October’21 Wrap: You CAN change SA. Here’s how

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ In this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at a great mix of big moves in the public space, important cultural moments like Squid Game and… Adele’s latest album and why it matters. Plus: The simple steps you should be taking now with three weeks to go until elections. 

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


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🗞 For text, keep scrolling.


Our take: Squid game and global capitalism

Have you watched Squid Game yet? If not, someone you know definitely has. Netflix introduced the South Korean series in mid-September and audiences across the world are gripped. It has attracted 111m views on Netflix, overtaking even the breakout hit Bridgerton, according to Bloomberg. It’s a dystopian fictional series about debt-laden Koreans who play a deadly version of a childhood game to win a massive cash prize. If they fail during the game, they die. 😵 

But the series is not JUST about a game, or about squids. It’s about capitalism and commodification as we experience it in our modern world. The Economist reports: “The brutality of the competition has also rung true for ordinary South Koreans struggling with unaffordable housing and a sluggish labour market.” 

Hilariously, actual South Koreans are a bit mystified by the show’s popularity, saying they found it rather clichéd. They probably have high standards! After all, similar themes were explored in Parasite, the incredible South Korean film that was named best picture at the 2020 Oscars, becoming the first non-English language film to take the top prize.

Both Parasite and Squid Game are examples of popular culture sparking important conversations in the world – and in their case, bringing discussions about the harmful effects of predatory capitalism, especially against the backdrop of global crises like climate change and Covid-19 – into the mainstream. Here’s hoping those discussions might lead to us all doing more than just settling down for another Netflix binge: instead, let’s recommit to rebuilding a kinder, more sustainable world in the coming years. 🙌🏽

The big story: Yes, your vote can make a change

In a little more than three weeks’ time, on 1 November, South Africans will head to the polls to select their local and municipal leaders. Many of you probably haven’t thought about it yet – we know, there’s so much else going on! – and if you have, you may be feeling completely disillusioned. So, on the day, you’ll make a random choice on the ballot – or not bother going to vote at all. 🥱

But the great thing about the upcoming local government elections is that things really are changing in terms of power. We’re no longer a country in which one party is guaranteed a win in every city; the last local government elections, in 2016, dramatically upset the status quo. 😁

We’re now in an era of coalition governments and enormous power for small parties that manage to get the swing vote in councils, setting them up as king makers. 

Plus, many have hailed the introduction of independent candidates – due to a landmark 2020 court ruling – as a game changer.

The official opposition, the DA, pushes the idea that the vote for a small party or an independent candidate is a wasted vote. That’s not true. Little is certain for the governing ANC or the DA in municipalities and wards across the country, and slim margins make a big difference. Your vote can change things. 

So, what should you be doing in the run-up to 1 November? Instead of trying to keep up with the roller coaster of election-related news about one politician’s gaffe after the other, or their endless grandstanding, turn your hand to research. 

Read manifestos, talk to local councillors and think about what’s important to you. Check out the fantastic site, municipalmoney.gov.za, to see how your municipality or metro has spent your taxes under different administrations. 

We’ll do a roundup in the next few weeks of what to know about each party. Until then, take heart and have hope. It’s time to get excited about elections again, SA. 😉


3. Tell us how you really feel, Mike! 

Admit it: you’ve dreamed of writing a no-holds-barred, entirely undiplomatic resignation letter. But – adulthood and social conventions being what they are – most of us fall back on polite platitudes even when we’re leaving a terrible work situation. 😏

Mike Waters, a former DA MP and long-time member of the party, apparently has no such qualms. Waters quit as the DA’s party campaign manager in Ekurhuleni on Gauteng’s East Rand because he disapproved of higher-ups’ decision to take down those controversial election posters in Phoenix, KwaZulu-Natal that we told you about last week. “Disapproved” is putting it mildly, as extracts from his resignation letter in Business Day reveal: “I cannot in good conscience fight for votes for a party that crumbles in the face of manufactured hysteria about it stating the truth. He called the party’s leadership “spineless” and “weak”. (The letter is the real deal: asked by Business Day to confirm its authenticity, Waters said: “I’m deeply concerned that you have a copy of my resignation letter, as I only emailed it to five people.”) 

He will stay on as a “vocal” party member, he wrote, but only for “as long as I and other muscular liberals can raise our voices above the bleating of the sanctimonious wokerati undermining the direction of the party”. “Muscular liberals” sounds uncomfortably like it might be a search term on certain pornographic websites. 😂 Also: the DA’s continued dismissal of anyone who opposes it as “woke” is an eye-rolling misunderstanding of the term (here’s a great write-up from Vox about its history and true meaning). But, hey, at least Waters got to live out any disgruntled employees’ dream… we guess?? 🤷🏽‍♀️

4. Bafana give us reason to hope 

Bafana Bafana supporters are experiencing an unfamiliar feeling this week: hope. This, after the men’s senior national team beat Ethiopia in two World Cup qualifiers on the trot. The first came on Saturday at Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar Stadium – Bafana won by three goals to one; the second was on Tuesday at FNB Stadium in Joburg and only one goal (an own goal by Ethiopia) separated the teams. It was enough to take South Africa to the top of their group in the African qualifying rounds for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 😁 New coach Hugo Broos will likely be cautiously optimistic after the wins, as well as other solid recent performances. It’s too early to suggest the Belgian might be just what the doctor ordered for a team that’s perpetually failed to impress in recent years. Still, it is good to see Bafana putting some wins behind their name.

The Joburg game may not have been exciting on the pitch, but it was wonderful to see some fans back in the stadium: 2000 people were permitted to attend in person, as long as they presented proof that they’d been vaccinated against Covid-19. It’s another step towards normality in a world where Covid will unfortunately remain a reality. 

5. R15m stadium brings out the best in SA memes

Have you seen the memes reacting to the ridiculous R15m sports facility officials “opened” in Lesseyton village yet? 

Officials from Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape posted images of the “completed” stadium in a self-congratulatory Facebook post earlier this month. It made headlines and created a buzz on social media, given how completely shoddy the allegedly finished product – which officials boasted cost R15 million – looked. Even the “ribbon” used for the “ribbon cutting” was barrier tape! 🤦🏽‍♀️

It wasn’t long before the memes started. Tweeps have posted pics of people standing on a rickety log over a trickling stream with farcical captions like, “The Eastern Cape’s new R20m bridge!” 😂

Turns out a picture is worth more than just a thousand words (or, um, R15m?). The photos caught various authorities’ attention: the Hawks are probing the matter and the DA’s Helen Zille even visited the spot. The Eastern Cape government has asked the municipality for an explanation. We’ll be watching for some real accountability.

6. #Adulting 101 

🔹a. Managing exam stress

Exam season is around the corner for school and university students, and with the mounting stress and pressure, especially given the disruptions over the past two years, we need to give the kids as much support as we can. 

If you’re a parent or caregiver, pay extra attention to your child’s mental health and habits at this time. Actively ensure that while they are studying, they are taking care of themselves by eating, sleeping and stretching out every few hours. Don’t pressure your child into acing every exam – some have better skills than others. And when the stress gets too much, as it will, take a moment to understand their feelings and assure them that it will be okay. Sometimes, that’s all they really need to hear. 

To those writing and those cheering them on: you can do it! 🌟

🔹b. Motorists can renew licence discs online

Finally some relief when it comes to renewing car licence discs. 🙌🏽 The Road Traffic Management Corporation together with FNB launched a payment gateway on the NaTIS platform so that motorists can apply for car license disc renewals ONLINE! That means no more long queues and penalties for late renewals – it’s also safer in the era of Covid-19. Motorists must register by visiting the online.natis.gov.za site;  select a province, click Register and then View Motor Renewals and follow the prompts. You can either have the disc couriered to you or printed at a nearby Drivers License Testing Centre. 

7. Accountability Monitor: Another national police commissioner to face the music 

The police commissioner plays an important role in South Africa. If our police minister is akin to the chairman of the board, the police commissioner is the CEO; they run the actual ship. 

So it’s a real problem that the post has long been marked by corruption, infighting and plain incompetence. Several police commissioners have been suspended, for various reasons, from Jackie Selebi, to Bheki Cele (now the minister of police) and Riah Phiyega, who was suspended for her disastrous handling of the Marikana massacre. Whew. 😓 

Acting commissioners filled the role temporarily until Khehla Sitole was appointed in 2017 by President Jacob Zuma, amid cautious optimism – Sitole was the first “career cop” to be appointed as permanent national police commissioner since 1995! We desperately needed someone who understood the service and could reform it. But… Sitole has instead proven just as controversial as his predecessors. 

It’s a bit complicated and has to do with the improper purchase of spying devices, which were really a foil for laundering tens of millions of rands to buy votes at the 2017 ANC conference, where Cyril Ramaphosa narrowly beat Zuma’s faction. It’s like the plot of a bad heist movie so we won’t get into all the details, but essentially he’s been embroiled in a two-year legal wrangle over the whole thing which came to an end when the supreme court of appeal ruled against Sitole on 30 June. What you need to know is that Ramaphosa has now set up an inquiry into Sitole’s fitness to hold office, and Sitole has been served with a notice of intention to suspend him. ☝🏽 Details about who is sitting on the panel are yet to be announced, but expect to hear more about this in the news in coming months. 

We’re glad accountability mechanisms like police watchdog IPID, our courts and now this inquiry are in place to stop people like Sitole from doing damage, but wow do we need a good police commissioner already! We’ll be watching keenly for the next appointment. 

8. Mogoeng Mogeong: the end of an era, and a few errors 

Mogoeng Mogoeng‘s term as Chief Justice officially ends at midnight on Sunday. 

When Mogoeng was appointed to the role in 2011, many were alarmed. 

President Jacob Zuma had overlooked the natural fit for the position, the brilliant and independent Dikgang Moseneke. Would Mogoeng, whose judgments positioned him as a religious traditionalist, be a Zuma lackey? 🤷🏽‍♀️

But if Zuma was hoping for an easy ride he was disappointed. The court under Mogoeng acted as a bulwark against the worst of the state capture project. 

🔹The good: 

In 2016 Mogoeng delivered a scathing unanimous judgment against members of the National Assembly about the Nkandla debacle. 

He quickly earned the public’s respect as he spoke out about the court’s independence. 

He also made some moves to shore up the court’s poor administration, pushing for the “Office of the chief justice” and a separate budget from the department of justice. 

It’s a pity, then, that Mogoeng – who rapidly became quite well-respected even among those who had doubted him – ended his term on a sour note. 

🔹The bad: 

His conservative Christian views had a habit of leaking into his public statements, though not his judgments. Nonetheless these were often inappropriate – from his pro-Israeli comments, which he refused to retract, to his bizarre comment last year praying against any work of the devil that may exist in Covid vaccines, “meant to corrupt their DNA”.  

Then there was his abrupt recent departure before his term officially ended. Mogoeng took the long leave owing to him in May, after chairing a combative round of Judicial Service Commission interviews that led to litigation and the JSC being compelled to re-run them, as Gaye Davis reported on EWN. As we noted previously, the apex court has been in something of a crisis and his abrupt departure didn’t help. 

We’re grateful that someone worse did not hold this top spot during the state capture years but disappointed where he muddled his legacy. 

As M&G’s Emsie Ferreira writes: 

“Those who cheer at his awkward departure are not wrong, but may do well to remember that when all was at stake, he turned out to be the unlikely chief justice we never knew we needed.”

9. Uganda recognises its first trans citizen 

Cleopatra Kambugu, a Ugandan activist who advocates for sexual and gender minorities, has made history as the first transgender person in Uganda to have their new gender recognised by the government, the Star Observer reported. 🌈

“Kambugu has received her new passport and government-issued photo ID card, which identifies her as female. The process of getting official ID  recognising her as female was a ‘difficult’ and ‘intrusive’ process, and is a milestone for the African nation, where the [queer] community is heavily maligned and marginalised.”

The news is startling considering Ugandan authorities’ ongoing attacks on queer people. Several anti-gay bills have been proposed in the country’s Parliament, and only quashed thanks to the efforts of activists and court action. 

As Kambugu noted, she has had surgery and can “pass” as a woman, making her life a little easier now. But what of those who can’t, or do not wish to? We hope more space opens up for every member of Uganda’s queer community. 🤞🏽

10. Adele is back! 

One divorce, a few years of mental health issues and some dramatic weight loss later, our favourite British pop star, Adele, is back. She’s about to release an album that will break and mend our hearts, simultaneously. It’s what she does, after all. Adele is due to release her newest album 30, on 19 November, six years after releasing her last album, 25 – both a nod to her age at the time of significant events in her life. Speaking to Vogue, Adele said the album is her way of explaining her divorce to her nine year old son, and why, as she puts it, she chose to dismantle his life to pursue her own happiness, and whether she can ever forgive herself for that. 😔

Interestingly, Adele is arriving into a music scene that has changed drastically since she left. 

Six years ago, streaming services like Spotify were only beginning to emerge. Now, making music for audiences across platforms could be challenging for the artist and her team. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Listening has become more fragmented than ever.” One music industry analyst said we are in a post-album era. “Music fans churn through music more quickly…That’s what she’s up against.”

Will 30 be the shared cultural moment we experienced with 21 or even 25, with her soulful crooning playing nearly everywhere? This is Adele. We’re guessing she’ll still make an impact. 🤩


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

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_Till next time, goodbye from the team_ ✌🏽