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7 April ’22 Wrap: Project SA is looking up

A nice theme has emerged in today’s wrap: South African, victories big and small. We document key wins at the Grammys along with signs of progress in policing, the judiciary, the ANC and even the economy! We’re pleasantly surprised and think you will be, too – life’s been pretty gloomy lately. Maybe the bright lights are shining through now that the president has decided we’re no longer in a state of disaster!

This week’s edition is sponsored by Urban Earth. They’re running some cool courses we test drove for you – with a discount for our audience. Check out story number three for more.  

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

🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here:

🗞 For text, keep scrolling or check out our PDF below.

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1. Our take: It’s SA’s time now

Only one thing shone brighter at this week’s Grammys than the lights of host city Las Vegas: the talent of South Africans on the world stage. 🇿🇦

These are the locals who made us proud at the 64th edition of the global music award.

🔹 Black Coffee has worked hard for decades to build serious international clout as a house artist. When his nomination was announced last year in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category, we celebrated – and our joy tripled when the muso, real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo, bagged the award! It’s the first time anyone in Africa has won in this category. (Miriam Makeba and the Soweto Gospel Choir, among others, have won previously in other categories). The 46-year-old’s win was for his 7th studio album Subconsciously, which featured collaborators like Usher, David Guetta and our very own Msaki. It was released last year to international acclaim. In the wake of his historic win, he told the BBC that he would now focus on helping more African musicians to gain global recognition.

🔹Trevor Noah is another who’s worked hard to reach the top: he hustled for years and rose from a challenging background. These days he wins Emmy and MTV awards, has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and… hosted the Grammys for the second year in a row! He generally plays it safe with the jokes at this event (just as well, given Will Smith’s klap of Chris Rock at the Oscars, which Noah cheekily referenced). However, he did use the platform to raise important global issues, like Russia’s war in Ukraine. That’s his signature style: marrying humour and a real insight into socio-political issues. We stan. 

🔹Never mind the feat of having a South African host – let’s talk about the feet clad in local designer Skinny Sbu’s socks. These were included in the Grammy gift bags, which we told you about a few weeks ago, and were reportedly the only African brand included in the swag bag gifted to nominees, performers, presenters and journalists. Sibusiso Ngwenya launched his sock company in April 2013, vowing to build it into a local brand made global. We reckon he’s done just that! 

🔹Finally, a shout out to Doja Cat for her first Grammy. The artist, real name Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, is half South African and half American. She was raised in the US, though; her deadbeat father Dumisani Dlamini (best known for his role in the iconic 1992 film Sarafina) played no role in her upbringing and she has no formal ties to our land. Still, we celebrate her! The 26-year-old is described by The Wall Street Journal as “a skilled technical rapper with a strong melodic sense and a bold visual presence”. Her chart-topping single Kiss Me More, featuring SZA, bagged the pair a Grammy. Hilariously, she almost missed giving her acceptance speech thanks to an ill-timed bathroom break. “Girl, you went to the bathroom for like five minutes, are you serious,” SZA joked to her collaborator on stage, who responded, “Listen, I have never taken such a fast p— in my whole life.” 😂

So, dear African child, these wins are for you! Our fellow South Africans are showing us how far hard work and vision can take you. 🙌

2. The big story: Hello, accountability

Some of the weekend’s headlines read more like Hollywood plots than real life. Sadly, “Murder-accused ANC member elected as treasurer-general in Mpumalanga” was truth rather than fiction.

Mandla Msibi stands accused with five others of a double murder. They appeared last month in the Mpumalanga division of the High Court in Mbombela. He has denied the charges and was released on R20 000 bail. But Msibi (and the party members who voted him in) didn’t let this little matter interfere with his political ambitions.

Luckily sanity has prevailed. Two days after the conference the ANC’s treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile, reminded Msibi of the ANC’s step-aside rule. To jog your memory, the resolution was established at the 2017 ANC conference (where Cyril Ramaphosa became party president); it states that all ANC members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside. If they fail to do so, they will be suspended. Msibi decided not to argue Mashatile’s point and has been suspended from both his position and the party.

We would have hoped that a whole provincial leader might have been vetted BEFORE being elected, but at this point, we’ll take what we can get with the ANC. So it’s accountability: 1, ANC-corruptors: 0.

Now the ANC must be consistent in enforcing the rule: As we told you previously, Bathabile Dlamini, president of the ANC Women’s League, was found guilty of perjury last month. The conviction relates to the 2017 social grants debacle that happened on her watch as the then-minister of social development. The step-aside rule means she ought to follow Msibi’s example. Instead, Dlamini and her allies are putting up a fight, much like suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule did when he became the first high ranking member to fall foul of the rule. Msibi’s suspension demonstrates that the momentum in the party is against Dlamini and, perhaps, this will be the start of the ANC heeding voters who rail against corruption in its ranks. 

Briefs

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Various local and global factors mean that things are only getting worse. We just learned this week that energy regulator Nersa is proposing an average increase of 7.47% in municipal tariffs for 2022. 

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4. We’re no longer a disaster 😝

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Ten days after Covid made its unwelcome debut on our shores, President Cyril Ramaphosa placed South Africa under a National State of Disaster. We remained in that state for 750 days, receiving constant extensions that sparked criticism from opposition parties and experts. Well, things have changed – for now. Ramaphosa announced the state of disaster’s end this week, crediting a decrease in Covid-19 cases and deaths for his decision. But don’t burn your masks or chuck out your sourdough starters just yet. We’re still required to wear masks when indoors, gatherings should be limited to 50% of a venue’s capacity and attendees must produce a vaccine certificate or a negative Covid-19 test before entering. The same goes for travellers entering the country; a positive test will mean they need to quarantine for 10 days. 

Ramaphosa will review his decision after 30 days. If cases start to rise, the country could re-enter a formal state of disaster. 

5. SA gets a (ratings) upgrade!

We’ve delivered depressing news about our economy in the last couple of weeks (blame the war in Ukraine and the continued aftershocks of the pandemic). This week we have some good news: rating agency Moody’s upgraded South Africa’s credit outlook to stable from negative. If all you can think about is Beyoncé’s 2006 hit “Upgrade u” or the process of getting a new iPhone, don’t worry – we’re here to unpack what it all means.

Moody’s is essentially saying that it thinks South Africa’s long-term ability to pay off its debt has improved. As a result, we can access better interest rates when lending money, much like you can with a good personal credit score. (We’ve previously explained credit ratings in detail on our site.) Moody’s based its outlook on the commodities boom, the gift that keeps on giving and which continues to boost our mining sector. It was also impressed by South Africa’s commitment to reprioritise and reduce spending. 

The agency’s outlook makes us attractive to investors; this may strengthen the rand too but we’ll have to work a little harder to get the economy on truly firm ground. It’s not enough to rely on the commodities boom, which is cyclic and could change at any point. Treasury (and government) now need to get and keep their ducks in a row – no corruption scandals, no debilitating looting and no collapsing SOEs. That’s the only way to reach investment grade in the foreseeable future, a goal that would make us attractive to investors and inspire them to pour money into the country. The economy is ripe enough to start blooming again. Let’s hope it’s watered responsibly. 

6. Things are looking up for our judiciary

We’ve BEEN telling you for months how strained are in our judicial sector. From worrying vacancies on the Constitutional Court bench (and a lengthy period without a permanent Chief Justice) to the awful Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews of potential judges, and even concerns that white justices weren’t being elected to the ConCourt bench, which is supposed to be representative of all South Africans – it’s been tough.

Well, that’s all slowly changing. 

Ramaphosa appointed acting chief justice Raymond Zondo to the position permanently. Zondo now chairs the JSC and wasted no time this week in implementing recommended changes to the appointment process, particularly the need for written criteria as guidelines for judicial appointments.

He has committed to ensuring all candidates are treated with “dignity and respect”, which his predecessor did NOT do. And as we told you previously, Dali Mpofu has been replaced, along with another commissioner, meaning an end to the political point-scoring he engaged in at the expense of judges being interviewed. (His partner in dodgy questions, Julius Malema, remains.) 

The JSC started interviews on Tuesday to fill the two remaining vacancies in our top court. Five candidates, three of them white, were initially interviewed. But Judge David Unterhalter was dropped from the list after it emerged he once failed to recuse himself from an appeal to a case he had previously judged. He’s considered one of the country’s finest legal minds so it’s a pity to lose him. But the list also includes the highly respected Alan Dodson who was overlooked previously. All four remaining candidates will probably be referred to Ramaphosa to choose the final two. The interview process concludes tomorrow. 

This all points to some stabilising of our judicial system. It’s about time.

7. Lights, camera and action: bring on the local film boom

Streaming giant Netflix’s eye has been on SA for some time. It has invested R2 billion here over the last five years and now it has upped its South African ante, pledging more than R900 million to cover four productions – one international and three local – to be filmed here between 2022 and 2023. The pledge was made at the 4th Annual South African Investment Conference in Johannesburg last month. 

It’s great news for an industry devastated by the pandemic. The National Film and Video Foundation reported that the film industry created 31 444 full-time equivalent jobs in 2019/20: that number plummeted to 12 775 jobs from 2020 to 2021. These new productions are an important step towards increasing that number.

SA’s film industry has long attracted international film productions. We have a world-class film industry and talent, a variety of locations and lots of daylight hours to shoot. This, twinned with the explosion of streaming content in recent years, means we’re nicely positioned. Streaming companies are increasingly seeking out stories that resonate globally; they’ll find plenty here.

And this has other knock-on effects for our economy. A study by South African Tourism and Netflix revealed that, after watching South African content, viewers surveyed in Canada, France, the UK, Brazil, US and Germany were 3.1 times more likely to travel to South Africa, reports Business Tech.  

If that means a boost for our economy and more diverse viewing options, we’ll take it!

8. Good news on two public appointments

Two important new appointments occurred over the last week that you should know about. 

First, Ramaphosa appointed General Fannie Masemola as the new police commissioner. This followed the president effectively axing previous commissioner Khehla Sitole in February: Sitole was caught short during last July’s lootings and he’s been involved in a number of scandals, including facing two criminal charges. 😳

So who’s the new guy on the block? 

Masemola’s career spans 35 years. He has been involved in organising security for all of South Africa’s elections during the democratic era and also played a pivotal role in securing national and international events in our country, including United Nations summits, climate conferences and the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Ramaphosa said when introducing the new commissioner.

He’s a good candidate for the job, but he can’t shoulder all the responsibilities alone, as researchers at the Institute of Security Studies point out:

“People with detailed knowledge and experience in reforming large organisations should be appointed to such a structure. It could play a hugely valuable role in assisting Masemola and a rejuvenated leadership cohort to better understand and implement the changes needed to reform the SAPS and set SA on a new path grounded in the rule of law.” 

Meanwhile, the second appointment comes with pros and cons. We’re used to public positions being filled after some scandal: this time Ramaphosa had to replace Ayanda Dlodlo after she was snapped up for a prestigious global role. The now-former public service and administration minister was appointed executive director on the board of the World Bank in Washington, D.C! Dlodlo, who has served in various ministerial roles since 2017, will now be one of three board members representing the interests of 25 African member states at the World Bank.

Perhaps less happily, given his poor track record (remember his sweaty and bizarre defence of former president Jacob Zuma’s “fire pool”?), employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi now adds a second job to his plate. He will act in the role of public service and administration minister until Ramaphosa makes a permanent appointment. 

9. Of mice and men

Hey, men? Women are ready for you to take on the responsibility of birth control. The good news is that it will be as easy as remembering to take a little pill … women have managed for decades and we’re sure you can, too.

Scientists are developing a non-hormonal contraceptive pill for men; so far the results are promising, with one proviso: so far they’ve only been tested on mice. Researchers found that the pill not only reduced sperm count in mice but was also able to prevent pregnancy with 99% effectiveness. The best part is there were no observable side effects, which is more than we can say for the female version. 😫 These carry an array of horrible side effects like depression, nausea, irregular menstrual cycles, unbalanced hormones and weight gain or loss. 

Women have had to bear the responsibility of different (and painful) contraceptive methods for the longest time. For men, there are only two ways to stay safe and child-free: condoms and vasectomies. Research is still underway to determine the pill’s effect on human males, but this new research could pave the way for a new era of birth control, as the researchers point out

“This isn’t just a question of benefits for men — it’s a matter of working toward ensuring that fertility and contraception are a shared burden and that women are no longer expected to spend the bulk of their fertile years avoiding pregnancy without an active contribution from their partners.“  

Guys, if you need more convincing, use this logic: it makes more sense to unload a gun than to shoot at a bulletproof vest. 😉

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_ ✌🏽