What a news week we’ve had! First our president ran into the biggest scandal of his office, and then the Guptas were arrested. As we dodged the conspiracy theories about the arrests being a tad convenient to detract from the presidential woes, we also caught up with the crime and GDP stats released this week, the flashback to Afrikaans lessons thanks to one international airline and Elon Musk telling us to go back to work. Whew. 🙋🏽♀️ Here’s everything you need to know.
🔊 There will be no audio version of The Wrap this week.
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- Our take: Justice finally catches up with the Guptas
This is huge: two of the brothers wanted for their alleged involvement in the looting of our state coffers, have been arrested in Dubai. Rajesh and Atul Gupta were arrested on Monday, the South African Justice Department confirmed.
In a statement, the Dubai Police stated that the brothers were arrested “in connection with money laundering and criminal charges in South Africa”. The brothers have been accused of paying bribes in exchange for lucrative state contracts and influence over ministerial appointments. President Cyril Ramaphosa said that state capture had cost South Africa R500-billion. Besides the lost billions, key state institutions such as Eskom and Transnet were plundered and hollowed out, and continue to hold the South African economy and state purse hostage. All this happened during former president Jacob Zuma’s nine-year administration.
Zuma and the Gupta brothers have denied all allegations.
The National Prosecution Authority (NPA) said on Tuesday it had assembled a team of experts and was working on the extradition of the two men to South Africa.
The arrests come a year after South Africa and the UAE ratified their extradition treaty. Interpol issued a red notice against the pair in March 2022. Although this is a step forward, it must be noted that the legal process could take years to complete. Legal expert Professor Omphemetse S Sibanda, wrote in the Daily Maverick, that the process would be a “tedious and complex process even though there is an extradition treaty.”
The existence of a treaty does not mean that the process will be without challenges. But it is wonderful to see the architects of state capture finally on their way to being held accountable after so many years. The ramifications of state capture are being felt everywhere – from load shedding to the collapse of the rail system to the devastation of the judicial system. And we will continue to feel the effects of this destruction for many years. The people of South Africa deserve some sort of justice.
The NPA has been on a roll with state capture arrests before this, and now the onus is on them and the Justice Department to not bungle this one. No booking them on Ryanair now, asseblief … We need a win.
2. The big story: Cyril’s big scandal
Cyril Ramaphosa is facing the biggest scandal of his presidency yet. Here’s what you need to know:
🔹A spurned spy boss, who was loyal to former president Jacob Zuma and demoted by Ramaphosa, reported the president to the police last week. His name is Arthur Fraser and he has long had an axe to grind against ole’ cupcake.
🔹He claims Ramaphosa failed to report the theft of millions of US dollars in cash from his private game farm in Limpopo in 2020.
🔹He also claims Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit tracked down the thieves, roughed them up and paid them off to stay mum about the large cash reserves at the property.
🔹Ramaphosa has confirmed the theft, saying it was from the sale of game from his business declared to Parliament. But he noted it was far less than the $4 – $8m Fraser quoted, and denied the rest of the allegations.
Whew. It’s not a good look for Ramaphosa, for two reasons.
🔹Given the risk of money laundering, there are lots of rules governing trading in cash with such large sums – especially in forex. Ramaphosa will have to prove that he followed those to a T. But doing it in cash is still going to raise eyebrows – other game farmers have said it’s not really common practice.
🔹Keeping quiet about the theft for two years is odd. Some say it’s because he realised how bad it looks making that much money in a sea of poverty. The president is a rich man thanks to his previous business dealings. An ardent game farmer, he infamously bid R19.5-million for a buffalo cow in 2012, and apologised for the tone-deaf move.
While it’s not clear that Ramaphosa has done anything wrong yet, something smells fishy. Ramaphosa’s reputation or “currency”, if you will, has been “devalued”, says respected financial journalist Carol Paton. “The reputational damage will affect not just his standing among voters but, even more, will damage his international reputation and that among business and investors,” writes Paton.
So what happens next? The Hawks are investigating, and while our revenue services and Reserve Bank have to stay mum, they will no doubt do their own investigations. Compromised Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has jumped into the fray with an investigation of her own, which isn’t surprising given her alignment to the faction against Ramaphosa. Ultimately this scandal isn’t expected to dent Ramaphosa’s chances at a second term of the ANC presidency. But that’s only because the other side doesn’t have a strong candidate. If they did, Ramaphosa – and the general reform agenda – would be in trouble. Watch this space.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ BRIEFS
3. Ryanair’s Afrikaans quiz leaves travellers gatvol
How good is your taal? If you can’t remember your high school Afrikaans, low cost airline Ryanair may not let you fly! People are outraged after learning the popular airline has been making South African travellers take a general knowledge test…. in Afrikaans before flying between their popular European and UK destinations.
The quiz asked about the capital city of South Africa and weirdly, the highest mountain in SA (If you were wondering, that’s the Mafadi peak).
Ryanair, which confirmed the test, cited the prevalence of passport fraud with South African passports as the issue. They’re not wrong – there has been concern that international criminal syndicates are increasingly using passports for illicit activities. (Government made arrests recently in a bid to crack down on the problem). But, wow, did Ryanair pick a triggering way to deal with it.
Next week marks Youth Day, which commemorates the apartheid regime’s deadly response to Soweto school children who were protesting against Afrikaans as the compulsory medium of instruction. Due to our fractured history, the language still has bad connotations for many black South Africans, though it must be noted it now has more black speakers than white, among Coloured South Africans. More to the point, however, is that it is spoken by just 13% of the population, meaning the test wasn’t very logical!
Like us, SA’s Home Affairs department thought the airline’s actions were ‘n bietjie vreemd. They said airlines had access to systems that screened passengers before they even boarded flights. “It is not clear to which extent the airline had used these services before resorting to this backward profiling system,” said a spokesperson.
Do better, Ryanair. Sies.
4. SA’s crime rate in context
You may have seen SA’s latest crime stats. They were released last week – and they were pretty grim.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said the first three months of 2022 had more murders, more sexual violence and more assaults compared with the same period in 2021.
It’s difficult news, but we must also remember the role Covid-induced lockdowns have played in all this.
Police noted during one of last year’s quarterly releases that you can’t really compare year-on-year trends, such as the ones released last week, because the lockdown created major shifts in criminal behaviour during those periods.
As Business Tech noted, police data released over the past few years shows that as lockdown restrictions and levels eased, criminal activity increased.
Still, in the first three months of 2022, 6,083 people were murdered (a 22% increase from the same period last year).
Before we start packing for Perth (Ryanair doesn’t fly there, yet) it’s worth taking a step back. Murder rates are generally regarded as a reliable crime indicator. People don’t report all violent crimes, so the stats aren’t 100% reliable there, but deaths and murders are generally reported.
On that score, South Africa has actually made strides over the years, according to World Bank data. Our “intentional homicide rate” was 64 per 100 000 people back in 1995. That rate steadily decreased to a low of just 30 people per 100 000 in 2011. Unfortunately, the numbers have started to climb again. It was at 36 in 2017 – the most recent statistics available from the World Bank.
Although Cele announced a range of measures to tackle the crisis it is also encouraging to see there was a jump in the number of crimes detected through police activity, meaning police are starting to do their jobs better. That’s a step in the right direction.
5. Liz’s the platinum queen!
The UK’s Queen Elizabeth celebrated her platinum jubilee this weekend with much fanfare and ehm… jubilation. 😏 It marked a whopping 70 years on the British throne – a historical first.
The 96-year-old monarch delighted her fans with two appearances, despite her increasing frailty. A jubilee concert opened with a skit in which Her Majesty meets Paddington Bear and shows him where One hides One’s marmalade sandwich. Quite.
If you’ve watched The Crown, you’re probably a bit of a fan of the queen, even if you’re leery of the larger idea of a monarchy. Her personal popularity has consistently remained high, despite the anni horribiles she has faced recently. The queen famously used the phrase annus horribilis, Latin for “horrible year”, in 1992 following a deluge of family scandals.
But the last few years have rivalled those.
There was the death of The Queen’s husband Prince Phillip in 2021, the revelation of sexual assault accusations against Prince Andrew, and allegations of racism following Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle permanently stepping down as “working royals”. It also doesn’t help that countries are choosing to part ways with the monarchy. Barbados is the latest country to drop Lizzie as their head of state, although it has opted to remain part of the Commonwealth.
The jubilee celebrations saw Harry and Meghan return for their first royal event since they relocated to the US, but the pair kept it super lowkey. Recent polls show the couple’s popularity has plummeted in the UK recently, particularly among older Britons, and they faced audible cheers and boos from the crowd outside the cathedral for one of the events.
Still, they fared better than embattled UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who received even louder boos. He has since narrowly escaped a vote of no-confidence following the partygate scandal – parties were held at the prime minister’s residence when they were a no-no for the rest of the country because of the pandemic. It makes us respect Lizzie even more for her selflessness!
6. GDP first quarter stats released
Everything’s going up 😭. But between the doom and gloom, there’s a bit of good news: South Africa’s GDP is bouncing back! Remember when we told you that our GDP had increased but not to pre-lockdown levels as yet? Well, you will be pleased to know that our economy has expanded by 1.9% … bringing it back to pre-pandemic levels 🥳.
We previously explained that GDP is a measure of how big our economy is; that is, how many goods and services are being sold, hence the terms gross domestic product.
So when Statistics South Africa released the GDP figures for the first quarter of 2022 on Tuesday we were so thrilled we would have popped some bubbly if we could afford it.
Stars of the economy in the first quarter were manufacturing (grew by 4.9%) and the trade, catering and accommodation industries, which grew by 3.1%.
“The petroleum, chemical products, rubber and plastic products division made the largest contribution to the increase in the first quarter,” Stats SA says in its release.
We still have a long way to go but SA has relaxed restrictions so we are crossing fingers for even more improvement. This is certainly a good start.
7. Elon Musk wants you back at your desk!
Is the return to the office imminent? Elon Musk thinks so. The world’s richest person says remote work is no longer acceptable 👀 . Musk told the nearly 100 000 employees at his electric car and clean energy company, Tesla, to come back to work or resign, in leaked emails that he seemed to confirm on Twitter.
Musk famously slept on the Tesla factory floor when the company was going through a tough time, saying this prevented the company from going bankrupt.
In contrast Twitter, the company Musk is set to buy, is allowing staff to work remotely “forever” if they like. (Musk thinks that’s part of the reason some companies haven’t produced any great products of late!)
Across the pond, British cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is also leading a campaign to get butts back in chairs, albeit in classically British passive-aggressive fashion. He left notes complete with a government crest on people’s desks: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”
The signs are mounting that the great work-from-home experiment is unwinding, The Economist reports. Chat app Slack projects slowing sales growth this quarter, down from 50% at the height of the pandemic. In February Zoom reported that growth had slowed globally.
C-suite executives seem most eager for staff to return, but workers aren’t convinced. Survey after survey show employees don’t want to go back to staring wistfully out the window five days a week, after getting a taste of remote working during the pandemic. LinkedIn saw 50% of new applications on its site in February go towards remote working positions – despite those making up less than 20% of jobs posted.
But remote working is not without its pitfalls. Studies show longer hours with less productivity (thanks in part to all those virtual meetings) plus there are fewer coaching and career opportunities.
Either way, employee expectations have shifted fundamentally thanks to the pandemic.
8. Mystery and silence surrounds mass shooting In Nigeria
On Sunday, at least 50 people were gunned down in the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria. However, the story hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention as the mass shooting in Uvalde, in the US state of Texas, in which 21 people were killed.
The parishioners at the Pentecost Sunday mass were gunned down by four men, Al Jazeera reported. The motive for the attack is still unknown because of what has been deemed “an intelligence failure”, with no organisation claiming responsibility for the incident.
Owo is about 345km east of Lagos, in Ondo State, which is considered to be one of the safest states in Nigeria. Most deaths by armed groups happen in the north of the country, meaning the Owo attack is somewhat of an outlier.
Locals are attributing the attack to pastoralist herdsmen, who have been involved in armed conflicts with farmers around the country over diminishing vegetation and ethnic and religious disputes – something that has been a problem in Ondo.
However, others are speculating that the attack may have been carried out by the Islamic State West Africa Province.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, the biggest economy on the continent and the top crude producer in Africa. Yet an official death count has not even been confirmed.
So why has this mass shooting gone under the radar? Why have there been no fact-finding missions and why have Western, developed nations not aided in efforts to gather intelligence?
Nigeria’s general elections are set to take place in February next year, and security concerns will be at the top of voters’ lists of priorities, but none of the presidential candidates has addressed the topic so far 😕. That’s why we’re covering this topic in this edition: playing our small role in providing fair coverage of all important news events around the world.
9. Put on your party dress and shake off the pandemic blues
It’s easy to forget we live in a vibrant, cosmopolitan country with loads of arts and culture on offer. It’s been a rough couple of years with the pandemic literally forcing us to stay away from each other!
But now? The country’s open and we’re ready to come out and play! (Safely, of course, Covid-19 is still with us). 😬 Here are a few events to add to your calendar.
- Fête de la Musique: taking place on Saturday, June 18, in Newtown, Johannesburg this is a platform where amateur and professional musicians share their music with the people. Expect anything from traditional music to rap, hip-hop, techno and so much more. You can’t miss this (and shouldn’t, entrance is free).
- The DSTV Delicious Festival is making its return to Jozi in September. The international food and music festival is a great opportunity to dress up and go mingle with the who’s who of Johannesburg. Great vibes, good music and (overpriced) good food. Come full!
- If you’re in Cape Town, consider heading to Rocking the Daisies in October. The concert will run from the 7th to the 9th and will have an amazing lineup, including international act Kehlani and Amapiano sensation Focalistic.
- If you’re into the arts then you’re in for a treat. The National Arts Festival is taking place from June 23 to July 3 in Makhanda (formerly, Grahamstown). The annual festival is a major event in the South African art scene but the pandemic (raised fist shaking menacingly) disrupted that in 2020. But, thankfully, it came back last year and we’re so excited!
Although most of these events are scattered until the end of the year, you can whet your appetite by attending local markets – like the Fourways Farmers Market in Johannesburg that’s open every Sunday. There are thrift stores, great food as well as live music. It is the perfect environment to start getting social with people.
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_ ✌🏽