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31 March ’22 Wrap: The ANC’s era of decline

Hi there 🙋🏽‍♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at wins for GBV in our court system, and how things could ideally work for other survivors. We unpack the motion of no confidence in Cyril Ramaphosa, plus give you the latest on Russia, THAT Will Smith slap, and celebrate Miriam Makeba. 

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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1.Our take: When the system works

Women in GBV-related cases notoriously face secondary victimisation and are denied justice when they pursue the legal route. 

But in the past week, there have been two important court victories in GBV-related cases. 

1. Last week, Ntuthuko Shoba was found guilty of the murder of his then heavily pregnant girlfriend, Tshegofatso Pule, in June 2020. The turnaround from the time of the murder to conviction was heartening. As journalist Mandy Wiener wrote: “In less than two years, a suspect was arrested, a key State witness was secured, a deal was done, and evidence was led in court, which ultimately led to a successful prosecution.” Thanks to stellar work by the National Prosecuting Authority and investigators working under the watchful eye of the media, Shoba will most likely face jail time.

2. A judgment by the Western Cape High Court last week affirmed the right of a GBV survivor to speak out about her acknowledged rape. The model came out on Twitter outing her rapist in 2019. Her rapist hauled her to court, arguing her claims were defamatory and were costing his business. A magistrate court found in his favour, stripping her of the right to speak out. But last week’s high court judgement found that the woman had the right to name her perpetrator. Judge Robert Henney said: “The probabilities overwhelmingly favour [her] version, which is that [he] had admitted that he had the raped her … and apologised. She was therefore justified to call him a rapist. 

“There was no need for her to lay a charge against him and to have him prosecuted and convicted to be labelled as a rapist, based on the evidence of this case.” 

These judgments are great indicators that while things may be bad in the criminal justice system, there are glimmers of hope. As Wiener wrote in response to the Tshegofatso Pule case: “For now, we must acknowledge this case has shown us what is possible when everything works. When there is good solid police work, when there are capable and passionate prosecutors. And when the criminal justice system delivers justice. Imagine if every victim received that kind of justice. It is possible. 

2. The big story: Secret ballots makes sense

During Jacob Zuma’s presidency, the corruption-tainted politician faced one vote of no confidence after another. None were successful but the process saw an interesting shift. At the height of public and internal ANC anger with Zuma in 2017, opposition parties successfully lobbied for a secret ballot. This meant that ANC Members of Parliament (MPs), who held a majority, could vote with their conscience and not be disciplined for voting against their increasingly unpopular president. The numbers showed over twenty renegade ANC MPs did so, even if Zuma narrowly avoided being ousted. 

So the public watched keenly when President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration faced its first motion of no confidence in the National Assembly yesterday. 

Typically though, given the ANC’s dominance, motions of no confidence by opposition parties can be little more than a PR move. But the DA presented the latest motion with an interesting twist: a motion of no confidence against Ramaphosa’s entire cabinet. Still, it was a doomed bid from the start and it failed. 

A second motion of no confidence in Ramaphosa himself was attempted by The African Transformation Movement (ATM), a more radical voice of the RET faction. That motion was thrown out for now, however, as the party is awaiting a ruling on allowing a secret ballot. (We’ll spare you the details of the arguing in parliament over this.)

If the ATM were to get court approval for a secret ballot at a later stage, it would make for an interesting litmus test of Ramaphosa’s internal popularity in the ANC ahead of a crucial internal ANC election. 

Two recent sets of national political research suggest Ramaphosa will win the ANC elective conference in December but is then likely to lead a coalition government from 2024 as the ANC heads into its era of decline, Ferial Haffajee wrote for the Daily Maverick this week. 

“Seasoned analysts say Ramaphosa will face noise, but not a serious run-off in December,” says Haffajee. But the bad news is: “Neither will he win a victory wide enough to secure a mandate for the kind of deep reform South Africa needs.” 

For that, we need a deep shift in SA’s politics. And maybe allowing secret ballots as a matter of course, and not making opposition parties have to fight for it, is a step in the right direction.

Briefs

3. A bad punch line and a smack on the face

You’ve probably heard by now about THAT slap. 

On Sunday night comedian Chris Rock joked about actress Jada Pinkett Smith’s shorn head at the 2022 Oscars, saying: “Jada, I love you. I can’t wait for GI Jane 2” – referencing the 1990s movie that saw the lead character famously shave her head. 

Her husband, fellow actor Will Smith, laughed at first but Jada appeared unimpressed, rolling her eyes. She has previously revealed her struggles with alopecia, a condition that results in severe hair loss. Smith then marched onto the stage and struck a visibly shocked Rock in the face before returning to his seat, shouting twice: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth!”. 

The fallout was immediate with many celebrities calling Smith out. It was later revealed that event organisers asked Smith to leave but he refused to do so. The academy, which hosts the Oscars, said it has initiated a formal review of the incident and disciplinary proceedings. Action could include being suspended or expelled – like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. The academy could even revoke his Oscar, or make him ineligible for future awards. Smith won’t face any legal consequences as Rock decided against pressing charges. 

Smith shortly afterwards won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena. He apologised to the academy in his speech and the next day to the Williams family and to Rock saying his behaviour was ‘unacceptable and inexcusable’. 

Rock was widely praised for de-escalating the situation in the moment but called out for his insensitive joke. The incident has shone the light on the free pass comedy has had in making jokes at the expense of other people. He has said he will respond in time to the incident. 

And sadly, the altercation has overshadowed important awards on the night: a historic win for the deaf cast of Coda, a film about a deaf family that snapped up the best picture of the night amid other awards. There were other important wins for diversity too, and Smith himself picked up his first Oscar. It’s a pity he let his emotions get the better of him. As Denzel Washington apparently told Smith on the night: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”

4. Mama Afrika celebrated in style

Miriam Makeba, fondly known as Mama Afrika, would have turned 90 earlier this month. Fourteen years after her death, the celebrated South African singer continues to inspire artists and audiences across the globe. 

So it was fitting that African-American musician, Somi Kakoma, performed her Makeba tribute album for the first time this month at the iconic Apollo Theatre in New York City. The performance featured internationally acclaimed South African artists Thandiswa Mazwai and Msaki. Somi’s album, ZENZILE: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba, took seven years to make and was released last year

The performance was a poignant moment as Makeba performed at the same venue in September 1961. Makeba’s very existence was a revolution in the space at the time, and she famously introduced isiZulu and isiXhosa music to Western audiences. Makeba also championed the fight for democracy in South Africa during her long and painful exile from her homeland during apartheid. 

Somi has now brought the concert to our shores with a show at the State Theatre in Tshwane over the weekend. It featured SA musicians Thandiswa Mazwai, Msaki, Nduduzo Makhathini and Sipho Hotstix Mabuse.  

As Somi said: “I owe her. We all do.”

In a time of escalating nationalism and xenophobia globally, voices like Makeba’s and others remind us of our commonality – and power in unity. 

5. Tentative moves towards peace in Russia and Ukraine

It has been five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to thousands of lives lost, millions of people displaced and several cities destroyed. This week, the two nations restarted peace talks and we’re seeing tiny signs of progress. 

Officials from both nations met for in-person talks in Turkey this week, but no action or resolution has been made so far – not even a short-term cease-fire or major progress towards a broader peace deal. But Russia DID announce yesterday that it would “drastically reduce” military combat in two key areas in Ukraine to boost trust amid peace talks: the capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Still, officials from Ukraine, the UK and the US are treading cautiously. One Ukrainian official says they are preparing for a major Russian offensive against other areas of eastern Ukraine. They’re particularly worried after Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said his country’s latest actions were “not a ceasefire” but that they are hoping to gradually reach a de-escalation of conflict. 

It could be weeks if not months before we see some end to a war that has already ruined millions of lives and livelihoods. The two parties are set to continue talks via video conference on Friday. 

6. A mixed bag for SA’s economy

Surviving economically has become an extreme sport, and now SA’s unemployment has hit another record high. 😱 Our unemployment rate increased to a dismal 35.3% during October – December 2021. That’s up slightly from 34.9% during the same period the previous year. Basically, we keep producing more adults entering the workforce but not enough jobs to absorb them. We’ve previously explained what SA needs to do to change our unemployment problem. 

We also told you last week that the South African Reserve Bank increased the repo rate by a quarter of a percentage point. It’s now 4.25%, bringing the prime rate to 7.75%. Expect lots more of these as the bank gets the rate back to where it used to be. We saw the bank dramatically drop the repo rate over the pandemic to try to put some cash in our pockets. It used to be as high as 7% in 2018 and it reached an all-time low of 3.5% in 2020. But the risk is that inflation gets out of control. Interest rate adjustments help maintain the value of the money in your pockets, but it also increases the payments on a loan. 😕 If you’re considering fixing your mortgage rate given further increases on the horizon, read this useful Business Tech article first. 

We’re not the only country going through this. Central banks in 23 countries have raised rates so far this month – even the US Federal Reserve. 

On the bright side, the rand is at its strongest level this year thanks to high commodity prices like gold, platinum and palladium. Higher commodity prices also lift other parts of our economy along with mining profits. This means mines pay more in tax which MIGHT mean tax revenues could exceed expectations again and bail us out. There’s talk the government will use that extra cash to give us some relief with fuel costs – driven partly by the Russian war. 

The rand’s strong performance is also due to SA strangely being seen as more stable globally – despite the local doom and gloom. As Izak Odendaal, investment strategist at Old Mutual Wealth, puts it: “The rand benefits from higher commodity prices, but perhaps also from the fact that South Africa suddenly looks like one of the more stable corners of the emerging markets universe,” for investors, adding: “Few would have expected that South Africa would end up as a safe haven during a global crisis, but here we are.” We hope that made a convincing argument for Ramaphosa to woo investors at the Dubai expo he attended this past week. 😬

7. A sustainable solution to period hygiene

Few women enjoy “that time of the month”. The cramps, raging hormones, cravings and general discomfort makes those days our least favourite. Single-use sanitary products like pads and tampons, though effective, hurt the environment. Silicone menstrual cups and rings have offered an antidote to the pollution problem, but aren’t for everyone. Now “period panties” are available across Mr Price stores in South Africa at R149.99 each. 

They fit like snug undies and don’t look that much bulkier: the panties are made up of four layers of different materials and can hold up to 50ml of fluid, compared to a tampon which can hold up to 12ml. Depending on your flow, you can wear them almost all day, and you don’t need to wear a pad or tampon. They are hand and machine washable and can be used for up to two years. In a country where lack of access to sanitary products often sees girls missing out on school, this could be a helpful intervention – not to mention the environmental benefit. Plastic and non-compostable materials in period products can take hundreds of years to decompose. 😳

Not all brands are getting it right on women, though. Local alcohol delivery service Wine Time has come under fire for an advert on the side of a van. It depicts a woman with her mouth agape, having a bottle of wine poured down her throat. Two complainants took the delivery service to SA’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB), saying the advert “objectified and sexualised women” adding that representing women in this way perpetuates rape culture in SA. The ARB ruled in favour of the complainants saying the ad was in breach of their standards while also highlighting the dangerous relationship between high alcohol consumption and gender-based violence in South Africa. 

8. NFT saves SA’s prized heritage site

One of South Africa’s iconic national heritage sites, Liliesleaf Museum, may be able to keep its doors open after a non-fungible token (NFT) of Nelson Mandela’s original warrant of arrest was auctioned for a staggering R1.9 million over the weekend.

Before we skip ahead, let’s address the new-ish acronym in the room: NFT

An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music and videos. They are bought and sold online and are usually made with the same underlying software as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. They are generally one of a kind, or at least one of a very limited run, as in this case. Daily Maverick notes, “The winning buyer, who prefers not to be named at this stage, will not own the original, actual arrest warrant, which remains the property of the museum” or even a copy. Rather, “they will own the digital rights to a piece of history that will only appreciate in time.” 

The first buyer of this NFT will be entitled to 5% of any subsequent sale of additional digital versions of the warrant, in perpetuity. 

The heavily-indebted museum announced last year it would close its doors indefinitely following years of financial woes. These were exacerbated by the hit the tourism industry took during the pandemic. Last year the museum received about R720,000 after an auction of an NFT of a pen gun owned by Oliver Tambo, TimesLive reported. 

To recap the history: In the early sixties, Liliesleaf in Rivonia served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre for various parties in their struggle against the apartheid regime. When police got word of the underground operations, they raided the farm. Ten people, including Mandela, were put on trial on charges of sabotage; the Rivonia Trial became one of the most pivotal moments in South Africa’s history.  

We’re always wary of volatile currencies that change as fast as Cape Town’s weather, but if this NFT is the solution to keeping the doors of our prized history open, that’s great news. 

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_ ✌🏽