Telkom plans to cut 3 000 jobs

By Sibongile Khumalo for Fin24

Telkom has issued a notice to cut as many as 3 000 jobs – nearly a third of its workforce – across multiple departments, as the company looks to streamline its operations amid falling earnings and changing market conditions.

Trade union Solidarity, which is one of the unions representing workers, said a notice of the process – which would be conducted in two phases – was received on Wednesday.

“We expected the retrenchments to happens but not in such large numbers. This is quite a large number… we did not expect it,” said Linda Senekal, the union’s sector coordinator.

She said affected workers include those employed in the IT department, customer services and small business.

With a 9 000-strong workforce, Telkom is adjusting to a shift in operating conditions, which have seen a significant move from voice to data.

The semi-privatised company, which operates in several countries in Africa, has also faced calls by Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to drop data costs.

Senekal voiced concern that the company had opted to lay off workers instead of opting to upskill employees for tech-driven jobs.

“Telkom employs a lot of contractors to do jobs that should be done by its workforce,” Senekal said.

The company’s interim financial results, released in November, showed that headline earnings dived 36%, while net debt increased by almost R2bn to R11.8bn.

Telkom is among several large organisations considering job cuts as the country battles high unemployment rates and tough economic conditions.

Last year, debt-stricken national airline, SAA, announced plans to reduce head counts, in a move which was fiercely opposed by unions.

This week, MassMart, which owns Game, DionWired and Makro, among others, announced on Monday that it was consulting with its employees about the potential closure of 34 stores. The move could affect up to 1 440 employees.

By Babalo Ndenze for EWN

Parliament wants the government to find a way to stop the pending retrenchments at retail giant Massmart.

Mandla Rayi, chairperson of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Employment and Labour called on those departments to urgently intervene.

Massmart, which is majority-owned by US retail giant Walmart, has this week indicated it had started consultations with unions about the closure of up to 34 of its Dion-Wired and Masscash stores which could affect 1 400 employees.

Rayi said that it might not be ideal for the government to interfere in business but the severity of the pending retrenchments necessitated some form of intervention.

“We would like to have a meeting with the departments of employment and labour and DTI, with them telling us how far they’ve gone with regards to their intervention in this matter.”

He said that it was the very same government that facilitated the American owned Massmart’s entry into the South African economy.

“Remember when Massmart, an American company, wanted to come to South Africa, government was involved in facilitating their coming into the country, so we want them to get involved over the pending retrenchments.”

He said that the select committee would request a meeting with the departments of employment and labour as well as the trade and industry department to try to find solutions.

SA’s huge Windows piracy problem

By Bradley Prior for MyBroadband

Only a third of PCs being shipped to Africa include genuine software, which is a reason for the increase in data breaches and malware attacks in the region.

This is according to Deniz Ozen, regional general manager for consumer and device sales at Microsoft Middle East and Africa.

Ozen said that this has resulted in the loss of important data and decreased productivity on the continent.

Benefits of legal software for Africa
“Africa’s emerging market potential is unparalleled and business development and the growth of existing SME’s remains a key focus across the continent,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“To tap into this potential growth, access to affordable genuine software and hardware is necessary if the digital divide is to be closed.”

Microsoft believes that access to genuine software ensures comprehensive security for devices and data, making legitimate software important to the long-term success of businesses.

The same applies to students who rely heavily on access to devices, software and information to complete their required tasks and projects.

Fixing the piracy problem
The Software Alliance said in its June 2018 report that the overall rate of pirated software in the Middle East and Africa region stood at 56%.

“Pirated software is often installed without the end user’s knowledge, and it is those users who suffer the consequences including lost data and unusable PCs,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft EMEA VP of consumer and device sales Bradley Hopkinson told MyBroadband in October that Microsoft has various measures in place to fight piracy in South Africa and in Africa as a whole.

“We have come up with a programme called the Africa Coverage Programme, which is an affordability programme with our multinational partners,” said Hopkinson.

“Effectively, it is a programme that we believe will address affordability, and at the same time we need to drive awareness for the value of genuine software, which we will do as part of that programme.”

Microsoft has also launched its Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of Microsoft software piracy in the African market.

“Through the Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, we aim to educate consumers on the risks of using pirated software, and to work with our PC ecosystem partners including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Mustek and SMD to make Genuine Windows 10 PCs more affordable across Africa,” said Hopkinson.

“We have high aspirations to bring piracy almost to zero across Africa. We see a world across Africa where we can get genuine Windows in excess of 80% and even higher, and that is also based on the success we’ve seen through similar programmes in other emerging markets.”

Source: Fin24

An infamous Russian-speaking hacking group – referred to as Silence – is the likely culprit making thousands of attempts to hack major banks in sub-Saharan Africa, cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs said on Monday.

The group is called Silence because of the silent monitoring done via their malware. They have already carried out a number of successful campaigns targeting banks and financial organisations around the globe.

According to Kaspersky, the typical scenario of an attack begins with a social engineering scheme, as attackers send a phishing e-mail that contains malware to a bank employee.

From there, the malware gets inside the banks’ security perimeter and lays low for a while, gathering information on the victim organisation by capturing screenshots and making video recordings of the day-to-day activity on the infected device.

“Once attackers are ready to take action, they activate all capabilities of the malware and cash out using, for example, ATMs. The score sometimes reaches millions of dollars,” says Kaspersky.

“The attacks detected began in the first week of January 2020 and indicated that the threat actors are about to begin the final stage of their operation and cash out the funds. To date, the attacks are ongoing and persist in targeting large banks in several SSA countries.”

Kaspersky accordingly advises financial organisations to introduce basic security awareness training for all employees so that they can better distinguish phishing attempts. Banks should also monitor activity in enterprise information systems and prepare an incident response plan to be ready for potential incidents in the network environment.

In August 2019 Kaspersky reported a cyber attack in which South Africa was apparently among 17 countries targeted by North Korean hackers, related to the activity of the so-called Lazarus group. They also targeted banks and other financial institutions.

By Londiwe Buthelezi for Fin24

Last Thursday, all Makro stores across the country were shut following issues that caused disruption in the company’s trading system.

“Makro experienced some system-related issues this morning impacting our ability for stores to operate normally. This has now been resolved and all stores are operational … We would like to extend our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused to our customers,” said Makro Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Welisa Nene.

Makro tweeted an apology to customers at around 13:00 on 2 January.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused while our stores have been closed today. We were experiencing a technical issue which has now been resolved. We are now open for trading,” it said.

Earlier in the day, customers were turned away at Makro stores in the Western Cape and Gauteng, while some remained in hopes that outlets would reopen soon.

Makro Woodmead in Sandton remained close past lunchtime, even though Makro tweeted that stores had reopened.

Massmart flagged the issue of downtime at Makro during the group’s interim results announcement in August. It said the system downtime was due to the implementation of a new system as the retailer switched from its legacy online system early in 2019.

But last year the downtime issues only affected online sales, which accounted for a mere 0.8% of all sales in Makro outlets. Signs at some of the stores on Thursday indicated that till points were also affected this time around.

Makro has 22 stores around the country trading in general merchandise, food and liquor. Nene confirmed that the downtime only impacted these 22 Makro stores across the country, and no other Massmart chains.

Expat tax is coming

By Pedro Gonçalves for International Investment

South Africans working abroad will face higher taxes as they will only be exempt from paying tax on the first R1m they earn elsewhere, under the amendments to the Income Tax Act which are due to come into effect from March.

The country’s Treasury said that additional tax measures were under consideration to raise an extra R10-billion in fiscal 2021. “Given the fiscal position we find ourselves in, all tax options need to be on the table,” said Chris Axelson, chief director for economic tax analysis in the Treasury.”

Under the changes, the totality of an expat’s income earned abroad would be subject to tax in South Africa.

The expat exemption only relates to South Africans who are tax resident, so the obvious answer would be to cease tax residency of South Africa”
“What this means is that, if they remain tax resident, they will be taxed fully on any allowances and benefits, as if they were just a normal employee working in South Africa,” Jean du Toit, editor of “Expatriate Tax – South African Citizens Working Abroad and Foreigners in South Africa”, told local news outlet Fin24.

One of the unforeseen consequences from what has been dubbed the ‘expat tax’ could be that South Africans abroad may simply decide to sever their ties with South Africa and cease their tax residency.

“Unfortunately, the solutions for the expat in relation to this amendment are now becoming very limited. The expat exemption only relates to South Africans who are tax resident, so the obvious answer would be to cease tax residency of South Africa,” du Toit added.

Discovery Bank glitch wipes balances to zero

By Khulekani Magubane for Fin24

On Friday evening, Discovery Bank clients were hit by a glitch which showed that their available bank balances were wiped out to R0.00, leaving them unable to make payments.

Netwerk24 reported that one client was left stranded at a petrol station because his card didn’t work when he wanted to pay for fuel.

When he tried to withdraw money from an ATM, his card balance was displayed as R0.00. The bank app showed the same balance.

Discovery Bank clients also complained on Twitter. The bank’s spokesperson Felicity Hudson confirmed the problem to Fin24.

“Discovery Bank experienced downtime on Friday evening which lasted approximately an hour. This affected a limited number of our clients,” said Hudson.

Hudson said during that period some payments at petrol stations were impacted. The Discovery’s banking app also showed incorrect information for a small number of users.

Hudson did not give specific numbers on the number of clients affected.

“While all banks experience such outages from time to time, we aim to do better and hence, we apologise unreservedly to all our clients for any inconvenience that they may have experienced,” Hudson said.

She said Discovery Bank would continue working to iron out the glitches and assist any clients that may have been affected by the downtime.

Discovery, a healthcare solutions giant, made its foray into the world of banking last year, after successfully obtaining a banking licence.

By Phillip de Wet for Business Insider SA

Scammers are separating helpful South Africans from their money in what appears to be a wave of fraud that relies on hijacking WhatsApp accounts – and then simply asking for money.

The scammers first take control of a victim’s phone number, usually by porting the number to a new service provider, and so associating it with a SIM card under their control. That allows them to receive confirmatory SMSes from WhatsApp, and so take control of an existing account, while the now-offline victim is none the wiser.

Now able to impersonate the victim, the scammers access the phone numbers of friends and acquaintances, in many instances seemingly just waiting for incoming messages, or by way of WhatsApp groups to which the victim belongs. Then they simply ask for money.

Number porting has in the past often been used to intercept one-time PIN (OTP) numbers – but that requirers scammers to have control of bank accounts, either by skimming credit card information or stealing login details for online banking.

In the current wave of scams, the attackers do not need such access. Friends of victims are asked to send money via services such as First National Bank’s eWallet, which sends the code required to withdraw money from an ATM via SMS – with the cash immediately available.

As of Wednesday it was not yet clear how widespread the new scam was, with network operators saying they were detecting only a small number of fraudulent attempts to port numbers – while many people said they were receiving worrying notifications, or had already seen their friends approached for money.

Here’s how to protect yourself against both sides of the latest WhatsApp hijacking scam.

Turn on security notifications in WhatsApp.
WhatsApp security code settings
WhatsApp will alert you when a contact changes their phones – if you let it. For those in many big WhatsApp groups – with people who like to switch phones – the constant messages that a contact’s “security code has changed” can becoming annoying, so some people turn it off.

If you are one of those people, turn those notifications back on by going to “settings”, then selecting “account”, and from there “security”.

Should a “friend” ask for money shortly after their security code changes, be extremely suspicious.

Don’t ignore porting SMSes.
Cellphone companies will send out notification, by SMS, before porting a number – but will consider no response as permission. If you receive an SMS that warns your number is to be ported, do not ignore it.

If you are worried that message might be a scam in itself, phone your network provider on the usual service number.

Don’t turn off your phone if you’re getting annoying calls.
Some victims of porting say they were bombarded by annoying phone calls before their numbers were hijacked. The idea behind constantly ringing your number is to make you turn off your phone – so that you won’t receive porting notifications, and won’t notice you have suddenly been kicked off the network.

If someone keeps phoning then putting down the phone before you can answer, or you keep receiving calls with nobody on the other side, assume you are being scammed, and rather put your phone on silent while watching out for SMSes.

Don’t ignore a loss of cellphone signal.
If your phone suddenly won’t connect to your mobile network – and you aren’t in the middle of nowhere, or in an area being load-shed – assume your number is being hijacked, and get in touch with your network service provider as soon as possible.

Don’t register a new WhatsApp account if you change phone numbers, update your number instead.
Some victims of WhatsApp identity fraud believe they were impersonated after their former, abandoned cellphone numbers were recycled by network operators.

If you are switching numbers and want to be sure nobody can pretend to be you in future, you can change the phone number associated with your WhatsApp account.

If you really care about your security, enable the PIN function on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp 2-step verification
For ultimate protection, you can create a six-digit PIN number in WhatsApp, without which it should be impossible to register on the service – so that no number-porting scam or other mechanism will let someone steal your identity.

There is no better way to protect yourself, but this two-step verification measure comes with a couple of caveats. If you do not associate an email address with that PIN, or lose access to the email address you register, you are in deep trouble if you ever forget your PIN. Also, WhatsApp will from time to time demand the number from you, which could get annoying.

The PIN activation is under “settings”, “account”, and then “two step verification”.

MTN, Vodacom urged to lower data prices

By Sihle Mavuso for IOL

In the wake of the Competition Commission ordering Vodacom and MTN to lower their exorbitant data prices, the ruling party says the two must voluntarily do so now than later.

MTN and Vodacom lost R22-billion of their combined value on Monday after the competition watchdog gave the two dominant mobile phone operators two months to slash internet connectivity prices or face prosecution.

The ANC, in response to the two mobile giants’ reasoning that data was so expensive because of the lack of spectrum, said that would be sorted in the near future and that should not be an excuse.

Joining the chorus of those welcoming the news that on the side battered the values of the companies, the ruling party said the current steep prices of data have a negative impact not only on the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

“We reiterate our call that operators must demonstrate goodwill by voluntarily lowering data prices and allow government to resolve the allocation of new spectrum. The release of spectrum, which the ANC supports, will resolve the network capacity constraints experienced by Mobile Network Operators and accelerate the roll-out of broadband networks in rural areas,” the party said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

On the high data costs, the party said the working class poor, youth, students and women are robbed of their income as they spend more than 25% on the telecommunications services including data services.

It said the majority of the country’s people, due to the widening digital divide, are unable to enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, which deprive the poor of full participation in the democracy of our country. It added that this further stifles development and growth of small businesses.

“The ANC further urges government to activate all regulatory mechanisms, i.e. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Competition Commission, with the necessary speed. Access to data in the 21st century is important because it facilitates the realisation of many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, as well as, enhancing economic participation and the strengthening of our democracy.”

Among its findings, the Competition Commission said while conducting its inquiry it started in 2017, it found that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN in other African markets in which they operate also reveal that South African prices are higher than most countries by some distance.

Five DStv scams to avoid this Christmas

By Tom Head for The South African

If you’re a subscriber to the network, take note. At least five major DStv scams have been identified this year: here’s how to play it safe.

‘Tis the season to be cautious, folks. There are a myriad of DStv scams waiting to trip-up some unsuspecting victims this Christmas. The network have confirmed that a number of schemes have already been detected, and bosses have raced to warn South Africans about the dangers they face.

It isn’t just the technophobes and boomers that are getting duped by the sophisticated rouses, either. These DStv scams have caught-out people across the board. But what do we need to look out for?

The gift card phishing scam
Customers receive an email informing them that they’ve won a cash gift card or huge sums of prize money from a MultiChoice competition. However, targets are then asked to provide personal details in order to claim the prize. It’ll be for a competition you definitely didn’t enter, so please, don’t hand any of your information out.

The “final notice” SMS scam
Some DStv customers have received an SMS claiming to be from DStv demanding payment for a DStv Explora account. It threatens action if payment is not made today and includes banking details. However, the network do not send such crudely-worded communications. You can contact them to find out the status of your account if you feel unsure.

Recruiting for social media jobs
There are dangerous scams disguised as recruitment ads for MultiChoice. One of the most popular ones offers applicants the chance to be driven to an interview. MultiChoice does not offer such a service, under any circumstances. Use the Afrizan website to verify any offers.

The DStv Premiem upgrade scam
Opportunists are contacting customers – via email or telephone- and offering them DStv Premium for a fixed once-off fee per yea, where the customer pays the fee directly to the scammer. Customers are asked to disregard such offers, and they are asked to refrain from letting a third-party upgrade an account for them.

Say no to installation offers
Don’t let your desire for a festive bargain cloud your common sense. If someone offers you a discounted DStv subscription at a once off payment, treat this with suspicion and check it with the network. Anyone offering “free package upgrades” or “free DStv for life” in a cut-price deal will be trying to rip you off.

How to avoid these DStv scams
The network have issued the following statement, advising consumers on how they can stay safe this year:

“There are usually tell-tale signs that can help you spot if something is a scam. Like receiving an email or SMS from us claiming that you’ve won a huge prize for a DStv competition you never entered, and for which you must either pay a fee or verify yourself by sending personal details – sounds too good to be true? It probably is.”

“MultiChoice will never request your personal details via email or SMS – please do not hand over your personal information to anyone claiming to be from DStv. Always check the email address and emails containing spelling and grammatical errors. MultiChoice only use one domain for emails (multichoice.co.za).”

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