Zimbabwean elections probably won’t be held as scheduled, Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst with the Harare-based Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said on Wednesday.

“The military is going to determine the shape of Zimbabwean politics, although they’ve tried to say this is not a coup,” he said. “This may result in the creation of a new unity government which will involve the opposition.”

The armed forces seized power in Zimbabwe after a week of confrontation with President Robert Mugabe’s government and said the action was needed to stave off violent conflict in the southern African nation that he’s ruled since 1980.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces will guarantee the safety of Mugabe, 93, and his family and is only “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said in a televised address in Harare, the capital. All military leave has been cancelled, he said.

Denying that the action was a military takeover, Moyo said “as soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect the situation to return to normalcy.” He urged the other security services to cooperate and warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The action came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution.”

As several armoured vehicles appeared in the capital on Tuesday, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front described Chiwenga’s statements as “treasonable” and intended to incite insurrection. Later in the day, several explosions were heard in the city.

The military intervention followed a week-long political crisis sparked by Mugabe’s decision to fire his long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president in a move that paved the way for his wife Grace and her supporters to gain effective control over the ruling party. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she said on Nov. 5 that she’s prepared to succeed her husband.

Economic crisis

The events unfolded as Zimbabwe is in deep crisis. The economy has halved in size since 2000 and the nation has no currency of its own, using mainly the dollar as legal tender. Lines of people waiting to make bank withdrawals snake around city blocks in Harare. Some sleep in the streets to ensure they’re served. An estimated 95% of the workforce is jobless and as many as three million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.

The country is now under military rule, said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean law lecturer who is based in the UK and helped design Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution.

“When you see a man in uniform reading news on national television, you know it’s done,” he said in a text message. “There are no more questions. Authority is now in the hands of the military.”

Mnangagwa, who said he fled Zimbabwe because of threats against him and his family, had been a pillar of a military and security apparatus that helped Mugabe emerge as the nation’s leader after independence from the UK in 1980. He was Zimbabwe’s first national security minister.

Liberation war

Mnangagwa’s dismissal signalled Mugabe’s break with most of his allies who fought in the liberation war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, leaving his 52-year-old wife’s so-called Generation-40 faction of younger members of the ruling party in the ascendancy.

While Zanu-PF named Mugabe as its presidential candidate, he’s appeared frail in public, sparking concern among his supporters that he wouldn’t be able to complete another five-year term.

Moyo, in the statement, told members of parliament that the military’s “desire is that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective constituencies according to democratic tenants.”

Bloomberg via Fin24 

Fake WhatsApp affects millions of users

Around 1 million users have downloaded a fake version of WhatsApp which appeared on Google Play.

Reddit’s forum users noticed that it was a hoax. Users who didn’t notice this and downloaded the fake app ended up with a major amount of adverts rather than a messenger app.

According to Hacker News, the reason this spoof fooled so many people is because whoever created the App and who put it in the Play Store did so under the name “WhatsApp Inc”, which is the same name the maker of the world-famous app uses. However, Fortune Magazine says that it is not the most uncommon incident.

Fortune points out that when you search for “WhatsApp” on Google Play, it currently shows no fewer than seven spoof apps using slight variations on the developer name “WhatsApp Inc.”
All of them have four-star review averages, due to Play’s review system.

So remember to watch out before downloading off Google Play or ask a friend to send you the original App via file sharing apps such as SHAREit.

What happened?

WhatsApp fraudsters have tricked more than one million people into downloading a fake version of the chat app from the Google Play Store.

WhatsApp users downloaded the ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ from the Android app store as it looked it was from the company that makes the popular app.

The Google Play Store page for the fake app claimed the programme had been developed by WhatsApp Inc, the creators of the instant messaging app.

However, it was instead a fake app that contained adverts and download malicious software onto a user’s device.

The developers made it look like a legitimate app by using virtually the exact same name as the developer WhatsApp Inc.

However, they replaced a space that appeared in the name with a character that made the one defining difference look invisible.

This made it almost impossible for an Android smartphone user to detect the different between the real WhatsApp app and the fake version.

How to check if your WhatsApp is fake

To start with, go to Settings and then find the Apps section and click on WhatsApp.

Then under Store you should see the option to check the App Details.

This should then take you to the Google Play page which shows the app has been downloaded more than one billion times.

The developer for the app should be WhatsApp Inc and it should have a PEGI 3 rating.

If any of these details are different, alarm bells should be ringing and you should delete the app to find the official version.

You can also download an anti-virus to clean up any malicious software that may have been installed on your smartphone.

The news comes after over the weekend Express.co.uk warned about another fake app that had appeared on the Android app store.

The bogus programme appeared to be a fake version of the upcoming WhatsApp business app and was available to download from the Android app store.

Alerting users to the issue one Android user on Google Play complained that the app was full of adverts, while another claimed it was being used for “data theft”.

The fake app was flagged up by tweeter @MujtabaMHaq and WABetaInfo, a Twitter account about all things WhatsApp.

It has since been deleted from the Google Play Store.

Source: IOL; Dion Dassaayake for Express

The Paradise Papers: whose money is where

A new set of data taken from an offshore law firm again threatens to expose the hidden wealth of individuals and show how corporations, hedge funds and others may have skirted taxes. A year after the Panama Papers, a massive leak of confidential information from the Bermuda law firm Appleby Group Services, dubbed the Paradise Papers, has shone another light on the use of offshore accounts.

Here are the highlights so far of the reporting by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and partner news outlets on the so-called Paradise Papers. Bloomberg hasn’t seen the leaked documents:

  • The rich may be richer than you thought. Jim Simons, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has amassed more than $7.5 billion in a previously undisclosed, four-decade-old fund set up in Bermuda. Warren Stephens, an Arkansas banker and Republican donor, used a Bermuda-based family trust to reduce his tax bill and conceal his interest in a payday lender under US scrutiny. And George Soros, a liberal investor who has contributed to the ICIJ, used Appleby to manage a company that carried out reinsurance transactions that can be used to shield wealth from taxes.
  • More than a dozen members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top economic adviser Gary Cohn, held undisclosed offshore companies. Robert Mercer, a Republican donor who just said he would step down as Renaissance Technology’s co-CEO, was revealed to be a director of more than eight of RenTech’s offshore subsidiaries, who used other offshore firms to shelter money his family funneled to political causes. The Blackstone Group, co-founded by Trump economic adviser Stephen Schwarzman, used trusts and companies registered in tax havens to avoid paying taxes on two UK commercial
    properties.
  • After Irish officials closed a tax loophole that had allowed Apple to avoid billions of dollars in taxes, the US tech giant enlisted international law firms to help it find a new tax home and settled in the English Channel island of Jersey, the New York Times reported. The documents helped solve a two-year mystery of where the world’s biggest company by market capitalisation is booking a big share of its revenue.
  • Want to register a private jet in the US? Bank of Utah manages more than 1 390 aircraft trust accounts that obscure the identities of the jets’ (largely foreign) owners, the New York Times reported. Among the wealthy foreigners said to use the bank’s services: Russian oligarch Leonid Mikhelson, an ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin whose gas company is under US sanctions.
  • US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faces questions about his financial disclosures to Congress and the government after a report that he didn’t disclose business ties to the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an oligarch under US sanctions. The Appleby documents included details of Ross’s stake in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, according to the New York Times.
  • House Republicans should slow down their consideration of a tax-overhaul bill after the investigative reports alleged offshore tax-avoidance by US multinational companies including Apple and Nike, congressional Democrats and tax-advocacy groups said.
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it’s reviewing the documents and will take action against any financial institution or individual that breaches regulations. The regulator made the remarks on Wednesday after the consortium said that some of the files came from Asiaciti, a Singapore-based family-owned trust company. Asiaciti denied any wrongdoing.
  • Canadian tax authorities are reviewing reports linking a key fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offshore trusts in the Caribbean. Montreal-based businessman Stephen Bronfman, son of billionaire Charles Bronfman, was among the individuals cited by news organisations including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star in Sunday’s leak of bank documents.
    Commodities trader Glencore Plc was one of the top clients of Appleby, which even had a “Glencore Room” at its Bermuda office that kept information on the trader’s 107 offshore companies, according to the ICIJ investigation. (Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.)
  • Prominent Silicon Valley investor Yuri Milner, who was an early backer of Facebook Inc., partnered in two investments with the Russian state-controlled bank VTB Bank PJSC before it was sanctioned, his spokesman confirmed Friday. Details about the relationship between Milner and VTB surfaced in the wake of the Paradise Papers.
  • Indonesian authorities are investigating if former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the children of ex-dictator Suharto, named in the leaked documents, are in breach of the country’s tax laws.
  • A North Korean was listed in the leaked documents as a shareholder in a Malta-based company which may have been involved in the overseas transfer of North Korean construction workers, according to Newstapa, a South Korean partner of the ICIJ.
  • Queen Elizabeth II of the UK made a series of investments in a Cayman Islands fund through the British Royal Family’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, according to The Guardian newspaper.
  • Lord Michael Ashcroft, a major donor to the UK’s Conservative Party, had links to a Bermuda-based trust with assets worth as much as $450 million, The Guardian reported.
  • The Dutch Finance Ministry said it will review whether more than 4 000 cross-border tax rulings were issued in accordance with procedures. The decision follows the publication of an article in Het Financieele Dagblad reporting that correct procedures weren’t followed in an agreement between the Dutch tax authority and Procter & Gamble Co. “P&G has fully transparent relationships with governments and tax administrations worldwide,” the company said in a statement. “We may seek confirmation from governments and tax administrations that our interpretation of tax laws is correct. This is what was done in this instance.

Source: Marcus Wright for MoneyWeb / Bloomberg

Absa takes a beating from fake news

From the propagation of Bell Pottinger’s white monopoly capital narrative to the new public protector’s CIEX report, political mischief and fake news have been tough on all the country’s banks — but Absa has taken the hardest beating.

According to the findings of the 2017 South African Banking sentiment index, compiled by BrandsEye, consumers were mostly disgruntled by the controversy around the bank’s purchase of Bankorp, demanding that it pay back the money the Reserve Bank had used to bail out the ailing apartheid-era bank.

The analysis, based on a sample of more than 1.8 million social media posts from about 500 000 unique authors between September 2016 and August this year, showed Absa was the worst performer with a net sentiment of -24.5%.

The posts were distributed to a proprietary crowd of vetted and trained local language speakers before being coded and verified by multiple crowd members, who assessed the sentiments of the posts.

Capitec had the highest net sentiment with 13.5%, followed by Nedbank with a score of -5.8%, Standard Bank with -6% and FNB with -7.6%.

Absa’s score had dropped from -11.3% in 2016, with 32.2% of its negative sentiment attributed to the release of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on the Bankorp saga.

Mkhwebane had recommended that Absa pay back R1.125-billion, but Absa maintained that it had met its duties relating to its purchase of Bankorp.

In July 2017 it launched a high court application for the review and setting aside of Mkhwebane’s findings and remedial action, but the damage to Absa’s reputation appears to have been done by then.

Jeremy Sampson, founder of Interbrand and veteran brand specialist, said Absa had fallen victim to a white monopoly capital agenda pushed by the defunct PR firm to the Gupta family, Bell Pottinger.

“The whole Bankorp thing from 20-odd years ago doesn’t seem to go away. I think Absa would argue that it was raised again [this year] by people who are being mischievous,” he said.

The Bankorp issue had been used as ammunition against the bank by people seeking to be “divisive” and “sow dissent”, Sampson said.

“Certainly there is a lot of mischievousness going on at the moment and it’s made that much easier because of social media,” he said.

Patrice Rassou, head of equities at Sanlam Investment Management, said few people properly understood the Bankorp matter but many were willing to drag Absa’s name through the mud online over it.

“For very political reasons the whole thing has been amplified on the internet and people have taken this at face value. It’s not a South African issue, it’s a global issue of fake news,” he said.

“You just have to have one tweet on something and people take it as fact when these things are firstly contentious, unproven and in a court of law [the accuser] is likely to lose.”

Rassou said corporates such as Absa were not equipped to rebut the “guerrilla warfare” seen online in which “the enemy is faceless”.

Overall the banking sentiment index did not find that banks had suffered negative sentiment driven by other matters related to the Guptas, but that consumers were more concerned with good governance than they had been in previous years.

“South Africans are holding their banks to higher standards now. If banks make a claim, and fail to match it, customers will call them out on this,” said Tania Benade, head of analytics at BrandsEye.

But Absa also received many negative complaints when it came to its services, such as the turnaround time on receiving credit cards and its R120 credit card replacement fee.

Absa had 15.6% more complaints related to branches than to online banking.

Included in the sentiment index was the net experience effect metric, which takes the net promoter scores of the banks, based on the likelihood of customers and non-customers to recommend a particular bank to others, to quantify the impact of customer experience on brand opinion. Capitec’s net experience effect exceeded those of the other banks, followed by FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa.

Customer experience specialist and researcher Julia Ahlfeldt said that most consumers were unhappy with the basic “hygiene factors”, such as in-branch experience, app bugs and call-centre waiting periods.

“Most of the banks put time and energy into promotions and loyalty programmes but were unable to live up to their brand promise.

“Every time they do that it chips away at people’s perceptions of the brand.”

Ahlfeldt said that the average net promoter score for the industry in the US exceeded that of South Africa’s five retail banks, with the US being a highly competitive market.

But Rassou said that globally, perceptions around banks had always taken a negative slant, with banking services viewed as a grudge purchase by consumers. “Absa was seen as the leader in retail banking if you go back about 10 years ago but has lost a lot of market share to a number of other players, not just Capitec,” he said.
Barclays Africa, which owns Absa, had seen its share price drop 4.06% in the sentiment index’s review period, while Capitec’s grew by 22.78%.

“I think in the case of Absa, they’ve really suffered in terms of very low risk appetite. Absa has got the lowest market share in unsecured lending, which has been the big area of growth,” Rassou said.

Adrian Cloete, a PSG Wealth portfolio manager, said the valuations investors were prepared to pay when they traded in a company’s shares could indicate investor sentiment.

Based on this metric, “market participants are more optimistic about Standard Bank’s and [FNB owner] FirstRand’s future prospects,” he said.

Absa declined to comment without seeing the full index.

Source: 4-Traders

MTN employee helped Guptas spy on people

The Sunday Times has reported that an MTN employee, who worked as a senior fraud analyst, sold the cellphone records of high-profile politicians and journalists to a Gupta-linked company.

According to the report, she was paid R3,750 by a private investigations company for the mobile phone records of Trevor Manuel, Tiso Blackstar editor-at-large Peter Bruce, and Financial Mail editor Rob Rose.

Manuel, Bruce, and Rose are outspoken critics of the Gupta family.

Part of these records were published on Wmcleaks.com – a fake news website – on 13 August.

Bank of Baroda CEO Manoj Kumar also featured in the Wmcleaks report, and is accused of being a sellout to white monopoly capital for trying to close Oakbay’s accounts.

“Trevor via an untraceable middle-man had carried out around 30 calls to the Chief Manager of Bank Of Baroda SA, Manoj Kumar Jha,” states Wmcleaks.

“Many calls between Trevor and Rose have been verified within the time frame of the Oakbay’s accounts closure in BOB regarding the creation of this intimidation scenario.”

The Wmcleaks report added that “Rob Rose was also in constant touch with Peter Bruce within the said time frame”.

Shortly before the Wmcleaks article, Bruce wrote a column titled The price of writing about the Guptas.

He provided details on how he was followed and photographed, accused of cheating on his wife, and attacked online.

MTN confirmed the transgression by the employee, who did not arrive for a disciplinary hearing and instead resigned from the company.

“Providing call data records of a third-party to anyone outside of MTN is a serious and major violation of MTN’s internal policies and procedures,” said MTN.

Call details

Wmcleaks published an image of the call records detailed above.

 

Source: My Broadband 

Crime stats are down

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula “isn’t feeling” the general 1.8% decrease in crime during the 2016/17 financial year, and has yet again warned violent criminals that they will be dealt with in a “proportional response”.

“Crime is in general down, but when you zoom into the numbers, we have a big problem where violent crime is going up, and there is no time to hide this,” said Mbalula, presenting the crime statistics for 2016/17 to the Portfolio Committee on Police on Tuesday morning.

“Yes, we have a 1.8% drop in crime, I do not feel it, and our people do not feel it, and they are correct. We have a drop in sexual violence, but we have more and more pictures of our women going missing. People must feel the drop in crime where they live.”

Mbalula said South Africans must ask whether they had accepted living side by side with violent criminals.

“Is criminality a South African citizen itself? Our answer must be an emphatic and radical ‘No!’,” he said.

“We must deal with crime in a radical and energetic way – our language must be clear and understood.”

He insisted that he “seriously means” it when he says violent criminals will receive a response proportional to their actions.

“Today, I am saying to criminal gangs, Nilibambe Lingashoni – I am coming for you hard, enough is enough.”

Mbalula didn’t only talk tough on criminals, but was also willing to introspect on the police’s own failings.

‘We have relaunched specialised units’

He slammed the “lazy efforts” of police to curb crimes that were indicative of police effectiveness.

“The crimes that are considered as indicators of the effectiveness of police activities, these are crimes detected as a result of police action, experienced a reversal from a decrease of 0.3% in the preceding financial year to an increase of 9.6%,” said Mbalula.

“This increase is too small and indicative of the lazy efforts by the police to detect such crime, in order to make South Africa a safer place to live in. Police, in this instance, are letting our people down and I am here to stop it.”

He said the “chop and change” of police commissioners – from Bheki Cele to Riah Phiyega, to various acting national commissioners – had affected the focus and direction of the police.

He also expressed his concern about decreasing police numbers and the top-heavy structure.

“Honourable members, this is not just talk. We are strengthening our capacity, we are appointing strategic thinkers in police management and stabilising our Crime Intelligence Division to enable intelligence-led crime prevention and policing.

“We have relaunched specialised units to focus on drugs, rape, violent threats and violent criminals. We are enhancing our technological capacity to match the evolved digital technology arena.”

By Jan Gerber for News24 

New Gumtree scam uses Uber drivers

A MyBroadband reader recently faced a scam involving Gumtree, Taxify, and his iPhone 7 Plus.

It started when he posted his iPhone 7 Plus 256GB on Gumtree, and received five calls to purchase the device on the first day.

“All of them said they do not use WhatsApp. All said they will send an Uber to collect. All offered to send documents,” he said.

Scammers appear to be trawling Gumtree for high-value items, like an iPhone, then try to steal them by offering to purchase the item, and sending forged documents and notifications.

This is done when potential victims agree to accept an EFT.

The scammer knows which bank the victim uses and sends an SMS stating a deposit has been made into their bank account from a different bank.

This is so they have an excuse for why the money hasn’t cleared if checked. They then send an SMS that looks like a deposit notification from the victim’s bank.

Scam

In the reader’s case, the scammer said he was sending his “friend” to collect the iPhone after he had made the “payment”.

The “friend” turned out to be a Taxify driver, who had little knowledge of the person he was collecting the phone for.

The reader said after handing his device over, he felt something was wrong, and went to the guard house where he stays and got the driver’s number from the sign-in book.

He called the driver, explained he thought the collection was a scam, and the driver returned – cancelling the trip.

The scammer the driver did the pickup for was a cash customer, who then contacted him and offered R1,500, then R3,000, to complete the delivery. The driver declined.

“These criminals are using Uber and Taxify with cash payment options to get the drivers to do the hard work and collect the items from victims,” said the reader.

Fighting cons

Gumtree said fraudulent proof of payment is not new in online marketplaces.

“Although we haven’t seen many cases like this, it seems that Uber or Taxify is another way of making it harder to trace the actual perpetrator,” said Gumtree.

“We urge community members to inform us via our 24/7 contact centre if they encounter a suspicious buyer or seller.”

Gumtree stated that victims or potential victims must also contact the SAPS about any scam incidents.

The company said it will speak to Uber and Taxify to collaborate and combat this activity.

Uber recently introduced new safety features which require cash riders to link a Facebook account to their Uber profile, which it verifies, before using the service.

Called Social Connect, only new sign-ups are currently required to link their Facebook account.

Uber said there is potential for Social Connect to expand to existing users in future.

Taxify did not respond to requests for comment.

Safety features

One way to avoid falling victim to a scam is to use a third-party escrow service, like Shepherd – which is offered by Gumtree in conjunction with Standard Bank.

The service charges 3.95% of the transaction value, with a minimum charge of R30.

Shepherd also charges separately for its shipping service – starting at R100 for items below 2kg, and R169 for items up to 10kg.

“If you opt not to use Shepherd, always check that funds have cleared before handing over goods,” said Gumtree.

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Microsoft keeps hack under wraps

Microsoft’s internal database that it uses to track bugs in its software was reportedly hacked in 2013.

A highly sophisticated hacking group was behind the alleged breach, according to Reuters, which is the second known breach of this kind of corporate database.

Five former employees told the publication about the hack in separate interviews, though Reuters said Microsoft did not disclose the depth of the attack in 2013.

The database in question contained information on critical and unfixed vulnerabilities found in not only the Windows operating system but also some of the most widely used worldwide software, the publication reported.

Microsoft learned of the breach in early 2013 after a hacking group launched a series of attacks against high profile tech companies including Apple, Twitter and Facebook.

The group exploited a flaw in the Java programming language to access employees’ Apple computers, before moving into the company’s network, Reuters said.

Microsoft released a short statement following the attack on 22 February 2013 that said: “As reported by Facebook and Apple, Microsoft can confirm that we also recently experienced a similar security intrusion.

“We found a small number of computers, including some in our Mac business unit, that were infected by malicious software using techniques similar to those documented by other organizations. We have no evidence of customer data being affected, and our investigation is ongoing.”

In an email responding to questions from Reuters, Microsoft said: “Our security teams actively monitor cyber threats to help us prioritize and take appropriate action to keep customers protected.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told IT Pro: “In February 2013 we commented on the discovery of malware, similar to that found by other companies at the time, on a small number of computers including some in our Mac business unit. Our investigation found no evidence of information being stolen that could be used in subsequent attacks.”

This contradicts Reuters’ report, whose sources said that although the bugs in the database had been exploited in hacking attacks, the attackers could have found the information elsewhere.

Reuters said Microsoft didn’t disclose the breach because of this, and because many patches had already been released to customers.

“They absolutely discovered that bugs had been taken,” one source said. “Whether or not those bugs were in use, I don’t think they did a very thorough job of discovering.”

Following the breach, Microsoft improved its security by separating the database from the corporate network and including two authentications to access the information, Reuters reported.

Mozilla had a similar attack in 2015 when an attacker accessed a database which included information on 10 unpatched flaws. One of the flaws was then used to attack Firefox users, which Mozilla told the public about at the time, telling customers to take action.

Mozilla CBO and CLO Denelle Dixon said the foundation released the information about what it knew in 2015 “not only [to] inform and help protect our users, but also to help ourselves and other companies learn, and finally because openness and transparency are core to our mission.”

Reuters wrote that the hacking group has been called Morpho, Butterfly and Wild Neutron but security researchers say it is a proficient and mysterious group and that they cannot determine if it is backed by a state government.

Equifax revelead that a file containing 700,000 UK records was accessed during a data breach in May, giving attackers access to names and contact details. Of that figure, 700,000 accounts had partial credit information and email addresses stolen.

Zach Marzouk for IT Pro 

Labour brokers: when is it legal?

South African labour legislation severely constrains the few employer rights that exist. It is therefore no surprise that employers  look for alternative means of hiring labour instead of employing workers directly.

One option is to use labour brokers in an attempt to free employers from many labour law responsibilities in return for a fee.Trade unions, who find this loophole to be a thorn in their sides, call this type of arrangement “Atypical Employment” and have instigated new legislation, effective from April 2015 that severely curtails the purposes for which labour brokers.

Even before the 2015 amendments using labour brokers to evade labour law responsibilities was difficult and labour brokers were already taking struggling to cope with the legal responsibilities that they took over.

For example, in the case of Sibiya & others vs HBL Services cc (2003 7 BALR 796) the employees were employed by a labour broker to provide work to a client. The employees refused to change to a new shift system introduced by the client. When the employees arrived for work the next day to render services under the old shift system the broker’s client locked them out and they referred an unfair dismissal dispute.

The arbitrator found that the employees had been dismissed for refusing to work under the new shift system. As the employees were entitled to refuse the change and as no proper dismissal procedures had been implemented the arbitrator ordered the broker to reinstate the employees with full back pay.

In the case of Springbok Trading (Pty) Ltd vs Zondani and Others (2004 9  BLLR 864) the company wanted to transfer a number of its own employees into the employment of a labour broker that was already providing most of the company’s labour. The company claimed that the union had agreed to the transfer.

The union denied this. Those employees who refused the transfer were retrenched and some of them declared and were successful with a dispute in the Labour Court. On appeal the Labour Appeal Court found that:

• The discussions with the union had been conducted by the very same labour broker to which the employer wanted to transfer the employees. Thus the person who consulted with the union had a lot to gain by the transfer and could not be seen to have consulted in good faith.

• The employer’s stated reason for wanting to implement the transfer was not good enough to justify the retrenchment of those employees who refused the transfer. That is, the employer’s alleged wish to avoid the burden of payroll administration did not justify the loss of employees’ jobs.

• It was unlikely that the trade union would have agreed to the retrenchment of its members.• Consultations on the retrenchments were neither completed nor properly conducted.

• The retrenchments were unfair.The employer’s appeal was therefore dismissed with costs.The 2015 amendments shift most of the responsibility from the labour broker back to the original employers who have therefore lost a key means of relief from the heavy constraints of labour legislation.

All employers and the smaller ones in particular, need to learn, with the help of reputable labour law experts, how to continue to run profitable businesses despite the ever increasingly restrictive labour legislation.

To book for our 10 November Johannesburg seminar on achieving a productive and legally compliant workplace, please contact Ronni via ronni@labourlawadvice.co.za or 084 521 7492.

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

SARS to punish tax evaders

SARS has announced that it will intensify criminal proceedings against tax offenders from October.

In a statement released, the revenue collector warned South African taxpayers to “pay your taxes or pay the price”, after it had seen a large increase in taxpayers not submitting their returns within stipulated timeframes.

“We have noticed an increase in taxpayers not submitting their tax returns by the stipulated deadlines‚ and not settling their outstanding debt‚” SARS said.

“This is not limited to the current tax year but includes substantial non-compliance across previous tax years. It is for this reason that from October 2017 SARS will now intensify criminal proceedings against tax offenders.”

“Should any return result in a tax debt, it must be paid before the relevant due date to avoid any interest for late payment and legal action,” it said.

These punishments could include fines or even criminal prosecution, it said.

Late refunds

While SARS pushes to meet its deadlines, it has also recently come under fire for failing to issue refunds timeously.

On 4 September, the tax ombudsman found that SARS’ system had unfairly delayed payment of refunds to taxpayers.

The ombud said that the findings were not only based on complaints received during the previous tax year, but over the course of multiple years.

“In the period November 2016 to March 2017, we received no less than 500 such complaints; half of which were validated. While the number of complaints received is important, this is not necessarily indicative of the financial magnitude or impact of the problem because, one claim may run into millions,” it said.

“The impact of the withholding of refunds may be devastating to the taxpayer. What appears to be a small claim may have serious cash flow impact on that small taxpayer company, or an individual.”

In a statement in July, SARS said that it is important for taxpayers expecting a speedy payment to note that it has implemented additional risk processes in 2017, to ensure that both the legitimacy and accuracy of the refunds paid.

“SARS has an obligation to both taxpayers as well as to the fiscus to ensure that fraudulent and invalid claims are stopped,” it said.

“We are aware that taxpayers have an expectation that once they submit a return, which results in a refund, that this would be paid to them shortly thereafter. It must be noted that such refunds can only be paid once all SARS processes have been concluded.”

Source: Supermarket.co.za

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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