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27 January’22 Wrap: A win for SA’s economy

Our justice system hasn’t forgotten about the crooks who ripped us off during Covid, and neither have we. The SIU, government’s watchdogs for public funds, released its report this week on who got what – and how they’re being punished. We break it down for you. Plus there’s a whole lot of economy news and some of it is actually quite positive. 

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. 😄

Format

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Our take: We need to fix public procurement

When it emerged that people were making money off the Covid-19 crisis, South Africans were understandably outraged. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) spent 18 months investigating Covid-19 spending across all forms of governments. They released the last of their six reports this week and it’s pretty bad. 😏

The investigations involved contracts worth R14.3-billion and made up about 9.4% of the R152 billion that the state spent on Covid-19 between April 2020 and September 2020, the Daily Maverick reports. And, of the contracts that were investigated, 62% were found to be irregular. 

Those implicated include ministers, mayors, MECs, captains and colonels as well as chief financial officers, directors and heads of department. 

The SIU has recommended government departments take disciplinary action against 224 implicated government officials. It also recommended that the prosecuting authority take 386 people to court and named 330 companies that it believed should be blacklisted. 

But how do we prevent these sorts of procurement issues from happening? We like governance experts Ivor Chipkin and Rafeel Leite’s take on this issue in a Sunday Times column

Procurement irregularities are at the heart of the misuse of public funds, and the system needs to be completely overhauled, they argue, recommending:

🔹An end to cadre deployment and, instead, a professionalised civil service like that in the US, UK, Australia, Chile and Portugal. We need technocrats in charge of spending taxpayer money, not party loyalists. 

🔹Strengthening the office of the chief procurement officer and making it an autonomous agency. That’s because we have a dramatic shortage of technical procurement skills, so we need to centralise it. 

🔹“A supply chain manager should be a prized position, attracting highly skilled and senior candidates who are appropriately rewarded… In the banks these are highly paid roles. In the government these fundamental tasks are left to junior officials for whom a procurement job is a career dead-end.”

Hear hear. 💪🏽

The big story: SA’s ecomomy scores a win  

The World Bank has just given us an R11.4 billion concessional loan, thanks to our country’s “major breakthroughs” in governance in 2021. These include:

🔹Digitising social grants and health programmes;

🔹Lifting the licensing threshold for embedded electricity generation to 100MW; and 

🔹The adoption of the National Climate Change Bill.

It’s a big boost of confidence as we emerge from the dark days of Covid-19. 

The pandemic served to strip SA of its aversion to getting funding from these sorts of institutions for our main budget, not just for special projects. We were right to be cautious: structural adjustment programmes of the 1970s and ’80s devastated many developing countries when it came to the strings attached to financing. But, post-Covid, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank responded by pledging hundreds of billions of dollars of cheap emergency loans to hard-hit countries, and SA got in line and made good use of it. 🤞🏽

It’s a sign that, despite SA’s many challenges, we’re on the right track. 

As Hilary Joffe put it in her Business Day column: “A global commodities boom came to SA’s rescue. The economy is recovering. The fiscal deficit that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana will announce in his February 23 budget is likely to be better even than November’s medium-term budget indicated.”

We just need to move faster. Rumour has it the 18-month negotiations to secure the loan were complicated by how slowly the government implemented the reforms that the World Bank wanted South Africa to make before giving it the money. On Tuesday, the IMF said that it now expected SA’s economy to grow by 1.9% in 2022, down from its October forecast of 2.2%.

In other economy news, SA hit record interest lows during the pandemic in an effort to help households. If you had a bond for R2 million, you were saving thousands. But expect that to change: the Reserve Bank is expected to hike interest rates over the course of the year, starting today, as part of a longer cycle of getting us back to where we were. 🙁 It’s the responsible thing to do but yeah, start budgeting. 

Briefs

3. Mogoeng, it’s NOT too late to apologise.

Will former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng apologise for his remarks about Israel? He has one week to do so after the Judicial Conduct Committee found he breached the code of conduct for judges by becoming involved in a political controversy. It’s a first for a Chief Justice in SA. 🤦

The background: Mogoeng participated in a webinar with The Jerusalem Post in June last year, and was asked about Israel’s tense diplomatic relations with SA over Palestine. While stating he was bound by the country’s policies he equated the modern-day state of Israel to the Jerusalem of the Bible, a view taken by followers of certain evangelical churches. He said was bound to love Israel, and any “hatred” of the country would “attract unprecedented curses upon our nation”, effectively siding with Israel over Palestine. Last year, Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Israeli officials of the crimes of apartheid and persecution. 

You may be thinking: Mogoeng’s actual remarks weren’t TOO bad. The same is preached in some churches across the country. The difference is that Mogoeng is a judge – mandated to remain impartial and uphold the crucial independence of the court. ☝🏽

But Mogoeng has declared he will never apologise, “even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years”. In Sir Elton John’s words: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”. 😬

His next step is to challenge the ruling in court. 

It’s not the first time Mogoeng, who is also a former lay pastor, made news for the wrong reason before he vacated his post in October last year. He previously claimed the Covid-19 vaccine was aligned with the devil and that, with the power of prayer, he cured a couple of HIV/Aids. 

If you’re wondering who is taking over from Mogoeng, we’ll know soon. The four nominees will sit down for JSC interviews next week. We’re glad to report they all have a better record of maintaining the impartiality upon which our country’s justice system relies. 

4. Inside Cricket SA’s locker rooms

For the past few years, our national men’s cricket team, The Proteas, have been a bit of a sad spectacle on and off the field. But this week, fans are still crowing about series wins against India in both the One Day International and Test formats, and there’s a real sense of cohesion and camaraderie in the team led by the mighty (and mighty short!) Temba Bavuma. 😬

Off-field, however, the past is catching up with the team’s head coach Mark Boucher and Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) director of cricket and former captain Graeme Smith.

Boucher faces charges over various instances of racism and bringing CSA into disrepute. Former team-mate Paul Adams said his team-mates – including Boucher – had referred to him as “brown shit” during post-match fines meetings while singing an adaptation of Boney M’s “Brown Girl in the Ring”.

The body says his charges warrant a dismissal and we tend to agree, but others don’t. Boucher’s legal fees are being footed by a group of outraged, rich businessmen, according to Rapport. 🙄

The men’s team has been scarred by a history of racial issues. You may remember the team’s first black player, Makhaya Ntini, disclosing how he was ostracised during his early days, or Lungi Ngidi’s backlash for his support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2020. 

Following the disclosures, Cricket SA and the Social Justice and Nation-Building project attempted to tackle racism in cricket with a series of hearings. Now, more action is being taken to encourage transformation in cricket to lead us towards bigger wins, as we’ve seen the Springboks achieve in our transformed rugby. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for SA cricket. A big shout-out to the Protea’s women’s opening batter Lizelle Lee, who received the 2021 International Cricket Council Women’s One-Day International (ODI) Cricketer of the Year accolade! She also ranks first in the Women’s ODI batting rankings. Men’s team: take note! 🙌🏽

6. DA loses more leaders to Mashaba’s ActionSA

If we had a drink for every time a DA member left the party to join Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, we’d be pretty tipsy. 😜 This week, former Midvaal mayor and political wunderkind Bongani Baloyi announced that he’s joining the green party, after making waves when he resigned from the DA a month ago. He cited the “DA’s baggage” for his decision, adding that he’s heading towards greener pastures (pun intended). ☘️

The party was formed in 2020 by a disgruntled Mashaba, one of many high-profile black leaders to abandon the party in recent years as it started catering to a more conservative, white base. Other former high-ranking DA members who joined ActionSA are John Moodley, Abel Tau, Funzi Ngobeni and Lincoln Machaba. 

It’s a loss for the DA: Baloyi is something of a superstar mayor, stepping into the role in his twenties and taking Midvaal from the 16th best-performing municipality in 2013 to the fifth, with improved auditing outcomes. He is a strong contender for Gauteng premier in the 2024 national elections. 

In other politics news, the ANC’s Lindiwe Sisulu saga over her letter slamming the Constitution continues, pitting her against President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

Despite the backlash, Sisulu is standing by her words and denied a statement by the presidency claiming that she had apologised for her remarks. Maybe she should take a ticket and get in the queue to join Mashaba’s party, too. 🤨

7. Africa update

There’s been some trouble in East and West Africa this week. 

🔹In Malawi, President Lazarus Chakwera appointed new leaders today after dissolving his ENTIRE cabinet in a surprise move on Monday. Chakwere said he’d axed the previous lot because of corruption charges against three politicians, but that doesn’t quite add up. 🧐 It sounds like he’s trying to shore up his support in the coalition government. Reuters reports he was facing increasing rebellion from within the coalition, with many of its members accusing his party of corruption, nepotism and pushing Malawi to the brink of an economic crisis. Also, two politicians touted to challenge him in the 2025 elections were arrested. 

🔹Meanwhile, the West African nation of Burkina Faso has no president. President Roch Kaboré was overthrown by dissident forces on Monday. The unrest this week followed months of protests and calls for Kaboré to resign, citing his failure to quell an insurgency from militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. In 2015, when he was elected as president, the UN estimates that more than 2 000 people were killed and 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. 

🔹Meanwhile, a stampede outside Olembe Stadium in Cameroon left eight dead and 38 injured on Monday. It’s reminiscent of the 2001 Ellis Park Stadium stampede that claimed 43 lives in SA. Fans were trying to enter the stadium to watch the Africa Cup of Nations match between Cameroon and Comoros. Fans needed to be vaccinated to be able to enter the stadiums, however many refused and tried to force their way in. President Paul Biya and the Confederation of African Football have ordered separate investigations to determine the cause of the stampede. 

8. Reality TV bounces back in SA

Once regarded as a punchline, Reality TV is now an entertainment force with which to be reckoned. Four out of 10 South Africa adults say it is their favourite genre (according to a 2019 futurefact survey) and the genre is largely popular with middle-class women under the age of 35. Here’s the latest news in the land of all things drama: 

🔹Being isolated in a house for months may have seemed like an adventure years ago when reality show Big Brother first launched. But, post Covid, it’s bewildering that some people would choose to be locked down again! 😶 This past week Mzansi Magic launched the fifth season of Big Brother Mzansi after a seven-year hiatus. The show follows contestants living in a house fitted with cameras as audiences watch their every move – sleeping, cooking and even showering on national TV. Sounds like our personal idea of hell. 

🔹Idols SA has run for nearly 20 years and has produced some of the country’s hottest  musicians, including Amanda Black, Shekinah and Khaya Mthethwa. 🕺🏽 But the show shocked fans this week with the confirmation that longrunning judges Unathi Msengana and Randal Abrahams’s contracts had not been renewed. Abrahams was the only original remaining judge and is, in some ways, synonymous with the hit show. Sources alleged in City Press that the departure of the duo was tied to the return of judge Somizi Mhlongo, who abruptly went on a break after allegations that he abused his husband, Mohale Motaung, surfaced last year. Prior to Mhlongo’s departure, the show averaged 1 million viewers but took a dip to just under 700 000 while he was away. 

🔹The wildly popular Real Housewives of Durban and Johannesburg franchises also make a comeback this year. The series features wealthy housewives who go about their business, navigating friendship, business and shopping. Viewers might get the inside scoop of how former President Jacob Zuma’s family reacted to his imprisonment as his former fiancée and mother of his child, Nonkanyiso “LaConco” Conco, returns to the show for its second season. 💅🏽

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_ ✌🏽