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14 July ’22 Wrap: Sri Lanka protests a warning to SA politicians

Sri Lankan protestors are getting comfortable in their deposed president’s luxury home, and we think our leaders should take note! South Africans have been particularly down of late, which says a lot about our chronically kvetching nation. It does seem like something’s got to give, particularly with the spate of tavern shootings putting the country on edge. Accountability for the likes of our former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is welcome but we need more. We break down all the above and more for you in this week’s edition of The Wrap. 🙋🏽‍♀️ 

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.

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1. Our take: SA’s politicians should see Sri Lanka as a warning

We’re talking about a revolution. Or at least the people in Sri Lanka are. This week, citizens in the island country snapped, fed up with having to line up for hours for increasingly expensive fuel, vital daily necessities and living with long power outages. Sound familiar? 👀 Thousands of protestors stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home, forcing the embattled leader to flee to the Maldives, and set the prime minister’s house on fire. Talk about holding your leaders to account!

As the Guardian noted, protesters enjoyed luxuries they’ve long been deprived of. They “were seen cooking up curries in the kitchen, lying down on beds and sofas, lifting weights and jogging in his private gym and jumping into the outdoor pool”. Is it just us or does that sound like the best music video ever? 😂

The president promised to resign but his resignation letter still hasn’t been received. The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has also been asked to resign, has become acting president.

Sri Lankans have bemoaned the Rajapaksa administration’s economic policies which saw the country plummet into bankruptcy. The South Asian nation’s economy has totally collapsed after years of cronyism and financial mismanagement.

South Africans on social media were quick to point out the similarities with our situation. Barring the total collapse of the economy, the other elements are there: Rising fuel and food prices, ruling class cronyism, and rolling blackouts

Indeed, experts have previously noted South Africa could see a repeat of last year’s riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which left 354 people dead. But that was promoted by unsavoury elements in former President Jacob Zuma’s camp, reacting to his legitimate arrest. It was soon taken over by criminal elements. 

It’s no surprise that opportunists in the Zuma camp are trying to turn the demands for accountability in Sri Lanka to their favour: Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla tweeted that she still had a key to Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official residence of the president. How has she not yet been arrested for instigating violence? 

It’s utterly shameless. Instead Zuma-Sambudla should pay attention to Sri Lanka precisely because of the comeuppance the likes of Zuma should face. And our current leaders too should take note. The current pace of reforms following the lost decade under Zuma has been far too slow. South Africans seem more fed-up than usual, which says something. Sri Lanka must serve as an example to leaders across the world: citizens will no longer be played. 

2. The big story: Tavern shootings leave SA reeling

As if things aren’t difficult enough, we woke up on Sunday to harrowing reports of multiple mass shootings across SA. 😔 At least 25 people were killed in four separate incidents on Friday and Saturday. The attacks come weeks after the tragic Enyobeni Tavern incident where 21 people, most of them teenagers, died under mysterious circumstances.

(Please note that there are some graphic descriptions in the following list. Sensitive readers may want to skip it.)

🔹Soweto: 16 people were killed and eight injured when gunmen stormed in and shot 23 people at Mdlalose’s Tavern in Orlando East on Sunday morning. 

🔹Roodepoort: Three men sitting around a fire were shot dead at the Matholesville informal settlement on Saturday early evening. An unknown gunman approached them and opened fire. 

🔹Katlehong: Three armed men shot two men in the head, killing them, at the Mputlane’s Inn tavern in Katlehong on Friday night. Four others were wounded. 

🔹Pietermaritzburg: Four people died in at Samkelisiwe Tavern in Sweetwaters, on Saturday night. Two armed men allegedly walked into the tavern at around 8.30pm and started shooting at random.

Motives haven’t been established, but experts believe that extortion might be behind the shootings. No arrests have been made except for in the Pietermaritzburg shooting, where two men were nabbed and later released

Police Minister Bheki Cele has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, with an outburst following the incidents. He’s also deploying the notoriously violent Tactical Response Unit or ‘Amaberete’ to Soweto. 

What’s the solution? Although South Africa has some of the strictest gun control legislation in the world, this is simply not enough. Former Western Cape top cop and member of Gun Free South Africa Jeremy Vearey called for the return of the specialised firearm investigation unit to help curb the sale and use of illegal guns. 

There is a push for an amendment of the Firearms Control Act of 2004, which would see the issuing of new gun licences halted. Government has since held back the amendment bill for further consideration.

SAPS said earlier this month it had destroyed more than 40 000 guns. 

SA is a wonderful country marred by crime and corruption. We cannot be held hostage by rampant criminality. We, and certainly the victims, deserve better than this.

Briefs

3. We can’t help but gravitate towards these stunning new space images

We may be on the precipice of discovering life outside of Earth! And we don’t just mean Jeff Bezos. 👽

On Tuesday, Nasa released the first incredible images captured by the new James Webb space telescope, which launched in December last year after several delays. See our PDF edition or website for pics. 

As we told you before, the $10-billion telescope is the successor to the 1990 Hubble space telescope. Its technology is 30 years ahead of its predecessor’s and will be in use for the next two decades. One image taken by the new telescope of the same scene captured by Hubble features far sharper detail of distant stars, and took half a day to capture (rather than Hubble’s several-week time frame). 

Given how light travels, we’re also able to look back in time, towards the creation of the universe itself. 

One of the most exciting images released was the emerging “stellar nurseries”, where new stars are born (The Carina Nebula – 7,600 light years from Earth). Nasa refers to these clouds of gases and cosmic dust as “​​Cosmic Cliffs”. Thanks to the new, crystal-clear images, we have a far better insight into how stars are formed.

Our newfound ability to unlock various secrets of the universe will not only help us to improve our understanding of physics, but will take us a step closer to finding out whether there is, in fact, extraterrestrial life out there. Already the telescope found promising signs of carbon, oxygen and water signatures from the Wasp-96 system – all key to the potential for life. Then there’s the Pentagon’s confirmation of the presence of unidentified flying objects

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start preparing our space suits… There’s still a long way to go. But these images are jaw-dropping, and we can’t wait to see more!

4. Farewell Busi, it’s not you, it’s us.

Wait, that’s a lie. It’s just you. 

The final nails are being hammered into the coffin of our, let’s face it, awful FORMER public protector. 

Following her long overdue suspension last month, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s attempts to stave off her impending impeachment has fallen apart without access to her office’s resources. Resources made possible by us, the taxpayer, we might add. 

Her successor, Kholeka Gcaleka, said earlier this month that the Office of the Public Protector will fund Mkhwebane’s challenge to her impeachment. But it won’t be funding her suspension challenge at the Western Cape High Court.

Gcaleka is her former deputy, BTW. “Et tu, Brute,” we heard our favourite serial litigator say. Mkhwebane’s impeachment proceedings kicked off on Monday this week. 

There isn’t much solace for the former spy agency employee. Although her ex-colleagues will still finance her defence for the proceedings in Parliament she’s likely to be booted out of office when the process wraps up, given at least eight of her reports were so legally dodgy they were overturned in courts – making her personally liable for some costs. Askies, Advocate Mkhwebane, coughing up all that money in these tough economic times! 😆

Expect to see live updates from the hearings, on every weekday till 3 August. The committee is expected to finalise its work at the end of September. 

Mkhwebane has, unsurprisingly, landed serial defender of the dodgy, former EFF national chairperson Advocate Dali Mpofu, to represent her during the proceedings. But it’s not going well, if the first few days are anything to go by. Mpofu said on Monday that his client has been unable to open her emails since her suspension, which has made it difficult for him to prepare for the hearing. Is he making excuses already? Mpofu has lost a few high-profile cases in recent times. 

It’s worth remembering that the Office of the Public Protector is not actually in the business of fighting high-profile political battles. It’s supposed to be where ordinary Joes like you and me go when we get bad service from the government. Pity Mkhwebane failed spectacularly at the fundamentals. Let’s hope her successor does better.

5. Dr Jane Goodall is a Barbie girl!

Legendary English primatologist Dr Jane Goodall has been immortalised in the form of Barbie, just in time for World Chimpanzee Day today. 🙌

The Goodall Barbie also comes with a model of David Greybeard, the first chimp to lose all fear of her and welcome her into his troop.

In a nod to Goodall’s esteemed work, toy maker Mattel said on Tuesday that the Goodall set would be certified carbon neutral and made from recycled ocean-bound plastic. 

In 1960, Goodall was sent to Gombe National Park in Tanzania to observe chimpanzees. She would later discover that chimps, not unlike humans, used tools, felt compassion, experienced strong maternal bonds and engaged in what she has termed “warfare”. 

Goodall said that she had always wanted a Barbie doll in her likeness. “My entire career, I’ve wanted to help inspire kids to be curious and explore the world around them.” 

The pioneering primatologist is the latest addition to the Inspiring Women series of dolls from Mattel. Previous dolls include:

The iconic doll has been key to the company since its 1959 launch. This is Mattel’s latest play at diversifying the toy that has long divided opinion and annoyed feminists. 

There’s also the much-hyped upcoming Barbie movie, backed by Mattel, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Very little is known about it, but it could very well be a feminist masterpiece since it’s being produced by filmmaker Greta Gerwig, who produced insightful flims such as 2017’s ‘Lady Bird’ and 2019’s ‘Little Women’, both containing feminist themes. She sounds like a great candidate for the next Barbie, no? 💡

6. Shinzo Abe, a formidable politician taken too soon

The assassination of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe was a major shock, not only because of Abe’s status as one of the most influential leaders in modern Japan but because of the rarity of gun crime in Japan

Abe was shot and killed on Friday while delivering a speech ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections in Nara, a city in Japan’s south. It was a rare occurrence of violence in the Far East island nation. 

Last year, the country’s National Police Agency reported just 10 instances of shootings – largely thanks to the very strict regulations on gun ownership (notably, handguns are outlawed). Gun ownership rates (0.25 per 100 people) are among the lowest in the world. Abe was killed with a handmade gun.

The shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, reportedly told investigators that the motivation behind the assassination was his “grudge” against a certain group that Abe was linked to. Only problem is, authorities haven’t identified this group or explained its connection to Abe, 67. 👀

Abe served as prime minister between 2012 and 2020, and remained a force in his ruling party and national politics. He leaves behind a complicated legacy. As one expert noted he “left office in 2020 under the shadow of scandals, with low public support”. But he also reshaped Japan’s economics with his “Abenomics”, structural reforms aimed at reviving the country’s long stagnating economy. 

He revived Japan’s military and strengthened its alliance with the US. Notably he pushed to amend Japan’s pacifist foreign policy, a legacy of when the US nuked the country into submission in World War 2. 

Thanks to Abe’s party winning Sunday’s election, that policy may well be overturned – an appropriate way to commemorate a formidable politician who was taken too soon.

7. The Uber Files: embracing violence and lawbreaking

Will Uber ever cease to shock us?

The behemoth ride-sharing app that disrupted the taxi industry has made headlines for years due to its toxic culture and ignored reports of sexual harrassment. Its infamous founder Travis Kalanick was ousted as CEO in 2017. 

Now there’s fresh evidence of just how batsh*t awful the company could be. 

The latest slew of evidence arrives thanks to a global investigation led by The Guardian, based on 124,000 documents leaked by Mark MacGann, former employee and now whistleblower. 

The docs cover five years of internal messages and more sent between executives from 2013 to 2017. 

Here are the most shocking revelations:

  1. Uber knowingly broke laws in the countries they expanded to, with some of the leaked instant messages by Uber executives stating “we’re just f***ing illegal”.
  2. Uber had mechanisms in place to hide their underhand tactics, deploying a “kill switch” that would cut off any Uber office’s access to shared data systems during a raid, hiding incriminating evidence.
  3. Kalanick dismissed concerns from other executives that sending Uber drivers to a protest put them at risk of violence from angry opponents in the taxi industry, saying “I think it’s worth it, violence guarantees success” – to win favour with the public and force legislation in their favour. He has since denied suggesting “Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety”. 
  4. Uber lobbyists met with prominent world leaders like Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, and Olaf Scholz to influence public policy and legitimise their entry into international markets. 

Does this mean we should boycott the platform in favour of something like Bolt? Well, they’re all the same drivers… so we’ll have to get back to you on that one. 😒

8. The Woman King is giving black girl magic, and we’re here for it!

It is so refreshing to see women as a unit, strong and ready to fight for what they truly believe in, as opposed to seeing women fighting for men or whatever roles movies tend to have women portray. 

That’s the kind of energy we are getting from the gripping trailer of The Woman King. It stars Viola Davis as Nanisca, who leads the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors. 

The storyline follows the Agojie, who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin, in the 1800s with killer skills and ferocity

Some background: the Kingdom of Dahomey played a major role in the slave trade, swapping European merchandise such as tobacco, pipes and gunpowder in exchange for those held in captivity. 

Not only was the movie filmed in South Africa but it also features a South African-born actress, hailing from the KZN – Thuso Mbedu, who plays Nawi, one of the recruits trained by Nanisca. Siv Ngesi also makes an appearance and former (permanent for us) Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, will make her film debut. Is there anything she can’t do? 😍

The trailer also features sounds from our very own singer-songwriters, Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly, whose song My Power is the backtrack for the trailer! This song was part of Beyonce’s visual album, Black is King

The film is set to hit our screen on 16 September. Set your reminder so you don’t miss all this black girl magic.

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_ ✌🏽

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