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21 July ’22 Wrap: The big Eskom announcement

It’s been a week of waiting: For Uncle Cyril to let us in on his plan to get us out of the dark… for him to reply to the Public Protector’s questions on Phala Phala… to find out whether we are facing another interest rate hike… (let’s not go there now 😭). But let us tell you what we do know: While the UK swelters, Banyana Banyana are firing things up on the soccer pitch. Now they just need to net a goal for all women when it comes to their salaries. We score another goal for accountability as SA’s banks take a stand on controversial businessman Iqbal Survé, SA’s cotton industry gets a boost, and so does our love-o-meter as Bennifer finally put a ring on it.

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

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1. Our take: Goal 1: Wafcon finals. Goal 2: Equal pay [300 DONE]

It always falls to our sports heroes to cheer us up when things are particularly bad in SA, and Banyana Banyana have delivered the goods. 

Our national women’s soccer team made it to the finals of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations after beating Zambia 1-0 on Monday. 

They now face host country Morocco on Saturday. Kick-off is at 10pm, and we hope you’ll be watching! They’ve reached the cup’s final five times before but have so far been unable to grab the gold – hopefully sixth time’s the charm. 

Despite their sterling performance, Banyana Banyana still aren’t being paid near to what the men’s national players earn. In 2019, the minister of sport said Banyana Banyana made 10 times less than Bafana Bafana, yet they win more games. Make it make sense!

Due to Banyana Banyana’s excellent run in this tournament, they automatically qualify for the Women’s World Cup next year. When last did Bafana Bafana qualify for a World Cup? Oh right, that one time by default when we were hosting it way back in 2010. And even then, they didn’t make it past the first round. 🤨

Plans were under way to ensure that Banyana Banyana received equal pay to their male counterparts for their international wins. Yet a year later Banyana Banyana still must contend with being told that men get more sponsorship deals and therefore get paid more. Sigh.

South Africa should take a page out of the book of the Americans. Their women soccer players earn as much as the men do – with the men even sacrificing their own earnings to secure this historic feat! Kudos to them for leading by example. We’re waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

In the meantime, we’ll be fully behind Banyana Banyana on Saturday.

2. The big story: Ramaphosa’s big plan for Eskom

We’re waiting with bated breath for President Cyril Ramaphosa to reveal his plans for our nation’s beyond-urgent energy crisis. He told us on 11 July that bold action would be announced swiftly, and reiterated this yesterday

We’re still waiting, but in the meantime he managed to make things even worse by pandering to his dinosaur energy minister Gwede Mantashe who came up with the idea of … wait for it … ANOTHER state-run energy utility. Because the state has done so well with the first one. 

The “Eskom 2.0” idea evoked tremendous backlash after Ramaphosa appeared to support the idea on Friday at the South African Communist Party congress, before backtracking on Sunday.

“It is unthinkable that SA would start a new energy company, given the constraints on the fiscus and demand for debt consolidation,” Fin24’s Carol Paton wrote in response to the Eskom 2.0 idea. 

“Mantashe is running with the idea, of course. He needs something to show to his constituency. But the odds of it happening are minuscule.” Instead Paton expects that Ramaphosa will be unleashing the free market on our energy problems, the ANC’s long enthrallment with socialism be damned. 

“We are now on a rapid path to [a] smaller state and the private supply of public goods,” she wrote. 

There is some precedent. Ramaphosa shocked his archaic party and won plaudits last year when he freed up private companies to dramatically produce more electricity. Will the new announcement be as theatrical? Paton seems to think so, while others are still reeling from the Eskom 2.0 shock. Either way, hurry up won’t you Mr President? 🦖

Briefs

3. Bennifer 2.0 and the thrill of second chances

Would you ever get back together with your ex… 20 years after you first dated? Well, we know that iconic entertainer Jennifer Lopez would because she did! J-Lo, as she’s known, married actor Ben Affleck in Las Vegas over the weekend.

They dated in the 2000s after meeting on the set of the monumental failure that was the romcom Gigli. They had not one but two postponed weddings, finally going their separate ways in 2004. Lopez would later say the insane media attention was one of the reasons the relationship fell apart – they were one of the first to be tagged with a celebrity couple name: “Bennifer”. After the split, they went on to marry other people and have children. 

Those marriages long over, they rekindled their romance in May last year. 

In contrast to the intense hype around plans for their previous weddings, the couple enjoyed a quiet and impromptu ceremony, with just a few guests. 

“Love is beautiful. Love is kind. And it turns out love is patient. Twenty years patient,” the singer wrote in a message following the wedding, signed Jennifer Lynn Affleck. Yaaaaass Queen! 💍

We’re here for the idea of second chances – in love and in life. Lopez may have changed the game for Hispanic representation in mainstream entertainment, but her career saw some serious downturns in the 2000s, with a string of box office failures and poor record performances. It caused the singer, actress and dancer to seriously doubt herself. 

Affleck for his part has struggled with mental health and addiction issues for years. 

Bennifer 2.0 gives us hope: pain is part of the human condition, no matter your level of fame and wealth. But second chances are universal. ❤️️

4. Accountability Monitor: Survé debanked

“Your money’s no good here.” We imagine this is what Standard Bank told controversial businessman Iqbal Survé when they decided to drop his Sekunjalo Group as a client on Tuesday. 

It’s the last of the big four banks to cut ties with Survé and the 30+ companies his group is invested in. Smaller banks like Investec and Bidvest have also said “bye bye bye”. 

Court action is still ongoing with Nedbank. Survé and Sekunjalo were granted an interim interdict, allowing for their accounts to be reopened. For now.

It’s reminiscent of the time banks dealt a death blow to the Guptas when they started closing those accounts around 2016. Without any way to transact, the architects of state capture were forced to shut shop, and eventually fled the country.

Standard Bank says the bank considered a number of factors. Some are in the public domain, but client confidentiality prevented the bank from going into specifics. 

Our best guess is the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) scandal.

The PIC manages precious retirement investments on behalf of government workers. The body’s former head, who was friendly with Survé, put the savings of nurses, teachers and more at risk when the PIC flouted its own investment rules to save Survé’s ailing empire at vastly overinflated figures that Survé was found to have manipulated, the Mpati Commission of Inquiry found in 2019. 

The PIC is currently suing some of the companies to recover lost funds.

Survé bought Independent Newspapers back in 2013, turning it into his personal mouthpiece and ruining its reputation. He forced out editors who tried to maintain the paper’s independence and covered his other companies critically.

Independent publishes 20 newspapers and nine digital publications. They were responsible for the ridiculous Tembisa decuplets fake story. 

It’s good news for accountability but may entail job losses for the company’s employees – not to mention the damage it’s done to the media’s reputation. But the blame for that lies squarely at Survé’s door.

5. SA’s slow climb out of junk status

Remember how South Africa kept getting downgraded to junk status? We previously explained what that means but effectively it made our cost of borrowing as a country much higher. Well, we may be able to work our way out of it. One of the world’s three big ratings agencies, Fitch upgraded our outlook to a “BB-” last week. 

It doesn’t mean our actual credit status has been upgraded yet – just that we’re on the right path to doing so. This follows fellow agency S&P unexpectedly revising its outlook on our country’s debt to positive, from stable, in May. S&P says this means there’s a one-third chance of a higher rating move in the next 12 months. We need it. South Africa’s rating is the lowest since we first obtained credit ratings in 1994. 😬

We’re also going to need to keep an eye on inflation if we’re going to climb our way to investment grade again as a country. We’ve also previously told you about what inflation means – when the money in our pocket loses value. That’s why the Reserve Bank keeps a close eye on our interest rate. But with the whole world-ending pandemic thing, they – like other central banks – kept interest rates very low so that we could sort of survive financially. Low interest rates meant we paid less on our various loans. It used to be as high as 7% in 2018 and it reached an all-time low of 3.5% in 2020. Well, we’re paying the price for that now. 

The SARB targets inflation rates between 3% and 6%. In June we hit 7.4% – the highest in a decade.

It’s not just the interest rates to blame: like the rest of the world our price of goods has been driven upwards by high food and fuel prices thanks to the war in Ukraine.

So the result of all that … is SA has been hit with a major interest rate hike – 75 basis points – the steepest hike since September 2002! Tighten those belts, folks. 😭

6. Jessie Duarte’s death feeds ANC factions

Yasmin “Jessie” Duarte was a role model for many: a grassroots activist who helped defined feminism for SA, and gave a voice to women who were beaten down by the system, as journalist Ferial Haffajee pointed out. The ANC’s deputy secretary-general lost her battle with cancer on Sunday. She leaves a void in the party’s leadership, who counted on her to unify the increasingly fractured party. 

Her funeral was attended by senior ANC officials such as Ramaphosa, embattled suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule and former Umkhonto weSizwe spokesperson and president “arrester” Carl Niehaus. Talk about a tense situation. Naturally it became a site for further factional bickering. 

Magashule said she died with explosive secrets that could destroy the ANC. This sounds a lot like when former president Jacob Zuma threatened to destroy the ANC with all the secrets he knew but instead we just heard him whinge endlessly about being victimised. 🙄

Ramaphosa, in what could only be seen as a jab at Magashule, praised Duarte: “She stood firm against those who would sow division, who were interested only in personal advancement… to the neglect of the needs of the people.”

SpicyCyril™ is our favourite Cyril. 😆

Duarte was recruited by Albertina Sisulu in the 1970s to establish women’s structures throughout SA. In 1988, she was detained without trial until the state of emergency was lifted in 1990. She also served as personal assistant to both Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, and was chief operations officer in the presidency.

Duarte wasn’t without controversy. In an audio recording leaked in April 2021, she was heard telling ANC leaders that Zuma shouldn’t appear before Judge Raymond Zondo. Duarte also believed that ANC members were right to put the party ahead of the country.

As Haffajee put it, Duarte’s legacy is “layered and complex like the country she gave her life to building”.

7. UK heatwave highlights climate change urgency  

Roads buckled from the heat, houses went up in flames, trains were cancelled and tech giants suffered outages as cooling systems failed at London data centres. The UK’s record-breaking heat wave ramped up on Tuesday, when the country recorded a high of over 40C – the highest temperature it had ever experienced! And there’s no relief in sight – experts are predicting another heatwave next month. 😳 

While 40C may sound like a normal hot summer day in Africa, the UK’s homes, roads and train tracks are not built to withstand such temperatures. Heat like this is typically expected in the UK once every 100 to 300 years.

Meanwhile 13 people drowned as they tried to cool off in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and the like, since the heatwave began on 9 July. 

Climate change is starting to become real, not only for the UK but for the rest of the world too. It’s time for governments to fast-track global efforts to confront the escalating crisis. 

What we are seeing in Britain and other parts of the world is a result of poor decision-making by world leaders. Remember the 2015 Paris agreement? The legally binding treaty that 196 parties signed at the global climate talks (COP21) aimed to keep global temperatures well below a 2C increase, preferably below 1.5C. Yet world leaders have repeatedly failed to meet targets, despite the clear urgency as abnormal weather events happen more frequently. 

This year’s COP27, which will be held in Egypt in November, must do better.

8. The Public Protector files

It’s been a whirlwind of revelations from the ongoing impeachment inquiry of embattled public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Whistleblower Tebogo Kekana, a former senior investigator in the office of the public protector, claimed that he was asked to remove the names of implicated politicians on the Vrede dairy farm report by the Public Protector. 

Kekana also claimed that Mkhwebane gave an order to unlawfully amend the constitutional mandate of the Reserve Bank based on directions from the State Security Agency (SSA). Kekana claimed that he was asked not to record a meeting with David Mahlobo, who was state security minister of the time, Arthur Fraser and Mkhwebane. “She also instructed me to not take any notes during the meeting. I was extremely surprised by both of these instructions. They were entirely out of the ordinary.” Spy puppet much?

Ramaphosa is also one we’re side eyeing. 👀 The president has missed his extended deadline to reply to questions from the Public Protector regarding the burglary at his Phala Phala game farm. CupCake will now be subpoenaed in an investigation to determine whether he broke the executive ethics code or not. Now that the PP office is seemingly run by more competent people, Ramaphosa really should act more promptly. 

The revelations about Mkhwebane reveal that we’ve been dealing with an inept Public Protector who couldn’t even make her own decisions. We’re glad she’s on her way out! Ramaphosa, on the other hand, needs to account for Phala Phala and let us know what happened. You’re a little too quiet there, Mr President. 

9. Solutions: Rebuilding SA’s devastated cotton industry

Africa has long grappled with how its textile and garment industry was ravaged by cheap Chinese imports, devastating farmers and local businesses. 

SA was particularly hard hit after it opened up to trade with China in the late nineties. 

Retailers built their profits off cheap Chinese fabric, driving local cotton producers out of business and decimating the industry. In the 1990s, South Africa produced almost 80,000 tonnes of cotton lint. By 2012 that number had decreased by 90%, Business Insider reports. The Chinese started manufacturing low-quality textiles with indigenous African patterns that were sold at low prices, driving the real deal out of business. 

Now major fashion retailers such as Mr Price, Foschini and Truworths are part of the solution, and are investing in small-scale local cotton farmers. 

It is a bitter pill to swallow for some activists, who note these retailers were responsible for the country’s once-thriving cotton industry falling apart. 

At a recent event on the issue, Natasja Ambrosio, the head of sustainable value chain for cotton at the Mr Price Group, vowed to do better.

“Yes, retail has to… acknowledge that it was part of the decisions that were made in the past that impacted the industry significantly,” said Ambrosio.

She said the majority of Mr Price’s procurement had shifted to Africa in recent years, with up to 75% of some of Mr Price’s businesses relying solely on local production. 

It’s a long overdue solution. Here’s to consumers like us who have pushed for more sustainable fashion in our purchasing choices. Let’s keep up the fight. ✊

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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