The wheels, rims and axles are flying off the SABC wagon as staff threaten a news blackout.

Senior SABC managers, including journalists, are seeking an urgent meeting with the public broadcaster’s board to discuss recent editorial decisions by chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Failure by the board to meet staff would result in a news blackout, staff warned.

The proposed blackout follows yesterday’s resignation of the SABC’s acting CEO Jimi Matthews over what he called a “corrosive atmosphere”.

This morning more pressure will be exerted on Motsoeneng as the DA says it will picket outside SABC headquarters in Auckland Park demanding Motsoeneng vacate his office. The DA says Motsoeneng has proved he is not a fit and proper person to manage the SABC.

SABC journalists have told The Times that Hlaudi rules like a dictator and that anyone who opposes him is axed. The proposed blackout would see staff come to work but doing nothing to get the news out.

Another senior news producer said they would fight to regain control and prove to the public that they were not all “captured”.

“There are forces at play here and they are using Hlaudi to capture the SABC. We are going back to the old days and we will fight to the end to regain our editorial independence,” said a radio news producer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation. SA National Editors’ Forum executive director Mathatha Tsedu said on possible blackouts: “Sanef has no view on the steps SABC staff would take. It’s a democratic country and they can do whatever they like.the staff are the ones in pain and in the middle of it and they know how to deal with it.”

Yesterday Matthews shocked the public when he said: “For months I have compromised values that I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside.What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it.”

The “corrosive atmosphere” is created by, among other things, Motsoeneng’s order that no images of violent protests be shown on TV news broadcasts.

The blackouts are being contemplated after a letter was written by SABC executive producers Busisiwe Ntuli and Krivani Pillay and senior investigative journalist Jacques Steenkamp requesting a meeting with the board.

The letter is believed to be behind Matthews’ resignation. It follows the suspension of economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, Radio Sonder Grense executive editor Foeta Krige and journalist Suna Venter.

They were suspended for disagreeing with Motsoeneng’s orders to not report on anti-censorship protests at the SABC’s offices.

Matthews, head of the SABC’s group radio and TV editors and general managers, wrote to Motsoeneng on Sunday stating its newsrooms had become sources of “derision, despair and criticism”.

“The developments have heightened this sense of fear, lack of clarity about our journalists’ responsibility and low staff morale.”

The executive producers’ letter criticised the removal of the SABC’s newspaper slots and The Editors on SAfm’s AM Live, which they say amounts to censorship.

In their letter they say: “As journalists having to operationalise the policies of this public institution, we feel aggrieved that journalistic integrity continues to be compromised. We wish to register our deep concern for our colleagues who have been suspended for expressing their right to freedom of expression by simply debating and assessing the newsworthiness of events as expected.”

They say the latest pronouncements “fundamentally erode the right of the public to know the whole story about developments in their communities.

“These pronouncements effectively render our newsrooms incapable of providing compelling audiovisual content that educates and informs the public and disseminates balanced and accurate information.”

Humphrey Maxegwana, parliamentary communications portfolio committee chairman, said the latest developments were alarming.

“When parliament’s recess ends we will meet to discuss summoning the SABC to explain exactly what is going on.”

William Bird, Media Monitoring Africa director, said a blackout was an extreme but effective tactic.

“These are desperate times at the SABC. Journalists are being suspended for legitimate dissent.”

Sekoetlane Phamodi, national co-ordinator of the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, welcomed the proposed blackouts.

“It’s time the SABC’s rank and file stand up and show the broadcaster’s board and parliament, which is derelict in its duties to ensure stability within the SABC, that the situation of decay cannot be tolerated.

“The SABC belongs to South Africans. We have a right to know what is going on.”

Hannes du Buisson, Broadcasting Electronic Media And Allied Workers Union president, said: “We support any action as long as it is properly managed and complies with labour legislation.”

By Graeme Hosken and Dominic Mahlangu for

Labour unions have asked President Jacob Zuma to make good on a promise to cap the salaries of high-income earners, accusing business of not co-operating with them to improve economic conditions.

In their written submission to a meeting of the presidential working group on labour at the Union Buildings on Tuesday, trade union representatives said: “We need to revisit the notion of a package to raise the incomes of those at the bottom, combined with a freeze on the salaries of high income earners.”

They said a new wage policy should address the wage inequality in the economy.

The workers’ leaders had strong words for Zuma, saying the government hasn’t followed through on economic policies and lacks clarity on what has happened to some of the ANC’s promises.

Despite Zuma saying in his opening remarks that cooperation between business and labour successfully softened the blow of the 2008 global economic downturn, labour labelled the action “inadequate”.

The unions also said business is not doing its bit in helping to keep the economy afloat.

“While society is in crisis, many in business appear oblivious, raking in large profits, salaries and bonuses, and taking the social surplus offshore.

“Social stability, which business espouses, is not possible unless current conditions are radically transformed,” they said in their input.

Labour has suggested a 6- to 12-month programme to curb the economic crisis and change the structure of the economy.

The interventions include pushing government to “implement its own policies and meet its publicly made commitments” on issues like more local procurement and industrial policy.

New policy approaches needed

They also include considering new policy approaches where old ones have “clearly failed”, and where different policies are needed to ensure structural economic transformation.

Labour also said government should tell them how it has progressed on new policies like the black industrialists’ programme, and also on policies where changes are being considered.

“Government needs to make a frank and honest assessment of developments, and what obstacles (there) are to realisation of government policies in key areas,” the submission said.

Labour also called for a discussion on the ratings downgrade, and measures taken to avoid it. They said some of the policies government has adopted to avert the downgrade had “the effect of worsening the economic situation, and deepen(ing) the very economic problems which ratings agencies claim to be concerned with”.

Labour is, for instance, critical of government’s austerity measures, arguing it should be spending more to expand the tax base.

Zuma in his opening remarks thanked labour for cooperating with business and government to avoid recent rating downgrades, among others by going on an international pro-South Africa roadshow.

“If we work together in the manner we have done in the past few months, I am convinced that we will overcome the challenges that we face,” Zuma told the meeting.

Zuma said the sectors should all work together as they had done in 2008, when a global economic downturn loomed.

“We have had success before of working together to find practical solutions to our immediate challenges. As you would recall, after the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, we crafted a strategy to cushion the impact of the crisis on workers.

“We need that spirit to address our challenges today.”

By Carien du Plessis for Fin24

SA on terror alert

The British government has joined the United States in voicing concerns over threats of terrorist attacks against foreigners in shopping areas around South Africa.

The United States embassy in Pretoria issued a similar advisory at the weekend.

“There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town,” the British government said in a statement posted on its Web site.

The government on Monday sought to allay fears after Washington warned Americans of a possibly imminent terror attack by Islamic extremists in the country’s major cities.

“We remain a strong and stable democratic country and there is no immediate danger,” State Security Minister David Mahlobo said in a statement.

The US on Saturday said it had received information that terrorist groups were planning to carry out attacks in SA during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The warning said attacks may target sites frequented by US citizens, including high-end shopping areas and malls in the economic hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It came against the background of the Islamic State’s “public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan”, the US embassy in SA said.


One more cut from S&P Global Ratings will see SA join the ranks of its junk-rated peers.

S&P, whose decision on the country’s sovereign credit rating is due late on Friday, has made no secret of the fact that, to hold off, the agency needs to be convinced that the steps taken by the government to rein in debt and reform the structure of the economy would pave the way for SA’s growth rate to recover.

Although the week ahead will feature plenty of data releases, these will be overshadowed by S&P’s decision.

S&P has ranked SA’s foreign-denominated debt at BBB-, the bottom rung of the investment-grade ladder, with a negative outlook. Konrad Reuss, S&P’s MD for sub-Saharan Africa, told the Financial Mail recently that a downgrade was “a real possibility”, although it was difficult to say whether this would happen in June or December.

S&P is concerned about the country’s “very lacklustre” reform agenda and the danger that political events will slow progress.

A downgrade to speculative grade or junk status (BB+) would be a vote of no confidence.

In December 2015, S&P changed its outlook on SA to negative. Since then, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) outlook had deteriorated, says Citi Bank economist Gina Schoeman.

There had also been little hard evidence of policy reform.

As a result, S&P would be “easily justified” in downgrading SA this week, Schoeman says.

However, in the past six months, the prospect of a downgrade had become far closer to call because of SA’s recent display of institutional strength. She singled out the judiciary, the Reserve Bank and the Treasury.

S&P might also wait until the mini-budget in October to allow more time for fiscal and GDP data to emerge, she says.

These are some of the reasons Moody’s did not downgrade SA earlier in May.

“Methodologies differ, however, and S&P may well have lost patience with the wait-and-see approach,” Schoeman says.

“This keeps the risk of a 3 June sub-investment grade foreign currency rating alive.”

In the run-up to the decision, the markets will have private sector credit extension data, as well as the country’s trade and budget balances to digest on Tuesday.

BNP Paribas Securities economist Jeff Schultz expects headline credit extension to have slowed to 8,7% year-on-year in April, from 8,9% in March.

The bigger releases of the week include the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) on Wednesday and whole-economy PMI on Friday.

The manufacturing PMI will be the most interesting after its surprise spike up to a healthy 54.9 index points in April. Many economists do not expect the rise to be sustained, however.

By Claire Bisseker for

An internationally co-ordinated fraud attack involving forged bank cards used at ATMs in Japan has stripped Standard Bank of about R300-million.

Standard Bank and authorities remained mum on the progress of investigations and the whereabouts of the syndicate, as investors appeared largely unconcerned by the bank’s loss.

Spokesman Ross Linstrom of Standard Bank, which made just more than R22-billion in headline earnings across the group in 2015, said on Monday a sophisticated and co-ordinated syndicate had created a “small number of fictitious cards” and proceeded to draw a total amount of R300-million from ATMs in Japan.

He said investigations were at a sensitive stage, but that bank customers would suffer no adverse effects if their details had been stolen and used in the Japanese fraud.

Japanese media have reported that about 100 individuals hit 1 400 ATMs in just three hours on a day when banks are closed for business, with one withdrawal transaction at each ATM up to the daily limit amount set in Japan.

According to Japanese media, no arrests have been made and the individuals who made the withdrawals may no longer be in the country.

The fraud fits an international trend involving hit-and-run withdrawal schemes in which fraudsters may be jetting into countries in different time zones to buy themselves time to collect the cash and run.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre confirmed the Standard Bank matter was under investigation, and CEO Kalyani Pillay said the local industry would provide full support to both the bank and law enforcement, where possible.

“The industry’s card losses for 2015 were in the region of R778-million across all card types for South African-issued cards.

“This was a 4% decrease compared to 2014. Banks have robust systems in place to monitor and detect fraud, but some risks lie with bank clients themselves,” Pillay says

Southern African Fraud Prevention Services executive director Manie van Schalkwyk said his organisation stops about R3-billion in fraud every year.

“Identity fraud is declining, and the main reason is the use of biometrics,” he says.

Van Schalkwyk said banks were making use of various databases and methods to try keep up with and combat such fraud, as criminals continued to evolve their modus operandi.

By Brendan Peacock for

If you want to attract and retain talented employees, having an office in the right location, with the features that today’s workers want, is more important than you may think.

The world of work is ever-changing, and employers who don’t adapt risk getting left behind. In an era when the boundaries between work and social life are becoming ever more fluid, reward packages and career progression are far from the only things that make for happy employees, as we discovered when we asked more than 1,000 workers across the UK about the features that make up their ideal office. The results point to a clear link between these ideal features and talent recruitment and retention – and some of them may come as a surprise.

The good news is that the workers we surveyed believe they would be 36% more productive at work if they were working in the ideal office. Moreover, 86% say they’d stay longer with an employer that had the ideal office location and features.

The other side of the coin is that 80% believe that companies that don’t offer their employees a convenient location and attractive features are more likely to lose them. And that’s not an empty threat, as younger workers in particular – the people who will be staffing the country’s offices for the next few decades – are markedly more likely to move jobs to find a working environment that suits them.

That can be costly for employers; consultants Deloitte estimate that, when an employee departs, a company loses two to three times their annual salary in terms of lost intellectual capital, client relationships, productivity and experience, plus the cost of recruiting a new hire.

Prime location

So what does this mean for employers? How they can they ensure that their office environment and facilities help to keep their current workforce happy – and attract the top talent they need to thrive in the future?

One thing’s for sure: employees are looking for – and expect – more than just smart decor. Our research reveals a wish list that includes a great office location and easily accessible transport links – but also, less predictably, communal meeting areas and social events in and around the office.

It’s no great surprise that the overall location of an office was rated firmly as the most important feature, with 70% of those surveyed saying this was very important – but only 42% claiming to be very satisfied with their current office location. An easy commute was also high up the list, with 62% rating public transport links as very important and 44% wanting car parking facilities.

Generation gaps

What really jumped out from the survey results, though, was the diversity in responses from the different generations that make up the working population in 2016.

Millennials (those aged 18-29) and Generation X (30-49) demand the most from their employers and – tellingly – are prepared to move to find what they want. Among Millennials, 53% claim they have previously changed jobs to improve the location and the features on offer, and 39% say they will definitely change jobs in 2016. This is a generation of workers with strong ideas about what they want from an office.

And what exactly is that? As working styles change, open and connected environments, with Wi-Fi and communal meeting areas, are very important to these two groups. Being in a location that has a ‘buzz’ about it is also high on the wish list for 90% of Millennials and 82% of Generation X.

Given that 68% of all respondents agreed that the line between work and social time is becoming increasingly blurred, activities and events at the office – or near it, on a campus for example – are also popular. Three quarters of Millennials said they valued such activities, compared with only 45% of Baby Boomers (those aged 50 or over).

Future workspaces

With Millennials predicted to account for 75% of the UK workforce by 2025, employers are already thinking hard about how to bring in the most talented of these workers – and how to keep them. Our survey suggests that planning workplace moves or improvements should be playing a significant part in businesses’ overall recruitment strategies, given the impact of the working environment on recruits’ decision-making.

When planning your next move, it’s worth considering the features listed above alongside the obvious things such as geographical location. Employees’ needs are changing: they are prepared to move to find the right working environment, and providing an office with the features they want could make a significant difference in being able to attract and retain the talent your business needs to succeed.


Five fresh measures to deal with the economy were announced on Monday night by the government and business leaders. They will include R180-billion investment in energy in the next three years.

A joint public and private sector small-business fund on a 50-50 basis was another of the main measures. Already, the private sector has pledged about R1,6-billion to the fund.

Initiatives include scaling up investment by using lessons learnt from independent power producers programme for renewable energy. This model would be extended to gas and coal.

Co-investment by the private sector in investment in infrastructure and the strengthening of crisis-ridden state entities were other measures agreed to by business-government working groups set up in February to tackle the slowdown in the economy.

A credit rating working stream will meet to identify potential areas of reform and other interventions to avert a credit downgrade next month.

“We will work to reduce policy uncertainty and shore up the confidence in government’s ability to deliver on its promises of boosting growth,” said President Jacob Zuma after the meeting in Pretoria on Monday night.

The possibility of private sector involvement in state-owned entities was agreed to even after Zuma on Friday said South African Airlines was not for sale. The cash-strapped airline is seen as natural for private investment.

Part of the package announced last night was the appointment of “service providers” to help “consolidate airline businesses”.

In response to questions about Mr Zuma’s comments, Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the government was looking at various models to look at how the private sector could “participate in some way” as they had a “great deal to offer”.

A framework for state-owned companies is set to be developed and “principles of disposal of nonstrategic assets” were “under development”, he said.

The government would also develop “economic regulators” to improve certainty, increase efficiency and healthy competition, such as a single transport economic regulator. “Appropriate mechanisms to strengthen state-owned entities will be developed so that we reduce the risk they pose for the fiscus and can play a stronger role in driving development,” Mr Zuma said.

The meeting came after ratings agency Moody’s, gave SA a reprieve late on Friday night.

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) will be in the country from next Monday, when government and its business and labour partners will again have to show that the country is up to the task of reviving a moribund economy.

Fitch is set to conduct its probe in the coming weeks. Both S&P and Fitch, which rate SA just one notch above subinvestment grade, will release their reviews of SA’s credit ratings early next month.

It is understood that the plans by the business-government working groups contributed to the positive outcome last week in the Moody’s review.

Closer co-operation between the government and business was made necessary after the fallout from the unexpected firing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December.

Earlier on Monday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told a public finance management conference in Johannesburg that he was “optimistic” the team effort by the government, business and labour had helped SA avoid a ratings downgrade by Moody’s.

Although he acknowledged that SA was among countries that had not yet recovered adequately from the 2008 global financial crisis and that its structural challenges including education, were also weighing on economic growth, he expressed optimism.

“I’m very optimistic that the Team SA approach is one that we can extend to the next two ratings agencies that are going to come and have a look at our economy and our management of the economy — and in particular, the interaction between labour, government, and business,” he said.

By Natasha Marrian for

South Africa continues to experience slow growth in disposable salaries, according to the latest BankservAfrica Disposable Salaries Index (BDSI) released last week.

The nominal trend indicates further increases could be even smaller than currently seen, but remain above the inflation rate.

The trend in total payments of disposable salaries and pensions shows consumers will not be in a strong position this year, according to Mike Schüssler, chief economist at Economists dotcoza.

At the same time, he pointed out, pensioners are still not well off by any stretch of the imagination.

“Last month the increase in disposable salaries of 6,5% on a year ago barely beat inflation, which sits at 6,3%,” explains Dr Caroline Belrose, head of knowledge and risk services at BankservAfrica.

The average monthly take-home pay for March 2016 was R12 501. This still outpaced banked pensions, even though the BankservAfrica Private Pensions Index increased at a faster rate than salaries and was up by 7,4% for the year.

The average pension as paid via the payments system of BankservAfrica for March 2016 came in at R6 075.
Schüssler explained that the slowdown in disposable salary growth is also impacted by personal income taxes that were effectively raised again by not being compensated for inflation. This is called bracket creep and means that as people’s salaries or pensions go up to compensate for inflation, they enter a higher tax bracket. Therefore, in real terms they are taking home the same amount.

The salary of employees in the middle of the salary spectrum outpaced those at the higher end due to more people slowly moving up the employment ladder. The median salary shows a growth of 7.2%, which is again better than the average salary.

The typical pension increased by 13.4% on a year ago, and shows that many pensioners have kept up well with inflation. But pension payments are still less than half of salaries.

The typical salary came in at R9 282 for the month of March, while the typical pension was R4 259. The increases for both medians outpaced inflation in March 2016.

The total combined payments of salaries and pensions grew by a total of 7.2% over the year to March 2016. It is the seventh month that the total payments have been within 50 basis points of 7%.

This is slower than the period of July 2014 to March 2015, where only one month had a growth rate in single digits. While BankservAfrica still excludes payments to bank accounts that are over R100 000, the total averaged over R47,8-billion.

“The slowing trend in the total payments for salaries and pensions is probably the best indicator that the current growth in retail sales is coming from the falling sales of big ticket items such as cars,” explains Schüssler.

“There is likely to be a bit of extra consumer credit growth driving retail sales too. The faster increase of median and average pensions was unexpected. But as we do not have a long history of data, it is difficult to have foreseen this.”

He believes retail sales will no longer be growing at a real rate of 4% or even 3% within the next few months.

“Interest rate hikes and slower salary increases based on last year’s low inflation numbers will limit the employee’s ability to spend. This is bad news for large item sales like cars and furniture. It is likely that retailers will struggle for real growth in the next few months,” says Schüssler.

By Carin Smith for

In light of rising food prices following the nationwide drought and weakened value of the rand, employers can expect additional pressure from employees for annual salary increases. Many employees are desperate for an increase in order to make ends meet; however, the challenging economic climate makes it difficult for employers to provide an annual raise to their entire staff. Employers must therefore approach the situation very strategically.

This is according to Francois Wilbers, MD of Work Dynamics – a leading organisational psychologist consultancy in the country, who says that often the workforce doesn’t realise that employers are exposed to exactly the same circumstances and are also battling to keep a steady revenue stream. “Granted, in larger corporations, the extent to which they are exposed is less than in smaller organisations, as smaller establishments experience the economic changes with far more severe financial consequences.”

Wilbers says that it is important to note that salary increases are not regulated by labour legislation, except in as far as may be provided for in any agreement or collective agreement, where provision is usually made for annual wage or salary negotiations. “Essentially, in the absence of any such agreement, salary increases remain a matter of mutual interest between employer and employee, therefore, there is no obligation on the employer to grant annual increases. With that said, if any party in a relationship finds it necessary to refer to the ‘terms of a contract’ as a point of departure in engaging with each other, it says something about the nature of trust between the parties.”

Wilbers adds that in cases where employers cannot afford to pay an increase equal to the consumer price index (CPI), they need to be honest with their staff members and accept the premise of them seeking alternative employment. “It is absolutely essential to maintain an open dialogue rooted in transparency and honesty in order to handle the situation effectively. For example, don’t use the detrimental state of the economy as an excuse to not grant your employees annual increases if you are still increasing profitability.”

When trying to asses the best option for your organisation, the retrenchment of staff members is a pressing threat that must be avoided at all costs, he explains. “For organisations in financial distress one of the most common ways to solve the problem is to retrench staff. From a socio-economic point of view, employers should try to avoid retrenchments and rather think of more creative alternatives. This option is especially less desirable in our country, as our unemployment rate of 25% is of the highest in the world.

“In addition to the socio-economic impact of retrenching staff, the effects on employee morale can be devastating, especially if the process is not handled in a professional and transparent manner. First prize is to avoid retrenching staff altogether.”

Wilbers explains that there are a number of alternatives that can be implemented to avoid the process of retrenchment and that these could end up being a mutually beneficial solution. “One of the most common steps organisations take is to forfeit guaranteed year-end bonuses and to rather assign bonuses according to targets that are achieved.

This incentive system is a great tool for maintaining committed and hardworking employees, while weeding out those that are not target driven, says Wilbers “In extreme cases, organisations can also implement salary cuts rather than retrenchment. “Again the key here is mutual honesty between employer and employee. The employer could for example allow the employee to take on freelance opportunities in order to supplement his or her decreased salary.”

Wilbers continues that other tried and trusted alternatives to retain staff is to implement annual increases subject to affordability, on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. “Here you would have to decide whether you can actually afford the increase. You would have to look at the company’s performance over the first quarter and then see whether you can afford to pay an increase for that quarter. Increase will be paid in the form of a cash amount for the first quarter or spread equally over the second quarter.”

Some orgnisations opt for a performance-based pay on top of current salaries. “In exchange for sacrificing annual increases, staff will be offered the opportunity to earn incentives if targets are achieved. These targets must be set in such a way that there will actually be enough money available to fund the incentives.”

Another effective way would be to pay certain allowances to key staff – despite the difficult economic times – is for companies to keep in mind that they still have to compete for talent, explains Wilbers. “If you are afraid you may lose some of your key staff, consider paying them an allowance to retain their services, without giving an annual increase to other staff.”

“Ultimately, organisations differ in their ability to sustain staff and afford salary increases. Retrenchments in harsh economic conditions should always be avoided. The key is to seek solutions that will be of mutual interest to the employer and employee and engage in a proactive and honest way to find creative solutions,” concluded Wilbers.

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