Standard Bank to retrench 526 IT workers

By Kabelo Khumalo for IOL 

South Africa’s jobs bloodbath is raging with Standard Bank today announcing that the restructuring of its IT division will see more than 500 workers sacrificed.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom says of the impacted permanent staff, the majority are in the executive and managerial bands.

“This process will result in 526 IT employees receiving Section 189 notices which will commence the consultative process with the employees involved”.

“This process will create over 180 new-generation IT positions within the bank. Regrettably, this will also result in the loss of a number of existing traditional IT positions,” Linstrom said.

The bank said the restructuring was instigated by “emerging technologies and increased demands from customers”.

The unrelenting jobs bloodbath seems to be gathering steam. Power Utility Eskom has already announced plans to cut its workforce, the SABC has said it would have to let go of more than 1 000 workers for it to keep afloat. Telkom’s subsidiary BCX last week also joined the bandwagon and warned that it will retrench about 700 employees.

Ironically, as part of stemming the jobs bloodbath, all stakeholders at the Jobs Summit held last month had committed themselves to concrete steps to avoid retrenchments and support struggling companies.

SAPO CEO sets deadline to clear backlog

A backlog of millions of items still waiting to be delivered at the Johannesburg nerve centre of the Post Office is being cleared as fast as possible.

That’s according to SAPO CEO Mark Barnes, who has stated that the provider is looking to clear the backlog by 24 November 2018.

“We started off in April with a 46-million item backlog and we are now down to a 7.8-million backlog.”

The bulk of that is sitting at the Witspos Hub in Johannesburg.

SAPO defines a “backlog” as any item of post five or more days behind schedule.

Barnes says there have been some improvements in clearing the domestic mailing backlog but they still need to catch up with international deliveries.

Listen to the full interview here.

Malusi Gigaba resigns

By Tshidi Madia for News24

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba resigned from his post following mounting pressure for President Cyril Ramaphosa to give him the boot.

He decided to step down of his own accord, following a meeting with some of his comrades in the ANC on Tuesday morning, one of the provincial party leaders says.

The presidency confirmed Gigaba’s resignation via a statement in the afternoon, saying he decided to do so “for the sake of our country and the movement to which he belongs”.

“He resigned of his own accord, he showed some remorse and decided to step aside,” Ekurhuleni Mayor and ANC chairperson in the region Mzwandile Masina told News24.

“We met with him in the morning, discussed this issue and said the writing is on the wall and that it was best for him to resign.”

“To stay on and wait to be fired is arrogant,” added Masina.

He said the former minister’s friends and comrades advised him to step down and fight his battles outside of government.

“We said he must think of the ANC and his family, telling him it was best to step aside and fight the issues from outside,” said Masina.

Gigaba has been at the centre of numerous controversies, which led to growing calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to axe him.

In recent weeks Gigaba had: a leaked private video of him engaging in a sexual act; the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of his application for leave to appeal a finding that he lied under oath about approving the Oppenheimers’ private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport; and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane reaching similar conclusions to the court in her own investigation into the Fireblade scandal.

“He needs to apply for different court processes to clear his name. He cannot be a public representative, he cannot sit on boards… it’s about his integrity,” said Masina.

Masina also said Gigaba, out of his love for the ANC and his own contributions to the liberation movement where he once served as ANC Youth League president, agreed.

Internal battles in the ANC

Masina, who has been publicly defending Gigaba, refused to name others who took part in the Tuesday meeting. But said there appeared to be an understanding that the younger generation of leaders within the party, would not get a chance to lead it.

“There is a whole generation being wiped out of government, it has no prospects,” said Masina.

He told News24 this was linked to internal battles within the ANC.

Gigaba himself has previously said there was a campaign to destroy him, accusing Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises of joining in on the campaign after a report into his role at Eskom was leaked.

“We are blaming no one, he is taking responsibility and he will fight,” said Masina of his comrade and friend.

A guide to buying on Black Friday

Source: News24

Research shows that the Black Friday phenomenon has grown faster in South Africa than any other country in the world.

Black Friday, a retail promotion that takes place on the last Friday of November after the American Thanksgiving holiday, originated in America in the 1950s.

Last year, PriceCheck saw three times the number of daily visits to its online shopping comparison website on Black Friday, and twice the number on Cyber Monday, compared to its 2017 average.

In addition, these visits were on average 30% longer than the 2017 average duration. This year is likely to surpass that, with PayPal predicting that South Africans’ online shopping spend will top R53bn by the end of 2018, up from R37.1bn in 2017. But as the South African online shopping market grows, providing more to choose from, shoppers should put a game plan in place to ensure they get the best deals from the most reliable, and secure retailers.

Lebogang Mokubela, founder of township-based retail marketing company Lemok Group, says: “Black Friday marketing has been exceptional with millions of rand being invested to draw crowds to their offerings.”

Taking a look at shopping centres across the country with a combined GLA of approximately 23.4 million square metres, an average of 3.2% of tenants participated in Black Friday in 2016 and an average of 21% of tenants participated in Black Friday in 2017 – an increase of 17.8% year on year, Mokubela says. Small regional shopping centres indicated a growth average of 31% year-on-year.

Tips for getting the best deals on Black Friday

  • Have a plan. Know what you want, need and can afford before you get enticed by all the shiny offers in front of you
  • Choose a secure way to pay: credit card payments that ask you for a supplementary one-time pin – such as Verified by Visa, Snapscan and PayPal – are all good options
  • Take note of the delivery and return details. Will you get the purchase when you need it, and if you need to return it, will you end up paying more on delivery costs?
  • Look out for hidden costs or additional purchases you might need to make
  • Compare deals: similar deals might be packaged slightly differently, so make sure you are comparing apples with apples
  • Only buy from reputable retailers so you can be sure you will receive authentic products

Fired Moyane demands reinstatement

Source: Fin24

Axed SARS boss Tom Moyane has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding that Ramaphosa withdraw his letter of termination to Moyane before the end of the week.

In a letter issued via his attorney Eric Mabuza on Tuesday, Moyane gave Ramaphosa a deadline of 12 noon on Friday November 9 to withdraw the termination on grounds that the president’s conduct was “irrational, unlawful and invalid”.

“[W]e are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that you must forthwith withdraw your letter of termination dated 1 November 2018, restore the status quo which obtained before the service thereof (i.e. that our client is suspended with pay pending the outcome of the Disciplinary Inquiry) and duly await the outcome of the pending Constitutional Court application and/or the Disciplinary Inquiry,” the letter reads.

Last week the Presidency confirmed that President Cyril Ramaphosa had fired Tom Moyane as the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Ramaphosa had heeded the recommendations of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry, which submitted its interim report at the end of September.

Retired judge Robert Nugent and his assistants unanimously agreed that Moyane does not have the character of a person fit to lead Sars and he should be removed from office as a matter of urgency.

South Africa’s fuel price cap is on the way

Source: Supermarket & Retailer 

Energy minister, Jeff Radebe, has announced that the proposal to cap the price of 93 octane petrol will be finalised by the end of January 2019.

Speaking in a parliamentary Q&A session on Wednesday (31 October), Radebe said that the proposal has been circulated to the fuel wholesale and retail industries which have been asked to comment on it, reports BusinessDay,

“We are very serious about changing and putting a cap on 93 octane,” said Radebe.

He added that the cap would go a long way in alleviating pressure on consumers.

The confirmation comes after Radebe announced that Government was considering fixing a maximum price for unleaded fuel at the start of October.

“Government is deeply concerned by the rising cost of petrol in South Africa which is largely caused by the rand-dollar exchange rate and the price of crude oil,” said Radebe at the time.

He added that a task team, including officials from the Department of Energy and the National Treasury, are examining what to do to cushion the blow of another increase as the international price of crude oil has kept increasing.

Radebe placed a hold on petrol price increases for the month of September, with only a five cents increase added as part of an ongoing wage agreement.

However, this was followed by a record increase in October as the price of 93 octane fuel increased by 99 cents per litre, while 95 octane was increased by another R1 at the pumps.

November is expected to provide a slight relief for owners of petrol vehicles, while the price of diesel is expected to see another large increase.

By Genevieve Quintal for Business Live

The VBS Mutual Bank is “hopelessly insolvent” and should be wound up as the purpose and object of the bank no longer exists.

This is according to the Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority’s application to the high court in Pretoria.

The bank was placed under curatorship in March after looting by executives led to a liquidity crisis. A damning Reserve Bank report by advocate Terry Motau and Werksmans Attorneys, released earlier in October, detailed looting at VBS bank of nearly R2bn and identified the role of political players from the ANC and the EFF.

In an affidavit to the high court, Prudential AuthorityCEO Kuben Naidoo said the bank was hopelessly insolvent.

“Despite the efforts of the curator, the vortex of the black hole created by the role-players named in the investigator’s report, has resulted in the disappearance of VBS’s substratum and it being objectively impossible for VBS to achieve the purpose of its existence,” he said.

This decision will not sit well with various ANC MPs and those from the EFF who have called for the bank to be recapitalised.

During his maiden medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) last week, finance minister Tito Mboweni also indicated that the embattled bank could be saved. But Naidoo said the restatement of the 2017 financial statements, which were falsified and signed off by KPMG partner Sipho Malaba, was a monumental task for the curator, Anoosh Rooplal, to reconstruct the VBS balance sheet.

The results of this indicated that VBS’s liabilities exceed its assets and therefore it was “factually insolvent”. Naidoo said there was no possibility that VBS would be in a position to pay its debts and there was no possibility or prospect of the bank becoming a successful concern.

Rooplal also determined that curatorship was no longer viable for VBS.

It was necessary to bring an end to the curatorship as it would enable a liquidator to utilise the mechanisms provided by the insolvency and company law legislation, to recover monies from recipients in terms of void and impeachable transactions.

Naidoo said that after receiving a letter from the curator and after considering the investigator’s report he, in consultation with the governors of the Reserve Bank, determined that VBS must be placed in final winding up. “VBS is hopelessly insolvent and massive frauds have been perpetrated against it. There is no prospect of entering into any resolution plan in respect of VBS.”

The present activities relating to VBS are primarily directed at recoveries resulting from the thefts and frauds addressed in the Motau’s report, he said, adding that in the circumstances, it would not serve any purpose to grant a provisional winding-down order, as the conclusion of the “hopeless financial position” and the conduct of those who managed VBS, was unavoidable

He has asked the court to hear the urgent application to finally liquidate VBS on November 13, and has also asked the high court to appoint Rooplal as the liquidator as he has been inextricably involved in the affairs of VBS for the past seven months.

Source: Fin24

The purchasing power of South African households’ net wealth increased by R60.2bn over the period from the end of the first quarter of 2018 to the end of the second quarter despite the economy slumping into recession.

This is one of the findings of the Momentum-Unisa Household New Wealth Index.

The main reason for this improvement is given as an increase of R46.5bn in the real value of households’ assets. At the same time, the real value of households’ liabilities – mostly outstanding debt – decreased by R13.7bn.

The real value of household net wealth is obtained by subtracting the real value of their liabilities – mostly their outstanding credit and other debts – from the real value of their assets – mostly of the real values of their retirement funds, financial investments and residential properties.

The real value of household assets was boosted by an increase in the real value of households’ investments – specifically in retirement funds – which benefitted from an increase in share prices of the resources sector in particular.

These share prices received support from the rand exchange rate, which depreciated by almost 14% against the dollar over the period, offsetting declining commodity prices.

The real value of households’ residential assets did not receive much support over the quarter. House prices contracted in real terms, while real investments in the residential sector also declined.

According to FNB’s House Price Index, real house prices was 0.5% lower compared to a year ago, and virtually unchanged compared to the first quarter of 2018.

Furthermore, real fixed capital formation in the residential sector contracted by 6.5% in the second quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter.

“The weak state of the economy and in consumer finances, as well as uncertainty about land reform, are factors that combined to the weak performance of real household residential assets,” says the report.

Households’ outstanding liabilities continued to increase at a slower pace than household consumption expenditure inflation.

This situation – whereby outstanding household debt increases at a slower pace than inflation – is indicative of consumer finances being under pressure, according to the report.

The report predicts that preliminary estimates point to a decline in the real value of household assets during the third quarter of 2018 as share prices tumbled over this quarter, while real house price growth remained negative.

By Ntokozo Miya for Times Live 

Following an investigation that began in 2017, the Competition Commission of South Africa has fined well-known beef supplier, Karan Beef, R2.7-million for contravening the Competition Act. According to a statement released by the commission on Monday, Karan Beef admitted guilt after being found to have been “dividing markets in the supply of processed beef products.”

Irvin & Johnson (I&J) were found guilty of colluding with Karan Beef. An agreement between the two companies restricted Karan Beef from selling products to “certain customers which were reserved for I&J. I&J is disputing the findings and according to BusinessLIVE will now take the matter to the Competition Tribunal. The commission recommended that I&J be fined an amount equal to 10% of its annual turnover.

Food has been at the centre of a number of scandals in South Africa this year. Here’s three more scandals that turned us off our lunch.

Listeria outbreak
Tiger Brands was hit with a listeriosis outbreak in their Polokwane factory. The World Health Organisation describes listeria as a disease caused by bacteria found in processed meat. Its symptoms include muscle pain, diarrhoea and fever. The condition is treatable but may prove fatal for people with a weak immune system.

By the time Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi declared the end of the outbreak in September, 203 people had died and Tiger Brands still couldn’t confirm the source of the outbreak. “Tiger Brands has done every inspection and nobody has pinpointed how this listeria got in the [factory] this way,” said Motsoaledi.

Just as South Africans were celebrating the return of polony and viennas to their lunch boxes, a study conducted by the University of Pretoria concluded that listeria-contaminated polony was still being sold in rural areas.

Between the health minister’s announcement and the latest study, it appears that processed meat is a pretty much a ‘eat-at-your-own-risk’ affair.

Why did US chickens cross the ocean?
The import of chicken from the US to SA began in March after the two countries agreed on the terms for SA to be included in the African Growth and Opportunity Act. “You will find these products generally at third tier supermarkets, as they are aimed at lower income groups,” said Kevin Lovell, chief executive at the South African Poultry Association.

Lovell went on to say that the imported chickens were defrosted and repackaged left-overs of the US market. The outrage that followed was not only around the quality of the chickens, but also the financial impact on the local poultry industry.

Rainbow Chicken Limited Foods (RCL Foods) took a knock and were forced shed 1,200 employees. Food and Allied Workers Union spokesperson August Mbhele said the job cuts were not just limited to RCL Foods. “Even smaller abattoirs and poultry farmers have indicated that they will be forced to close shop because the cost of running these entities is escalating and they are not recovering these costs because there are cheap imports dumped here from other countries.”

Fake food?
When several videos allegedly showing “fake” food being sold at spaza shops trended online, the department of health launched an investigation. The department received complaints that eggs, baked beans, cold drinks and meat were among the items being produced fraudulently by spaza shop owners. Fake food refers to products that are manufactured privately but illegally labelled as well-known brands.

Despite the public outcry, the minister told journalists at a press conference that after more than 400 shops were inspected, no “fake” food had been found.

The cost of food scandals

  • Tiger Brands reported a R380-million loss due to the listeriosis outbreak
  • Rainbow Chicken reported a R75-million loss due to the listeriosis outbreak, with further recurring losses of R20-million a month
  • Rainbow Chicken had to let 1 200 employees go due to the influx of cheaper American poultry products
  • Karan Beef was fined R2.7-million for contravening the Competition Act
  • Fake food news caused looting and rioting in a number of small shops, with losses due to damage and lost income estimated in the millions

Source: MyBroadband

In 2016, Amazon unveiled the “future of shopping” with its Go store.

The store does not require shoppers to go through a checkout point – you walk in, pick what you want from the shelves, and walk out.

Everything is tracked by computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, and customers are automatically billed via their Amazon account.

The first store was launched in Seattle, USA, and offered ready-made meals and grocery items.

“We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. No lines, no checkout,” said Amazon.

In late 2018, Amazon has expanded its Go stores to other areas in the USA and they are now being called the “inevitable evolution of supermarket retail”.

Engadget stated that Amazon Go is “a natural extension of existing retail trends”, and added that Amazon plans to open 3,000 Go stores by 2021.

Not in South Africa
While shoppers used to visit a butcher for meat and then travel to a hardware store for tools, today’s customer can buy these items from a single outlet like Makro – or visit a shopping mall where different types of shops are grouped together.

This was a natural progression which made it easier to shop. The argument for cashierless stores is the same, since walking in, taking what you want, and walking out makes the life of the shopper easier.

In South Africa, however, it is unlikely that this technology will roll out to retail chains such as Pick n Pay or Checkers in the foreseeable future.

The reason for this is that the initial job losses that would be suffered by cashiers and store staff would not be tolerated by workers’ unions.

This was proven in 2016, when Pick n Pay trialed a self-service checkout at a store in Cape Town.

The system was set to be tested for six months, and the company would see how it benefited consumers before taking the next step.

Cosatu was quick to pressure the company into not expanding the self-service trial; however, as the union stated at the time that it would lead to job losses.

Fast forward to 2018, and Pick n Pay told MyBroadband there have been no developments to the system, with no plans to take it forward either.

Cosatu told MyBroadband it is still “bitterly opposed” to the self-service checkout system, as it will decimate much needed jobs in the country.

“Our unemployment statistics are shocking and we are not going to allow the reckless introduction of mechanisation and automation,” said Cosatu.

It stated that it will fight the introduction of these systems in South Africa, and it is opposed to “technological ‘solutions’ that are imposed with no regard for local economies and cultures”.

With workers’ unions wielding the power to strike and protest, and local companies known for backing down against unions on a regular basis, it is unlikely that Amazon’s “future of shopping” will land in South Africa any time soon.

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