By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has proposed that regulation be implemented to expand the definition of a TV licence to include services such as Netflix.

In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications presented by Deputy Communications Minister Pinky Kekana, the public broadcaster has argued the expanded definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities.

The SABC said that regulation is needed which would require pay-TV service providers like MultiChoice (DStv) and video on demand providers like Netflix to collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC.

It added that this would be similar to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence discs.

Kekana said during the presentation that the government’s proposal to help the SABC improve its financial position would include allowing the public broadcaster to collect licence fees from non-TV users.

“Including engaging with those who have been carrying the SABC programmes on their pay-TV, how do we through ICASA make sure that they too are able to assist us to collect TV licences?” Kekana said.

“But we are not only limiting it to TV. We also have other platforms where people consume content and in all of those areas, that is where we should look at how we are able to get SABC licence fees from those gadgets.”

This means that the SABC wants users who watch content on devices such as laptops and smartphones to also pay licence fees.

Sports rights
The SABC has also called for improved access to national sports rights – specifically, it wants access to these broadcast rights at an improved rate.

The SABC argued that national sports must be made available to it at “a very affordable price”.

Another point in the presentation to Parliament was the proposed removal of the must-carry rule for the SABC, which requires that all subscription broadcasters with more than 30 channels must carry the SABC’s three free-to-air television channels.

However, current regulations state the SABC “must offer its television programmes, at no cost,” to subscription broadcasters instead of allowing commercial negotiations between the parties.

The SABC said that it instead wants to negotiate with pay-TV providers to pay for these channels as it noted that the current regulations meant the deal was “one-sided” in favour of Multichoice.

By Londiwe Buthelezi for News24

Pick n Pay says it lost R2.8 billion in sales because of trading restrictions and store closures during the six months to 30 August.

The retailer, whose first half of the 20201 financial year began just four weeks before South Africa went into lockdown, said liquor and tobacco sales decreased 47.5% over the period, while clothing sales in South Africa only shrank by 4.2%.

Still, the retailer managed to grow its turnover by 2.6% year-on-year, or 1% on a like-for-like basis when new stores aren’t factored in. Turnover from its South African operations increased by 3.4%, or 1.7% on a like-for-like basis. But core retail sales – which include food, groceries and general merchandise but exclude liquor, clothing and tobacco – grew 9.9% in the country, or 7.6% on like-for-like basis.

Growth of online

Pick n Pay said its online store doubled its sales growth during this lockdown, recording a 200% increase in active customers. Pick n Pay expanded its “Click n Collect” services to meet increased demand and launched an online store for its clothing offerings in August.

The group also announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to buy on-demand online grocery service Bottles. The acquisition is expected to be completed by November this year.

“This will enable Pick n Pay to build on the success it has achieved in partnership with Bottles in recent months, and further strengthens what is already sub-Saharan Africa’s largest and most popular online grocery business,” it said in a media statement.

Bottles was launched in 2016 as South Africa’s first alcohol on-demand delivery app, and partnered with Pick n Pay in 2018.

Pick n Pay added that it will continue to grow its online footprint through “a comprehensive suite of delivery options, including a pre-scheduled and standing-order delivery service, an expanded Click n Collect offer”, over and above its an on-demand essential grocery and liquor offer

Growing the clothing business

The retailer opened 11 new clothing stores during the lockdown period, but also closed six underperforming stores. Even though clothing retailers have been confronted by drastic change in consumer preferences and fashion – with the lockdown accelerating the move towards athleisure wear – Pick n Pay said it is confident that it will be able to grow its clothing business.

It plans to make “targeted investments” in stand-alone clothing stores and put in additional space for clothing in hypermarkets and supermarkets too. This comes at a time when Massmart is also expanding its offering in “value clothing” after closing the fresh food section in Game stores to make space for basic clothing instead.

Clicks launches rapid Covid antibody testing

Source: Supermarket & Retailer 

Unlike many other antibody tests currently on the market, these rapid tests do not require blood to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Instead, much like an HIV finger-prick test, they can produce a result in 15 minutes, and don’t require a visit to a doctor’s office.

Several companies who have received licences to import and distribute these tests in South Africa are pinning their hopes on consumers being curious about the possibility of having unknowingly contracted the virus – but not so curious that they’re willing to visit a doctor, part with a vial of blood, and wait up to two days for the results.

Unlike the widely-used reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests, however, these rapid antibody tests won’t tell you if you have an active case of coronavirus.

“This is not a Covid-19 test. The test is aimed at anyone who suspects they may have contracted the virus, even though they did not show symptoms,” Rachel Wrigglesworth, Clicks chief commercial officer, told Business Insider South Africa.

Instead, Wrigglesworth says the test is aimed at “consumers [who] are wanting to determine whether they have built up any Covid-19 antibodies”.

There are two main types of antibody tests approved for use by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) – one that requires a vial of blood for processing in a laboratory, and another that delivers results at its point of testing from a drop of blood extracted from a fingertip.

Competing pharmacy group Dis-Chem has opted for the laboratory route, via a partnership with Lancet Laboratories. These tests will produce results within 24 to 48 hours, and cost R380 – nearly double that of the test available at Clicks.

However, central to the argument between the two types of tests is their sensitivity.

Those processing antibody tests in labs argue that they produce results that are more accurate than rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). South Africa’s Department of Health says that RDTs, like the kind used by Clicks, “generally have lower sensitivities than laboratory-based antibody tests”.

But Clicks’ Wrigglesworth says the test they will be using has 97% accuracy, and was approved by SAHPRA.

The most prominent rapid antibody test available in South Africa is the Orient Gene Covid-19 rapid test kit, imported from China. The first licence to distribute this product was awarded to Johannesburg-based Tip Top Trade, but there are now at least 17 companies officially approved by SAHPRA to distribute these test kits in South Africa.

An early study by the United States’ National Institutes of Health conducted in April found that this widely-available rapid antibody test “is suitable for assessing previous virus exposure, although negative results may be unreliable during the first weeks after infection”.

Quite what patients do with the information gained from these antibody tests is also still unclear, though.

Scientists are still trying to establish just how much immunity is achieved following a Covid-19 infection. And the concept of so-called “immunity passports”, which some touted as a way to allow people to safely return to offices or even travel abroad without quarantine, have been watered down by health professionals and organisations, including the WHO.

Instead, tests of this kind find most approval when used for serological research purposes – and according to the South African Medical Journal, serological tests may be “a useful adjunct to a diagnostic strategy” in this country.

According to a paper released in July by the SAMJ, the sensitivity of these tests can be variable, and timing is important in order to detect either the virus or antibodies. And until there have been more tests in the South African population with regard to development of antibody responses and their ability to protect against reinfection, they may find the most use in a research and public health capacity.

“These tests may, however, be useful in guiding the public health response, providing data for research (including seroprevalence surveys and vaccine initiatives) and development of therapeutic strategies,” the paper says.

The Covid-19 rapid antibody tests will be available at Clicks Clinics nationwide for R199 from 19 October 2020. Customers can book a test with a nurse online at Clicks.co.za.

 

 

Using emojis can be legally binding

Think that the use of a specific emoji colour is fine? Think that a black smiley used by a white person is acceptable? Think that sending an image of an eggplant is perfectly normal? The courts in countries like the USA and France say no, and it’s very likely that these rulings are soon going to make their way into South African courts and organisations. According to Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, emojis can be used as evidence against employees and companies in a court of law.

“The inappropriate use of an emoji is going to make an appearance in this country very soon,” he predicts. “People must become far more circumspect in their use of emojis and images when engaging in communication with fellow employees, otherwise they run the risk of being accused of discrimination or harassment, among other things.”

If a white person uses a black smiley in their communication with a fellow employee, that could be perceived very negatively, no matter what thought process may have been behind its use. For some, this could be seen as ‘blackface’ or as a form of discrimination, and it could cause immense distress among employees.

“Of course, any use of an emoji requires context,” says Myburgh. “Labour law looks at the balance of probabilities. Was the emoji used in a negative context or was it part of the flow of conversation? Did it have a racial intent or was it meant to be a way of connecting with someone? If a person, according to the balance of probability, has a reputation for making racial statements, then this use case could be used as proof to take them to a tribunal.”

The same applies to the use of apparently innocuous emojis such as the eggplant. Yes, that could just be a vegetable, but it could also be innuendo and sexual harassment and the same rules apply. Different people see things in different ways and this is influenced by age, gender, culture and situation. For Myburgh, the best way to avoid being caught in the emoji trap is to keep them out of the workplace entirely.

“If you want to avoid a court case or office in-fighting, just don’t use emojis,” he adds. “Of course, that isn’t going to happen; this is neither practical nor realistic so instead adopt the same strategy as you would with verbal conversations – be aware, be careful and be respectful.”

Another example of how emojis could potentially impact on a company or a career is in their interpretation as a tacit agreement. The thumbs up emoji, for example, could be used to make an argument that verbal or visual confirmation was given to something.

“You may be just saying ‘noted’ but the reader may see the thumbs up and think, ‘wow, I got the job’,” concludes Myburgh. “The rule of thumb in any office environment or communication is to stay away from emojis that could have harmful or offensive connotations, such as eggplants, tacos, hearts, kisses, thumbs up, rude gestures or certain types of animals. That way you can avoid unnecessary conflict and an extremely unpleasant court case.”

 

By Sandile Mchunu for IOL

Mondi’s share price tumbled by more than 4percent on the JSE yesterday the global packaging and paper group reported that its underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) fell by more than 20percent for the third quarter to end September, despite the group saying it was well-positioned for when the economic recovery takes place.

The share later closed at R343.86.

The group reported underlying Ebitda of R306-million (R5.9-billion), down from 383m reported in the same quarter last year.

However, when compared to the second quarter to end June, underlying Ebitda was down by 13percent.

Mondi said good volume growth in uncoated fine paper and fibre-based packaging products and ongoing strong cost control were more than offset by the effect of planned maintenance shutdowns, negative currency effects and lower average selling prices during the quarter.

Mondi postponed most planned maintenance shut-downs to the second half of the year to protect its people from the Covid-19 outbreak and minimise execution risk.

However, it said planned maintenance shut-downs with an estimated impact on underlying Ebitda of around 35m were carried out during the quarter. “Based on prevailing market prices, we continue to estimate that the impact of planned mill maintenance shut-downs on underlying Ebitda for 2020 will be around 100m, with the fourth-quarter impact expected to be around 55m,” the group said.

Chief executive Andrew King said the decisive action they took in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic helped to protect their people, maintain supply of essential products and services and deliver a resilient performance. “I am pleased that sustainable packaging continues to be a focus for our customers. We continue to make good progress leveraging our award-winning innovation capabilities and customer-centric approach to optimising packaging design using ‘paper where possible, plastic when useful’,” King said.

The group’s major capital investment projects were progressing according to plan, with the 67m capital investment project to convert a containerboard machine at ttí in the Czech Republic to become fully dedicated to the production of speciality kraft paper for shopping bag applications was scheduled to be commissioned during the fourth quarter.

The group said this additional capacity of 75000 tons further supported its retail customers in their efforts to replace unnecessary plastic.

Mondi paid an interim dividend to shareholders of 237m during the quarter and said its financial position remained strong, with liquidity of around 970m.

Looking ahead the group said the macro-economic outlook continued to be uncertain, however, it was confident that it would continue to demonstrate its resilience while remaining well-positioned for when the recovery takes place.

 

Alviva cautions on possible Tarsus takeover

By Stephen Gunnion for InceConnected

Alviva Holdings has confirmed it is in talks to buy rival group Tarsus Technology Group. That follows a report on TechCentral yesterday morning.

In a cautionary announcement, the ICT company said a due diligence investigation on Tarsus had been concluded. If the deal went ahead, it said it could have a material effect on the price of its shares.

The ICT group has already conducted due diligence on its rival and a deal could affect the price of its shares.

Johannesburg-based Tarsus, which was called MB Technologies before a rebranding five years ago, says on its LinkedIn profile that it was founded in 1985. It lists the products and services its subsidiaries provide as supply chain optimisation, cloud-based solutions and IT security services, amongst others. Apart from branches in five other provinces, it also has offices in Namibia and Botswana and representation in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.

Alviva’s businesses include Pinnacle, Axiz and Datacentrix, amongst others.

TechCentral reported that Alviva CEO Pierre Spies was CEO of Tarsus until 2013. It said the deal could raise competition concerns.

The company’s shares rose 3.65 to R8.30 on Tuesday.

By Admire Moyo for IT Web

JSE-listed technology services firm Altron is selling its building that housed subsidiary Altron Document Solutions in Isando, Johannesburg, and is retrenching employees from the business unit.

The company says the printing unit was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a massive drop in the printing business.

Altron Document Solutions describes itself as “the world’s largest Xerox distributor and Africa’s leading technology and services company”.

It markets and services the complete range of Xerox document equipment, software solutions and services to 26 Sub-Saharan Africa countries.

However, the business was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the Altron Group to sell the Altron Document Solutions building.

“The demand for printing services has declined by about 45% due to COVID-19, and this, unfortunately, led us to retrench 73 people in Altron Document Solutions,” Zipporah Maubane, Altron spokesperson tells ITWeb.

“With fewer people in the Altron Document Solutions team, we now don’t require as much space, so we are selling the building and are looking for an appropriate space elsewhere for our colleagues in that business. We have owned the building for over 40 years,” she adds.

Since Mteto Nyati took over as CEO of Altron in 2017, it has been selling off some non-core businesses.

Nyati announced the company disposed of its last non-core asset Altech UEC, a set-top manufacturing business, to Skyblu Technologies, in January last year.

In its financial results for the year ended 21 February, Altron posted an increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of 14% to R1.8 billion, while revenue increased 6% to R16.7 billion during the same period.

However, at the time, Nyati told ITWeb in an interview that COVID-19 was expected to have a negative impact on its business in the year ahead.

The company went on to introduce a raft of measures to save R500 million in costs in anticipation of a dip in revenue as a result of the coronavirus. Some of the measures included salary freezes and bonus cuts.

Altron’s move to sell its Isando building comes as it in May said it had set aside R300 million to complete its new Woodmead office campus announced last year.

Last year, Altron signed a rental contract with Growthpoint Properties for a 29 000-square metre head office in Woodmead.

Commenting on the Altron building sale, Derrick Chikanga, an analyst at Africa Analysis, says like other devices businesses, the printing business was negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that was enforced by most countries.

He points out that most South African printers originate from European markets, while printer components are mostly manufactured in Asian markets.

“As such, the COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on the entire global supply chain, thereby negatively impacting the local printing industry,” says Chikanga.

He points out that the work-from-home policy that was adopted by most companies since the onset of the pandemic has also hugely impacted demand for printers by large corporates.

“Most local distributors focus little attention on small office or home office devices, with their primary focus being on enterprise-grade printers. Hence, since most businesses are still enforcing remote work policies, demand for large format printers has been hugely affected.”

Nonetheless, Chikanga believes the industry will recover as businesses resume operations and some employees return to their offices.

“While the work-from-home policy might continue into the future, not all companies and employees are able work efficiently from home.

“Working from home also incurs additional costs to companies, such as Internet connectivity costs. Hence, while the industry might not recover to its original level, some restoration to production in the printing industry should be expected,” he concludes.

By Nokukhanya N Mntambo for Jacaranda FM

Cabinet has decided to extend the National State of Disaster by another month.

This will be the fifth extension since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown towards the end of March.

The State of Disaster was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March in an attempt to slow down the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Cabinet now says the extension to November 15 will help stave off a second wave of infections.

The extension comes a day before President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation on an economic recovery plan.

 

Apple officially discontinues four older iPhones

By Avery Hartmans for Business Insider US

Apple on Tuesday unveiled its new iPhone 12 lineup, which includes four new 5G phones starting at $699. But the launch of new devices means that Apple has officially stopped selling some older iPhones, bringing its total to four discontinued models in 2020.

Starting Tuesday, Apple is no longer offering the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the high-end devices it launched in 2019. The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max were the first to carry Apple’s current “Pro” designation and the first iPhones to have three cameras.

Earlier this year, Apple stopped offering the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, two devices that launched alongside the iPhone X in 2017. The launch of the iPhone SE 2, a low-cost iPhone starting at $399, made the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus redundant, as it contains a fast chip and better camera than the 3-year-old phones, which Apple was selling for $450 up until April 2020.

While Apple has killed off some older iPhone offerings, it has continued selling several older devices, which means it now sells a phone at nearly every price point. Apple is still selling the iPhone XR — a 2-year-old phone as well as the iPhone 11, last year’s standard iPhone.

Apple no longer sells some of its older models online, but those devices will likely still be available to buy through carrier stores and other third-party sellers, and will still be able to receive software updates.

 

Source: NEASA

On 1 October 2020, the Department of Employment and Labour quietly published new consolidated Covid-19 regulations to which workplaces must adhere.

Although much of the previous regulations have been retained, there are a number of significant amendments which places a massive additional administrative burden on already-overstretched employers.

The new amendments are as follows:

  • Employers with more than 50 employees must submit a record of its risk assessment, as well as its policy regarding the protection of workers from Covid-19 to its Health and Safety Committee and to the Department of Employment and Labour, within 21 days from 1 October.
  • These documents must be sent to the Chief Provincial Inspector. This requirement was previously reserved for employers with more than 500 employees
  • Employers with more than 50 employees must submit data to the National Institute for Occupational Health in respect of prescribed categories of data
  • This data must be provided once in respect of each employees’ vulnerability status for serious outcomes of a Covid-19 infection and weekly, before Tuesday, in respect of data pertaining to infected or high-risk employees for the previous week
  • The 14 day isolation period for Covid-19 positive employees has now officially been reduced to 10 days, providing that the employee wears a surgical mask for 21 days from date of diagnosis, the employers closely monitors his/her symptoms and that personal hygiene in respect of masks, social distancing and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to
  • In the instance of a high-risk exposure, employees so exposed must remain in quarantine for 10 days and be placed on sick leave in terms of the BCEA or, if sick leave has been exhausted, apply for an illness benefit
  • Dispute resolution procedures in respect of employees who refuse to work due to a serious risk of Covid-19 exposure have been introduced

You can view the complete regulations here.

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