Fewer seek credit as tough times bite

Consumers, many of whom are vulnerable in an environment of rising retrenchments and weak economic growth, are trying to pay down debt.

Consumers adopted a cautious stance to credit applications in the first quarter of 2017, figures from the National Credit Regulator show.

At end-March, credit applications decreased by 998,000 to 9.53-million, representing a quarter-on-quarter decline of 9.5%, the regulator said. Consumers, many of whom are vulnerable in an environment of rising retrenchments and weak economic growth, are trying to pay down debt.

Head of Absa home loans Carel Grönum said last week household debt to disposable income, at 73%, was at its lowest level since the global financial crisis. Credit bureau Compuscan recorded a 13% year-on-year increase in the number of accounts that were more than three months in arrears in the first quarter, suggesting consumers cannot afford to take on more debt.

The total value of new credit granted in the first quarter fell 5.6% from the fourth quarter of 2016 to R116.5bn, representing a 7.5% year-on-year increase, the regulator said. The largest increase was recorded in the developmental credit category, which nearly doubled to R5bn. The value of mortgages granted and of other secured and unsecured credit agreements, fell.

Credit facilities such as credit cards and overdrafts increased moderately, while short-term credit granted also declined.

By Hanna Ziady for Business Day

ANC to punish those who are anti-Zuma

The ANC says it intends to discipline three MPs who openly voiced their opposition to President Jacob Zuma ahead of last week’s motion of no confidence.

The three who did so are former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and MP Makhosi Khoza.

This is according to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who addressed journalists during a roundtable discussion on Tuesday.

Calls from Zuma and his backers grew at the weekend for those who voted against him to be punished.

Mantashe was speaking after a meeting of the party’s national working committee on Monday.

He said the ANC would not hunt down MPs who voted in favour of last week’s motion of no confidence against Zuma‚ but would discipline party members who had confirmed voting with the opposition.

Those who kept their vote a secret would not face any charges, he said.

Mantashe was speaking after a meeting of the party’s national working committee where the matter is said to have dominated discussions.

“There is not going to be a witch hunt. We are not going to do that. (But) where MPs go up and confirm‚ we’ll have to deal with that situation.”

Mantashe also revealed that the ANC would take action in the matter involving Deputy Higher Education and Training Minister Mduduzi Manana.

By Natasha Marrian and Sibongakonke Shoba for Business Day

Hapless Public Protector loses SARB ruling

The legitimacy of the Public Protector’s office and her reputation may be damaged if she takes a dismissive or procedurally unfair approach as she has done in the matter regarding the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Judge John Murphy said.

The judgment, delivered on Tuesday by Justice Cynthia Pretorius on behalf of Murphy, sets aside Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s remedial action.

According to a report issued by the Public Protector’s office in June, which was based on an investigation into the apartheid-era Bankorp bailout, Mkhwebane ordered that the Reserve Bank’s constitutional mandate to protect the currency be changed instead to ensure the socio-economic well-being of citizens and the achievement of socio-economic transformation.
Mkhwebane also ordered the Reserve Bank and the chairperson of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services to submit an action plan before August 18. This has also been set aside.

In his judgment, Murphy said that it is “disconcerting” that Mkhwebane seems “impervious” or “disinclined” to address criticism of her conduct during the investigation.

Murphy acknowledged that the Public Protector has a difficult task and is expected to deal with complex and challenging maters with limited resources and without the “benefit of rigorous forensic techniques”. This would make it easy to make errors in informal alternative dispute resolution processes.

But Murphy added that the Public Protector is the “constitutionally appointed custodian” of legality and due process in the public administration. “She risks the charge of hypocrisy and incompetence if she does not hold herself to an equal or higher standard than that to which she holds those subject to her writ,” he said.

“A dismissive and procedurally unfair approach by the Public Protector to important matters placed before her by prominent role players in the affairs of state will tarnish her reputation and damage the legitimacy of the office.”

Murphy said the Public Protector should reflect “more deeply” on her conduct during this particular investigation, and she should consider the criticism made by the SARB and Parliament.

Professor Jannie Rossouw, head of the Wits School of Economic and Business Science, said that if the matter had gone any other way, it would have been a “constitutional crisis”. “From that perspective it is a very positive judgment,” he said.

‘Maybe she should just resign’

The judgment also raises questions on whether Mkhwebane is fit to hold office, he said. “Maybe she should do the honourable thing and just resign.”

Econometrix chief economist Dr Azar Jammine said the ruling may have damaged the image of the Public Protector, and that some may argue that her days are numbered. He said the ruling showed the strength of South Africa’s institutions and the judiciary.

A different judgment would not have been viewed favourably by ratings agencies, he said.

By Lameez Omarjee for News24

How Zuma killed Stuttafords

Stuttafords officially closed its doors on Monday, 31 July after 159 years of operating in the South African retail market.

The retailer filed for business rescue in October 2016, after it could not recover from the pressures of the low growing economy and the significant devaluation of the rand following the axing of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
A final bid to buy the last two operating stores in Sandton and Eastgate was rejected by the landlord, Liberty. Chief executive Robert Amoils told Fin24 that all staff at the two remaining stores will be retrenched and have their full retrenchment packages paid.

The business is currently undergoing a winding down process which will take a few months to complete. A sale of Stuttafords intellectual property is being finalised by the business rescue practitioners.

Amoils had explained to Fin24 that the business had been on the right path, but simply ran out of time to correct things. “I believe the path we set was correct. I believe the repositioning we did was consistent with what international trends have shown to work,” he said.

“Simply, we ran out of runway, we ran out of time. The market downturn was so swift, so severe and was paralleled with significant [rand] devaluation and political uncertainty.”

Amoils explained that the rand devaluation impacted the business model negatively because commitments were made to buy international brands almost a year in advance. But director at Norton Rose Fulbright and senior insolvency lawyer Haroon Laher said that the downfall could not be pinned down to the economy only.

“I think there were a number of factors. There was a lot of tension between the shareholders which obviously is tension in the house, so to speak. That did not contribute to a successful business rescue.”

Stefan Salzer, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group said that generally the retail sector is under pressure. Particularly in recessionary conditions consumers tend to cut down on spend for discretionary items such as clothing, household appliances and furniture.

“It is tough not to buy food but it is very easy not to buy a TV or buy the latest fashions from Stuttafords,” he said.
Salzer explained that over the past two to three years international clothing retailers had been entering the market, posing another complication for Stuttafords. Amoils previously told Fin24 that the arrival of international players like H&M, Zara and Cotton On had cut into their customer base.

That, coupled with increasing financial pressures on consumers and changing credit regulations did not contribute positively to the environment for clothing retailers, said Salzer.

Indeed, the devaluation of the rand impacted Stuttafords profits, he explained. An item that cost $3 would end up costing more at a later stage due to the sensitivity of the currency. This cost could be borne by the consumers, in the final price charged for the item, or the retailer would have to carry the expense and let profit take a knock.
Stuttafords purveys international brands and this set it in a disadvantage to other local retailers which rely on South African produced and sourced products, explained Salzer.

International players
Salzer said that international players are also clear on what they are, and on what they are not.
These retailers also differentiate between “basics” and fashion items and price these accordingly. For example a basic white T-shirt would be just that. Contrarily South African retailers would sell a “basic” white T-shirt with some print on it. Additionally, South African retailers often do not match pricing for basic and fashion items appropriately. Something considered basic, would be priced as a fashion item.

Local retailers also need to adopt fashion faster as international retailers do, he said. International retailers also have the advantage of scale, they have access to global brands at larger volumes.

South African retailers should also learn to introduce a “theatre of shopping” to inspire people to buy. Some retailers just put items on shelves, which is not as inspiring as having a styled manikin, he explained. A consumer could walk into a store with the idea to buy a T-shirt but then leave with a dress because the product was represented in an emotive and inspirational way, said Salzer.

International players also follow a different model when it comes to planning and buying merchandise, explained Derek Engelbrecht partner and consumer products and retail sector leader at EY. Global brands have a sense of urgency and frequency with which they change offerings.

“That is probably one of the key reasons the department store has battled. In gold old fashioned department store planning, the business would put new things on the shelf when the seasons change.”
“Global brands have worked hard and long to perfect the model where they are able to put items on the shelf every four to six weeks,” he said.

Develop a niche
Globally, the department store is facing challenges, explained Salzer. The way forward is to develop niche or specialist stores. Given South Africa’s mall culture, retailers do not necessarily have to stock all kinds of items under one roof, when a consumer can get these products a few meters away in a different store.

Salzer added that if some retailers still want to diversify their offerings, they need to be clear on the overall theme they are offering, like quality, convenience or affordability. For example a retailer could offer clothing items and cars, if the overall expectation of the offering was quality.

Engelbrecht explained that retailers can no longer be all things to all people. “If you follow approach of being all things to all people at some point your customer will leave you,” he says.

“If you identify the niche or the consumer you are targeting, while it may not appeal to all people, at least you are guaranteed that you created something unique. That is probably where the slow demise of the department store as a concept comes from.”

Engelbrecht also pointed out the importance of retailers adapting to the world in which they operate in.
Before entering business rescue, Amoils said Stuttafords had managed to reposition itself as a provider of cutting edge fashion and offered affordable branded luxury. The customer base was also more reflective of the South African consumer, with over 60% of Stuttafords’ market being black. The group also started focusing on targeting younger, tech-savvy consumers. “We perpetually evolved and I think we did a good job in the last five years,” says Amoils.

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

The Amazon Business office-supply unit has attracted large-business customers, despite a contention by the Federal Trade Commission and a U.S. district-court judge that Amazon would have trouble competing with Office Depot and Staples for these customers.

Amazon.com said its online store for office supplies has logged more than 1 million business customers since launching two years ago — including large firms that U.S. antitrust regulators and a federal court thought it would have trouble luring away from competitors.

The e-commerce giant is trumpeting the client roster of Amazon Business, as the unit is known, as a big success.

It’s 150 percent bigger than in July this past year. And it includes, Amazon says, companies of all sizes, from hospitals and restaurants to local governments and Fortune 50 companies. Amazon cited King County, the U.S. subsidiary of industrial conglomerate Siemens and Stanford University as clients. Amazon didn’t disclose total sales for the year.

Large institutions are key to Amazon’s new venture because they are the turf of rivals Office Depot and Staples, huge suppliers with the expertise to navigate big corporations’ stodgy purchasing practices that hinge on requests for proposal and multiyear contracts guaranteeing discount pricing.

When antitrust officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) contested the proposed $6.3 billion merger between Office Depot and Staples in 2015, the companies contended that Amazon Business, as well as regional office-supply firms, would step up to fill any competitive void left by the combination.

The FTC, the companies said in a statement, “refuses to even acknowledge the rise of new competitors, such as Amazon, and the disruptive effects of the digital economy.”

In May 2016, a U.S. court sided with the FTC. Among the arguments wielded by the court was Amazon Business’ lack of “demonstrated ability” to compete in the business-to-business space “on par” with the combined might of Office Depot and Staples within the three next years.

The judge expressed skepticism that Amazon’s do-it-yourself approach to purchasing would fare well with the bureaucratic requirements of large corporations. “The evidence before the Court simply does not support a finding that Amazon Business will, within the next three years, either compete for large (requests for proposals) in the same way that Office Depot does now, or so transform the industry as to make the RFP process obsolete.”

In a news release Tuesday, Amazon said that its business-to-business platform offers “millions” of products from 85,000 sellers. Other customers highlighted by Amazon were Con Edison of NY, Gwinnett County Public Schools in the Atlanta area, Intermountain healthcare, Johns Hopkins University and the Mayo Clinic.

“We are grateful to our customers for helping us reach this significant milestone,” said Prentis Wilson, vice president of Amazon Business.

By Ángel González for Seattle Times 

Co-working spaces set to shake up property industry

Co-working spaces, the trend that is shaking up the traditional workplace model the world over, is set to cause a dramatic change in how and where people work in South Africa.

Linda Trim, director of FutureSpace – a joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap that offers high end co-working space, says that in 2016, there were approximately 11 000 co-working locations around the world.

“But this figure is expected to more than double to 26 000 by 2020. By comparison, there are approximately 24 000 Starbucks locations worldwide. Taking a cue from the popular reference to the coffee giant’s location strategy, that means there may soon be a co-working space on every corner.”

Trim noted that co-working spaces were increasingly popular with strong demand for FutureSpace’s offices.

“We already have steady 80% occupancy rate only three months after launching.”

FutureSpace plans to open further offices around South Africa, a possibly overseas in 2018 such is the demand.

The biggest shift Trim expects to see in the coming years is that co-workspace will become a key component of many companies’ workplace and real estate strategies — for occupiers and building owners alike.

“Flexible workspace is not just for millennial freelancers or tech startups anymore. Large, multinational companies are increasingly taking on space at flexible workspace operators or integrating shared working spaces into their own environments,” she noted.

For example, Microsoft recently shifted 70% of their sales staff in New York City to flexible workspace. Large employers already make up the fastest growing market for shared workspace provider and many businesses’ preferences are moving toward short-term real estate contracts with flexible provisions.

Companies like IBM and Microsoft have begun to outsource the design, building and management of some of their workspaces to third parties.

Says Trim: “In the same way we now purchase many technologies as services rather than as software, the future of ‘space as a service’ looks bright.

“This model provides companies with a way to access space in an on-demand fashion, drawing on the knowledge of outside experts in a way that frees them to focus on their own core businesses.”

Building owners are also finding opportunities to revitalise underused spaces by transforming them into the type of shared work areas that are increasingly in demand.

Already, many occupiers won’t consider a building without available flexible space. To remain relevant, commercial office buildings will need to create spaces that attract people to connect and collaborate — both within the office and outside of it.

In South Africa, as in the rest of the world, companies will soon need to think more about accessing office space than owning or leasing it.

This paradigm shift will require an evaluation of “core” and “flexible” space needs.

Core space is the real estate a company must rent or own over the long term for the business to function. Flexible space is the real estate that can be deployed quickly without long-term commitment, adjusting in near “real time” based on needs.

“By categorising space needs this way, businesses can make better decisions about how to execute a real estate strategy that minimises cost and maximises opportunities,” Trim adds.

One of the best examples of large companies adopting the flexible co-working workspace approach in Asia is HSBC’s recent contract for 400 desks in WeWork’s Tower 535 in Hong Kong.

“It created the right environment for their staff, working in the same location as other like-minded teams, including Hong Kong’s fin techs and other startups,” says Trim.

By making flexible workspace an integral part of an organisation’s workplace strategy, companies can not only provide employees with a valuable opportunity for choice and connectivity, but they can realise meaningful benefits thanks to flexibility.

In balancing core and flexible space needs, companies can reduce financial risks related to long-term space needs and be nimble in making changes as needed.

“Building owners can benefit from transforming underutilised spaces into shared working areas, which in turn can help attract and retain tenants, “ Trim concludes.

During June 2017 the Information Regulator South Africa (IRSA) released a number of documents on its web site which give an insight into how the IRSA will conduct its work in the coming years.

In this article we will take a look at the Strategic Plan, incorporating the Annual Performance Plan and see what we can learn about the IRSA and the status of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) which fall under the responsibility of the IRSA. In a later article we will look at the various committees that have been established by the IRSA. Before we start it is worth remembering that as the IRSA is an arm of government the approach and terminology used is more aligned to government-speak than that familiar to a commercial or non-state owned entity.

Strategic Plan, incorporating the Annual Performance Plan
This thirty one page document covers the period 2017-2020. This is shorter than the usual five year period used by government entities as the IRSA is entering into operation part way through the current SA government planning cycle. The first point of interest is that there appears to be an attempt to seek independent insight in the assistance sought from the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services in the development of the plan, as is referred to in the “Foreword” signed by the IRSA Chairperson.

The Vision, Mission and Values are laid out in the Strategic Plan and hold no surprises given the mandate of the IRSA. As part of the mandate the core functions are listed (Part A, section 4), in line with the POPIA and PAIA remit of the IRSA and are worth mentioning here:

• Mandate for POPIA: provide education; monitor and enforce compliance; to consult with interested parties; to handle complaints; to conduct research; codes of conduct; facilitate cross-border co-operation.
• Mandate for PAIA: complaints; investigations; assessments of compliance; a list of more than a dozen “additional functions” including both educational and operational issues.

The final item listed under the mandate is the requirement to submit an annual report to the national assembly.
None of this coverage of the mandate is particularly revealing, except the strange imbalance in the way the mandate for POPIA and PAIA have been presented. One might have expected a balanced approach to presenting the mandate in terms of the focus on education, compliance monitoring and other issues for both pieces of legislation. For example we see the term “enforce compliance” being used in relation to POPIA and not being used in the same way in relation to PAIA. Another inconsistency is the explicit emphasis on training Information Officers and Deputy Information Officers under the PAIA mandate and no such explicit reference under POPIA. Could this be a statement of intent or a mere oversight? A similar inconsistency is the involvement of the Public Protector under PAIA but no similar mention of the Public Protector under POPIA. Perhaps the reasons for these inconsistencies will become clear later?

Section 5 of the Strategic Overview focuses on planned initiatives. There are five areas that are listed that the IRSA will be treating as priorities:
• The adoption of the Regulations
• Codes of conduct needs assessment
• Stakeholder engagement
• Analysis of legislation that impacts on its operating environment

A major disappointment is that these initiatives are stated without reference to POPIA or PAIA specifically, and only by implication can be seen to apply more directly to POPIA. What is absent is any sense that enforcement action is a priority (for either POPIA or PAIA), suggesting a less aggressive approach than some have anticipated.
A curious anomaly in terms of a conventional strategic plan is part A section 6 (Litigation) which is presented more as a report back on recent activity than a commitment to be involved in future litigation as part of a strategic commitment.

Section 7 covers the situational analysis. The first two sections focus on the internal procedural matters of interest to the IRSA (performance and organisational environment) and add no value in terms of the external environment, in particular global influences on the performance of a national information regulator and the external political, economic, social, legislative and other influences it operates under. The final part of section 7 covers the IRSA strategic planning process. Sadly therefore the situation analysis adds little value in terms of the local (national) regional (SADC) or continental (AU) context for the work of the IRSA.

Section 8 claims to cover the high level governance structure. Sadly, given the launch the King IV Report and Code™ in the month prior to the IRSA taking office, there is no acknowledgement of then overall approach to ensuring effective governance as outlined in King IV™. Given the intense focus on the performance of the Chairperson of the IRSA in her previous position at the IEC one might expect a more proactive approach to establishing the legitimacy of the IRSA as a governance outcome. In fact section 8 presents more of an organisation chart than a governance structure.
Section 9 covers the budget overview and mid-term expenditure estimates. These clearly demonstrate that the IRSA will be severely limited in its abilities to deliver on its mandate unless there is a significant change to the budget for the period covered. With compensation of employees pegged at a flat R17,486,000.00 for each year from 2017/18 to 2019/2020 there is little chance that the highly knowledgeable, skilled and experience staff required will grow in any meaningful way for the foreseeable future.
The final part of the Strategic Overview (Part A of the document) covers in section 10 strategic outcome oriented goals. There are seven goal listed, and in the next article we will look at these in relation to the strategic objectives and annual performance plan that make up parts B and C of the overall strategic plan document.

By Dr Peter Tobin

A great deal more than an incentive

Networking. Team talks. Incentive programmes. We know it works. Everyone does it. But at Office Active, a proudly Inovocom company, we do it differently – as evidenced by our 9th annual conference in Jo’burg on 28 & 29 July 2017.

We also have lessons to impart; specifically: What is a ‘hard’ incentive campaign? How does a competition portal work? How best can suppliers be included on an ongoing basis? These and other questions were convincingly answered for Office Active, and we’d like to share our insights with you.

But first: the event itself

Uniting our Office Active membership and supporting suppliers into a group of 171 individuals at Emperors’ Palace, we hosted ‘speed meetings’: 12-minute sessions for dealers to briefly chat with suppliers at expo-style stations.

We also held a closed member session, with presentations by Craig Noyle, a director and co-founder of Inovocom, and Martin Stevens from Hewlett-Packard (HP), who addressed our members on business technology.

Then, the highlight: the Rev-Up Rewards Campaign, and the announcement of the winner of this five-month-long programme: Mason Complete Office Solutions. On a Pilot Pen SA ticket, Mason Complete Office Solutions won a R250,000 Toyota Avanza delivery vehicle, which is fully branded with its own corporate identity, as well as those of the five sponsor companies.

How did we pull it off?

With the goals of boosting sales, creating excitement, motivating our dealers, and offering our suppliers real ROI, plus getting all of our conference attendees to stay to the end, we required a truly exceptional initiative. At the same time, we needed to be able to present measurable results.

Members had to ‘rev up’ their purchasing, so we named the programme the ‘Rev-Up Rewards Campaign’ – inspired by the objective of supercharged sales for the period and by the prize of a high-performance delivery vehicle.

To begin with, we reached out to our supplier base to sponsor, and five companies leapt at the opportunity within the first two hours. The five – Rexel Office Products, Tarsus Technologies, Parrot Products, Pilot Pen SA, and Paperlink – contributed equally to a gleaming new Toyota Avanza.

What’s our secret weapon?

Inovocom developed a proprietary software system, to enable us to run the rewards programme from 1 March to 29 July 2017. Here’s how it works:

• Each supplier is allocated a fixed number of tickets to assign to dealers who ‘qualify’ based on sales.
• Suppliers could release their monthly or other deals to members via email and the supplier portal, as well as via national and regional branches.
• To award a ticket to a dealer, the supplier logs into the portal, and the dealer and the supplier both receive SMS confirmation of the process.
• The more tickets a dealer accrues on the system, the greater his/her chance of winning the prize.

Our suppliers were so impressed by the quality and efficiency of this campaign software, that Inovocom was approached to discuss a white-labelled version (enquiries welcome). There is also the potential to extend the Rev-Up initiative to end-user customers via the dealer and, with this, to close the loop.

And what’s next for us?

For next year, which will be Office Active’s 10th birthday, we’re considering 2nd and 3rd prizes, spot prizes, and a great deal more. We’ll be in touch.

For more information, please contact Inovocom on (011) 704 3680 or info@inovocom.co.za

Was Zuma behind the secret ballot?

Monday’s announcement by Baleka Mbete that the motion of no confidence would be decided by secret ballot took many, if not most, people by surprise.

Why did she decide on a secret ballot, when it clearly posed significant political risk to her if the ballot passed?

This question became even more intriguing when it emerged that she did not consult with the ANC NEC and that even they were caught by surprise.

Some analysts argued that the legal advice and opinions presented to her were so convincing that she did not have a choice. That might well be true, although it should be said that her political future would still have been more important to her than the possibility of losing in court again.

Some journalists went further and questioned whether she had gone “rogue” and whether this decision was not only her way of redeeming herself as a politician and thus securing her legacy, but also that the possibility of being interim president (should the motion have passed) might have been her way off kicking off her own presidential campaign.

I don’t think that this was convincing. First of all it posed an enormous risk for her in terms of her standing in the ANC should the vote have gone against President Zuma. We have to remember that a majority of NWC, NEC and arguably even branch members still support the Zuma faction. More importantly if Mbete was seen to have strengthened the hand of the opposition and so caused a victory to them, her standing in the ANC and in the Presidential race would have been fatally damaged. As much as there might be a growing discontent in the ANC about President Zuma, that does not translate into ANC members being comfortable with an opposition victory of any sort.

So what was going on?

I believe that President Zuma not only agreed to a secret ballot, but wanted it.

I find it implausible that Mbete (who is also Chairperson of the ANC) did not consult with Zuma before making her decision. Failure to do so would be strange in any political party, but given its culture of collective decision-making, much more so for the ANC. I also do not believe that Mbete would have gone directly against the president’s wishes unless it was agreed to by the NEC (which we know was not the case).

This leaves only one alternative and that is that President Zuma decided to take a calculated risk, i.e. that he argued “Bring it on”. This would be typical of him. He would have known that if he were to survive the motion through a secret ballot, it would be the ultimate victory for him, thus effectively silencing any opposition voices inside the ANC and also making any further votes of no-confidence highly unlikely in the next few months.

It would also explain why Mbete waited until the day before the debate to make the announcement. If indeed the president was in favour of a secret ballot, he would have requested or more likely instructed Baleka to only make it known the night before the vote in order to a) give the anti-Zuma faction as little time as possible to mobilise and b) to give the ANC the maximum time to “intimidate” or put pressure on their own members – as we have indeed seen happening in the last few weeks.

And of course the gamble paid off from Zuma’s perspective. Only 177 members voted against the motion. This does mean that 28 or 29 ANC members most likely voted with the opposition and 9 abstained. Although significantly more than most people anticipated, it is a long way from the 201 votes that would have been required to pass the motion.

I have always maintained that if Mbete ruled for a secret ballot it would signal that she and the ANC were sure that the motion would not pass. I was right. I also warned that as a country we could be worse off after a vote of no confidence and I think we are.

President Zuma got what he wanted, courtesy of the opposition parties. After this vote he is stronger than ever before, no matter how hard the opposition will try and spin the fact that many ANC MPs voted for the motion. The outcome of the vote has effectively silenced any opposition to Zuma in the ANC at least until December. And it might even have for now strengthened his hand in terms of the outcome of the Electoral Conference.

The motion of no confidence was without doubt spectacular political theatre. Sadly, however, now that the curtain has fallen, South Africa is probably worse off than before.

By Melanie Verwoerd for News24

City of Joburg hit by malware

The City of Johannesburg has said it suspected that malware has infected one of the servers hosting its Web site, causing major downtime last week.

This is just one in a long string of woes for the city.

The billing system, inherited from the ANC when the DA won the metro, has been in crisis for some months. The City tried to fix it by rolling out a new system, which automatically requires payment on the 15th of the month unless rate payers ask for it to be the 28th, by way of e-mail or the call centre.

As a result of the change in date, as well as a lack of postal notices and SMS notices, many household have unintentionally fallen behind in payment – or worse, have not, but have been cut off anyway. Re-instatement of electricity is a costly and time-consuming exercise, and falling behind on payments can impact credit ratings.

Local councillors instructed their ward members to use the CoJ Web site to ensure they know what they owe and don’t fall behind on payments.

However, the city’s website – https://joburg.org.za/ – was inaccessible through browsers like Google Chrome for almost two days last week, due to a malware warning from Google.

When attempting to access the site, Google’s safe browsing warning turns users away, stating that it contains harmful content – including pages that “send visitors to harmful websites”.

The city said it was aware of the issue, and had an investigation underway.

“Preliminary indications suggest that one of the servers hosting the website may be infected with malware. It is also possible that the outage may be a result of corrupted code,” said the City of Johannesburg.

“Fortunately, the city’s customer data has not been compromised as it resides in separate servers.”

According to the ZACR’s records, the City of Johannesburg is the registrant of the domain, while Internet Solutions is the sponsoring registrar.

Although the issues with the site have since been fixed, it leaves many questioning what kind of security is in place for one of the city’s most important databases.

Source: MyBroadband; My Office News

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