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3 February ’22 Wrap: Raymond Zondo And The Curse Of The Guptas

Does Raymond Zondo ever sleep? He released part two of his report from the state capture commission on Tuesday – we summarise it for you. Plus he made a guest appearance at the interviews for our next Chief Justice that were dominated by gender issues. Speaking of gender, can anyone guess what RiRi’s new baby’s might be? She got the world talking with her pregnancy bump, and sent Drake off into a sulk, probably in his (tracked) private jet. More on that later. Plus we’ve squeezed in a quick explainer on why the petrol price is SO HIGH… and what you can do about it. 🙋🏽‍♀️ 

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: Did government just cancel covid-19?

This week the government dramatically eased rules around quarantine and isolation. Previously, you had to isolate for 14 days and monitor your symptoms if you had knowingly been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. 

Now, if you test positive and you’re symptom-free, you don’t have to isolate at all! 😯 If you do have symptoms, particularly a cough and a fever, then you must isolate for just seven days. It seems we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the dark Covid tunnel. 

But why the shift? There are several factors, as public health expert Professor Mosa Moshabela pointed out in an illuminating Twitter thread:

🔹Immunity is on the up. We know that Covid antibodies don’t last very long but as Moshabela points out: “[A]lthough there’s waning of antibodies, the cellular arm of the immune system is durable, and will protect people from severe disease and death.” 

🔹Many health workers were forced to isolate every time they were infected even if they were fit to work; colleagues they’d interacted with had to quarantine. This depletion of the health workforce created a bit of a crisis. 

🔹Investment into isolation and quarantine infrastructure and services cost the government a pretty penny but didn’t yield proportional results. 

Essentially, it didn’t make sense to spend so much taxpayer money AND deplete the workforce, when all the data showed that symptoms were becoming milder. 

There’s a global push to ease rulings. This week, Denmark was the first European Union country to scrap all its Covid-19 measures: nightclubs are open, late-night alcohol sales have resumed and Danes no longer have to wear masks. 😮‍💨 Norway is following suit. 

But Covid is NOT quite cancelled for those who are vulnerable. Plus it can still deeply affect those who are otherwise healthy – and long Covid is no joke. As Moshabela puts it: “Personally, if I took a screening rapid test and found that I have Covid-19 but I’m asymptomatic, I’d still like to protect all my contacts by isolating at no cost to the government. I’d still like to notify all my contacts, so they can observe their symptoms as well.✌🏿” 

The big story: Raymond Zondo and the curse of the Guptas

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has been a busy man. 

He dropped part one of his state capture report, drawn from the commission of inquiry he chaired, in the first week of January. The second volume followed just a few weeks later, landing on Tuesday. 

The commission focused on corruption on a grand scale at our state-owned enterprises (SOEs); the first report tackled South African Airways, the Guptas’ New Age newspaper and the South African Revenue Service. 

This week’s report, weighing in at 506 pages, dove into SOEs Transnet and Denel. It focused mainly on how two former Transnet CEOs, Brian Molefe and Siyabonga Gama, enabled corruption and racketeering at the railway company when they teamed up with the Guptas. 🤨 The report clearly states that state capture started at Transnet in 2009 when the former group CEO, Maria Ramos, resigned and Jacob Zuma became president. The scope of investigation ran between 2009 and 2018 – which many think of as the “dark Zuma years”. 

According to the report, corruption at Transnet accounted for a crazy 72.2% of all government and SOE contracts linked to state capture. Considering the actual scale of state capture, which involves several other entities, like perpetually troublesome Eskom (oh, hey, load shedding is back again 🙄) that’s A LOT!

So, what’s next for those named in the report?

Zondo has recommended that Gama, Molefe, former Transnet CFO Anoj Singh, and Gupta associate Salim Essa, among others, should be subject to further investigations and possibly be charged with corruption and racketeering. 

When the first report was released the National Prosecuting Authority announced it would establish a separate task team with the Hawks to deal with state capture arrests and prosecutions. But, as we previously pointed out, the NPA has been achingly slow to take long-awaited action against those implicated. 

Part three of the report will be released by the end of this month. Zondo may need a long holiday after that! 😓

Briefs

3. RiRi’s bump bums out Drake

Superstar Rihanna (real name Robyn Fenty, or just “RiRi” to her legion of fans) is many things: one of the best-selling music artists of all time, a businesswoman whose inclusive Fenty beauty range made her 2021’s wealthiest female musician, a philanthropist and even the unofficial Queen of Barbados, as we like to think of her. (Her official title on her home island is the absolutely badass “national hero”.)  👸🏽

Now she’s adding “mom” to the list: On Monday the internet imploded after she was pictured casually strolling down a street with her longtime boyfriend, rapper A$AP Rocky (his real name is Rakim Mayers), visibly pregnant. 🤩 The couple, both 33, was photographed out in New York City over the weekend; Rihanna debuted her baby bump in a semi-open long pink jacket. 

Her ordinary fans went bananas – and so did a particularly famous (former, we guess) fan. Canadian rapper Drake dated RiRi way back in 2009 and has repeatedly professed his love for her over the years. As many fans predicted, Drake was apparently devastated by the news. In a thoroughly modern version of a temper tantrum, he unfollowed both parents to be on Instagram shortly after “the bump” made its first public appearance. 👀 Sorry, guy, she’s moved on…

4. Adulting: Petrol price empties our wallets’ fuel

We told you two weeks ago to tighten your belts, as we’re facing several price increases. The first was electricity (we’re still watching whether Nersa will grant Eskom its proposed 20.5% hike). We also saw interest rates increase last week and now…the anticipated hike in petrol prices kicked in on Tuesday evening. We hope you fueled up with the remainder of your last salary. (And perhaps for Valentine’s Day you could just take a nice, romantic walk? 😉).  

Petrol 93 and 95 increased by 53 cents a litre while diesel went up by 80 cents a litre and illuminating paraffin rose by R1.01 per litre. 

The increase was mainly driven by the high price of Brent Crude oil; this pushed up the overall price of fuel. It could have been worse: thankfully the strong rand to dollar exchange rate cushioned the blow for us. But other factors are contributing to the fuel price:

🔹The cost to import fuel (petrol is South Africa’s largest single import), 

🔹Regulating costs and profits for wholesale retailers and transport services, and 

🔹The tax and levies that go to the Road Accident Fund (controlled by the government) to insure road accident victims. 

It doesn’t HAVE to stay that way. With petrol prices hovering around record levels, the Automobile Association (AA) has called on the government to review how the petrol price is calculated. That’s because we’re still using a petrol regulating system that goes as far back as WWII (we know 😪) because they protect investors’ profits in the value chain (of course 🙄), according to a great explainer in The Conversation. 

A global comparison of petrol prices shows that in mid-2021 South Africa’s fuel price was at R17.20 –  just above the average of R16.97 at the time. That put us at 91 among the 167 regions analysed by the Global Petrol Prices report. 

Where does that leave us? If you’re up for it, the AA has started a petition called #ReviewTheFuel, which has already garnered over 25 000 signatures. WhatsApp subscribers, check out the link in the PDF. 

5. Gender takes centre stage at CJ interviews 

Interviews to select the head of SA’s courts kicked off on Tuesday in Sandton. The critical position of Chief Justice has been vacant for months after controversial former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng left the post early. 

The Judicial Service Commission, made up of 23 commissioners (many of them politicians), takes charge of these all-important interviews. As we’ve pointed out before, the body has its issues.😏 Last year it was forced to re-run interviews for Constitutional Court Justices after Julius Malema and Mogoeng questioned Judge Dhaya Pillay’s suitability for the position because of her friendship with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Two candidates were bizarrely grilled by Malema and Advocate Dali Mpofu about their suitability as white men. 

This time the issue of gender was front and centre. Judge President of the Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya is the first woman shortlisted as Chief Justice and a firm favourite. ✊🏽 She’s an admirable candidate, but the fact of her gender led to some strange questions from the commissioners. 

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Speaker of Parliament, asked another candidate, Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga, if SA was ready for a female head of the Judiciary. Madlanga, a man, was visibly frustrated with this question; he answered: “I believe that Justice Maya is a competent candidate for the position of Chief Justice much like any of the male candidates.” Malema pressed him for a “yes” or “no”, to which, sounding defeated, Madlanga replied, “I accept that we are ready for a female head of the Judiciary”. Maya said she found another version of the question directed to her “patriarchal and patronising”. 😑

Perhaps a better use of the commission’s time – and its interest in gender – would be interrogating some issues raised by Maya herself in her interview, such as the judiciary’s alleged lack of an anti-sexual harassment policy, and her experience of being a rare example of a pregnant sitting judge. “They did not know what to do with me. Eventually, I was advised that the minister would give me four months’ leave allowed under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.” 

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo’s interview today quickly took a turn for the scandalous: he had to answer to allegations that he used his role to request sexual favours from women hoping to act as judges in the Gauteng High Court. Mlambo told the commission these were baseless rumours manufactured to discredit his candidacy for Chief Justice.  

Interviews for all four candidates, including the possibly sleep-deprived Raymond Zondo, will wrap at the end of the week, after which the commission will deliberate and make its recommendations to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who must make the final decision. 

6. Teenager refuses $5k from Elon Musk

If Elon Musk offered you R76 000 ($5k) to delete your Twitter account, would you do it? Jack Sweeney, a 19-year old aerospace student at the University of Florida, flatly rejected the offer. 😂

Sweeney runs a cheeky Twitter account called @ElonJet which tracks every movement tech boss Musk’s private jet makes, drawn from publicly available air-traffic information; he also speculates about what Musk and co may be up to. Musk privately messaged the teen in November asking him to delete the account for $50k because it compromises his safety, saying “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase”. Sweeney, who publicised the exchange, countered that the payment wouldn’t replace the satisfaction he gets from running it. He had a counter-offer: “Any chance to up that to $50k? [R768 000] It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3.” 😂 Musk declined, saying it didn’t feel right to pay to shut down the account. Sweeney assured Musk there were mechanisms to protect the jet’s identifying number. 

Sweeney, an aviation enthusiast, also has accounts that track other wealthy people’s private planes, like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and even Drake (fleeing his RiRi heartbreak, no doubt 😆). Sweeney says he’s a fan of Musk’s and was hoping for an internship, if nothing else, but we think the Pretoria-born billionaire would demur given that he subsequently blocked Sweeney. But the teen has already parlayed the viral exchange into a career opportunity: a private charter firm has offered him a job on its tech development team. Damn. 😑 

7. DA’s Fritz caught up in sex scandal

The DA is reeling from a fresh scandal. Western Cape MEC of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, was suspended last week after it emerged that he had allegedly been sexually harassing staffers in his office. The Sunday Times reported he would hound young staffers with “late-night messages asking them to come to his room during out of town trips”. 

Fritz’s boss, Premier Alan Winde, said he suspended the MEC after he received complaints from staff in Fritz’s office. “I am now able to confirm that the serious allegations against Minister Fritz relate to sexual misconduct.”

Brett Herron, secretary-general of GOOD, said he first heard allegations after leaving the Democratic Alliance in 2019 and revealed that the alleged pattern of abuse began during Fritz’s stint as Social Development MEC. “Albert Fritz was using his position to take advantage of young interns and job seekers in the department of social development,” Herron told the Sunday Times. 

Four other employees in Fritz’s office have also been suspended for allegedly enabling the MEC’s behaviour. Fritz has not responded to any of the allegations against him. Winde has appointed Advocate Jennifer Williams to conduct an independent investigation. 

8. Rasta the artist: So bad he’s good? 

Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo have NOTHING on South Africa’s notorious visual artist, Rasta. 😁 He’s become famous for his hilariously bad paintings of public figures, dead and alive, which regularly trend on Twitter along with some form of “He’s at it again”. We get a kick from the disfigured faces and crooked noses, but what do we know about art, right? That’s exactly Rasta’s attitude towards his haters and trolls, especially on social media. He said: 

“I’m humbled to keep my cool and soldier on every time I’m being attacked.” 

Formerly from Zimbabwe, Rasta has made a name for himself in South Africa, even if it is for the wrong reasons, and now he’s even heading to the small screen. 😎 First he landed a spot in a Chicken Licken advert that satirically mocks his paintings; he’s also set to play a part in Mzansi Magic’s telenovela DiepCity and he’ll be starring in a Ballantine’s whisky advert alongside DJ Shimza, he told The South African. Next time you don’t believe in yourself, think of Rasta: if he can do it, so can you. 🙂

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. ✌🏽