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Digital innovation no longer up in the clouds

The Covid-19 pandemic is the ultimate catalyst for digital transformation and will greatly accelerate several trends already well under way before the pandemic. According to research by Vodafone, 71% of firms have made at least one new technology investment in direct response to the pandemic.

This shows that businesses are planning or have implemented new business practices for a post-Covid-19 world, leading to faster adoption of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-computing, among other technologies to drive digital transformation.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, there was a steady increase in people choosing to work remotely, and many companies have moved to more flexible workplace models. Investigating and investing in these tools will not only be good risk mitigation for the Covid-19 pandemic, but could also allow for easier collaboration, quicker turnaround times and cost savings as a result of less travel.

Companies that have previously embraced future-of-work practices, with virtual resources and technology support for remote workplaces, are well-positioned to sustain their operations and respond quickly to the demands of navigating the crisis.

When done correctly, remote working is effective if you can also restructure the organisational processes for how communication and co-ordination happens. It is therefore vital for companies to tackle a lack of appropriate technology, such as digital devices, virtual collaboration tools and platforms that will support dynamic work locations.

In a post-Covid-19 world, cloud technology is likely to receive a surge in implementation across all types of apps. There are obvious advantages to cloud-based services and infrastructure: they provide the convenience of accessing services from anywhere, any time, from virtually any device. New workflows can be pushed out quickly to enable self-service capabilities and on-the-fly process and configuration changes.

The progression of software and information technology services to the cloud has accelerated strongly over this period, driven by increased use of remote working and the need for maximum scalability in times of uncertain demand and supply of goods. That said, there has been redoubled interest in hybrid-cloud architectures to ensure resilience — something edge-computing also has a role to support.

In the long term, cloud-based solutions are critical for organisations to achieve quicker time to market and create self-service solutions for businesses. As societies and industries have rebuilt, there has been a focus on efficiency, automation and flexibility. The GSMA Intelligence report suggests IoT connections are to double between 2019 and 2025, reaching ...

Another farm invasion in Zimbabwe despite promises

Harare — A government official on Friday invaded a farm owned by a white commercial landowner in Zimbabwe in yet another twist that highlights the policy inconsistencies in Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme.

The farm invasion comes just a few weeks after the government said it will allow some white farmers that lost their land to the violent land reform programme to return to their farms.

In August Zimbabwe committed to pay $3.5bn in compensation to local white farmers whose land was forcibly taken by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

The government also said foreign white farmers settled in Zimbabwe whose land was seized under the controversial programme can apply to get it back and will be offered land elsewhere if compensation proves unworkable.

But on Friday Martin Grobler, who had a farm in Ruwa, 30km outside the capital, Harare, was evicted after he was given 24 hours’ notice.

Grobler said Ivy Rupandi, a government official with the ministry of lands, told him to move out of the property with immediate effect.

Grobler said Rupandi and an accomplice brought a truckload of police officers and a sheriff of the high court before they moved his property from the farmhouse.

“Rupandi told me that she was now the new owner of the farm before they brought a lorry load of people and a sheriff of the court,” he said. “These people told us to move out right away.”

On Friday the ministry of information said it would investigate the issue amid a public outcry over the invasion of the farm.

In a statement, the ministry said: “We have been made aware of a video depicting an eviction of a farmer and his family. Government is trying to establish the facts behind this matter. What is known so far is that there is a legacy legal issue between the parties and the matter is being dealt with by the courts.”

Recently, the government indicated that it was willing to work with evicted white farmers in partnerships to make land productive as vast tracts of land remain underutilised after the land reform programme.

Once a breadbasket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s food production has plummeted, forcing the country to import basic foodstuffs.

A land audit carried out by the government exposed huge irregularities in the allocation of ...

LETTER: Put Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform plans to the vote

SA is in a situation: the citizens and the president may be on the same page, but much of the governing party is on a different page, holding back necessary reform as a result.

The last time we were in this situation, the president was FW de Klerk and the governing party was the National Party. In 1991, the leader needed a strong mandate for change to negate those in his party stopping him from implementing “the will of the people”.

In that situation, De Klerk took the plunge and called for a plebiscite: the “Yes-No” referendum of March 17 1992, where a subset of the population was asked: “Do you support continuation of the reform process which the state president began on 2 February 1990 and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiation?”

By March 18 1992, De Klerk’s mandate was crystal clear, even in conservative strongholds. Almost 69% of the votes were in favour, advocating for change, and with this clear mandate negotiations continued and we had free and fair elections in April 1994.

President Cyril Ramaphosa could hold a plebiscite with the question: “Do you support continuation of the reform process the president began on February 15 2018, which is aimed at rooting out corruption, implementing the National Development Plan and implementing structural reform aimed at economic growth?”

In the 1992 referendum, participation was not fair and without universal franchise. This could be the case this time as well: the vote could be limited to paid-up members of the ANC. The membership hurdle is only R20, and the election infrastructure could easily be crowdfunded.

Ramaphosa, the ANC leadership, ANC members, all South Africans and the world would finally know what mandate the president has. Hopefully this would remove some stumbling blocks to reform.

Greg Becker

Via e-mail

JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an e-mail with your comments. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Send your letter by e-mail to ( Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.

LETTER: How will law treat gun-wielding shopper?

It will be interesting to see how the charge against the woman who pointed her gun at “protesting” EFF members is going to be handled. It has taken ages for the case against EFF leader Julius Malema to go anywhere.

Irony of ironies, Malema was charged for committing a similar offence. Will “Annie Oakley” be treated in similar fashion? Or does cowpoke Juju enjoy political privilege not reserved for ordinary gun-toting citizens?

What’s the bet that the case against Annie will speed through, with a stiff penalty facing her, as opposed to Juju’s, which is bound to drag on.

There’s no question that given the present situation in the country, toting a gun in public must be considered a serious offence. And it is expected from the courts that they’ll impose the same sentence on all culprits.

This is an ideal test case for the judiciary. Or will our law still be considered an ass, with Juju coming off scot-free as usual?

Cliff Buchler


JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an e-mail with your comments. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Send your letter by e-mail to ( Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.

LETTER: Disney’s disaster a dire warning

Thank you for the space and attention Business Day gave to the controversy surrounding the release of Walt Disney’s Mulan (“How do you solve a problem like Mulan (../../world/2020-09-09-how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-mulan/)?” September 9).

I have been watching the prominent advertising campaign China has been using in SA’s media, including Business Day, to signal its intentions here. The Dalai Lama would warn us to beware the “promises” of a neighbouring state that divided his beloved country into four pieces, the smallest of which is the only one still called Tibet.

Bloomberg’s feature was a refreshing and well-written report on what happens when the good intentions of a renowned film company collide with the other intentions of a country such as China.

The actual film may never see the big screen if the virus that was born in China continues to rampage around the world, imprisoning people in their own homes. It could have made an excellent documentary highlighting the unfortunate reality of life in the place it was filmed, where “the state has detained as many as 1-million ethnic Uighurs in camps called ‘voluntary education centres’.” I shiver when I think of what would happen to our various ethnic groups here were we to become part of such an empire.

Business Day’s coverage of Disney’s disaster could not be a better warning.

Jane Raphaely

Via e-mail

JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an e-mail with your comments. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Send your letter by e-mail to ( Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Combating opioid misuse starts with tackling problems at grass-roots level

Every year since 2017 the US department of health & human services has declared opioid misuse to be a nationwide emergency. Since January, when the agency made its latest declaration, the problem has worsened. From January to June abuse of synthetic and illegal opioids rose 13%. Fatal overdoses have already topped 2019’s record-setting figures.

What’s different about the increase so far in 2020, however, is that the causes are pretty clear: social isolation and high joblessness brought on by Covid-19. Now instead of focusing mainly on stopping the flow of drugs or improving addiction treatment, the US has gained a new perspective on prevention. And that doesn’t just mean loosening isolation rules, opening businesses, or boosting federal economic aid. Those measures will be needed for some time to stop the pandemic.

No, the broader lens now is on the many primary solutions that can forestall drug abuse. And it’s being helped along by 2020’s social justice movement, which is exposing once again the roots of poverty and despair that lie behind much of the drug problem. In August, the American College of Preventive Medicine took up arms for this cause. It issued a statement that said a “deep ethical imperative” exists to address all the “social determinants” of drug misuse, from race to education to crime.

Prevention programmes must expand far beyond popular approaches such as anti-drug education in schools and the campaign to reduce opioid prescriptions. Current trends towards opioid misuse favour a pharmacological approach rather than one that deals with the complex societal issues that drive the problem. The US must find better ways to strengthen families, end child abuse, provide affordable homes, train people for jobs and improve mental health services.

After many years of a national drug emergency — now made worse by the pandemic — a bright light has finally fallen on the need to find better ways to help people steer clear of drugs. Treatment can begin long before addiction starts, by bringing health, home, purpose and community to everyone. /Boston, September 10

Christian Science Monitor

LETTER: No stamp of approval for pathetic Post Office

What is the purpose of the SA Post Office other than providing sheltered employment for loyal ANC cadres? It was bad enough under Mark Barnes, who quit while he was behind, but it gets no better.

Last week I received a medical invoice dated February 24, an income tax certificate dated February 29 and a pension fund communication from London dated March 1. I also received three letters addressed to the previous occupant of my house who died four years ago. These six envelopes were not even in my letter box, but were found blowing around my front lawn.

Moving mail efficiently is obviously no longer within the Post Office’s competence. I would suggest total privatisation, except that this would undoubtedly lead to some ANC tenderpreneur pocketing yet more of the country’s disappearing millions.

Richard McNeill


JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an e-mail with your comments. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Send your letter by e-mail to ( Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.

Travels with George Bizos: how the law threw up some bumpy roads

On October 1 2012, the scene was set for the judicial commission of inquiry to commence its hearings into the Marikana massacre. Forty-four people were killed, 34 of them by police, in August of that year.

The night before I had been with George Bizos, Jason Brickhill, Miriam Wheeldon, Bongumusa Sibiya, Avani Singh, Michael Power — all lawyers at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC). George, Jason and I were the counsel team, while Miriam and Bongumusa were the attorney team.

George had asked for a lift from Johannesburg to Rustenburg where the hearings would be held. I volunteered. In that three-hour drive he would regale me with stories about past inquiries flowing from the harrowing brutality of the apartheid police: Sharpeville, Soweto, the Harms commission, the Goldstone commission, the Boipatong massacre. He talked about inquests into murders of activists in police custody: Looksmart Ngudle, Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol, the Cradock Four.

George had lived through all of these, from 1960-1993. He thought he would never witness them again. Yet he was wrong. And disappointed. He would recall the familiar excuse of the police: they were under attack; they acted in self-defence; a prisoner jumped out of the window of a 20-storey building; the protesters were a dangerous and armed mob; and so on.

Judges of the past inquiries had excused the conduct of the police. And so too did the magistrates. Faced with incontrovertible evidence of torture, as in the case of Ngudle — the first political activist to die in police detention under apartheid — the magistrate would exculpate the police. They did the same at the Biko inquest, despite the medical evidence pointing to gruesome assault before his murder. The laughable excuse for the murder of Timol — that he committed suicide by jumping off a building — found favour with the magistrate. At Sharpeville, the evidence was that most of those killed by the police had been shot from the back. But the official police line was that they had been killed in a confrontation with the police. The probabilities were that they had been shot while trying to run away from the police.

George recalled that the apartheid police were also notorious for planting weapons at the scene of the crime. They had done so in Sharpeville and in many other incidents that followed it. These barbarous acts, he hoped, had been a thing of the ...

Will Covid-19 kill off Sandton and other swish business hubs?

When Covid-19 hit there was no doubt that the impact on SA would be huge. For the business community and its leadership, centred in the country’s economic powerhouse, Johannesburg, there were major concerns about the way in which the city could be affected.

Now that the country has passed its initial coronavirus peak, the city is springing back to life at speed. But numerous questions remain regarding the future of this formerly bustling urban hub. These include the future of Sandton as the most sought-after office hub, and the likelihood of infrastructure projects planned before the pandemic, such as the Gautrain and new highways, still going ahead.

These are questions cities around the world are asking, with varying degrees of optimism. Whether it’s a vision of a better, more affordable London or a dead New York City, devoid of the things that once made it magical, every major city is reckoning with its post-Covid-19 future. And rightly so. Cities aren’t just places where many people happen to live. They’re centres of wealth, innovation and creativity. When the world changes, they shouldn’t escape the chance to reimagine themselves.

Before imagining what a post-Covid-19 Joburg might look like, it is worth reminding ourselves where the city stood before lockdown. After the departure of then mayor Herman Mashaba, the DA lost control of the Johannesburg council (which it held in coalition with the EFF), meaning the new ANC-led council had been in power for just under four months when the country went into lockdown. Before that, there had been a prolonged period of contested power, which meant service delivery was already affected and long-term projects had been put on hold or were in the early stages of being handed over to the new leadership.

As the country’s economic powerhouse, the city had also been shaken particularly hard by the unprecedented levels of load-shedding and general economic stagnation faced by the rest of the country. Hardly surprising then that the commercial real-estate outlook for 2020 was already cautious. Covid-19 only served to highlight how deep some of these structural flaws were and we’re only now beginning to get an idea of how deep the economic impact will be.

But the way we work also changed. Companies that would never have allowed remote working before were suddenly forced to adopt this for the safety of their employees. And while most South Africans are ready to ...

LETTER: Race-based redress isn’t the only way

There is now clear blue water between the DA and other political parties in SA after their recent policy conference. The DA has recommitted itself to the principles of nonracism and redress on which it was founded, and proposed alternative redress policies to the failed race-based policies that have not materially affected the lives of South Africans, other than those few members of the well-connected elite.

Contrary to the submissions of some writers and analysts, the DA has always acknowledged the devastating impact racism has had on South Africans. As my colleague, Mike Cardo, MP, pointed out in an article five years ago, race shaped access to opportunity in the past and it continues to do so in the present (“New leader must redefine the politics of non-racism (../../../archive/2015-04-16-review-new-leader-must-redefine-the-politics-of-nonracialism/)”, April 16 2015).

Where the official opposition parts ways with other political parties is our belief that using actual, means-tested disadvantage makes more sense than making race the measure of disadvantage when it comes to redress. The mere fact that the number of unemployed South Africans, the overwhelming majority of whom are black, has increased dramatically over the past two decades is a clear indication that making race the measure for redress is not the solution. The promised “better life for all” remains elusive, except for a small, well-connected elite.

During the coming weeks and months, the DA will be further fleshing out our alternative proposals and taking the message to the public that race-based redress isn’t the only game in town, and that there are other, more effective ways to undo the legacy of our divided past and create the prosperous SA envisaged in our constitution.

Stuart Pringle

Somerset West

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Why all South Africans should back a basic income grant

There is growing interest in the concept of a basic income grant in SA, brought to the fore by the devastating effects of Covid-19. Many years after civil society and economic advisers first raised the debate, it is once again a proposal deserving our attention as we face up to the horrendous economic damage brought about by the pandemic, and the desperate plight of the majority of South Africans under the double burden of poverty and inequality.

The Black Sash has launched a report carefully analysing the arguments in favour of such a grant, explaining what it could entail, how it could benefit individuals and the economy as a whole, and what the costs and effects could be. Simultaneously, the organisation launched a petition, supported by a considerable number of other non-profit organisations, addressed to the president and ministers of finance and social development. The research report that accompanies the petition suggests how the necessary funding could be achieved.

The subject is so important that it should not be left only to organisations serving the interests of the poorest sectors of our society. Those interested in the topic should include businesses looking for markets, economists exploring different models, investors and entrepreneurs, and all people who seek to live in a society less fraught by division and strife. The petition will gather strength if it is endorsed by a wide cross-section of the population.

The concept of a universal basic income grant, as it has generally been defined, is one of an equal payment made by the state to every person, or citizen, of a country, from birth to death, regardless of whether that person has an income. This confers the dignity of equal status to everyone, eliminates the need for any means test or other qualification (thus saving the state the expense of maintaining a system to administer such tests), reduces the risk of corruption in the administration process, and allows for an immediate end to absolute abject poverty. It creates the incentive for a rapid injection of expenditure into the economy as people acquire the ability to buy food and other necessities.

Those who already have an income from employment or investments could also use the additional spending power to boost expenditure, while increased tax revenue would accrue to the fiscus. The spurt of energy this could bring to the depressed state of the marketplace would be matched by ...

China plugs loopholes to curb risks in $49-trillion financial industry

Beijing — China is tightening rules and imposing capital demands on sprawling empires such as Ant Group and China Evergrande Group in its latest attempt to curb risks in the nation’s $49-trillion financial industry.

The new regulations will require licences for nonfinancial companies that do business across at least two financial sectors, and which are designated as “financial holding companies”, the State Council said on its website on Sunday.

The rules will take effect on November 1 and apply to companies with a banking operation and financial assets of more than ¥500bn ($73.1bn), or those without banking operations but have financial assets exceeding ¥100bn.

Companies that meet the criteria but are denied regulatory approval to set up financial holding entities must sell their stakes in the financial companies or give up control, according to the rules.

Chinese authorities are plugging regulatory loopholes and stepping up their efforts to maintain stability as the Covid-19 pandemic pummels economic growth and bad debt piles up.

In 2018, the central bank identified Evergrande, HNA Group, Fosun International and Tomorrow Group, as well as billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant as financial holding companies, putting them under increased scrutiny because of their growing role in the nation’s money flows and financial plumbing.

Companies covered under the regulation will need at least ¥5bn in actual paid registered capital, and that should account for at least 50% of the combined registered capital of their controlled financial entities, according to the rules.

Consumer lending leader

Ant has emerged as a consumer lending leader in recent years with the help of an array of banks. The firm also operates payments systems, owns a stake in an online bank, and runs insurance and wealth management units.

In anticipation of tighter rules, Ant plans to apply for a financial holding licence through its Zhejiang Finance Credit Network Technology unit, according to the prospectus for its initial public offering released in August. Ant is considering putting certain financial entities into the arm to help reduce the potential capital needed under the proposed rules, people familiar with the matter said last year.

In its 2018 financial stability report, the central bank warned that regulating was becoming increasingly complex, with firms rapidly expanding in the financial sector through cross-border alliances and intricate corporate structures, tied together by connected transactions and investments in existing financial institutions.

At end-2016, about 70 central government-owned enterprises had a total of ...

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