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 30 June’22 Wrap: The Roe V Wade fallout continues

We hope you’re staying warm. Not that it’s easy to do so, as Eskom increased its rolling power cuts from stage four to stage six this week due to a wage strike. 😭 It may seem like our power woes may never end but it’s worth noting there’s been movement this week on the landmark $8.5 billion energy transition financing deal SA scored at last year’s climate talks, COP26, with deadlines now in place. In return for the funds, Eskom will close down its coal power stations before the end of their normal lifespan, over the next 15 years and build a strong renewable energy sector. But the real issue is we need competent people in place to ensure we don’t face this energy crisis again!

While your devices are still charged though, keep reading for a huge victory for sexual assualt victims, the Roe V Wade ruling and its fallout in the US plus the lowdown on the Enyobeni Tavern deaths. 

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

🔊 There will be no audio version of The Wrap this week

🗞 For text, keep scrolling.

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1. Our take: Sexual abusers get their comeuppance

It’s taken a long time. But R Kelly will finally see the inside of a jail cell. The R&B megastar was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday.

Kelly’s conviction for racketeering and sex trafficking crimes was handed down after more than three decades of attempts to take down the 55-year-old, with the first major story about his crimes emerging way back in 1996 – although the case was settled out of court. He was acquitted of child pornography charges by a seemingly star-struck jury in 2008, despite compelling evidence. He continued to produce music and go on tours, while collaborating with prominent artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson, Phoenix and Chance The Rapper (who all later apologised). Journalists continued exposing even more brazen acts of abuse and assault. 

It took years for the climate to change enough for Kelly to face justice. In 2017 the #MeToo movement blew up, leading to sexual assault accusations against several high profile personalities, such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and Kevin Spacey. In 2019, the “Surviving R Kelly” documentary was released, swaying public opinion to almost universally condemn Kelly – prompting the #MuteRKelly movement. Stars like Ne-Yo, Vic Mensa and Omarion were among many to publicly condemn Kelly. And finally, Kelly has been handed down a lengthy sentence (he’ll be 85 when the sentence ends – if he isn’t paroled at an earlier date.)

The day before Kelly’s sentencing, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her complicity in the recruitment and trafficking of teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Cosby, however, was released from prison earlier this month, which has caused outrage, considering that more than 50 women came forward with accusations of sexual assault or rape. But Harvey Weinstein’s 23-year prison sentence was upheld and he will not be eligible for parole until 2040. Kevin Spacey still faces a court battle against four counts of sexual assault.

So, does this mean that we’ve finally reached a point where sexual assault, in all contexts, is taken as seriously as it should be? No. But we sure are a lot closer to that point than we were 10 years ago and those who have come forward should be commended for their bravery in the face of victim shaming.

There has certainly been a cultural shift towards opening conversations about sexual assault and treating it more seriously. In an ideal world, justice would be served in every case – and not just high-profile ones – but Kelly’s sentence (which was more than prosecutors asked for) is a sign that we are taking huge strides in the right direction.

2. The big story: Roe v Wade officially overturned

24 June 2022 will forever represent a dark day in history after the Supreme Court of the United States officially reversed Roe v Wade and declared the constitutional right to abortion in America invalid. The overturning of almost 50 years of precedent has sparked mass protests around the country and is leading many to question what this means for the future of the US and countries around the world.

In May, we reported on the leaked majority opinion from Justice Samuel Alito, who said “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” And, on Friday, it was made official when the 6-3 conservative majority in the court (three of the justices being Trump appointees) voted to reverse the landmark decision made in 1973.🙍🏽

Stripping women of their reproductive rights has not gone down well. Thousands of people in the US have taken to the streets in protest of the decision. Yes, in some US states, abortion will remain legal, but 26 states have abortion bans or highly restrictive six- to eight-week bans that will come into effect. Thirteen of these are states with so-called “trigger laws”, where the bans can come into effect immediately now that Roe v Wade has been overturned. Furthermore, the Supreme Court decision will also lead to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which has received funding since 1970. 🚮

The decision will hurt impoverished people and women of colour the hardest. Black women in the United States experience maternal mortality at rates two to three times higher than white women. It’s hardly news that America is plagued by structural racism, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that the negative consequences of the ruling will manifest themselves differently across racial lines.

It will also force more women to manage abortions themselves. With abortion pills available to order by mail, it still poses a legal risk for women seeking abortions and many will opt for more dangerous practices such as self-induced physical trauma.😞

Justice Clarence Thomas has also stated that rulings protecting gay rights and contraception should be reconsidered after Roe is overturned. As Trevor Noah put it, what’s next: outlawing nipple play?? It’s a joke but a dark one. What’s happening in the US is not pretty to watch. We hope this sort of politicising of these issues never reaches our shores. 

Briefs

Enyobeni Tavern deaths stun the country

On Sunday morning, the country awoke to the tragic news of the mysterious deaths of several teenagers.😞

Hundreds of youngsters gathered at Enyobeni Tavern in East London’s Scenery Park township to celebrate the end of the school term at the venue, where free rounds of alcohol, wifi and photoshoots were promised to attendees, News24 reported. But after a night of partying, 21 teenagers aged between 13 and 17 were dead. 

The settlement, which is a combination of state-built houses and shacks, is one of the most underdeveloped areas in the Buffalo City Metro (BCM). 

There is no official word on what caused the deaths. The Eastern Cape Health Department has confirmed that samples were taken for testing, and autopsy results were expected soon.

Independent experts seem to have ruled out the possibility of a stampede or pepper spray. Although there was speculation that carbon monoxide poisoning may be the culprit this has not been confirmed. Some reports noted the electricity was out despite no load shedding scheduled, and a petrol generator was being used. 

However, as the chief medical officer at the East London mortuary, Dr Solomon Zondi, said to Drum magazine, why did [only] these 12 girls and nine boys die? 🤔

Meanwhile, The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has shut down the establishment pending the investigation and also laid charges against its owner – who has apologised – for allowing minors into the establishment and selling alcohol to them.

A mass funeral will be held on Wednesday. It’s a devastating story, and our prayers go out to their families. 🙏🏾

Amazon’s Marketplace could launch in SA next year

In a dramatic development for SA’s ecommerce landscape, it seems Amazon Marketplace may launch in South Africa next year, according to leaked documents in Business Insider (BI)

The company already has a presence in SA with call centres and local data centres located in Cape Town. And now it will potentially bring its well-known online marketplace, plus Amazon Prime services, to South Africa.

As BI puts it, the marketplace “combines its own retail operations (including its massive range of Amazon Basics own-brand goods) with third-party sellers from all over the world to sell, literally, just about anything you can imagine.” 

The Prime offering gets you free deliveries for a wide variety of goods, as well as Amazon Prime video streaming services, Amazon Music, cloud storage for photos and videos, and Audible audiobooks – a tough act for local competitors like Takealot to follow. 

This is NOT good for our bank accounts, that’s for sure! But is it good for South Africa?🤔

Amazon’s track record with working conditions is hardly squeaky clean, after reports suggested that workers in fulfilment centres in the US had to urinate in water bottles when bathroom breaks were allegedly restricted in order to push warehouse workers to meet packaging and delivery quotas, among other shocking revelations.👀

Fortunately SA has far more rigorous labour laws than the US and these already protect the thousands Amazon currently employs in the country, plus a fairly active Competition Commission that would nip anti-competitive behaviour in the bud. 

There are also ongoing challenges to the company’s proposed headquarters for its existing services in SA at the River Club in Cape Town, along the Liesbeek River. The site is considered sacred by some Khoisan communities and has been met by legal challenges from environmental activists and heritage protection organisations, with a judge ordering a halt on the online retail giant’s construction in March

So before we get excited about endless armchair shopping, we should take the time to consider the advantages and disadvantages that Amazon would bring with it.

Collaboration schools provide hope for SA’s education system

A no-fee public “collaboration school” that was approved and constructed in four years in the Western Cape has us excited about what we can achieve when our communities come together. We first read about this inspiring story in the Financial Mail. 🙌

SA’s schooling statistics are frightening: only 45% of those who begin Grade 1, will write their matric exams in 12 years time. This is how we’ve found ourselves in a situation where 63,9% of people aged 15-24 are unemployed, while this is true for 42,1% of those aged 25-34 years.

In 2016, concerned citizens in Bonnievale, a small town in the Cape winelands, decided to make a change. Their vision was to equip learners with high-demand skills to ensure they would be ready to enter the job market. 

The government agreed to pay for 40% of the construction costs if the group could raise the other 60%, plus fund running costs. The community body also had to identify a parcel of land to use for the development. It took a massive drive, with donations and help from all sectors of society, but they raised R100 million for a school that could accommodate 1,000 students! 

“Youth unemployment is so high in SA because our youth are unemployable,” said one of the school’s trustees, Augusta Brandt. By offering a career-based curriculum that teaches high-demand skills aligned to local employer needs, Jakes Gerwel Technical School graduates stand a good chance of employment once they leave the school. Industry excursions are important, and in their final two years of study pupils in the “school of skills” stream have several weeks of practical job shadowing.

The school day has been extended – from 7am to 5pm! All pupils get breakfast and lunch, can take part in all main sporting codes, have supervised homework and mentoring sessions and…. there is even a subsidised driving programme so every pupil graduates with a driving licence. 

Thanks to the Bonnievale community’s extraordinary efforts, JGT’s first cohort of matriculants achieved an 81% pass rate, with 94% of the final-year class graduating with certificates in their respective skills. Many of them have gone on to tertiary studies, learnerships, entrepreneurs or employment, and assistance is ongoing. 

It’s not our responsibility to improve our education system – that’s the government’s job. But that doesn’t mean we can’t push for accountability and achieve great things like Bonnievale has if we come together to tackle the issues we face in our communities. 

Zimbabweans left in limbo as permit struggles continue

The clock is ticking for about 180 000 Zimbabwean nationals who have to find another way to stay in South Africa or face deportation when the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) expire on 31 December 2022. 

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi decided in November last year to terminate the ZEP, giving Zimbabweans living in South Africa 12 months to apply for a different visa that would allow them to stay in the country. 

The ZEPs came about after Home Affairs experienced an influx of asylum seekers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) between 2008 and 2009, when more than 400 000 people sought asylum in the country. The vast majority were from Zimbabwe, hence the name of the permits, as they fled the tumultuous economic and political situation in their home country. Home Affairs could not deal with the high number of daily applicants, so a special project, with an allocated budget of R15 million, was started to grant exemptions to the SADC nationals. Since 2009 the government has repeatedly extended the exemption and now says it can no longer afford to do so. But it’s more likely that rising xenophobic sentiment in the country – latched on to by nearly all political parties – is behind the move. 

Obtaining a general working visa in SA is a logistical nightmare

The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched legal action against Motsoaledi. The foundation said that it was not in favour of migrants who are in South Africa illegally being entitled to remain, nor that the ZEP should continue indefinitely. “Rather, our position is that those who have scrupulously observed South Africa’s laws in order to live and work here under the ZEP cannot have such permits terminated without fair process, good reason and a meaningful opportunity to regulate their status.” 

Amen. 

Entertainment round up

What a weekend for the world of entertainment!

Twitter and Instagram were certainly alive as we saw South African entertainment royalty strut their stuff on the red carpet in beautiful gowns and suits (without masks). It really felt like we were getting back to our old normal again. 

The DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards, an award show where South Africans vote for their favourite entertainment personalities, took place on Saturday at the Sun Arena in Pretoria. 

There were many deserving people who entertained us throughout the year, but the star of the night was Makhadzi. She makes amapiano and gospel music in her mother tongue, Tshivenda, and took two awards home for the favourite artist as well as song of the year for her hit song Ghanama. It was a full-circle moment for her as she recalled how she once begged the organisers of the DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards to perform for free, and there she was this weekend receiving an award. 👏👏👏

Actress and producer Connie Ferguson won the award for favourite personality and she dedicated the award to her late husband, Shona Ferguson. The Fergusons were SA’s entertainment power couple who produced successful shows like The Queen on Mzansi Magic and Rockville. 

In other entertainment news from the US, the BET awards took place on Sunday night. These awards celebrate the crème de la crème in music, culture and sports among African Americans. 

The biggest winners were the Leave the Door Open duo, Silk Sonic – accomplished musos Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak’s newish R&B group. 

Many of the stars used that platform to raise awareness about Roe vs Wade. Actress Taraji P Henson, who was the host, made a powerful statement: “Guns have more rights than a woman. It’s a sad day in America. A weapon that can take lives has more power than a woman who can give life if she chooses to.”

On the streaming front, alternative superhero hit The Umbrella Academy returned to Netflix recently for its third season but the story of a dysfunctional family trying to stop the end of the world wasn’t as exciting or interesting this time around. On the big screen, the mega indie-hit Everything Everywhere All at Once is still going strong. The crazy and wondrous tale of an ageing Chinese immigrant who is swept up in a universe-hopping adventure is incredibly poignant and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. 

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_ ✌🏽