Hi there 🙋🏽♀️ in this week’s edition of The Wrap, we’re looking at the dark days dogging South Africans, what with load shedding and the aftermath of floods in KZN and the Eastern Cape. At least when it comes to the latter, South Africans have banded together (as we so often do in times of crisis) – but we also want the government to do much better on this front. Plus we tell you why we’re leery of Nasa’s attempts to reach aliens in outer space, and celebrate #DeafTok, which started as a niche social media community for the hearing-impaired and just keeps on growing.
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. 😄
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🗞 For text, keep scrolling.
1. Our take: Build trust before rebuilding the country
South Africans are amazing in a crisis, aren’t we? We’re proving it again by banding together to help the tens of thousands of people affected by devastating floods that wrecked parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Tragically, more than 400 people have been confirmed dead and 40,000 people were displaced.
One of the largest organisations helping to provide relief this time around is our national superhero, Gift of the Givers. Come hell or high water (quite literally), the disaster relief group provides support in the form of food packages, shelter and other essentials to help people get back on their feet. Kudos, too, to the University of Johannesburg for setting up a fund to help out: its council chair and vice-chancellor will personally donate a total of R120 000. SA-born actress Charlize Theron also launched a fundraiser via her foundation. But the social media reaction to her announcement was telling: South Africans begged her not to give the money to a “corrupt government”. (Theron says the money will go to partner organisations on the ground). UJ also plans to donate its funds to Gift of the Givers rather than to the government.
It’s telling that the government itself isn’t confident that it can keep the billions of public funds earmarked for disaster relief in KZN safe from corruption. It’s looking at bringing in an independent agency to manage some of the funds, the Sunday Times reported. Finance minister Enoch Godongwana said on Saturday that the agency option was being discussed as a way to insulate the funds from corruption and ensure that they are used for their intended purpose.
It’s a tragedy that our public service cannot be trusted. We’re so sceptical that President Cyril Ramaphosa had to explicitly mention corruption when addressing his “fellow South Africans” on Monday night. (By the way, he placed us back under a national state of disaster, just two weeks after we exited a long Covid-induced state of disaster.)
External stakeholders will oversee the expenditure, he promised, to ensure all the money is properly accounted for. Gee, thanks, Mr President. 😒 It seems clear from his comments and widespread cynicism that the government has more to rebuild than just flood-damaged areas – it needs to focus on gaining the public’s trust and confidence.
We, like you, will be watching the government’s “relief and recovery” strategy closely. Meanwhile, concerned patriots will be on hand to help. We just hope they won’t have to keep doing the government’s job.
2. The big story: Dark days aren’t over
It’s entirely possible that you’re reading this Wrap by candlelight – because, along with death, taxes, the wind in Cape Town and delays to Jacob Zuma’s trial, load shedding has become a fact of life in South Africa. 😑
The black-outs started last week and rolled into this week, making for a less than “lit” Easter weekend. Heavy rains were the culprit this time: they, you guessed it, resulted in wet coal (another South African axiom, alas). When coal is wet it becomes sticky and slimy and this can often lead to blockages in generating units. That leads to breakdowns and low generating capacity. Last week at least six different units lost generation capacity and this week has brought more capacity crises. Eskom announced yesterday that stage 2 load shedding will continue until tomorrow. 🕯️
This won’t be the end of our old friend, darkness. Winter is coming (maybe we could borrow some dragons from the Game of Thrones universe to light up our lives?) and Eskom has warned of between 37 and up to 101 days of load shedding. That’s because we’ll be using more electricity to stay warm…and our old, poorly maintained generation units can’t handle the pressure. Get out the gas stove, clean your fireplace and invest in a decent pair of gloves, we guess.
But here’s the thing: while we can manage our own power usage, it’s not up to us to fix Eskom’s many problems. The power utility’s CEO, Andre de Ruyter, seemed to acknowledge this when he outlined measures the government could take to alleviate the pressure on the grid. These measures included increased reliance on existing independent power producers to supply electricity to the national grid, as well as asking government and the National Energy Regulator to support Eskom’s initiative for small generators to supply Eskom on three-year contracts. He also called on the National Treasury to compensate Eskom for revenue lost through municipalities’ unpaid bills. Money doesn’t seem to help, though: the government has already poured billions of rands into the power utility, which is R392 billion in debt, but in the 14 years that load shedding has been around, few changes have occurred. A shift to renewables and a loosening of the Eskom monopoly is the final solution – both are in the works but there’s a long road ahead.
3. Don’t invest in solar until you read this 💡
Ever thought about getting solar energy going in your home? With the state of South Africa’s energy crisis it makes sense, plus you’d tread more lightly on the earth. But wow, the options out there are dizzying. Are we the only ones trying to figure out what a kilowatt-hour is??
Before you splash out tens or hundreds of thousands on solar for your home, we HIGHLY recommend spending just R295 on Urban Earth’s course about how to choose the right system. They have a class coming up on 10 May 2022 – that’s a Tuesday.
You need to understand your needs first, get a sense of what you can afford and be guided through the available options. Urban Earth has been in the environmental consulting game for over ten years, working on great projects across the country, so we trust them on this. We’ve told you about their courses before and attended one: they’re small, with individual attention from one of the company’s highly experienced co-founders.
- About the components of a Solar PV System
- How to work out which size of solar PV system is the right fit for your home
- About grid-tied and non-grid-tied solar systems
We especially loved the calculation tool they share with course participants to help work out how long it will take to pay back a solar PV solution in terms of electricity saved.
Plus you get a further R50 off as an explain subscriber! Just use the code “explain” at check out. Take a look at their upcoming courses here and tell them we sent you!
4. Should we phone E.T?
“Are we alone?” It’s a question that mankind has asked since we crawled out of the primordial ooze. That’s why it comes as no surprise to learn that a NASA-led team of international scientists has decided to send out a message to the heavens, the latest in a long history of “Ceti” (Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence) attempts.
The project, called Beacon in the Galaxy, wants to say hello from the other side (with apologies to Adele). The message will include information about basic concepts in communication, maths, physics and even the constituents of DNA. It will likely be sent to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way, by the Seti Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in California and China’s 500 metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope. 👽
But these ongoing attempts aren’t without their detractors. The great, late Professor Stephen Hawking has previously warned against making first contact with potential visitors from the skies. Hawking said that if aliens visited us, the outcome would be akin to Columbus landing in America. As he put it, that “didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans”.
Assuming that E.T is smart enough to understand any of the data we share, the scientists plan to include our address and some helpful information about us as a species. (Warlike, don’t like to recycle, actively driving extinction?) Hopefully, this alone would be enough to deter any intelligent species to stay away, for their own good, really.
If aliens do come calling, one hopes they’re more like E.T. and less like Klingons. The last thing we need is an alien overlord that does not come in peace. We already have Mark Zuckerberg. 🛸
5. Keep winter bugs at bay 😷
Covid-19 is starting to feel like a nightmare from which we’re finally, slowly being roused. But with winter en route there are fresh concerns about another wave of the virus hitting SA. This is the nature of a pandemic, unfortunately. Experts say the predicted winter spike won’t be as bad as previous waves; however, this week SA recorded its highest number of positive cases since February. Here’s how to protect yourself as colder weather moves in:
- Mask up. Just because wearing masks outdoors is longer mandatory doesn’t mean we’re exempt from being responsible human beings. The scientific evidence shows that masks work: Dr Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner for the US’s Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC this week that one-way masking (you wear a mask even if others remain unmasked) can help guard against Covid.
- Get your boosters and flu vaccines. Covid-19 is not the only bug going around; flu season is approaching and you don’t want to deal with a snotty nose and dry cough on top of the cold, right? 🥶
6. Deadly fires displace thousands in Langa
At least one thousand people are without homes in Langa, Cape Town after fire ravaged an informal settlement in the township over the weekend. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Three fires broke out in Langa’s Joe Slovo informal settlement on Saturday evening and were only extinguished around midnight. Thankfully no fatalities were recorded, but many people who spent the long weekend with family elsewhere returned to devastation. Gift of the Givers arrived on the scene with relief packages and food to support those affected. Many of those displaced are being housed in community halls or with family and friends, while they make plans to rebuild their lives. While fires in informal settlements are not uncommon, especially in Cape Town, they are devastating and affect the most vulnerable South Africans. One resident, Sipho Nylamki told News24:
“My neighbour doesn’t speak English, but has a 5-month-old baby that’s coming home on Tuesday with the mother, and they need a place to stay. It’s very sad but what can we do? We must just rebuild our homes again.”
Shortly after the fires broke out, DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille started another small fire – this time on social media. Responding to the floods in KwaZulu-Natal during an interview on 702, she said that it was better to be poor in Langa, in the Western Cape, than it is to be poor anywhere else in the country, because of supposedly better service delivery. A tone-deaf comment, but nothing surprising at this point from the former Western Cape premier turned quasi alt-righter. 🙄
7. SA musician Lira suffers a stroke
Acclaimed South African Afro-pop musician, Lira, whose full name is Lerato “Lira” Molapo, suffered a severe stroke this week while in Germany for a performance. The multi-platinum selling artist, who is 43, had to be rushed back to South Africa to receive urgent treatment. Her management team said in a statement that the stroke has unfortunately affected her ability to communicate. 😔 “It is unlikely that she will be able to perform in the short term,” they said of the singer of popular hits “Feel Good” and “Soul in Mind’. “That said, Lira is in good spirits and is surrounded by her loving family and close friends as she journeys towards a full recovery.”
This is a sobering reminder about the danger of strokes, especially in women. The US’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says that strokes are the third leading cause of death in women; it adds that women who suffer from hypertension, depression and who have high blood pressure while pregnant are at higher risk. Strokes are a result of a blocked or burst blood vessel in the brain. They can hit suddenly and without many warning signs, but you can look out for a drooping face, weak arms and slurred speech. As with so much else: prevention is better than cure. Go for frequent health checks to mitigate your stroke risk. It could save your life.
8. #DeafTok: a community worth celebrating 👯
If you have teenagers in your life (or if you just love scrolling through endlessly entertaining content), you’re familiar with TikTok. It’s all about short, snappy video clips: think skits, lip-syncing and dancing. But like many social media apps, it was long not particularly friendly to deaf and hard-of-hearing users.
“Deaf influencer” Scarlet Waters has previously decried how little of the digital world is deaf-friendly. “The most popular apps are not accessible to us: YouTube does automatic closed captions, [but they’re] not correct and the words will be all over the place. Instagram does not provide closed captions, so think of all the educational videos you guys see. We miss out on the important events daily. TikTok, the most popular app out right now, has nothing!”
That changed in April 2021, when TikTok added an auto caption feature that caters to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. A year later, the app’s deaf community has flourished, and videos with the #DeafTok hashtag have clocked up more than a billion views.
We love how creators are using the hashtag to raise awareness about accessibility issues, sharing information about life as a deaf person, and educating viewers on interacting with deaf people.
Waters now has over five million followers. She posts everything from powerful advocacy videos showing how difficult it is to be waved off as a deaf person in a hearing world, to cute “ASL covers” — using American Sign Language to sign along to song lyrics while lip-syncing.
Creators are also able to edit the transcript for better accuracy. Users have the option to turn the captions on and off.
The feature is only available in American English and Japanese but TikTok says additional language support will be available in the coming months.
It’s a great step in the right direction. 🙌
That’s it from us at The Wrap, an award-winning product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾♀
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_Till next time, goodbye from the team_ ✌🏽