South Africa’s economy grew by 0.8% in 2018

South Africa’s economy grew by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018, Stats SA announced on Tuesday morning.
The figure of 1.4% was slightly above the consensus estimates of most analysts and economists of 1.2% growth.
This means that annual real GDP increased by a tepid 0.8% in 2018. This was 0.1% more than the projections of most economists.
South Africa’s economy fell into a technical recession in the first half of 2018, after experiencing two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. The economy declined by 2.6% in the first quarter and by a further restated 0.4% in the second.
Growth rebounded in the third quarter to 2.2% as the country exited the recession. This has now been restated as 2.6%.
The rand strengthened slightly on the news. It was trading at R14.12/$ at 11:47 on Tuesday, up 0.7% on the day.

SA Home Affairs system needs to change, says lawyer assisting Zim mom

11 March 2019

CAPE TOWN – An immigration law firm who’s assisting a Zimbabwean mother banned from entering South Africa to see her critically ill son has called for changes to be made to certain immigration policies.
Elizabeth Chada is restricted from visiting South Africa, due irregularities with her visa.
Her 12-year-old son is at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital fighting leukaemia after he was diagnosed in May last year.
The woman’s 12-year-old son is at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital fighting leukaemia after he was diagnosed in May last year, but she is restricted from visiting South Africa, due irregularities with her visa.
Elizabeth Chada has been banned from entering South Africa after overstaying her visit in 2018 because of her critically ill son, Allan..
A Cape Town-based law firm has opted to help the family by getting the mom back to her son’s side as soon as possible.
Immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg said it was his moral obligation to step in and assist.
“If a person leaves without a visa endorsed into her passport, the mother of a very ill child, for instance, the Department of Home Affairs through its passport officials should decide whether there’s a sufficient cause for declaring the person undesirable. The system should change to be more careful.”

Amazon to create 1,000 UK apprenticeships in ML and robotics

One-fifth of these will be offered to existing Amazon employees
Amazon has revealed plans to create more than 1,000 apprenticeships in the UK over the next two years, many of which will be based in the company’s machine learning (ML) and software development units.
Nine programmes will rin across the country, lasting between 13 months and four years, designed for workers of all levels interested in entering IT, software engineering, robotics and general technology roles, as well as HR, leadership and safety.
Successful apprenticeship graduates will then have the opportunity to join Amazon’s various corporate and operations sites across the UK, including centres in Edinburgh, Cambridge and London where the company develops its smart assistant technology and Prime Air drone service.
Amazon added that one-fifth of these new apprenticeships will be offered directly to its existing workforce.
“We want to give people opportunities to succeed in the digital age, regardless of their background,” said Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon.
“Our fully-funded apprenticeship programme, from entry level through to degree level, will provide an exciting path to becoming Amazon’s future team leaders, engineers and innovation drivers.”
Alongside the 1,000 apprenticeships, the company is also creating 90 apprenticeships designed for those studying bachelors and masters degrees over the next two years. These will be primarily focused on software development, leadership and automation, and will consist of both classroom and workplace training.
The new intake will add to over 27,500 permanent UK employees, and expand on an existing 300 apprenticeships currently in training. Amazon has said it will start accepting applications for these places in the first week of March.
It comes at a time when the UK is seeing unprecedented investment in its artificial intelligence sector, with raised capital for new ventures being larger than the rest of the EU combined. However, Amazon has bucked a trend of falling retail investment, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealing last week that investment intentions were at a seven-year low.
The company announced in October that it would be adding 1,000 “highly skilled” permanent employees to its UK division, following a series of site acquisitions in areas such as Manchester and Edinburgh.

Facebook wants to bring cryptocurrencies to the mass market

Secret project reveals a ‘Facebook Coin’ could be released before the end of 2019
Facebook, Telegram and Signal, three of the biggest companies in instant messaging, have said they are working on their own digital currencies that will enable peer-to-peer payments across their networks.
No official statement has been released by Facebook, however, according to a report by the New York Times on Thursday, sources familiar with the secretive projects say the company will bring its own coin to market over the next year.
Reportedly the project is far enough along its development that talks with cryptocurrency exchanges are already underway, with the prospect of the coins being sold to customers outside of Facebook’s immediate network.
Details are scarce, but it’s likely the project will build on existing peer-to-peer systems already in place for WhatsApp services in India, where residents are able to transfer currencies earned abroad back to their families at home, which is already set to receive a digital token system, as we reported in Deember.
The goal will be to allow users to send ‘Facebook coins’ to other users on the platform, such as a gift for friends or as a payment for services, according to the NYT report. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has reportedly assigned 50 engineers to the project, led by former PayPal president David Marcus.
Signal and Telegram are also said to be developing their own cryptocurrencies, all with the goal of tapping into a highly lucrative market. US-based Venmo, a platform owned by PayPal that lets users send money to friends via a mobile app, has achieved massive success in recent years, handling $12 billion worth of transactions in 2018 alone.
Telegram’s announcement last year that it would be launching a funding round for its digital token, known as an initial coin offering, resulted in $1.7 billion of investment.
If Facebook is indeed working on such a token, the move would bring cryptocurrencies to a potential collective audience of 2.27 billion active monthly users, significantly dwarfing the audience of backers that first made the likes of Bitcoin a success.
However, the Facebook token would almost certainly be released as a stable coin. Unlike Bitcoin, which is decentralised, stable coins are typically pegged to fiat currency, which keeps its price fixed – in fact, those familiar with the project say Facebook is looking at multiple different currencies to support the coin.
Stable coins are typically immune to the violent price fluctuations associated with the wider market and, as a result, tend to attract fewer investors looking to make a quick profit.
What’s unclear is how much control Facebook will have over its network of payments. Reports suggest that all three companies are considering a decentralized blockchain as its underlying infrastructure, but this would mean that the coins would effectively operate somewhat independently of their parent companies.
The alternative is to create something akin to PayPal, which uses a centralised, private blockchain and would give Facebook complete control over every transaction. However, if the NYT report is to be believed and Facebook has already approached cryptocurrency exchanges about potentially selling the token to users, this would rule out a closed network.
Yet, operating the token independent of its parent company would make it more difficult to monetise; something that doesn’t strike us as particularly ‘Facebook-like’. Even if we put aside financial gain, this concept will be fairly alien to the majority of Facebook’s user base, and will almost certainly require heavy-handed oversight to ensure its rollout is handled without incident. To do that, it will need control.
The decision to move into the digital token market makes sense given the general shift towards faster and more convenient ways of handling money, which has given rise to the likes of Monzo and Revolut – companies considered to be alternative forms of traditional banking.
A digital token, transferable across Facebook’s network, would make it much easier for users to transfer funds between friends and family, particularly in areas of the world that are otherwise unable to access a bank or use online payment services.
Again, given the secrecy, we can only speculate as to when such a token would be ready for mass audiences but reports suggest we could see something by the end of the year.

Home Affairs Dept to review permanent residency status of foreign pastors

CAPE TOWN – The Department of Home Affairs is set to take a hard look at high-flying pastors who’ve moved to South Africa to run lucrative ministries.
Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele says his department is considering a review of their status as permanent residents.
So-called “miracle” pastors are also facing closer scrutiny from the South African Revenue Service, while the African National Congress has called for rogue religious leaders to be investigated by the CRL Commission.
Cwele told Parliament’s home affairs committee that becoming a permanent resident of South Africa involves certain conditions that must be met.
“There are many of these things in the public [eye], like these priests who come from foreign countries to do work here. We’ve asked the department to review their status. Because if you come here, you say you’re coming to run a factory – there’s no factory called a church.”
The minister says it’s not about being against people from other countries.
“Quite clearly, we are not xenophobic but if you come to our country under certain conditions you must stick to those conditions.”

Twist in birth certificate case

Pretoria News / 03 March 2019,
IN a surprise turn of events, the Eastern Cape Department of Education has agreed to allow 37 children to attend schools despite them not having birth certificates.
This change of heart comes as the department is due to face judges of the Constitutional Court to answer to the fact that the children have not attended school this year.
The Centre for Child Law approached the Grahamstown High Court in December for an order allowing these children to attend school, pending a later application in which it intends challenging the department’s admission policy and the immigration legislation, which bars stateless children from attending school.
The high court turned down the application, as well as a subsequent application for leave to appeal.
In terms of the policy and the Immigration Act, parents or caregivers must, within three months of enrolment at a school, provide a birth certificate for the child. Without it, they are barred from attending public schools.
Attorney Anjuli Maistry, of the Centre for Child Law, said if these children were not allowed to attend school, they would have to remain at home for the next two years until the legal challenge to the policy and the act was concluded. She said nobody would be prejudiced if the children were allowed to attend school until all the legal issues were heard in court.
“With the Department of Education actively denying their admission, it is only through the courts that they can ever hope to attend school. So far, the courts have failed them,” she said.
The Education Department from the start insisted they would not allow anyone without a birth certificate to attend school.
Maistry, meanwhile, turned to the highest court in the country for an order allowing the children to go to school pending the legal challenge.
The ConCourt subsequently issued a directive to the department in which it was instructed to file an affidavit stating why this matter should not be heard as a matter of urgency and why the appeal in the interim to allow the children schooling should not be granted.
Despite the department’s earlier stance, they undertook in their affidavit to the ConCourt to admit these pupil for now. The undertakings included that the department would assist pupils over the age of 16 to be admitted to a basic education training centre. Those under 16 would be assessed and their attendance to a school in the past would be taken into consideration to determine their grade. The department was then to enrol them at public schools.
The department further undertook to help these children to apply for birth certificates.
Maistry said they were relieved at the department’s change of heart, and they would ask that this be made an order of court. But they would still ask the court to overturn the high court judgment, as it created a binding precedent to children who did not have birth certificates.
The judge in that judgment stood his ground that children who did not have birth certificates were not bearers of the right to education.
In light of the undertaking of the department, the centre will no longer ask the ConCourt to rule that the children may in the interim attend school.
No date has yet been set for the hearing, but it is expected to be soon.

IMPENDING AMENDMENTS TO THE IMMIGRATION ACT AND REGULATIONS

We wish to draw your attention to the fact that the White Paper on Home Affairs was published by the Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele requiring comment in writing by the 18th February 2019.
The White Paper on Home Affairs is part of a Parliamentary process to reformulate Immigration policy for the Republic of South Africa.
The document therefore only deals with Policy issues so as to create a platform for short to medium term planning within the Visa sphere.
It therefore deals with technical issues surrounding the vision and scope of the Department of Home Affairs and it will be interesting to see what type of inputs are made by stakeholders in this regard. We will then update this aspect in a later newsletter.
Important to also note that formulated Immigration Policy dictates the basis, in many ways, for reformulated Immigration Law and Regulation.
The indications are, as per media statements last year 2018, that there will be changes to the Immigration Act and Regulations during the first portion of 2019. At this stage it is impossible to predict, save for what is stated hereunder, what those changes will actually be.
One of the changes however, that has been announced in the Media is that certain of the trades, professions and occupations listed in the Critical Skills Visa list will be amended and supplemented with an expected Gazetting of the aforesaid ostensibly during April 2019.
Early indications, also based on Media information is that certain categories of professions will be removed from the Critical Skills Visa list with one of the first casualties to be that of Corporate General Managers.
As soon as further detail becomes available we will do an updated newsletter, in this regard.
It is welcome to note that certain categories have in fact been listed to be deleted from the list and these include, inter alia, Sheep Shearers and Jewellery Makers.
Word coming down the pipeline is that Maths and Science teachers are to be reintegrated as a Critical Skills Profession and will be re-introduced onto the list.
Bonang Mohale, chief executive of Business Leadership SA, an association dealing with government and labour, said the draft was “much shorter and restrictive”, removing some sectors like architecture and reducing others like life and earth sciences.
“South Africa suffers from a gross skills shortage, so all of these reductions are not helpful,” he said.
Lawyers say the draft table of required expertise excludes key skills South Africa lacks, including corporate general managers and artificial intelligence engineers.
“This is the first time we will have a revised critical skills list since 2014 and we don’t know how they came up with this list and who they consulted with,” immigration lawyer Stefanie de Saude-Darbandi told Reuters.
Substantial cost
“This list could be implemented as early as April, potentially affecting thousands of foreigners in country.”
Appealing against visa rejections in court could take years, at substantial cost to applicants and families, she said.
The Department of Home Affairs, which overseas immigration, said consultations continue. Acting director general Thulani Mavuso said some economic sectors wanted certain skills included in the list while others argued “we have these skills in abundance and you are depriving SouthAfricans of jobs”.
Mavuso said the draft list should be finalised by April before taking effect immediately once signed by the minister.
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