly on the national approach: instead, it considered the resources and materials at hand.
Thanks to Limpopo’s tailor-made solution, at least 80% of people in the group have been registered on the system and 17 000 people a day are being vaccinated, with the capacity to scale up to at least 30 000 people a day. WOW! Religious and traditional leaders were the first to be vaccinated, so the people living in the area could follow their lead. We hope that other provinces can follow suit or create their own solutions. Ramathuba is even being mooted to replace suspended health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Speaking of vaccines, on Sunday SA hit the 3 million mark for vaccines administered. It’s a nice milestone, though we of course have a way to go. The next groups to be vaccinated are those over 50, as well as police officers. If you are 50 or over, be sure to register.
In case you’re wondering about the level 4 lockdown that expires after two weeks on 11 July 2021, word has it that it could be extended – but, as always, we’ll wait for the official announcement.
2. The big story: How Zuma went to prison
This morning, one Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma woke up in prison.
That’s right, dear reader. After a game of chicken with the state that went down to the wire, Zuma finally presented himself for arrest just before the police’s deadline to arrest him at midnight last night, after he failed to turn himself in by midnight on Sunday. Dithering Police Minister Bheki Cele, a former Zuma ally, faced possible arrest himself if he didn’t obey the court’s instruction. (But he’s SO quick to act on anyone drinking during lockdown. 🙄) Last night, hundreds of police from different units descended on the Nkandla area; Zuma supporters threatened to fight them off. Many were worried about the real possibility of bloodshed but in the end, just as Zuma resigned as president in 2018 when he realised the ANC would force him out, he caved and was taken at high speed from his compound by motorcade, off to Estcourt Correctional Centre. It was a victory for police, who made their intentions clear without having to deal with the politically explosive business of taking on Zuma’s supporters.
Now, the legal details around this arrest are dizzying. But we reckon it’s important to have a basic grasp of it so you can understand what happens next.
Zuma was first sentenced to prison by the Constitutional Court on 29 June 2021. This was because he refused to continue his evidence before the Zondo Commission into state capture.
Zuma’s team tried two separate legal tactics to keep him out of jail. Both are still ongoing:
- He asked the ConCourt for a “recission” of its sentence. This isn’t the same as an appeal as one can’t appeal ConCourt rulings, but rather an argument to set aside the judgment. His team is saying he didn’t have money to defend himself the first time around. Lol. He had the money for numerous other legal delaying tactics, so we’re not buying that excuse. The ConCourt is hearing that on Monday next week.
- His team simultaneously asked the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to “stay” or stop the police from arresting him until the ConCourt made its decision. That hearing was live streamed on 6 July 2021 and was very entertaining, if only to watch Zuma’s advocate, who happens to be the EFF’s Dali Mpofu, go round in circles for hours before an unimpressed judge while his opponent, the legally brilliant advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, neatly laid out that the court had no jurisdiction to make such a decision. That judge reserved his judgment till Friday, so expect to hear what he says tomorrow – though it’s a bit of a moot point now that Zuma is in jail.
After Monday we will hear what the ConCourt says but experts think it’s unlikely the justices will change their minds. If they do, Zuma would have at least spent six nights in prison. If they don’t, he will only be eligible for parole after serving between three and four months. His separate arms deal corruption trial is also set to continue later this month.
But the real story here is what this momentous arrest means for the country. Very few former heads of state have gone to prison while their party is still in power. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s almost pathological insistence on process has paid off. He could have made “political” decisions like former president Thabo Mbeki and simply ousted his enemies, but instead ensured people like Ace Magashule and Zuma were held accountable, setting a precedent for others in the ANC who have long treated the law like something that doesn’t apply to themselves. In short, it’s been an incredible week for accountability.
3. Billionaire vs billionaire: a space opera
It’s the most absurd billionaire version of a
dick-swinging contest race to be first. 🤭 Richard Branson is planning to fly out to space this Sunday, narrowly beating Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos to it. Bezos, as we previously told you, last month announced his plans to board his company Blue Origin’s first human launch to space on 20 July. Now Branson will beat him to it by nine days, becoming the first billionaire to travel to space.
On 1 July, Virgin Galactic announced plans to launch the VSS unity spaceship with Branson tagging along for the ride.
By space, we don’t quite mean Mars. Branson will make the trip 50 miles above the earth, which the US government considers to mark the boundary of outer space, while Bezos’ trip will be 60 miles above the earth.
However, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, Michael Colglazier, insisted this was no competition. “There is nothing about a space race or ‘Who goes first?’ that played into this. We do our test flights when we’re ready to fly them.”
Meanwhile, this past Monday marked the date that Bezos – AKA the richest person in the world – retired as Amazon CEO… aged 57, and with $196 billion. Must be nice. Hopefully, working conditions will improve for thousands of Amazon warehouse employees who live on food stamps and toil in poor conditions.
4. Yes, the sea really did catch fire
Spare a thought for any songwriter who ever borrowed poet ee cummings’ beautiful phrase, “trust your heart if the seas catch fire”. It’s no longer just a powerful if hyperbolic expression of unending love. The sea has officially caught fire. Thanks, pollution.🙄
Last Friday a gas leak from an underwater pipeline sparked a blaze on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico; Reuters reported that it took five hours to extinguish the fire. The internet, as is its way, lost its collective mind trying to make sense of the images: orange flames seeming to boil on the sea’s surface.
The incident drew ire from climate activists and has also highlighted issues raised in a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office. In short, it found that there’s not nearly enough oversight of the huge network of active offshore oil and gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.
Hopefully, though, some corporate accountability is coming: the Wall Street Journal reported this week that “some of the world’s largest oil companies have been ordered to pay part of a $7.2 billion tab to retire hundreds of ageing wells in the Gulf of Mexico that they used to own, capping a case that legal experts say is a harbinger of future battles over cleanup costs”. Makes sense to us – you make the mess, you clean it up. Here’s hoping some of the damage to the Gulf of Mexico can be fixed in the coming years.
5. Booze bans DID decrease trauma cases after all
SA’s alcohol bans have been super controversial. But anecdotal evidence when they kicked in showed that trauma cases dropped during the bans, freeing up much-needed hospital beds and health worker capacity.
Alcohol industry bodies disagreed, publishing their own study that found no evidence the drop in deaths was due to the ban.
But a newly-released study proves them wrong.
The Medical Research Council worked with UCT actuaries on the rigorous study, looking at the period from the end of December 2019 to April 2021. Lead author Professor Tom Moultrie says the findings show a SIGNIFICANT decrease in unnatural deaths related to trauma injuries – people dying in car crashes, suicide and murders – when the sale of alcohol was banned.
Such deaths were about 50% lower than expected during the Level 5 hard lockdown from March to May 2020, and 26% lower than expected when the sale of alcohol was banned with curfews of between four and seven hours. The correlation is pretty clear.
Covid aside, this is startling. It looks like our country has a real problem with alcohol. Still, the multibillion-rand industry is gearing up for a legal challenge, sparked by the latest alcohol ban.
Alcohol sales are an important source of tax revenue, and banning them entirely isn’t the answer – as the US’s disastrous history with prohibition showed us. But there’s a deeper societal ill here we need to reckon with. Alcohol is literally killing South Africans.
6. #Adulting 101
If you’re a small business owner, then you’ll be happy to know that the government has decided to resume the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) later this month. Ters was first introduced in March last year to financially support businesses and workers who were not earning during the strict lockdown. It was halted in March this year. The industries eligible for Ters payments include the liquor industry and its value chain, restaurants, gyms, events, conferencing, aviation, tourism and allied sectors and many more. If you qualify, go to the UIF website to apply.
Petrol price increase
You may have noticed an increase in petrol prices. Overnight the price for petrol 93 increased by 29 cents and the price for petrol 95 increased by 26 cents. This comes on the back of an increase in international petroleum costs and the complicated relationship between the rand and the dollar. It’s the steepest increase in the petrol price yet, but hopefully, you’re working from home. 😏
7. Rooibos joins the big leagues
Would you like champagne, Irish whiskey, or Rooibos tea? ☕ Yep, they’re in the same league now. Our very own Rooibos tea has become the first food in Africa to receive approval for registration under the status of international protection from the European Union. Rooibos can now use the “protected designation of origin” (PDO) logo. So, if your red bush tea isn’t grown in the designated Rooibos growing regions in South Africa, sorry for you!
8. The wage gap for SA cricketers has been revealed and it’s shocking
What’s with SA cricket and racism? Last year white players lost it when their black counterparts like Lungisani Ngidi chose to kneel in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter protests. This was followed by several former players, like Makhaya Ntini, sharing their own experiences of racial discrimination within the sport.
And so, Cricket SA launched the SJN initiative in July 2020 to tackle the ongoing racism claims. It is being heralded as being the “TRC of cricket” in SA.
This week saw its first hearings, and we got a glimpse of the shocking extent of institutionalised racism AND sexism in the sport when it comes to the bottom line – what people get paid.
Former Cricket South Africa director Dr Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw was the first to testify and revealed that the widest earning gap exists between men and women.
Kula-Ameyaw based the following figures on averages calculated from data she studied before a human resources committee meeting, News24 reported.
By her calculations, she said, men earned a monthly salary of R113 702.49 on average compared to… wait for it, less than a third of that for women, at R33 000.
Kula-Ameyaw alleged that even within the men’s game, the discrepancies were extremely high depending on race. Again, by her calculations:
- White players: R156‚216
- Black players: R114‚191
- Indians players: R105‚209
- Coloureds players: R79‚194.
We’re shook. Looks like these hearings were long overdue, but thank goodness they’re finally happening.
10. #Bringbackourgirls on repeat
The families of over 140 pupils in Nigeria’s Kaduna State are suffering sleepless nights as they long for their children’s safe return. On Monday the pupils were abducted by armed men from the school premises of the Bethel Baptist High School in northwest Nigeria. Another 20 or so pupils were able to escape and have been reunited with their families.
According to reports by Reuters, the attack on this school is the 10th mass school kidnapping in northwest Nigeria since December.
Many of us will remember the abduction of 276 young girls in Chibok in 2014. It led to the #bringbackourgirls movement, which drew the support of global leaders, putting pressure on the Nigerian government to take action to end the abduction by terror groups.
More than seven years later, these abductions rage on and it’s not just Boko Haram to blame. Many of the armed men who carry out these abductions have created a business of kidnappings for ransom. A Lagos-based political risk analysis firm estimates that nearly 18 million pounds have been paid to bandits since 2011. 😳
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_ ✌🏽.