30 September ’21 Wrap: R. Kelly, you’re cancelled forever

R Kelly has been found guilty, politicians are playing at being architects and we were reminded that yes, Zweli Mkhize’s son did buy a Louis Vuitton scarf for his lamb! The news has been wild this week but we’re here to help you make sense of it all. 😄

So, let’s dive into your weekly Wrap of empowering and easy-to-understand news, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 🙋🏽‍♀️


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Our take: R.Kelly, you’re cancelled forever

Today R.Kelly’s Wikipedia profile describes him as “an American singer, songwriter, record producer and convicted sex offender”.

That’s how history will remember Robert Sylvester Kelly after a New York court on Monday found him guilty on eight counts of sex trafficking and sexual abuse and one count of racketeering. Sentencing is set for May and the 54-year-old faces decades in prison. This is a long-awaited moment of justice for all the men and women he sexually abused over two decades. 🤮

In the 1990s Kelly’s predatory behaviour towards minors first came under the spotlight when he secretly married the late singer Aaliyah, who was just 15 at the time. Kelly was 27 and had obtained illegal paperwork to change Aaliyah’s age. In the years that followed, Kelly was sued by at least four women for sexual harassment and forcing them into sexual relations with him when they were underaged. New allegations of abuse and sexual exploitation were levelled against Kelly over the years; he was also accused of making sex videos and taking pictures of minors and circulating the content without consent. Most of the allegations were first heard in a 2019 documentary called “Surviving R. Kelly” where his victims spoke out about his sexual and emotional abuse. He was then charged with sex trafficking. 

The racketeering charge relates to the illegal scheme he was running with the help of his “inner circle” across states to recruit or kidnap young and vulnerable women, sometimes at his concerts, to sexually exploit them and to produce pornography. 

The nine women and two men who testified in court over a six-week-long trial said they could now live free from fear and begin to heal. 💫

It’s a difficult story to read about, we know. But take heart: For generations, abusers in high places have got away with these crimes. The cultural shift brought about by the #MeToo movement and other activism is changing that. 

The big story: Ramaphosa finally releases SIU findings

Remember that dodgy Digital Vibes contract? Former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was forced to step down in August amid an uproar after his close associates bagged a R150m communications contract. It put President Cyril Ramaphosa under pressure and he put government’s Special Investigating Unit on the case – probably reluctantly as Mkhize was both a respected health minister guiding SA through choppy Covid waters and a Ramaphosa ally. 

So what did the SIU find out? Well, we didn’t know. Ramaphosa sat on the report for three months! This week he finally authorised the release of its investigation and… it’s damning. 

The SIU even hints that Mkhize may have lied to it – and that he definitely misled the public. 😬

Mkhize was closely involved in improperly authorising the contract to Digital Vibes, at more than double the price of a rival bidder, the report found. Digital Vibes is controlled by Mkhize’s family friends, Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha. The findings also confirm media reports that Mkhize and his family cashed in from the deal: his son, Dedani, received at least R3.8-million. 😳 (In one of our most WTF moments from this entire saga, the Daily Maverick’s Pieter-Louis Myburgh reported that some of this money was used to buy Louis Vuitton scarves for a lamb on Dedani’s farm! 😵)

So what happens next? The SIU are like the police within the justice system process, when it comes to high profile cases involving government money. Its recommendations get referred to the National Prosecuting Authority, which must prove the case to a judge and then we get the good accountability stuff in terms of actual penalties like jail time. Mkhize, his family, Mather and Mitha could face money laundering and related charges. The SIU also recommended that former acting director-general Dr Anban Pillay face criminal charges of financial misconduct and fraud. 

BUT the health department seems set to act sooner on SIU recommendations to discipline the top officials who awarded the tender. eNCA reported earlier today that Pillay would be vacating his office by close of business.

It’s a pretty good day for accountability, even if it did take our president ages to allow the process to unfold. And don’t get us started on how he still keeps defending Mkhize, saying this past week he’d served his nation well. Read the room, Cyril. 😏


3. A safer alternative to Uber?

Have you noticed a LOT of e-hailing ads around lately? That’s because there’s a new entrant to the South African scene: DiDi. 

DiDi, which was founded in China in 2012, is putting Uber and Bolt in the backseat, mostly because of its top-notch security features. 😎

  • A recording monitor to check for any unusual activity during trips
  • A facial-recognition system for DiDi drivers
  • SOS buttons for both driver and riders
  • 24/7 safety hotline
  • Both rider and driver can preview each other’s history before accepting the trip.

DiDi became available to South African users in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Pretoria on 23 August, after successful launches in Cape Town and Gqeberha earlier this year. You can download the DiDi app from your app store. 🙌🏽

There have long been safety concerns about both Uber and Bolt, so we’re excited about this – let’s just hope DiDi also treat their drivers better than their competitors do!  

4. Political parties’ architectural ambitions

Are politicians frustrated spatial planners at heart? We’re tempted to think so following their recent election campaigning. 

The DA in Cape Town wants to turn the estate that houses parliamentarians into low-cost housing. It sends all the right signals: housing 400 MPs costs almost R70 million per year. But we can’t take the party seriously. It’s  notorious for allowing poor people in Cape Town to be ousted in favour of pricey property developments, as in the Bromwell Street evictions. Start with the Bo-Kaap issues on your own doorstep, guys. DA mayoral hopeful Geordin Hill-Lewis got into a spat with Minister of Public Works Patricia De Lille over the issue, during which she hilariously called him “stupid”. 🤭

De Lille is a former DA Cape Town mayor herself, before she fell out with the party, and says her party, GOOD, will release well-located City-owned land to deliver affordable accommodation. Buuuut given many of the aforementioned issues that happened during her tenure, we’re not convinced.

Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance got in on the action too, proposing that Cape Town Stadium and golf courses in the city be demolished for affordable housing. But it was Julius Malema’s suggestion that he and the EFF would build RDP houses in areas like Sandton that got the most attention. Some critics cheekily asked whether he would start on his own street in the affluent suburb. 😝

Malema is being shallow in his analysis. Of course people of all incomes should live in main business nodes like Sandton. The legacy of apartheid spatial planning, which forced working class black South Africans into far-flung areas, means workers today still pay more than their counterparts in most countries to get to work. The solution isn’t space-hungry RDP houses but rather smart thinking around mixed-use developments and densification. There are loads of great innovations already being trialled in SA and we need more: in Johannesburg, former mayor Herman Mashaba initiated a project which saw derelict and hijacked buildings expropriated for public use in the form of subsidised housing. 

This issue is not specific to South Africa. Recently, voters in Berlin, Germany voted to expropriate property owned by large real estate companies for affordable housing. 

Calling for RDP houses was just old Juju’s way of hogging the headlines – and hey, it looks like it worked! 🤷🏽‍♀️

5. Breathe easy, Covid-19 is taking a back seat

SA has officially exited the third wave of Covid-19 infections, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced on Sunday. 😁 New cases averaged around 2 000 a day in the last week. This is a huge decline compared to the 9 000 a day average at the beginning of the month. 

We’re also super happy to see the vaccination programme running smoothly – but it’s still too slow. The department was hoping to vaccinate 67% of the population, by the end of the year, which would have helped us hit herd immunity. So far just 31% of the adult population has been vaccinated. There is sufficient supply, but South Africans just aren’t turning up. 😤 Keep encouraging your people to get vaxxed! 

There are talks of a move to lockdown level 1 soon. This would mean a shorter curfew, bottle stores being open on Saturdays and the re-opening of more leisure activities. But be warned: scientists say the fourth wave could start creeping up from November. Enjoy October, everyone, but stay safe too! 🍸

6. Adulting: Be a superhero by donating blood

The South African National Blood Services (SANBS) is facing a blood shortage and it needs your help. ✋Fewer than 1% of South Africans are reportedly active blood donors. Donations must be discarded after 42 days and, without regular donations, supplies have been running low since December. The good news is that you can become a superhero without even donning a cape. 🦸 To qualify as a donor you have to: 

  • Be between 16 and 75 years old 
  • Weigh 50kg or more
  • Be in good health
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle
  • Commit to donating blood regularly.

For more information on where you can go to donate, visit www.sanbs.org.za or call 0800 11 90 31.

7. Wanted: a safe pair of hands to guide our ConCourt

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has granted the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture ANOTHER three-month extension – its fifth! The hearings are all done: the extension is for deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo and team to write their report on state capture under former president Jacob Zuma. By the end of last year the commission had interviewed nearly 300 witnesses and collected 1bn gigabytes of evidence. That’s a LOT of homework!

The commission now has until 31 December to hand its report to President Cyril Ramaphosa – and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola is annoyed. He was against the extension, though he dropped a formal court challenge to it at the eleventh hour. The commission has cost us about R1bn so far; given that state capture cost SA anything from R500 billion to R1 trillion (directly and indirectly) we think the money was well spent buuuuut… it NEEDS to wrap up, already. 😬

Zondo has come under fire in some quarters for not running things more efficiently. It’s why he probably won’t make the cut for the all-important role of Chief Justice, despite his current position as deputy. 

That job needs to be filled pronto, by the way. There are a lot of concerns about the state of our top court. It has a couple of vacancies, and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s tenure ends on 11 October. Mogoeng has already effectively finished his term by going on long leave; his legacy is mixed and often controversial. 

The court is struggling with a heavy caseload, a shortage of justices, and didn’t cover itself with glory in how long it took to give reasons on its election date judgment, which divided political parties. It needs to be run better on the administrative front, too. 

Ramaphosa, who is in charge of making the appointment, invited public nominations for the position last month. This kind of transparency is a first. There are some strong candidates in the running, according to the M&G, including possibly the first woman chief justice. 💪🏽

Our top court has saved SA time and again. It needs to be in excellent hands. 

8. Biden boosts fight against vaccine inequity

A shout-out to US president Joe Biden for offering to double the number of Pfizer vaccines that his country is donating to developing nations, bringing the total to 1 billion. This is by far the largest donation any country in the world has pledged. 😁 And it’s about time: vaccine hoarding by first world countries while developing nations struggle to access stock is disgusting. Biden is seeking to expand and accelerate global vaccination efforts and has pleaded with other leaders to help low- and middle income nations vaccinate at least 70% of their populations by September 2022.

“For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” said Biden.

The initiative will be run via COVAX, the innovative vaccine sharing agreement that got us excited at the start of the pandemic but has been hamstrung because many richer nations have refused to play fair. We’re glad to see even a slow shift towards vaccine equity! We’re not the only ones. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has described rich nations’ hoarding as “a moral indictment of the state of our world” and “an obscenity”. 

9. China cracks down on tech giants

Speaking of tech in China, there have been some dramatic recent shifts on that country’s tech scene. Chinese authorities have cracked down on tech giants with a slew of regulations. It’s a mixed bag. Regulators are taking aim at unhealthy monopolies and trying to protect society from the potentially disastrous effects of social media on privacy, mental health, and more. But some regulations risk stifling innovation, as Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma noted last October, and give the governing Chinese Communist Party greater control. However, it’s great that China CAN crack down on unhealthy behaviour by tech giants: the West is struggling to do the same. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a shocking series of exposés into Facebook’s dodgy practices, like excluding celebrities and influential users from content moderation rules and hiding research that shows the harmful effects Instagram – which it owns – has on young users. 👀

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba, on the other hand, have agreed to a government proposal that aims to narrow the country’s wealth gap and give small and medium-sized tech businesses the chance to enter the market. We’re here for that. 

10. SA welcomes important climate guests

Eskom can no longer punish citizens by cutting off their electricity because municipalities owe the utility, following a ruling by the ConCourt this week

Another week, another electricity crisis, right? But there are major opportunities afoot for SA, if our authorities would take them. 

We could score billions in “concessional financing” to accelerate the retirement of our coal-powered stations in favour of green alternatives. 

Who would give us this money? 

The world’s annual meeting on climate, COP, has agreements from wealthy countries and investors to mobilise $100bn a year until 2025 to support the energy transition in developing countries. 

So this week, some high profile International climate envoys visited SA to sound us out about a deal, ahead of COP26 in Scotland. 

SA is the 12th-largest carbon emitter in the world which is scary considering our size. 😬 We’re also well-positioned for renewables given our sunny conditions, wind and green hydrogen. 

It sounds like a dream solution to our energy crisis, Eskom’s debt plus doing our badly needed bit for the environment. But the issue, as always, is politics. 

There’s still no concrete deal on the table and the finance ministry and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe – long a roadblock on this issue – weren’t particularly present during discussions with the envoys. 

As Carol Paton put it in Business Day: “Energy policy in SA is highly contested and political, and the issues related to Eskom’s capacity, especially its heavy debt burden, make it a complex environment in which to strike a deal.”

SA also doesn’t have a just energy transition plan – this means a plan to switch to green energy in a way that limits social impact to workers and communities reliant on work at mines. 

In the interim, as Paton notes, Eskom has proposed its own modest energy transition, looking for about R180 billion in concessional finance so its coal-fired plants can head into “early retirement”.

Even China will no longer fund new coal-powered projects globally. About 70% of all coal plants being built today involve Chinese state finance, according to The Economist, so this is big news.The winds are shifting. Mantashe and others need to come to the (green, sensible, sustainable) party.

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

The Wrap is sponsored by explain’s agency division. We specialise in content marketing for purpose-driven organisations, often with a pan-African reach. Mail info@explain.co.za for a quote. 


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_Till next time, goodbye from the team!_ ✌🏽