Edcon’s flagship store, Edgars, has been struggling to find its place among modern South African consumers, who are enjoying shopping at international stores like H&M and Zara.

Earlier this month the company reported a quarterly sales decline. According to an article published by the Sunday Times, Edcon decided a few years ago to go with more fashionable expensive assortments and they forgot about their heartland customer, which is at the very centre of the business.

“If they are not selling the merchandise they have in their stores then they have to change their strategy, and Edcon appears to have been through some major changes,” Andrew Jennings, former president of Saks Fifth Avenue, GM of Harrods and MD of Woolworths, and author of Almost is Not Good Enough – How to Win or Lose in Retail, is quoted as saying.

Over the past decade, Edcon has struggled with leadership as its three CEOs have made some notable strategic blunders. The company has been in operation for 89 years. As of March 2017, Edgars had 1 343 stores including 187 stores in eight countries outside of South Africa.
Edcon has been selling off stores – the Legit store chains, with the exception of those operating in Botswana, were sold effective 29 January 2017 and the Edgars Shoe Gallery store chains closed during the 2017 financial year.

In addition, Edcon has closed 253 stores – but this has left the retailer with too many leases in malls and no brands to fill the empty space

According to The Sunday Times, the store has been trying to find a solution to this empty floor space and as such has introduced a coffee shop into its Eastgate Mall store called Made Café . This serves both to use up empty space and to act as a drawcard to the store, following the modern consumer trends.

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) will investigate Standard Bank’s new credit card fee, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The bank has been charging a standalone monthly “card fee” of between R10 and R210 to customers who use its credit cards only, with the fee depending on the type of card the customer uses.

The card fee was implemented at the beginning of 2018 and is charged in addition to the monthly service fee of R40.

According to the NCR, the Credit Act has a closed list of charges a credit provider can levy on customers – and the card fee is not one of them.

The NCR said it would investigate Standard Bank’s card fee and take approporiate action if the fee is found to be illegal.

According to Standard Bank’s pricing guide for 2018, the card fees are as follows:

Gold, Blue, and Access cards – R10.00
Titanium standalone – R25.00
Platinum standalone – R40.00
World Citizen standalone – R210.00

The report follows SA Consumer Satisfaction Index results in 2017 showing that Standard Bank customers are the least satisfied.

Standard Bank did not respond to requests for comment sent by the Sunday Times.

Source: MyBroadband

We have been here before: glued to our screens on the promise that Jacob Zuma is about to lose his job. Time and time again, he survives, and we’re left to rue our premature excitement. SONA 2018 may have just changed all that.

President Jacob Zuma could well be on the cusp of a recall. When you think about all his previous scandals, then it becomes apparent this is an incredibly tight spot for the President.

Does no SONA mean no Zuma?
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete stood on the steps of Parliament, and delivered a damaging announcement to Zuma’s bid for survival. Mbete revealed that the threat of disruptions led to her writing to the President asking him to postpone.

At the same time, Mbete said they were informed that President Zuma was already in the process of writing to her to request a postponement.

It seems today like the ANC are finally putting the final nail in the coffin of Count Zuma. Yes, he’s risen from the dead before – staying in a job against improbable odds – but now it seems his political career is six feet under. This judgement on SONA 2018 is something not even the Teflon one can recover from.

Will Jacob Zuma lose his job on Wednesday 7 February?

The ANC NEC cancelled a long-awaited and historic meeting that was to be held-today, in which the future of the President was to be discussed. Don’t be fooled by all the diplomatic language, here. They want Zuma out, and are pushing harder than ever before.

If Jacob Zuma had any long term future with as a leader, he needed to deliver SONA. It would have been a defiant statement of staying power, and a bruising PR defeat for Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to revitalise the ANC.

Will he resign?
Despite the very public lack of support from him in the government’s hierarchy, it is our view he still won’t go of his own accord. And the only way out from here will be a recall, which looks set to be confirmed this week.

In Mbete’s Cape Town Address, she effectively condemned JZ to the politcal wilderness. The Speaker seemingly suggested that SONA cannot happen whilst Zuma is the Head of State:

“The postponement will be no longer than one week. We need to consider the mood of the country, and only go ahead when we know we’ll have a very productive SONA.”

“We have been meeting with ANC stakeholders and participants since last Monday. We aren’t just looking at logistics, we’re listening to our political voices. We are continuing to interact with Cyril Ramaphosa on this, for when we talk about Parliament, we talk to this office.”

When will SONA 2018 take place?
Interestingly, Mbete said she’d expect to see SONA take place next week. So it would seem she feels Zuma hasn’t much, if any, time left. ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu also stuck the knife in, saying that the party “welcomes the decision made in Parliament”. He wouldn’t be drawn on when Zuma would face recall, though.

If this is Zexit eve, then it looks like he’s going down fighting. The certain indignity of a recall may just be the most fitting end to a Presidency swamped with problems.

By Tom Head for The South African 

On Tuesday morning, a financial research group called Viceroy released a report looking into the business model and practices of South African lender Capitec. It is damning in the extreme, accusing Capitec of “predatory finance” and massively overstating its performance and value. Capitec will collapse, says Viceroy, unless it is placed under curatorship by the authorities. Here’s what you need to know so far.

What is Capitec?

It’s a South African micro-finance provider which does business mainly with low-income South African consumers. It has been garlanded with awards for its innovative practices and high share prices.

What is Viceroy?

Good question, because until a few months ago few people in South Africa had heard of them. Viceroy is a financial research outfit consisting of three people working between New York and Australia. Viceroy is a deliberately low-profile company with a WordPress website, on which it describes itself as “a group of individuals that see the world differently”.

Viceroy started releasing reports on big companies in 2016, but only attracted South African interest after publishing a report exposing Steinhoff a day after the company admitted accounting irregularities. Now Viceroy has gone in guns blazing for Capitec.

So they’re like a financial version of activist group Anonymous?

That might be pushing it, because there is speculation that Viceroy also shorts stocks on the basis of its information. There is definitely a financial motive to their research as well as an altruistic dimension. Earlier this month, they told Fin24 that they had made donations to South African charities after the Steinhoff exposure, and claimed: “Our ethos is protecting consumers, investors and integrity by making sure all the facts are known.”

What does Viceroy have to say about Capitec?

Nothing flattering. In a 33-page report released on Tuesday morning, Viceroy says that its analysis of Capitec’s reports, study of legal papers and interviews carried out with former Capitec clients and employees reveals a South African enterprise engaging in “predatory finance”.

Capitec is preying upon low-income South Africans, Viceroy suggests, by offering instantly accessible credit via ATMs to people. Customers can be charged interest rates of 155% on a single loan. Viceroy has also obtained affidavits from clients who say that when their first loans with Capitec became too big, Capitec granted them further loans – which clients could not afford – to repay the first loan.

In effect, Viceroy charges that Capitec is acting like a snazzier version of a backstreet loan shark.

Why would Capitec offer loans to people who can’t afford them?

That’s the question which cuts to the heart of the micro-finance industry in South Africa. In Capitec’s case, Viceroy claims that the lender took home more than 20% of its 2017 earnings in loan fees. Viceroy says that Capitec also concealed the extent of its unpaid loans by constantly issuing new loans to refinance the old ones.

Are Viceroy’s claims true?

That remains to be seen. Its Steinhoff report was “hailed as highly professional and accurate”, according to Moneyweb.

The South African Reserve Bank, however, told Fin24 on Tuesday morning that according to the information SARB has at its disposal, Capitec is “solvent, well capitalised and has adequate liquidity”.

What does Capitec have to say for itself?

Its sole public statement on the matter at time of writing had been via social media. Capitec tweeted on Tuesday morning that it had “taken note” of the report. “We are currently in the process of investigating the report in detail and will respond immediately,” it said.

In a hastily sent-off memo to shareholders, however, Capitec was conceding nothing. It described the Viceroy report as “filled with factual errors, material omissions in respect of legal proceedings against Capitec and opinions that are not supported by accurate information”.

By Rebecca Davis for The Daily Maverick

The rand eased in early trade on Tuesday, relinquishing some of the gains it notched up in a previous session on news that the ruling political party, the ANC was deciding whether to cut short president Jacob Zuma’s tenure as head of state.

According to a report by Reuters, the currency is expected to trade in the range of R12.00 to R12.25 on Wednesday, after it eased off its highs against the dollar during European trade on Monday.
The currency is tracking a wave of positive sentiment following the appointment of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, as ANC leader in December, while the ruling party’s top leadership has also decided that Zuma must leave office, with speculation about the timing.

Ramaphosa is expected to adopt more business-friendly policies, even though he enjoys the support of the communist party and the biggest labor union federation. His election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 10% last month.

At 09h55 on Tuesday, the rand softened against the dollar, but firmed against the pound and the euro:
• Dollar/Rand: R12.09 0.33%
• Pound/Rand: R16.90 -0.13%
• Euro/Rand: R14.83 -1.43%

A report by The Guardian late on Monday reiterated that plans are in place to oust Zuma within the next two weeks, despite comments from secretary general Ace Magashule that NEC had not yet made a decision on the future of the current president.

Investec Bank economist Annabel Bishop said in a note at the start of the week that the rand could strengthen to as much as R11 to the dollar, should the president be forced to step down.
Further strengthening would also cause fuel price cuts and place downward pressure on inflation, with the possibility of the rand moving towards R10 to the dollar should Ramaphosa continue to make reforms and promote growth, she said.

Bloomberg market analyst Robert Brand also remained positive on the currency, stating that it was possible for Ramaphosa to continue the rally by continuing to clamp down on corrupt state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, and possibly even move away from some of the ANC’s more populist ideas (such as land reform) so as to encourage continued foreign investment.

Source: BusinessTech

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is hoping to seize at least R50bn in 17 cases it is currently investigating related to state capture, acting head of operations advocate Knorx Molelle said on Tuesday.

In an interview with eNCA, Molelle said his team had already prioritised six matters which were before the courts, awaiting preservation orders.

“The matters are before the court and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will have court orders,” he said.

The AFU has already taken action against two Gupta-linked companies – Trillian and McKinsey – hoping to recoup R1.6bn in assets related to consultancy work done by the companies for Eskom and Transnet.

Through their engagements, Trillian had indicated a willingness to co-operate, Molelle said.

“We are quite confident that, in the next day or two, we would have recovered the funds that have been taken away.”

Assets would only be attached as a last resort, he said.

“If there is willingness with those that we are dealing with that they are prepared to make good, the actual physical removal will be a last resort.

“An engagement that we having is absolutely critical. We are sitting and resting with the comfort that should that not bare any fruits, we also identified the relevant assets from which we can recover.”

Mollelle said the matter should be finalised within the next two days.

The AFU was investigating six other matters in which they were hoping to recoup money in the current financial year, he added.

‘We are working at our utmost best’

The money would be deposited into the Criminal Asset Recovery account and reinvested into fighting crime or to the state, where needed.

Acting head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, advocate Malini Govender, could not clearly say when individuals would be prosecuted in cases related to state capture, only commenting that it was a complicated matter that needed time for thorough investigation.

“We have only been dealing with this since March, so you cannot expect that in a month or two months we are going to take something to court. We are working at our utmost best and hardest in ensuring there is sufficient traction to get this matter to court,” she said.

The NPA – together with National Treasury, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and the AFU – had an 18-man team dedicated to the “eight legged” state capture investigations, she added.

Seven of the investigation’s “legs” came from former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture, while the eighth stemmed from a separate complaint.

Both officials denied any interference by the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.

“At no stage did he give any instruction that we do not proceed. In fact, at some stage he was… anxious at what he perceived to be a slow pace,” Molelle said.

14 Gupta-linked companies and individuals to have their assets frozen

At least 14 people and entities linked to the alleged corruption by Gupta-linked company Trillian and international consultancy firm McKinsey have been identified in a preservation order obtained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

The AFU is going after the big shots at Trillian and McKinsey. The people named in the court order include Eric Wood, who is Trillian CEO; Trillain CFO Tebogo Leballo; Prakash Parbhoo, a partner at McKinsey; and Jean Pierre Goerges Desvaux, who is a senior partner and managing partner at McKinsey.

The court order also identifies Trillian property in the high-end business precinct Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

Others named in the order include: Veronica Magwentshu, Thabiso Legoete, Johannes Faure, Daniel Roy, Trillian Capital Partners, Trillian Finanical Advisory, Trillian Management Consulting, Trillian Properties, Trillian Securities, McKinsey and Company Africa, and “any other person who becomes known to the applicant as having an interest in the property.

By Lizeka Tandwa and Mahlatse Mahlase for News24

President Jacob Zuma will face a fresh bid to force him from office when the ANC’s top leadership meets this week for the first time since he relinquished control of the party to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

A proposal to order Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 will be discussed at a Wednesday meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee in East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zuma’s scandal-tainted tenure has eroded support for the ANC.

The NEC’s 86 voting members are divided into two loose factions – one that backed Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as party leader at the ANC’s national conference last month and another that’s allied to Zuma and favoured his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.

Ramaphosa won the contest with just 52% of the vote, giving him a tenuous hold over the party, and it remains unclear where exactly the balance of power lies within the panel, which usually takes decisions by consensus.

“Given Cyril Ramaphosa’s emphasis on renewing the ANC, doing things afresh, it makes all the sense that the matter should be a priority agenda issue,” Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political science professor at the University of Johannesburg, said by phone.

“If it is raised and the motion is defeated, then that is a serious worry. It would be indicative that he does not have everyone behind him. It would make him a very weak president.”

Graft charges

The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma, 75, took office in May 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him.

He’s spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family to influence Cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.

Euphoria following Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 11% last month, the most among the world’s major currencies. The rand declined 0.9% to 12.4318/$ at 16:06 on Monday, as analysts at Rabobank and JPMorgan Chase said the currency has rallied too far.

Corruption clampdown

Ramaphosa said the ANC, which marked the 106th anniversary of its founding on Monday, needed to lead by example and that its leaders needed to serve with humility, modesty and commitment.

“We will adopt a value system to root out corruption within our ranks,” he said at a wreath-laying ceremony at Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal. “Corruption undermines the interest of our people as a whole.”

While unsuccessful bids to oust Zuma were made at NEC meetings in November 2016 and March last year, a number of its members have changed since the elective conference in December. His second and final term is due to end around mid-2019.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the NEC meeting agenda had yet to be determined, but the issue of Zuma’s early departure could be raised. “There are no no-go areas in that meeting,” Kodwa said by phone.

Darias Jonker, an Africa analyst at risk-advisory firm Eurasia Group, expects Zuma’s ouster to be delayed until the second quarter of the year even though his continued presence in office may hamper the ANC as it gears up to contest elections in 2019.

“Ramaphosa must still tolerate Zuma allies in the NEC and minimise tensions within the party by not appearing to have a personal agenda against Zuma,” Jonker said.

“Zuma loyalists, such as newly elected Secretary General Ace Magashule, remain in key party positions.”

Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday, shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

The 93-year-old clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling Zanu-PF party, which also told him to leave power.

Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.

The origin of Mugabe’s sudden downfall lies in rivalry between members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule. The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Zanu-PF’s favourite to succeed him, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

Mnangagwa, a former security chief known as The Crocodile, is expected to take over as president.

Source: Business Live

Treasury capture is something to fear

Pravin Gordhan’s axing as finance minister just more than six months ago was met with consternation, which was made worse by the man who replaced him.

Here was Malusi Gigaba – the man who had used his position as minister of public enterprises to lay the ground for the Gupta family to plunder Transnet, Eskom, Denel and other state-owned companies – being entrusted with running Treasury, the state’s most important ministry.

Many cried foul, arguing that the move was akin to entrusting a ravenous wolf with care of the sheep.

At the time, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema told reporters in Johannesburg that “[President Jacob] Zuma has captured Treasury, which means the Guptas have captured Treasury. He has achieved what he always wanted to achieve.”

At Gigaba’s swearing-in ceremony at the presidential guest house in Pretoria on March 31, local and foreign journalists mobbed him, demanded answers about everything from his suitability for the job to the impact his appointment would have on credit ratings.

He stunned the media with well choreographed responses. He appeared to be a man who had his job figured out.

A few days later, referring to a Save SA protest outside his office, Gigaba told his staff: “Forget all the noise outside. Do your jobs. What you see and hear will pass. Change brings with it such anxieties.”

Shortly after his appointment, rumours began swirling that Gigaba, who harbours presidential ambitions, was ready to disentangle himself from the intricate state capture network.

Many hoped he would hold off-the-record briefings with senior journalists and editors to inform them about how he would free himself from the web of Zuma’s friends, the Guptas.

One senior news executive told me this week that Gigaba’s people had arranged a meeting with him. It never took place.

Just what the doctor ordered

It is near impossible to completely capture the South African state without placing National Treasury on a leash.

This is not only because Treasury allocates each department its annual budget, but because through its public finance unit, it monitors government expenditure and reins in wayward ministers, directors-general and chief executives of state-owned entities.

Through the office of the chief procurement officer (CPO), Treasury monitors compliance with tender regulations and is able to refuse government departments permission to break the rules.

Having axed Nhlanhla Nene, Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas for their refusal to sign off on the nuclear deal (among other reasons), Zuma needed someone whose conscience had been dulled.

What better man than Gigaba?

A trusted lieutenant, and a man whose footprints – a damning report by prominent academics found – will feature prominently in the story of how the Gupta highwaymen pulled off their great South African robbery.

A desktop review of Gigaba’s six months in the Treasury reveals a terrifying picture. Cabinet’s decision to move the budget allocation process from Treasury to the presidency has nothing to do with Gigaba.

But is it just a coincidence that something which has been coming since 2015 was implemented as soon as he arrived?

When all the make believe explanations are stripped away, only one reason remains for why Zuma’s Cabinet arrived at this decision.

The reason, as one senior government executive put it, is “for anyone who wants resources for projects that cannot be motivated for in the open to use nefarious means to achieve the directing of the budget one way or the other”.

This becomes increasingly clear when we take into account the fact that the budget allocation process is handled by an interministerial committee. All ministers have an opportunity to motivate for priority projects.

If the committee influences budget allocation, why would Cabinet want it handed to a presidency with neither the technical skill nor the research capacity to do the job?

The battle for the soul of Treasury

Two weeks ago, City Press reported that Gigaba had established a parallel administration, effectively undermining Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane.

Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete denied the allegations.

But as fate would have it, minutes of a meeting City Press obtained revealed that acting CPO Willie Mathebula was undertaking a sweeping restructuring of his office without Mogajane’s knowledge.

The minutes revealed that, while Mogajane was in the dark about the proposed changes, Mathebula had already met Gigaba and his deputy Sfiso Buthelezi to discuss the restructuring.

The proposed changes reveal something sinister underway at Treasury: that Mathebula, Gigaba and Buthelezi were concerned that the office of the CPO “was a dictator and not an enabler” and believed the office “did not consult” their counterparts in other departments.

More alarmingly, they discussed withdrawing the office’s governance, monitoring and compliance (GMC) unit’s powers to decide if departments’ requests for tender deviations and extensions were justified.

The refrain that Treasury is a dictator, a de facto government, or a stumbling block to development is not new. It is a common refrain we hear from Zumarite ministers such as Nomvula Mokonyane.

In February, the Sunday Times reported that Zuma himself had expressed frustration about Treasury’s processes.

Zuma and Mokonyane’s unhappiness stems from their repeated failure to get Treasury to approve the nuclear deal, estimated at R1 trillion, the R56bn Moloto rail development; and the R14bn Mzimvubu water projects.

Cabinet wants to appoint Chinese companies, without any bidding process, to finance and build the last two.

A Treasury report City Press reported on in April showed how the ministry put a stop to a government-to-government procurement agreement between Zuma’s administration and the Kremlin for a Russian company to finance and build nuclear power stations.

But without the GMC’s approval for projects to bypass legal tender processes, these megacontracts will never see the light of day.

It is for this reason that Mathebula, Gigaba and Buthelezi’s mission to hobble the GMC should set off alarms.

In the 18 months to June, the GMC halted more than 200 tenders amounting to more than R4 billion from being awarded through “deviations” – which include false emergencies and other excuses about single suppliers and continuity of service.

Treasury’s deviation reports do not attach values to numerous other requests for deviation which the GMC blocked during the same period.

They could easily amount to hundreds of millions of rands.

South Africans should not allow Gigaba and co to curtail the GMC’s powers.

One reason is that Eskom’s R1.6bn in questionable contracts with management consulting firm McKinsey and Gupta-front Trillian were awarded through deviations before the GMC was established.

Should Gigaba manage to neutralise it, it would be open season on tenders across government. This would be the final step in the capture of the state.

By Sipho Masondo for City Press. Published on News24

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