CR 2 – PP 0 | Rand drops 3% in a week | Epstein cell death questions | Protesters shut down Hong Kong airport


CR 2 – PP 0

When does public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane losing a court case stop becoming news? It’s becoming an everyday occurence and she was at it again today when the Gauteng High Court granted President Cyril Ramaphosa an interdict against remedial action she demanded in her report on a R500,000 donation by Bosasa to his ANC presidential campaign. The remedial action – which included disclosing funders to parliament and an investigation into alleged money-laundering by the campaign – will now be put on hold until a court review of the report is completed. Mkhwebane did not oppose Ramaphosa’s application. Meanwhile a list of the funders was leaked to The Sunday Independent – which has aligned itself with the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC – just as the presidency announced it was going to apply for part of the evidence to be sealed. Any bets on who leaked it? Last week Ramaphosa won an interdict in the same court against having to take remedial action against Pravin Gordhan … on the basis of another of Mkhwebane’s disputed reports.

Hong Kong airport shut down

The increasingly bitter clashes in Hong Kong took an ominous turn today when protesters shut down the airport and China denounced violent demonstrations as ‘terrorism’. All flights in and out of Hong Kong – one of the world’s busiest airports – were cancelled. The protests have been going on for 10 weeks now and police have reportedly begun a crackdown that includes arrests of individuals from their homes. The protests are broadly about Chinese encroachment on the civil liberties enjoyed in the region. This morning some 5,000 protesters descended on the airport to denounce police violence. 

Kashmir crackdown

Another potentially explosive situation is developing in Kashmir after India revoked its autonomy. Tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed into the region amid a communications blackout. The Muslim-dominated Kashmir and neighbouring Jammu regions enjoyed a special status in India with their own constitutions and legislative powers, but this was withdrawn by decree last week. Pakistan and India have fought a war over the region previously and over the weekend Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan likened the Indian move to Nazi ideology. He warned the international community that turning a blind eye would be similar to appeasing Adolf Hitler.

Epstein cell death questions

Jeffrey Epstein, the accused sex trafficker and convicted paedophile, was found dead in his New York cell on Friday in spite of being on a suicide watch. Epstein had hung out with many powerful Americians, including current and former US presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and his death has given rise to a thousand conspiracy theories. Epstein was awaiting trial on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex. Prison authorities say his death was by his own hand, but the fact that it happened within weeks of a previous attempt has raised many eyebrows. US Attorney General Bill Barr has instructed the Justice Department to investigate, saying the death ‘raises serious questions that must be answered’.



Presidential visits in the aftermath of a tragedy are meant to comfort people who are grieving. Not for Donald Trump, though. He thinks they’re photo ops. After the mass shooting at El Paso last week, Trump posed with a two-month-old boy, whose parents Andre and Jordan Anchondo, were shot dead in the massacre. With a massive grin smeared on his face, Trump flashed a thumbs-up. The baby had been brought back to the hospital – reportedly at the request of White House during the visit by the Trumps. During the hospital visit he also happened to boast that he drew a larger crowd at a January rally in the city than one held by ‘crazy’ Beto O’Rourke – a 2020 Democratic contender, who had earlier said he did not want Trump to come to El Paso, after criticising Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. And just to make sure he gets to keep the menace crown, on Saturday Trump promoted claims on Twitter that Bill Clinton was responsible for the death in jail of sex trafficker accused Jeffrey Epstein. The US president accused a former president of assassinating someone to cover up a co-conspiracy of paedophilia. As one wit remarked, Trump is busy impeaching himself at this rate.


Rand drops 3% in a week

The rand continues to be battered and this morning it passed R15.30 to the dollar – a drop of 3% from a week previously. This made it the worst-performing emerging market currency in the week. Market commentators are blaming the US/China trade war as well as the ratings agencies’ negative sentiments about South Africa – Moody’s released a statement that the additional Eskom bailout made available through the Special Appropriation Bill is credit-negative for SA, and Fitch’s revised the country’s outlook from stable to negative. Predictions are that the rand fall will mean higher fuel prices next month.


The weekend that was …

  • Well, who would have believed it: the Springboks won the Rugby Championship on Saturday by beating Argentina 46-13 in Salta. It is the first time the Boks have won the tournament since 2009 (when it was known as the Tri-Nations) and the confident manner of their win and general improvement over the past two years just might suggest they have a shot at the upcoming World Cup in Japan. On the same day the Wallabies sprung a surprise by beating the All Blacks 47-26, but the game ended as a competition before halftime when referee Jérôme Garcès sent off All Black lock Scott Barrett for a shoulder charge. Yesterday England beat Wales 33-17 in a World Cup warm-up match. 
  • Last week Dale Steyn announced his retirement from Test cricket and at the weekend Hashim Amla joined him. Amla will, however, not be playing international cricket in any format again. He notched up several incredible records since his debut in 2004, including being the fastest batsman to score 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 runs in ODIs. His ODI average was 49.46 and in Tests it was 46.64. He also notched up the highest score ever by a South African in a Test – 311. He and Steyn – who began his international career within weeks of Amla – will leave a huge hole.
  • The Currie Cup ain’t what it used to be, but it dished up a thriller in Johannesburg on Saturday when the Blue Bulls downed the Golden Lions 31-26. In Durban the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 27-20. The Bulls moved to the top of the log ahead of Griquas, who had a bye at the weekend.
  • The PSL second round saw results mostly going as expected except Baroka’s 1-0 win against Bidvest Wits. It’s obviously early days – and some of their big rivals have only played one league game – but Kaizer Chiefs moved to the top of the log by beating Black Leopards 1-0. 
  • The English Premier League is underway and the Manchester teams are already one and two thanks to whopping victories. Manchester City beat West Ham 5-0 and United started their season on a high by beating Chelsea 4-0. Liverpool, widely expected to be City’s biggest challenge for the title, beat newly-promoted Norwich 4-1.
  • South African Brad Binder celebrated his 24th birthday in some style yesterday by winning the Austrian Moto2 Grand Prix ahead of championship leader Alex Marquez. It was Binder’s first win since Australia in October last year.


Ugly beauty poll fallout 

Oops. Someone at Metro FM is in hot water following a tweet at the weekend from the radio station’s official account which asked South Africans to rate the new Miss SA’s beauty – ‘stunning, just ok or wrong choice’. The backlash was swift – and Metro FM has distanced itself from the ‘unofficial’ and ‘unapproved’ content, saying it was against their ethos and brand values. Newly-crowned Zozibini Tunzi has said she was not fazed by the tweet  – and would be more concerned if someone had questioned her intelligence. 

Roaring past the records

Disney’s The Lion King smashed several new box office records at the weekend, eclipsing box office takings for all previous musicals – animated or live-acted. It also just became the biggest animated movie of all time and the most successful remake. Its global cumulative takings have now passed $1.334-billion worldwide. It has earned more than Frozen ($1.276 billion) to become the highest-grossing animated movie of all time. It is rapidly closing in on Black Panther which has earned $1.346-billion. 


Celestial spirograph

This little video created by Matthew Henderson, based on data from University of Wisconsin geoscientist Steven Dutch, tracks the mesmerizing patternmade by Venus over an eight-year period as it circles the Earth which in turn circles the Sun. 



From breaking news to breaking wind. Kenyan members of parliament were debating the lack of shade at market stalls when a pfffft ripped through the chamber last week. According to the Mail Online, the fart brought Kenya’s parliament to a shuddering halt … and then MPs accused each other of being responsible for the smell. Or, in playground parlance: who smelt it, dealt it. The bizarre row broke out in Kenya’s Homa Bay county assembly on Wednesday. A lawmaker accused another MP of ‘polluting the air’ in the chamber  but he denied it, saying: ‘I cannot do such a thing in front of my colleagues.’ Proceedings were interrupted for 10 minutes as the speaker ruled that ‘we cannot continue sitting in an environment that smells bad’ and demanded air fresheners be brought. ‘Get whatever flavour you find; whether it’s vanilla or strawberry,’ the speaker told the parliament’s sergeant at arms.  However, the smell had cleared by the time the sergeant had located a can of air freshener. 


Here’s Velempini Ndlovu (@VelempiniN) to lift the Monday Blues:

It’s now 7 months since I joined the gym and nothing has changed. Maybe it’s time I go there personally and find out what’s wrong


Today’s clue, compiled by Sifar, is: Old king’s rule for salad (8)

The solution to thursday’s clue, Gnu – a regrettable American tradition (3,8) is GUN VIOLENCE – an anagram of ‘gnu’. Violence, the invisible anagram indicator, is part of the solution. 


Vogue offers a break from the heavy news load with this look inside the world of bespoke hot dogs. When Tamar Adler decided to hand-make hot dogs for a wedding party, she went in search of the hot dog from her childhood, the perfect and peppery hot dogs that Jesse sold on a dim stretch of  New York. She didn’t find Jesse but her search led her to the ‘Bastard Sauce’ described by its inventor as ‘an orgasm à l’américaine!’. Spoiler alert: Don’t read while hungry. 


There’s lots of bleak stuff out there at the moment so let’s celebrate a great South African – Hashim Amla. His record as a batsman speaks for itself (see the item in the sport stuff above), but it was his calm and amiable demeanour and sportsmanship which really set him apart. Throughout his career Amla managed to stay above the petty (and sometimes outright nasty) gamesmanship that often characterises international contests. He was one of the few cricketers left in the world who ‘walked’ when he knew he was out and the umpire had missed it. He transcended the boundaries that South Africans place around faith and colour to become a much-loved sportsman. He will be remembered as much for the adoring fans who turned up in fake copycat beards as for his wristy strokes.

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