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14 April ’22 Wrap: KZN floods: We MUST do better

The floods in KZN have been horrific to watch. They’ve been brought about by a weather system that’s made the rest of the country PRETTY chilly, but we haven’t been able to warm up thanks to Eskom’s unexpected load shedding! It’s going to be suspended over the long weekend so we can all eat our Easter eggs in peace, but it might be back to haunt us next week. Ugh.  

Meanwhile, we imagine a distant post-apocalyptic future where Jacob Zuma is still evading justice, explain why we’re unimpressed with the much talked-about Real Housewives franchise and Netflix’s Young Famous & African, plus give you the lowdown on Senzo Meyiwa’s murder trial and the remergence of SA boxing. It’s a bumper edition to keep you going through the long weekend – enjoy! 🙋🏽‍♀️ 

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: Stop being surprised by climate change, SA

“One of the worst weather storms in the history of our country.” That’s how this week’s flooding in KwaZulu-Natal has been described – and, as climate change worsens, South Africa will almost certainly face worse.

Months worth of rainfall fell in days, causing billions of rands worth of damage, according to the provincial government. Roads and bridges collapsed, houses washed away, cars were submerged; electricity, water supply and even some cellphone towers were affected. Durban’s port – the largest and busiest container hub in sub-Saharan Africa – was forced to close. 

Most devastatingly, more than 300 people have died. Informal settlements have been hit the hardest. 

As AFP put it: “South Africa’s neighbours suffer such natural disasters from tropical storms almost every year, but Africa’s most industrialised country has been largely shielded from the storms that form over the Indian Ocean.”

So what happened this time? This was no seasonal tropical storm. The heavy rains were caused by a weather system called a cut-off low, which accounted for cold and wet conditions throughout much of the country recently. But when these storms reached the warmer and more humid climate in KZN, it was a literal recipe for disaster. 😔 Rain deluged the beleaguered province, which is still recovering from massive unrest and looting last July. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa, after visiting the flood-stricken areas yesterday, said: “We no longer can postpone what we need to do… to deal with climate change.” He’s right, but late to the party. Scientists have long warned that climate change is fuelling extreme weather events. A recent study even warned of heavier than usual rainfall specifically in southern Africa. 

The severe damage is also a result of years of underspending on the maintenance of infrastructure like stormwater and drainage systems, while failing to resolve the inequality literally built into apartheid spatial planning. Economist and development activist Sifiso Skenjana has written previously about the enormous cost of weather events to SA’s economy and people. This week he pointed out that just 9% of KZN’s disaster management budget was allocated to disaster risk reduction and capacity building; the bulk (78%) was earmarked for relief efforts. 

It doesn’t take a genius to see that such budgeting is reactive and unhelpful. Government has now declared the floods a provincial disaster, unlocking hundreds of millions of rands in aid from Treasury. The next step is to start planning before another extreme weather event hits. 

2. The big story: Another day in stalingrad for Zuma

The year is 2082. In an underground bunker at Nkandla, the only structure to survive the effects of climate change, a Zoom call is underway. Those present include several lawyers and a judge. The man on trial has long since passed on, but his legal team’s numerous delay tactics have withstood the test of time.

Made-up apocalyptic scenarios aside, it sometimes feels like convicted criminal, constitutional delinquent and corruption accused former president Jacob Zuma really will avoid having his day in court for as long as he lives and possibly beyond. This week Zuma received a wonderful birthday present: just a day before he turned 80, his long-awaited arms deal trial was meant to begin. Instead, his legal team secured another delay and the trial will allegedly, maybe, possibly potentially but probably not go ahead on 17 May.

Zuma has used several questionable techniques to delay the trial, which relates to the $2billion arms deal, dating back to the 1990s, and includes charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. The former president denies any wrongdoing. Most recently Zuma has attempted to have lead prosecutor Billy Downer removed; he claims that Downer, who has been on the case for decades, is biased against him.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) opposed Zuma’s application to delay the trial and accused him of abusing legal processes. But the Pietermaritzburg High Court found in his favour and allowed a postponement. Judge Piet Koen argued there was no evidence to show that Zuma was abusing legal processes to get the case postponed, and as a result, the extension was granted. Diarise 17 May, we guess?

In other news from the NPA, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi is under mounting pressure from civil society organisations to prosecute many high profile figures, like Zuma, who were implicated in Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s State Capture report. This week Batohi, speaking at Stellenbosch University, promised major prosecutions in the next six months. She’s headed the NPA for the past four years and has made similar promises before, so we’re not overly optimistic that this time will be different. Please, advocate Batohi, prove us wrong. 😬

Briefs

3. We deserve better trash TV

Who doesn’t love some guilty viewing pleasure after a long week? Africa is enjoying a glut of different reality TV products, from Showmax’s The Real Housewives franchise, to Netflix’s Young Famous & African. 

But while these shows have everyone talking, we’re…not impressed. 

The Real Housewives is originally an American franchise that follows a group of wealthy, up-and-coming women (widows, unmarried, married and some divorced) as they build their businesses and careers and climb the social ladder. When the franchise landed in SA in 2018 on M-Net’s 1Magic, African viewers showed up for it, with the show trending regularly on social media. The Durban edition of the franchise also made waves, breaking Showmax viewing records and establishing it as the streaming platform’s most popular show. 

However, the franchise has drawn scrutiny in SA for casting women whose wealth allegedly amounts to ill-gotten gains emanating from corruption. 😑Examples include:

🔷Sorisha Naidoo, married to Durban-based businessman Vivian Reddy, whose company has been accused of defrauding the government of more than R40 million.

🔷Nonkanyiso “LaConco” Conco, former fiancée of Jacob Zuma and mother of one of his youngest children. The corruption-accused former president is (endlessly) awaiting trial for the infamous arms deal.

🔷Tarina Patel, whose husband, Iqbal Sharma, was arrested and thrown in jail last year for state capture-related business. The NPA seized the R12 million mansion that Patel showed off on the Real Housewives franchise, as part of a larger order targeting Gupta associates.

What’s almost equally offensive is how bad African reality TV can be. In the battle of the streaming giants, content is being churned out apace to capture African audiences. But the storylines are monotonous and pretentious: there are only so many rented jets and fancy cars we can look at. Audiences are treated to inauthentic and poorly written conflict among cast members, some of whom are barely relevant. As City Press cultural writer Phumlani S Langa noted: “We have taught these [streaming platforms] that substandard writing and pointless shows are what we love.”

We all deserve better.  

4. Xenophobic rhetoric kills

Elvis Nyathi was a father of four. He lived in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg. He was Zimbabwean. Last Wednesday, Nyathi was beaten by a mob and set alight. No arrests have been made – and, once again, the human cost of South Africa’s growing xenophobic rhetoric has a name and a face. Nyathi’s death eerily mirrors that of Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamauve, a Mozambican national who was infamously burned to death in 2008.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is rising across South Africa. It’s part of a global trend that has manifested in the presidency of Donald J. Trump and the re-emergence of far-right sentiment in Europe, among other examples.

The anger of impoverished communities often manifests itself as xenophobic violence. While their anger is valid, the way in which it is unleashed is not. 

Yet these sentiments are gaining mainstream acceptance. Movements like Operation Dudula have seen a surge in membership. Recently, newly elected Central Karoo mayor Gayton McKenzie vowed to keep his town “Illegal immigrant free”, echoing similar populist sentiments increasingly from across the political spectrum. 

That’s why it isn’t too shocking to see those who are meant to protect and serve use their power to profile the very people they should be protecting. Police officers in Johannesburg have been asking residents for their IDs or passports. They are allowed to (though President Ramaphosa says he is unhappy with the practice being used to target foreigners). What’s more worrying are reports that police questioned at least one person in Diepsloot based on his Tsonga accent and dialect. That sort of linguistic profiling has been used during previous waves of xenophobic violence. 

Both the South African Human Rights Commission and the United Nations have strongly condemned the ongoing violence. If only they would call out the politicians fanning the flames of xenophobia instead of doing what the Freedom Charter asks of them: creating a better life for all. 

5. Two-step or step aside: what’s the rule, ANC?

By now you’re probably familiar with the ANC’s “step aside” rule. We’ve told you about it often enough: The 2017 resolution says that those who are criminally charged should step aside from their positions in the ANC and in government. It speaks volumes that it’s taken the party this long to formalise a principle this basic and that it was fought against by no less a figure than the ANC’s now suspended Secretary-General, Ace Magashule. We thought that case may have set a precedent…Ha! Silly us. The party’s provincial structures in KZN now seem to have decided that the rule only applies at the national level.

On Sunday, the party in eThekwini re-elected corruption-accused Zandile Gumede as its regional chair. Last week we told you that ANC member Mandla Msibi, who is charged with murder, was told to step aside just two days after being elected as Mpumalanga treasurer. We’re yet to see Gumede being asked to do the same. She is facing fraud, corruption and money-laundering charges with 21 other co-accused relating to the R320-million Durban Solid Waste tender. 

The problem is that nothing in the resolution explicitly forbids charged leaders from running for positions and getting re-elected. 🤷‍♀️ So the ANC is left with skirmishes on this matter in every corner of its messy body politic, as leaders try to find loopholes and ways around the rule. 

Take ANC women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini. She was charged with perjury and sentenced to four years in jail or a fine of R200 000. Her camp says the rule doesn’t apply to her as she opted to pay the fine. Strange logic indeed, but it’s one example of the case-by-case problem that national leadership has on its hands.  

If you’re finding this ongoing story exhausting, you’re not alone. The ANC is beginning to lose relevance – and voters. The party should expect more of the same if it keeps stepping around its own regulations instead of taking proper action against those who won’t abide by the rules.  

6. Celebrity boxing match punches up ratings

Once upon a time, boxing in South Africa was almost as popular as soccer. The sport’s local origins are in 19th century Johannesburg and it enjoyed a golden age in the 1980s and 1990s. Stars such as Dingaan Thobela, Gerrie Coetzee and Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala dominated the ring. Matlala, who passed away in 2013, has the distinction of being history’s shortest boxer (he stood just 4 feet 10 inches, or a bit over 1.4732 metres!). Even Nelson Mandela was a boxer!

But the sport has been in decline since the 90s. Financial mismanagement and the unstable leadership at Boxing SA (BSA) served an uppercut to the once thriving sporting code. As a result, if you asked most South Africans today who the current champion is, they’d draw a blank – unlike in the heydays when boxers were celebrities in their own right.

But last Saturday saw a new generation of fans drawn to their screens thanks to a celebrity match. Hip hop artist Cassper Nyovest was defeated in an exhibition boxing match by actor turned musician NaakMusiq. The match trended on Twitter and the larger event, featuring matches with actual boxers, drew 3000 fans to the venue in Sun City. It has provided a much-needed ratings boost to the sporting code. 🥊

Now BSA is in talks with local boxing promoters to pick which fights to broadcast live. The organisation is aiming for a May return to the SABC. 

Though the sport is slowly rebounding, more needs to be done to get it back to the heights it once reached. The move by BSA to resume broadcasting might be the fist bump the sport needs. While opinions have been divided on the benefits of celebrity boxing, Saturday’s fight has proved that, given enough marketing, even a pacifist can enjoy watching fisticuffs.🥊

8. Unpacking the Senzo murder case

Those who favour grit over bling for their binge watching may already have seen Netflix’s new documentary Senzo: Murder of a Soccer Star. Its release has coincided with the trial of five men accused of murdering the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and captain in 2014. Meyiwa, who also played for Orlando Pirates, was shot dead under bizarre circumstances, ostensibly in a robbery. The married soccer star was killed at the Vosloorus home of his girlfriend, award winning singer Kelly Khumalo. Several other people, including his friends and Khumalo’s mother, were at the house when the shooting happened. Those present have given conflicting accounts of the events of 26 October 2014. 🏛️

The holes in the story and the glamorous, high-profile cast of characters meant the story gripped South Africans’ attention. And, as crime reporting whizz Mandy Wiener put it in her column on the case, the initially poor police work and long delays in the case have fuelled speculation about whether the current court case will deliver real justice. It’s also not yet clear who masterminded the attack. 😭

“In the absence of decisive and convincing police work and a speedy, conclusive prosecution, there has been eight years of doubt that have crept in and a general consensus that justice has been eroded in this case. This has indeed been fertile ground for speculation of corrupt cops, bribes being paid, powerful perpetrators being protected and complex cover-ups.”

The trial began on Monday; the suspects face a host of charges. The prosecution is playing its cards close to its chest, keeping the witness list a secret and remaining mum about what narrative it will present to explain the crime. Let’s hope the state can put this one to bed. In the meantime, expect to hear a lot more about that fateful night as the case unfolds. 🧐 

9. @ElonMusk wants to #buyTwitter 🐦

Following a week of drama for Elon Musk and Twitter, the SA-born billionaire has thrown the tech world into a right spin today: He’s offered to buy the ENTIRE social media giant for about $41bn (R600bn). 

This follows a dramatic few days when the platform announced he would be joining the board only for Musk to renege. Taking the board seat would have prevented him from a possible takeover – and possibly limited his raucous tweeting.

Musk is the company’s largest single shareholder after recently acquiring 9.2% of its shares. 

In his filing to buy the company, Musk –  eternally humble and not sounding at all like a Batman villain, said: “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.” 🙄

Musk has been opposed to the leadership of the powerful platform, used by presidents and celebrities alike, under new Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal who took over from founder Jack Dorsey. Agrawal is in favour of more controls on hate speech, which Musk opposes. 

“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk said in his filing.

“However, since making my investment I now realise the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form,” he said.

It’s an old instinct dressed up in new tech clothes: business barons have long sought to make their mark by buying media outlets. Whether this is good for the platform itself, however, is debatable. 

That’s it from us at The Wrap, an award-winning product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀ It’s a holy weekend for millions of South Africans: tomorrow is Good Friday, signalling the start of the Easter weekend, and it also marks the beginning of the Jewish festival of Pesach. We know that many of you will be travelling to spend time with loved ones in honour of these festivals (or just to take advantage of a much-needed long weekend after a hectic few months). Drive safely, try to be patient with overworked retail staff, flight attendants – and each other! The Wrap wishes all those celebrating a blessed Easter and a chag Pesach sameach (happy Passover).   

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_ ✌🏽