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Old Mutual to throw its hat into the banking ring

The financial services company says it has received the go-ahead to apply for a banking licence. It hopes to launch its own bank in the second half of 2024, pending regulatory approvals.
For decades, South Africa’s banking sector was dominated by the “big four” — Standard Bank, First National Bank, Absa and Nedbank. That all changed in 2000 when Capitec disrupted the market by targeting the middle- to low-income consumer with a low-cost banking model.
Since then, there has been a flurry of entrants in the banking sector with financial services giant Old Mutual being the most recent to throw its hat into the ring.
Group chief executive officer Iain Williamson revealed last week that the company had received the go-ahead for its application for a banking licence.
He said the move was a natural progression of Old Mutual’s core strategy and would help provide customers with an enhanced transactional banking capability.
Old Mutual’s lending and transactional solutions include a money market account and an unsecured lending product.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“These solutions are offered mainly to our mass and foundation cluster customer base and the unsecured lending solution is already a strong contributor to group profitability. The current transactional solution is delivered through a commercial arrangement with a third-party bank,” Williamson said.
Williamson said a bank within the Old Mutual ecosystem would enable it to accept retail deposits, providing a cheaper source of funding.
Old Mutual has allocated R1.75-billion to build “transactional capability” and will use cloud-based technology to deliver “cost effective, flexible and scalable solutions”.
Costs of R830-million have been incurred in this financial year. Old Mutual hopes to launch its banking offering in the second half of 2024, pending regulatory approvals.
Williamson said the bank is expected to break even in three years: “As the capability matures post breakeven, the return is expected to be significantly above the target return of 4% in excess of the cost of equity.”
Retailer ruffles feathers
Although it may seem that the market is crowded, a large portion of South Africa’s 60 million people remains unbanked. The Oxford Business Group has estimated that 23.5% of the people in the country are out of the system.
Even retailer Shoprite has entered the banking space, with the launch of a money market bank account on a Grindrod bank licence earlier this year.
Shoprite chief executive Pieter Engelbrecht says there has been “some fuss” about Shoprite’s account being fully transactional — ...

The Finance Ghost: The lowdown on Mr Price, Takealot, Old Mutual and Lewis

Mr Price has a red ocean strategy, as there really isn’t much to differentiate its businesses in the market.
A “blue ocean strategy” sees a company differentiating itself to such an extent that there are few competitors. A “red ocean strategy” is the opposite, filled with sharks and blood and . you get the idea.
Mr Price has a red ocean strategy, as there really isn’t much to differentiate its businesses in the market. It has made no secret of its desire to move into new market segments, with recent acquisitions of businesses like Yuppiechef and Studio 88. The risk with M&A is that the executives sometimes lose focus of the core business, allowing competitors to make progress.
There’s not much that the company can do about load shedding, of course. Sales in September were down 6.7% thanks to Eskom and the impact on consumers. Elements that are within Mr Price’s control include the loss of market share in the core Apparel business over the past two quarters and the Homeware segment suffering a drop in comparable store sales of 9.9%. In Homeware, Mr Price acknowledges that competition has heated up.
What was the colour of that ocean again?
Takealot of pain, investors
Aah, Prosus. A place of Chinese profits, global punts on risky tech start-ups and executive remuneration that will make your eyes bleed.
Interest rates have risen sharply and few investors believe that we have seen the last hike. In an environment where money is more expensive, risky start-ups are less valuable. Prosus is full of start-ups, having built the group around taking profits from Tencent in China and pumping them into businesses that are low on capital letters in their names and even lower on profits. With vast losses from continuing operations, Prosus is finally making noise about cutting back on costs.
As for Naspers, the numbers are much the same because of the look-through exposure into the Prosus portfolio. A key difference is Takealot, which is part of the Naspers stable. With a loss of $13-million in the six months to September, Takealot is still being subsidised by its parent company.
This is why it is so hard for Massmart to compete with the likes of Takealot. The situation is about to get even worse when Amazon enters the market.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Banking on Old Mutual
Before the restructure of the Old Mutual group and the sell-down of the ...

The Great Bank Heist – former mayor and municipal manager arrested in connection with VBS looting spree

The rot runs deep in the VBS/Vele Investments saga. The latest suspects joining a long list of prominent people implicated are Minah Maredi (59), former municipal manager at the Elias Motsoaledi Municipality, and former Mayor Julia Mathebe (51).
According to a 2018 report titled The Great Bank Heist, R1.91-billion was stolen from VBS Bank. VBS operated as a criminal enterprise, according to Advocate Terry Motau and the Werksmans law firm.
The report, dated 10 October 2018, indicated there was a wide range of criminality in the conduct of the affairs of both VBS Bank and Vele Investments; that “VBS and Vele had operated as a single criminal enterprise.” Hence the report recommended that those identified as participating in and benefitting from this criminal enterprise be charged and prosecuted.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “R2bn looted from ‘corrupt & rotten’ VBS Bank, says report”
Fast-forward four years to 2022 and the latest suspects joining a long list of prominent people, political figures and individuals implicated in the VBS Bank Heist are Minah Maredi (59), former Municipal Manager at the Elias Motsoaledi Municipality, and former Mayor Julia Mathebe (51).
Maredi and Mathebe were arrested on 23 November and appeared on the same day in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes court on charges of corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act. They were released on R30,000 bail each.
Mathebe is also the current Executive Mayor of Sekhukhune District Municipality, elected on 9 February 2022, nearly two months after she was elected ANC Regional Chairperson in Sekhukhune.
Following Mathebe’s arrest, the ANC in Limpopo has stated that the mayor will step down from all party activities until her name is cleared.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “VBS bank heist arrests: Who’s next?”
A further seven men and one woman deemed to be instrumental in the three-year looting spree at VBS Bank were also arrested.
Maredi is accused of investing R190-million of municipal funds into the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank and is said to have received more than R300,000 in “gratification”.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
According to Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale, their arrest was as a result of an ongoing investigation into the VBS Mutual Bank Investments by municipalities, in contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).
“The municipal manager is said to have been instrumental in investing R190-million of municipal funds into the VBS Mutual Bank. The Mayor is said to have received ...

Fitch maintains stable outlook for SA, but flags power supply and public wages woes

Credit rating agency Fitch on Friday affirmed South Africa’s long-term foreign and local currency debt ratings at BB- and maintained a stable outlook.
According to Fitch, the affirmation took into account the recent overperformance of revenue and government’s strong efforts to control expenditure, which, if continued successfully, could bring about debt stabilisation. However, the agency assumes a substantial part of recent higher revenues to be temporary and sees current public sector wage demands pointing to increased upward pressure on spending.
As South Africa, like many other countries, continues to face a cost-of-living crisis, public sector unions are demanding a 10% wage increase, while government is holding firm on its offer of 3%, plus benefits. At the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) just last month, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana flagged this as a short- to medium-term risk, saying that higher-than-budgeted public service wage costs would strain fiscal resources.
“Additional fiscal measures or reductions in headcounts would be required to contain overall compensation spending,” he said.
The spending estimates tabled at the MTBPS included the offer that the government made to unions at the end of August including:
The continuation of a non-pensionable cash allowance for the current financial year. This translates into an average of R1,000 per employee per month until March 2023.
A pensionable salary increase of 3% for public servants.
This offer will be implemented through the payroll system, and backdated to April 2022.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
National Treasury noted that government’s fiscal strategy reduces risks to the economy and public finances over the medium term. “The higher-than-anticipated revenues will be used to reduce the gross borrowing requirement, support spending priorities and reduce risks to the fiscal outlook. Government is working to improve the efficiency of spending and remains committed to returning public finances on a sustainable path,” National Treasury said in a media statement issued on Friday night.
According to Fitch, South Africa’s ratings continue to be supported by a favourable debt structure with long maturities and mostly denominated in local currency as well as a credible monetary policy framework.
Another key issue that Fitch flagged was government’s confirmation that it will transfer one-third to two-thirds of Eskom’s R400-billion debt to the government balance sheet.
“Details are still to be announced, but we assume annual transfers of R50-billion over the next four years, incorporated in our debt forecast as stock flow adjustments. A debt transfer of Eskom debt to the government had ...

Freedom Writer: Juby Mayet’s journalistic voice sidelined no more

Despite being one SA’s greatest prose stylists – as these excerpts from her autobiography, Freedom Writer, attest – the reporter has been widely overlooked. The following extracts are from different chapters of the book and therefore different periods in the author’s life.
On that long-gone day as a cub reporter, Maimane scribbled an address on a piece of paper and flung it at me, all the while muttering dire imprecations about girl reporters. Tail between my legs, I took the piece of paper and slunk out of the office. The place I was headed for was a block of flats within walking distance of our offices; lucky for me as there was no office car available that day. I got there. And I paced up and down on the pavement outside. I was terrified. I asked myself what the hell I’d been thinking of when I decided I wanted to write, to be a reporter for chrissakes. I could have been strutting about in a classroom, lording it over a bunch of cowering, snot-nosed and noisy, six-year-olds. Eventually, I summoned up enough courage to enter the building and head for the designated flat. I got the shock of my life.
Waiting outside were about six or seven or ten other newshawks and cameramen – all after the same thing I’d been sent to get by my news editor. These dudes and dudesses were all white, from English and Afrikaans newspapers around the country. I stood there for quite a few minutes, debating whether I should unceremoniously bolt from the scene or knock on the door and take my chances. I steeled myself and latched on to the latter – and was amazed when the door opened to reveal a rather sad-looking, red-eyed woman who appeared to be white.
There was a clamour from the waiting crowd, but the woman shook her head at them, looked at me and bade me tremulously to enter. To my great surprise she shut the door in the faces of the rest, took my elbow and led me into the sitting room. She started crying and through her tears she said, ‘If there is any reporter I would rather talk to, it would be you.’ I was twenty, inexperienced, vulnerable and easily moved to tears. I know I cried – she cried and I cried – all the way through the interview.
Thus I wrote my first Immorality Act ...

B(l)ooming ecological crime ravaging SA exposed after three Saudi Arabians caught stealing 1.6m seeds and flora

The case is yet another matter pointing to a time-sensitive crime crisis ravaging critical ecosystems in South Africa. Prosecuting authorities have warned that criminals targeting plants pose an immense and potentially irreversible problem. Some plants, like succulents, that are stolen and retrieved by police cannot simply be returned to the wild.
In October, three individuals from Saudi Arabia – a Ministry of Islamic Affairs employee, a financial analyst and a former soldier – touched down in South Africa. Within less than a month, all three were convicts in this country, where they had illegally picked more than 1.63 million seeds and flora items from areas around the west coast. The trio – Bedah Abdulrahman Albedah, Mohand Abulnaser Althenaian and his father Abdulnaser Mohammed Althenaian – were caught and pleaded guilty to related crimes.
Seeds stolen for export
It was suspected that they planned to “export” the seeds to a farm in Saudi Arabia. Instead of this plan proceeding smoothly, the trio arrived in South Africa, became the centre of legal proceedings, were forced to pay a R2-million fine and agreed to leave this country.
They did so as criminals. The action played out against them in South Africa in October, the same month that President Cyril Ramaphosa and several Cabinet ministers visited the convicted trio’s home country, Saudi Arabia.
According to a Presidency statement, during Ramaphosa’s state visit there, “discussions would focus on export market opportunities for South African produce and on South Africa as an investment destination”. This is ironic, given suspicions that the Saudi three wanted to smuggle stolen seeds from South Africa to their home country.
Flora and uncut diamonds
The case involving Albeda and the Althenaian duo is yet another matter pointing to a time-sensitive crime crisis ravaging critical ecosystems in South Africa. Prosecuting authorities have warned that criminals targeting plants pose an immense and potentially irreversible problem. Some plants, like succulents, that are stolen and retrieved by police cannot simply be returned to the wild.
DM168 has previously reported that if it is known where a plant was stolen from, and if conditions are suitable, it can be replanted using special techniques, only if security in that area was ensured.
At the end of October, in another crackdown on plant crimes, West Coast police were tipped off about a Ford Fiesta travelling from the Western Cape town of Clanwilliam with indigenous plants being smuggled in it. The vehicle was stopped in another Western Cape ...

Yet another murder probe launched amid royal ructions after Prince Mbongiseni Zulu and bodyguard gunned down

A Zulu prince and his bodyguard have been shot dead in KwaZulu-Natal, raising immediate speculation of a link with his close association to the newly installed King Misuzulu.
The battle over the Zulu succession may have been settled when King Misuzulu KaZwelithini was formally installed late last month, but the bitter and violent behind-the-scenes battles are far from over.
This comes after yet another shooting of a senior Zulu royal family prince and a close confidante of King Misuzulu. Prince Mbongiseni Zulu was shot and killed by unknown men on Thursday, at Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
His death came as the Zulu King and other members of the royal family were preparing for Umgidi ceremony which is set to take place at Enyokeni royal palace in Nongoma at the weekend.
The shooting comes just weeks after the September killing of another King Misuzulu confidante, Induna (Headman) Dumisani Khumalo, who was shot and killed near his home as he was returning from the reed dance ceremony he had attended at the Enyokeni Zulu royal palace, where King Misuzulu had accepted reeds from thousands of Zulu maiden in this ceremony that is centuries old.
On Friday, police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker confirmed to Daily Maverick that charges of murder are being investigated by Nongoma SAPS.
“It is alleged that on 24 November 2022 at 6pm, two people aged 63 and 33 were shot and killed at Nongoma,” said Naicker.
Police say the motive for the killing is unknown and the killers are still at large.
They did not immediately identify either of the slain men, but reaction to the murders was fast and swift and the prince was identified as one of those killed. The name of the bodyguard has not yet been released.
There are strong speculations that Prince Mbongiseni Zulu’s murder is linked to his close association with the reigning king.
After the death of the late King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu in March last year, the Zulu royal family was split down the middle, with some supporters sticking out with King Misuzulu and others raising the names of other contenders to the throne.
King Goodwill Zwelithini’s death marks the end of an era – and the beginning of a bitter tussle
Prince Mbongiseni is one of those who threw their weight behind King Misuzulu and he played a pivotal role in the preparation of symbolic ceremonies, such as when King Misizulu entered the kraal and in Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium when he was ...

Kannaland’s potholed municipal governance, row over Keith Jordaan appointment play out in Parliament

The Little Karoo municipality is known for its port and acclaimed cheese factory. However, the municipality has made headlines due to critical governance issues, including a controversial new acting municipal manager, unstable political leadership, and problems with service delivery.
The appointment of Keith Jordaan as the acting municipal manager of the Kannaland municipality has made local headlines — the latest in a municipality that has endured heightened media scrutiny in recent months. This week, these issues came to a head in Parliament, where questions were asked about support, service delivery, unstable leadership, and a row about its acting municipal manager, who had been dismissed from the George municipality.
Kannaland is about 400km from Cape Town and comprises the towns of Zoar, Calitzdorp and Ladismith.
At the same time that questions have been raised about Jordaan’s temporary appointment, Parliament heard of a litany of problems in the municipality, including a poor audit finding, potholes that need fixing, ageing water infrastructure and only one out of four senior management positions having been filled.
Western Cape MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell said he did not know if the Kannaland municipality had considered Jordaan’s dismissal before offering him his new job.
Jordaan was appointed as acting municipal manager on 21 October on a three-month contract. Bredell did say, however, that he wrote to the municipality on 11 November “that in light of Mr Jordaan’s dismissal at George Municipality he may be prohibited from being re-appointed in a Municipality for a period of 10 years”. The information is published in a question posed by ANC MPP Cameron Dugmore to Bredell which was published on the provincial parliament’s website.
Jordaan’s Kannaland appointment was initially flagged by Dugmore, who wrote to the Public Protector, alleging interference from DA Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers in the appointment of Jordaan.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “ANC Western Cape heads to Public Protector in latest Kannaland municipal drama”
Jordaan’s history in George
Jordaan was dismissed from the George Municipality after he was found guilty of three of four charges against him related to an ill-fated investment deal with Old Mutual.
According to Bredell, it was alleged that Jordaan had contravened municipal investment regulations in that Old Mutual was not a registered bank, which meant the George Municipality could not invest money with it. Jordaan faced disciplinary action and sanctions. He was found guilty of gross negligence on three charges and acquitted on one charge.
“As a result of the findings ...

Just six days after his arrest, Janusz Waluś revealed his collaborators – here’s what happened

The assassination by Janusz Waluś of beloved SACP leader Chris Hani in 1993 catapulted Nelson Mandela and the ANC to the forefront of settlement negotiations. It was a political murder that changed the trajectory of South African history.
Twenty-five years ago, on 24 November 1997, Janusz Waluś appeared at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission amnesty hearing in Pretoria. He was seeking a reprieve for the brazen murder of Chris Hani in the driveway of his home in Dawn Park, Boksburg, on 10 April 1993.
The transcript makes for chilling reading.
Hani’s regular bodyguards had been off duty that weekend and as Waluś drove past 2 Hakea Street at about 10am he noticed this.
Waluś was 40 when he committed the crime that shook South Africa. This week the Constitutional Court ruled he could be set free — to much outrage and controversy — at the age of 69.
Hani’s widow, Limpho, and their daughter Lindiwe, as well as other family members have opposed every single parole application, insisting that Waluś has not told the entire truth about the murder or any co-conspirators.
It was a Saturday on 10 April when the dual Polish-South African citizen confronted Hani, 50 at the time, who had gone out to buy the newspapers. It was Easter.
Waluś pumped one bullet into Hani’s chest and three more into his head. He died on the spot, a pool of blood slowly coagulating around his lifeless body.
Waluś was arrested 10 minutes later passing the Boksburg City Hall.
This came after a neighbour had noted the registration number of the red Ford Laser he had used to travel from his flat in Pretoria to Hani’s house about 50 minutes away.
Mandela to the rescue
This was also the day that Nelson Mandela, aged 75 and a free man for only three years, assumed the mantle of unofficial leader of South Africa when he addressed citizens in a live nationwide TV broadcast aimed at calming the rage that exploded across the tinderbox country.
Mandela reminded the audience that night that a “white Afrikaner woman” had helped to identify Hani’s killer and that the intention of the assassination had been to trigger a race war.
There had already been an attempt on Hani’s life in 1992, on Marshall Street, Joburg. The SACP offices were around the corner and Hani had been followed by a man who had allegedly stepped into a hair salon and who began fiddling with “an object” concealed under ...

The Mamelodi Magistrates’ Court that never was — National Treasury points fingers at Public Works and Justice departments

Treasury has rebuked the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the protracted delay in the completion of the Mamelodi East Magistrates’ Court in Gauteng.
In an article published by Daily Maverick last month, ‘The Mamelodi Magistrates’ Court that never was, and the contractor who couldn’t finish’, the department of Public Works had cited the Treasury’s refusal to grant it a variation order as one of the reasons that had caused the delay. The variation order, according to a Public Works statement in the aforesaid article, would have allowed for the inclusion of three specialised contractors into the scope of work of the court building, thus making it possible for construction to be completed.
But now the Treasury has heaped the blame on the shoulders of both the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI)and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) for the delay.
Construction of the Mamelodi East Magistrates’ Court started way back in 2013 and has not been completed to date. The original budget of the project was R124,590,958.60. R118,464,720.96 of that budget has already been spent. Factors like disruptive protests by members of the community, the project contractor (Fikile Construction) experiencing financial difficulties and refusal by the Treasury to grant a variation order were cited as reasons for the delay in the court project which was abandoned around 2014.
Order denied
However, National Treasury has now outlined reasons for its refusal to grant the department of Public Works the variation order that it has requested. In an email from the Media Unit sent to Daily Maverick. Treasury stated that the reasons provided to vary the contract were “not justifiable”. It stated the following:
Specialised contractors for additional scope of work were appointed separately from the Fikile Construction contract and there is no clarity as to why the DPWI now requests variation to include the aforesaid additional scope of work in the Fikile Construction contract.
There is no clarity why the specialised, additional scope of work was excluded from the original DPWI advertised tender if it was for the same project.
The process followed by the DOJCD and the Public Works in appointing the three specialists is not clear.
In its request for variation, the DPWI has failed to confirm that its contract with Fikile Construction was still valid
The DPWI requested to vary both the Fikile Construction contract and that of the three specialist contractors, but has ...

Workers from ailing Post Office march to demand what’s owed to them

The Post Office is facing financial woes. In some cases, workers’ medical aid and pension fund contributions have not been made for years, according to the Post Office itself.
About 60 workers, under the banner of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), marched to Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, demanding that their medical aid and pension fund contributions be paid. The Post Office is facing financial woes. In some cases, these contributions have not been made for years, according to the Post Office’s own estimates.
A memo handed to representatives of the Post Office and the government includes demands for:
No salary cuts;
A 15% salary increase;
No cut in working hours;
The CEO to resign; and
The Post Office to pay all medical aid and pension contributions.
Riedewaan Vermeulen, the chairperson of CWU in the Western Cape, said they anticipate that the Post Office won’t meet their demand for a 15% salary increase, but it should at least be willing to negotiate.
“They’re not even doing that. We’ve written to them, we want to negotiate, but they are refusing to do that,” said Vermeulen.
On 6 November, Cosatu announced that the Post Office would retrench about 6,000 workers due to its financial troubles. According to the CWU, the Post Office says it does not have money to pay salaries. Some workers could have their salaries reduced and working hours cut, or be retrenched.
Vermeulen said there had been robberies at many post offices which do not have proper security measures. He said working conditions were bad at some branches, with no working toilets, leaking roofs, no electricity, and cases where workers bring their own toilet paper to work.
Vermeulen said because the medical aid contributions were not paid, more than 9,000 workers are without much-needed medical services.
Aubrey Zwelingani, a postman from Matroosfontein, told GroundUp that medical aid contributions were still being deducted from their salaries, despite the Post Office not paying them to the fund.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Zwelingani said they had not received a salary increase for more than three years.
“My family depends on me. Almost 10 people depend on me. We are unhappy with what’s going on,” he said.
Louis Petersen, who has worked for the Post Ofice for more than 30 years, said he worries that all the talks about retrenchments and salary cuts are happening “behind the scenes”, and workers have not been told what the government’s plans are for the Post ...

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