Cell C’s head office for rent

Source: MyBroadband

Parts of Cell C’s head office in Midrand, which boasts a customer walk-in centre, an IT centre, warehouse facilities and office space, is for rent.

The Cell C campus was developed by Atterbury, with construction starting in July 2012 after an official sod-turning ceremony with former Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig.

It formed part of Atterbury’s commercial development rights for 330 hectares of land north of Sandton, which included the Waterfall Business Estate.

After its completion in 2013, Cell C’s head office soon became a landmark in Gauteng thanks to its excellent visibility from the Buccleuch Interchange.

Atterbury later sold the Cell C campus to the Attacq Property Fund, which has recently put the property, or at least part of the property, up for rent.

The Cell C head office boasts a gross leasable area of 43,890m² and features rehabilitated wetlands and a 1.8km walking trail aimed at encouraging a healthy workforce.

According to two people linked to the lease of the property, potential tenants have the option of renting the full property or only part of it.

There is speculation that Varsity College, which is rapidly expanding, is (or was) one of the parties interested. This could, however, not be confirmed.

Louise Wiseman, MD of Varsity College and IIE MSA, told MyBroadband their campus footprint has grown for a number of years to accommodate their increasing number of students.

Most recently, IIE Varsity College constructed a new state-of-the-art campus at the Newlands Cricket Ground development.

Varsity College is planning to expand the Pretoria campus this year and is considering various options for the envisioned campus expansions in other areas.

Cell C explains its decision
Cell C took occupation of its new campus at the end of 2013 on a 15-year lease, which means the initial agreement is set to expire in 2028.

Should the property be rented to a different company, it means the initial agreement will be terminated well before it was supposed to end.

There is, however, also the potential of sub-leasing part of the campus while Cell C maintains some of the office space.

Cell C told MyBroadband that in response to COVID-19 and the reduction in staff numbers subsequent to the conclusion of the Section 189 process, it is looking at ways to optimise cost and use its resources more efficiently.

The company has also adopted a hybrid remote working model, which has seen a further reduction in the number of staff coming into the office.

It is therefore looking at ways to sublease areas of the campus no longer required or those the company does not foresee being occupied in the short to medium term period going forward.

“All staff will continue to be working on a rotational basis from the campus aligned to the Cell C work from home policy as well as to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols,” the company said.

Cell C added that the store and support centre situated on the campus were closed during the end of 2020.

Cell C customers who still visit the head office are assisted at the main campus by on-site internal customer care consultants.

The intention is, however, for customers to use other Cell C retail outlets, like the one at Mall of Africa.

 

By Kate Duffy for Business Insider US

Health and tech giants are together creating digital vaccination passports so people can prove they’ve had a Covid-19 shot.

Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, and the Mayo Clinic are all part of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VIC).
These could be useful for airplanes, going to work, to school, to the grocery store, to live concerts, or to sporting events.

Major companies, health organisations, and nonprofits announced Thursday morning that they were working together to create a digital vaccination passport, in anticipation of people having to prove their immunisation status.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VIC), a coalition of organisations including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, and the Mayo Clinic, are developing tech standards to verify whether someone has had their vaccine, it said in a statement Thursday.

The tech will help prevent people falsely claiming to be immune to the deadly virus, it said.

The VIC said that people without smartphones could receive printed QR codes on paper to verify they’ve had the shot.

“The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records so they can use tools like CommonPass to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy,” said Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project Foundation, a nonprofit in Geneva which is a member of the VIC.

“For some period of time, most all of us are going to have to demonstrate either negative Covid-19 testing or an up-to-date vaccination status to go about the normal routines of our lives,” Dr. Brad Perkins, the chief medical officer at the Commons Project Foundation, told the New York Times.

That will happen, Dr. Perkins added, “whether it’s getting on an airplane and going to a different country, whether it’s going to work, to school, to the grocery store, to live concerts or sporting events.”

 

Netflix tops 200m subscribers

Source: EWN

Netflix on Tuesday topped subscriber growth expectations in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.

“Covid-19 has accelerated that big shift from linear to streaming entertainment,” Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call.

“So, the underlying long-term looks good.”

The company’s cash flow was so strong that it will no longer borrow money to pay for operations, and is considering starting to buy back shares, according to a letter to investors.

Netflix shares jumped more than 12% in after-market trades following the release.

Profits dipped to $542 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $587 million in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5% to $6.6 billion.

For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.

“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.

Paid membership increased 23% in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley-based company.

While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority – some 83% – of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.

SA Post Office on the brink of collapse

Source: MyBroadband

The South African Post Office (SAPO) is on the brink of collapse and is facing bankruptcy despite receiving R8-billion in bailouts since 2014.

This is a warning from the DA’s shadow deputy minister of communications and digital technologies, Cameron MacKenzie.

According to MacKenzie, there are reports of unpaid rentals and desperate suppliers, postal backlogs, and broken ICT systems.

MyBroadband has recently reported that many landlords have seized equipment and kicked out the SA Post Office from their malls for not paying rent.

Notices on the doors of some SA Post Office branches now state “Closed until further notice” without a clear indication of where people can now get services from.

The Post Office told MyBroadband while the backlog in rental payments on other properties has been settled, the Parkview and Menlyn Main post offices were closed by the property owner as a result of a rental dispute.

“The SA Post Office is currently in discussions with the landlord to resolve the dispute with the intention of re-opening the branches shortly,” it said.

The SA Post Office’s struggles to pay rent comes as no surprise.

A recent High Court judgement revealed that the Post Office’s year-to-date loss as at 31 July 2020 was R1.066 billion. Only 55 of the Post Office’s 1,416 operational branches were profitable.

MacKenzie said in the absence of any further funding and expenses far exceeding revenue, the Post Office is resorting to the only means to stay afloat – stop paying creditors.

“Suppliers are once again being parked in a queue for payment, despite all processes required to effect payment followed, including quotation, purchase order, service delivered, and invoice presented. All that’s missing is the money to pay them,” he said.

He added that SAPO’s IT systems, including the essential on-line ‘track-and-trace’ service, remain non-functional, so customers have no idea of the status of their parcels or mail.

“COVID-19 protocols are virtually non-existent, especially during the peak grant payment periods, putting the health and welfare of staff and customers alike at risk.”

MacKenzie urged the government to start implementing productive public-private partnerships and social compacts to save the SA Post Office.

“The Department of Communications needs a new minister and the SA Post Office a new owner. If ever there was a moment to hang the sign “Under New Management”, that time is now,” he said.

MyBroadband asked the SA Post Office for comment, but it did not reply by the time of publication.

Management challenges at the Post Office
Apart from the usual suspects – corruption, mismanagement, and a bloated workforce – the Post Office has also faced a management crisis since Mark Barnes resigned as CEO.

Barnes started his five-year contract as Post Office CEO on 15 January 2016 with a mandate to turn the struggling state-owned enterprise around.

Barnes, however, resigned as CEO on 1 August 2019 – eighteen months before his contract was set to expire.

“If the government had let management get on with our board-approved, portfolio committee supported strategy, we would’ve completed the turnaround of SAPO by now. Imagine that,” he said.

Since Barnes’ departure the acting CEO, Lindiwe Kwele was suspended and the new CFO, Khathutshelo Ramukumba resigned after barely two months on the job.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Barnes said he could not comment on the current challenges at the SA Post Office since he was not there.

He instead reflected on his time at the Post Office. “I fell in love with the place and the people who work there,” he said.

While on a recent trip through South Africa, he saw scraggly queues of people outside Post Offices in towns waiting to get their social grants.

“The only inclination I had was to get out of my car and go and help them and re-fuel the culture changes we brought about,” said Barnes.

“We needed all the ingredients for the Post Office to complete its turnaround strategy, but those ingredients were not made available to us by the shareholder,” he said.

Looking back at his resignation in 2019, he said it became an easy decision after he looked at the facts.

“There is no Post Office in the world which has succeeded in the new age without access to the national payment system and financial transactions,” he said.

“It is no longer about post. It is about having a government infrastructure – a series of two-way channels – which have huge relevance in the modern world.”

This means when the government decided the Post Office Bank should be held separately, Barnes could no longer promise the delivery of a fully integrated, functional, and financially sustainable Post Office.

Barnes said he believes the government’s current strategy around the Post Office is going to fail, which is why he decided to resign.

 

SA’s booze ban is costing Consol R8m a day

By Ntando Thukwana for Business Insider SA

Even as breweries cull orders for glass bottles because of the alcohol sales ban, South Africa’s glassmakers are forced to keep their furnaces running or risk permanent damage.

As a result, they are losing millions of rands every day – and are quickly running out of storage as glass stocks are building.

South Africa reinstated a total ban on alcohol sales in December in a bid to alleviate pressure on hospitals – burdened with trauma cases related to alcohol consumption – amid a rising number of Covid-19 cases.

Paul Curnow, deputy CEO of SA’s biggest glass packaging group Consol, says the industry spends R8 million a day to keep its furnaces on and to keep production running.

He says that furnaces must be kept running, as the molten glass solidifies in a matter of a couple of hours after being switched off, which will cause permanent damage to the furnace.

The alternative is to drain the glass, but that’s a lengthy and costly process and to drain 11 of the industry’s furnaces would cost billions.

“If you had to replace 11 of them, you would need R3 billion to rebuild the industry and we can’t allow that to happen,” Curnow said. Consol has had to halt a R1.5 billion project that would’ve seen it construct the first furnace to be built in the country since 2010. It has also redirected R800 million to the upkeep of its current furnaces.

The ban has also created a logistical nightmare, with Consol producing 3,000 tons and 7,200 pallets of glass per day. Its typical warehouse, which is the size of a soccer pitch, fills to capacity in about 3 days, Curnow said.

“Our problem is that when our customers [breweries] panic and they switch off their lines, we have nowhere for this glass to go.”

Chairman of glass producer Isanti Glass, Shakes Matiwaza, said an oversupply of glass and shortage of storage almost killed the industry during the first ban.

“We kept on running and what it meant is that we had to go out and get additional warehouses to store our glass. That means that our working capital gets tied up in storage and warehousing facilities that you’re acquiring. That’s unsustainable because you run out of money in no time (as) there’s no revenue coming in,” he said.

The glass packaging industry has cumulatively lost R1.5 billion during the first two alcohol bans, he says.

Last week, South African Breweries and one of Consol’s biggest customers cancelled an additional R2.5 billion rand of investment planned for 2021 following an initial R2.5 billion that the brewer cancelled in August.

Erik Smuts, CEO of Nampak, which also supplies the alcohol industry with mostly metal packaging, said while the ban has had a marginal impact on its business, sales for conical packaging have taken a hit.

The company supplies tamper-proof gable top cartons made from paper to sorghum beer producers.

“The alcohol ban has not affected us materially. We are still supplying the brewers (ABInbev etc.), but the sales of conical cartons into the traditional beer sector have taken a plunge, as their products are not for stock, but for almost immediate consumption in shebeens,” he said.

 

Source: Supermarket & Retailer 

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) has called for a moratorium on all retrenchments and potential ‘future processes’, in an effort to preserve jobs during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Fedusa is the second largest national trade union centre in South Africa and has a membership of 556,000 workers.

“The Federation believes that all possible avenues must be considered instead of continuously using workers as scapegoats,” it said.

“Finance minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech in February 2021 is not expected to bring about any joy, considering the October 2020 MTBPS outlook – budget deficit is 15.7% of GDP and gross debt is 81.8% of GDP.”

Fedusa said that the South African Reserve Bank should also continue to provide support to workers in 2021.

“Although the SARB was very instrumental in the process, it needs to continue on this trajectory, as the loan guarantee schemes and tax relief measures have yet to deliver the results that were promised, considering that only a meagre R15 billion of the R200 billion capacity relief to SMME’s were provided.”

Statistics South Africa recorded 2.2 million job losses in the second quarter of 2020, leaving just 14.4 million employed people in both the formal and informal sectors

According to the latest Quarterly employment statistics (QES) survey released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), formal sector jobs decreased by 616 000 in the third quarter, year on year.

Pledge to create jobs

Announced as part of the country’s coronavirus economic recovery plan in October, president Cyril Ramaphosa said that government will create a ‘presidential employment stimulus’ designed to respond to the rise in unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The aim of this stimulus is to create or support 800,000 jobs in South Africa within the current financial year.

Ramaphosa said that this is being achieved through an ‘unprecedented’ expansion of public and social employment, as well as through the protection of existing jobs in vulnerable sectors and support for livelihood and enterprise opportunities.

“Eleven national departments and all nine provinces are responsible for the implementation of programmes supported through the employment stimulus,” Ramaphosa said in an update in December.

“As the progress report shows, over 400 000 opportunities have already been supported, with several programmes in the recruitment or beneficiary identification phase.”

Ramaphosa said that the remaining programmes are all on track to meet their targets.

Brace for Stage 8 loadshedding, says expert

Power and mining expert Ted Blom has warned South Africans that they should brace themselves for the worst year of loadshedding yet in 2021, with Stage 8 being a possibility before the end of winter.

In the latest episode of the Free Marketeers podcast, Blom provided his analysis of the utility’s situation and a prognosis for loadshedding in the next year.

The highlights of Blom’s predictions include:

  • Eskom is understating the amount of power it was actually shedding from the national grid
  • Eskom already interrupts 2 000MW of supply to its big customers when it announces load-shedding for the general public (so Stage 1 load-shedding or shedding 1 000MW is in fact a 3,000MW shortage)
  • Eskom is capable of handling about 11 000MW of shortages before having to implement load-shedding
  • The utility’s outlook for the next three months in its latest system status report showed a near-consistent unavailability of 20,000MW or more when taking both planned maintenance work and unplanned outages into account
  • The deficit over the next three months would hover around 9 000MW
  • Based on Eskom’s own forecasts, 2021 is going to be the worst year of load-shedding on record

What happens during Stage 8?

Stage 8 load-shedding is implemented when 8 000MW needs to be shed from the national grid in order to prevent a total collapse of the system.

During stage 8, consumers can expect much more frequent power cuts, to be without electricity for 48 hours over four days, or 50% of the time.

The worst level of load-shedding previously experienced in South Africa was Stage 6, which was implemented in December 2019 after a technical problem at Medupi Power Station.

At the time, Eskom needed to shed 6 000MW, which meant that around 40% of its capacity had been unavailable.

Response

Eskom’s response to the outlook was that “while it endeavours to only load shed at Stage 4 or below and only when truly necessary, higher stages of load shedding could be required”.

Source: Cape Talk

Education law specialist Sue Larkan says parents aren’t legally obligated to purchase back-to-school stationery from a specific supplier or brand.

Larkan is the founder of learner rights group Tabansi, which assists parents and pupils with school disputes.

She says parents can’t be forced to buy stationery from a specific brand prescribed by a school.

Some families are facing difficult financial circumstances and may not be able to afford expensive stationery brands.

Larkan adds that some households have to purchase new stationery for more than one child.

She does warn, however, that certain stationery brands may not last as long or have the same quality.

“Schools are demanding stationery lists. That either the parents buy the packs through the school or they buy certain brand name products, which can be rather expensive.

“There’s no legal binding on a parent to do that at all … A parent can ask for the stationery list and go buy it wherever they want to.

As long as the children have got their stationery and the correct exercise books … they can buy wherever they like.”

At the same time, Larkan advises that parents are not legally obligated to provide toiletry supplies such as toilet rolls, tissues, or soap.

She says schools are responsible for hygiene and cleanliness, and they should factor toiletries into their budgets.

While parents are welcome to volunteer what they can, they can’t be forced to shoulder the burden of toiletry supplies.

“They cannot mandate it … there is no legal forcement on a parent to supply that. The school is responsible for hygiene and sanitation.

“The schools are trying to use that budget on something else, and bring the responsibility back on the parents shoulders.”

Start of school year delayed

By Liam Ngobeni for IOL

Public and private schools will only reopen officially on February 15.

Addressing the media on the start of the 2021 school year, Deputy Minister of Basic Education Reginah Mhaule said the calendar for schools had been revised to move back-to-school from January 13 to January 27, and was now being moved to February 15.

After consultations on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Council of Education Ministers, the Heads of Education Departments Committee, the national School Governing Body associations, teacher unions, learner formations, principals associations, as well as the national associations representing independent schools and learners with special education needs, it was decided to delay the opening for another fortnight.

While state schools and those which follow their calendar open on February 15, when exactly private schools open depends on their term calendars. However with many having already opened, they plan to move to online teaching.

“Given the pressure experienced by the health system in the past few weeks, occasioned by increased Covid-19 infections which has led to the second wave, the Council of Education Ministers in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet, has taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools,” Mhaule said.

For public schools, and private schools which follow the four term calendar, the idea is that management teams will be back at school on Monday, January 25, with teachers on Monday, February 1 and learners back on Monday, February 15.

“Schools will use the time (before learners return) to finalise outstanding matters, regarding admissions, especially the unplaced learners in certain cases.”

Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa executive director Lebogang Montjane, said that as with last year, its schools would recommend hybrid teaching and learning, like it did last year during the first wave, with private schools remaining open, but remotely.

Mhaule told the media briefing that the Council of Education Ministers took the difficult decision, having considered all factors as backed up by research and statistics, regarding the current state of the health system.

The Department of Basic Education will be working closely with all nine Provincial Education Departments, to establish the true extent of the impact of the virus, resulting from the unfortunate demise of educators, workers and leaders in the sector, especially during the December and January holidays.

The basic education sector has also felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic during the marking of the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination scripts.

“Some of our markers have passed away, while others withdrew from marking due to fear and anxiety, but also because for some of them or their family members have tested positive.”

The department leadership will meet with provinces next week to check on the very latest regarding the state of readiness, and they will go to stakeholders for consultation on the details of the opening of schools for 2021 school year.

There has been mixed reaction. While many welcomed the decision as being in the best interests of everyone, trade union Solidarity and AfriForum condemned it.

“It is extremely short-sighted of the government to keep children out of schools for this (long) period,” said Johnell van Vollenhoven, media and liaison officer at Solidarity.

“Research from various sources has already shown that a school is, in most cases, the safest place where a child can find him- or herself during the pandemic. Not only do children receive much-needed education at school, but they are also supervised where safety measures are strictly enforced, and most children also receive their only meal for the day at school.

The consequences of this postponement are devastating for governing body appointments and other additional services that schools offer. As it is, teachers are already under pressure to catch up on backlogs that resulted from school days lost last year. It would be unreasonable to expect that further backlogs arising from the latest postponement of the school year would now also have to be addressed,” she said.

AfriForum said it plans on directing an urgent letter to the NCCC and the department to persuade them to allow schools that can prove that they adhere to Covid-19 regulations to reopen for learners on January 27, 2021, as planned.

According to Natasha Venter, Adviser for Educational Rights at AfriForum, this is in the interest of learners who have already lost a lot of school time in 2020.

“Many schools have already made the necessary arrangements to look after learners and staff’s health. It is, therefore, unfair for the Department of Education to disadvantage these schools because the department failed to intervene in ensuring that schools who were unable to implement the necessary measures are sufficiently equipped.”

“Schools have to adjust to the new normal that the virus brought about. Government’s procrastination with supplying the vaccinations and its refusal to allow other role-players to participate, as well as the possibility of even more waves of infections, mean that we will have to abide by safety regulations for a while longer – something that many schools already do successfully. This does not mean that children’s education, social development, and welfare should be neglected, however,” said Venter.

 

Back-to-school on a budget

Source: News24

Those lengthy back-to-school stationery lists are back in every student’s home by now and from the great expense (why is glue so expensive?) to the odd requests (toilet paper, really?) you might be pulling your hair out already.

Parent24 spoke to local stationery supplier, PNA, who offered parents some insider tips to save time and money when buying school supplies this year.

Budget

Budgeting for school supplies is a must, because it keeps you from impulse buying and encourages you to stay on track with your monthly goal.

If school supplies are going to cost a little more than you thought, adjust other areas of your budget. Take cash instead of your credit card so that you’re not tempted to spend more than you’ve budgeted for.

Second hand

Consider buying used or refurbished electronics. Thanks to the pandemic, technological devices are becoming a purchase you just can’t escape.

Check sites like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace for lightly used or refurbished devices, headphones or laptops that won’t send you to the cleaners.

Be strict

Buy them what they need to do well. At the end of the day, your child won’t fall apart if they don’t have the latest sports team or celebrity-themed notebooks.

Do your research, make your lists, and then be focused and strict when you finally hit the stores for back-to-school shopping.

If your budget is tight, typically, the kids won’t need every single supply during the first few days of school. So you could also also buy these items one term at a time.

Generic versus name brands

Generic brands are known for their very basic packaging and labels, and lower prices. And in tough economic times, shoppers are naturally drawn to cheaper brands.

But it really does depend on the product you are buying, if your child is taking art as a subject for instance, it would be wise to invest in a name brand that is trusted as a well-performing product in the art community.

Speak to a store consultant who can advise and help you to make the best choices.

Label well

You don’t need to print a full name on pencils. Save time and labels by using your child’s surname only.

For expensive devices, label the machine in a few different areas, on top, underneath and on the electrical cables as these go to school to charge the devices.

Use silver permanent markers on items with dark backgrounds like school shoes, black markers on light backgrounds.

Write your child’s names on the inside of their school bag in black permanent marker.

And also give them a bag tag or fun key-ring to put on their bag so they can easily distinguish which one is theirs, especially if they all have the same bags.

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