Ramaphosa’s Hard Choice: a Cabinet to Lift South African Economy

African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s triumph in guiding his African National Congress to a sixth straight election victory has left him with an even more formidable challenge: to pick a cabinet that can dismantle a shadow state of corruption and revive the flagging economy.
His window of opportunity to install an administration free of ministers tainted by graft and to impose tough economic reforms may not remain open for long. The ruling party’s 5 percentage-point drop in support in the May 8 election from 2014 — its worst showing in a national vote since the end of apartheid — testifies to the public anger over “state capture,” as the looting of public funds under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, is known.
While Ramaphosa fired several ministers with tainted reputations when he replaced Zuma as president last year, others kept their posts. They include Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was implicated in taking bribes during an official probe, and Bathabile Dlamini, the minister for women’s affairs accused by the Constitutional Court of lying under oath about her tenure at the $11-billion-a-year welfare department, which almost collapsed. Both deny wrongdoing.
“If ever he has had a platform to act against and cut these figures from his cabinet, it’s now,” Susan Booysen, director of research at the Johannesburg-based Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, said in an interview. “If he does not use this opening, he’s going to lose it.”
Investors will focus on whether Tito Mboweni, appointed as finance minister in October, retains his post. While the former central bank governor has said publicly he would prefer to step down, his acceptance of a nomination to parliament indicates he may be prepared to stay on.
The president has the sole prerogative to select ministers from the National Assembly’s 400 lawmakers, although he can choose two from people outside its ranks.
Ramaphosa hasn’t revealed his preferences, but the ANC’s list of candidate lawmakers gives an indication of who’s in the running. They include most members of the current cabinet, including Mboweni, Deputy President David Mabuza, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Mokonyane and Dlamini also made the cut, as did Malusi Gigaba, who resigned as home affairs minister after a court found he’d lied under oath and a compromising video of him was circulated on social media.
The new administration needs to move speedily to revive an economy that has expanded at an annual pace of less than 1.5% for the past four years and tackled a 27 percent unemployment rate by reducing policy uncertainty and bolstering private investment, according to Raymond Parsons, a professor at the North West University’s School of Business and Governance.
Sluggish Economy
The economy hasn’t grown by more than 2% annually since 2013
Source: Statistics South Africa
“A key test will include the selection of a credible and streamlined cabinet that also enjoys the confidence of business and the markets,” he said.
Before the election, Ramaphosa’s reticence to carry out a clean sweep may stem from his tenuous hold on the ANC in the aftermath of a hard-fought internal election that’s left the party deeply divided has resulted in some Zuma allies remaining in top party posts.
Ramaphosa, who’s due to be elected at the new parliament’s first sitting on May 22 and sworn in three days later, called his outgoing cabinet of 34 ministers and 35 deputies a holding administration.
While Fikile Mbalula, the ANC’s head of elections, said Ramaphosa had the party’s full backing to trim the cabinet and it may be reduced to fewer than 30 ministers, party Secretary-General Ace Magashule said the matter has yet to be discussed.

Zimbabwe: Suspected Human Trafficking Syndicate Ships 200 Zimbabweans Out

ABOUT 200 unsuspecting and desperate Zimbabweans left Harare via South Africa, Wednesday where they were promised to be issued with ‘Canadian’ Visas before getting jobs.
The 200 job seekers are reportedly going to work as child minders, cooks, carpenters, hairdressers, bakers and helpers in old peoples’ homes to cover a temporary skills shortage in Canada.
Investigations by newzimbabwe.com reveal that the human trafficking syndicate, is being led by a former Zimbabwe national soccer team player (name withheld) and his wife.
Officers from Criminal Investigations Department (CID) visited the pick-up point (open space between Harare City library and Harare International Conference Centre) and made the travellers aware of the possibility they could be turned into slaves but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
After a tip off before the group left, newzimbabwe.com visited the pick-up point an open space used by various driving training schools and witnessed the over 200 preparing to board buses bound for South Africa.
A quick check with the Canadian Embassy in Harare’s offices revealed that it was “ironic” that the people were being promised the North American country’s visas in South Africa yet it has a full embassy in Harare.
“I came here because we are supposed to board buses to South Africa and process our visas to Canada,” one of the desperate job seekers said on condition of anonymity.
Investigations by this publication also shows that the job seekers were recruited through a social media message.
“The law does not stop anyone from living the country, we raised awareness to the travellers but all were adamant to go,” a CID officer who is not allowed to speak to the media told this publication.
“We tried to speak to them but the only people who at least listened to our warnings of possible human trafficking were relatives who had come to see them off. They even refused to tell us their final destination.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was not immediately available for comment.
The officer also told this publication that they have alerted the Home Affairs Ministry’s secretariat on the developments.
Inquires by this publication at the Canadian in Harare indicate it also does not have a direct visa section.
“VFS Global manages, the Canada Visa Application Centre (CVAC) in Harare and is the exclusive service provider for the government of Canada, authorised to accept applications in all temporary resident categories (visitor visas, study and work permits and travel document application from Canada’s permanent resident in Zimbabwe,” a Canadian embassy official said.
The country’s economic problems and a high employment rate has forced citizens into taking desperate moves with some ending up as salves in the Middle East.
The visa conditions and work permits are said to be issued in a languages which they do not understands which restrict them from leaving their slavery.
In 2016, at least 200 women were reported to have been trapped in Kuwait where they pleaded for government assistance to return home.

Hackers abuse LinkedIn DMs to plant malware

Fake jobs offers fool unsuspecting users into installing More_eggs back door
Hackers are impersonating recruitment agencies on LinkedIn in a bid to target companies with backdoor malware.
Researchers at Proofpoint found that the malware campaigns primarily targeted US companies in various industries including retail, entertainment, pharmacy, and others that commonly employ online payments, such as online shopping portals.
In a blog post, the firm said hackers establish a relationship with potential victims by abusing LinkedIn’s direct messaging service.
In follow-up emails, the actor pretends to be from a staffing company with an offer of employment. In many cases, the actor supports campaigns with fake websites that impersonate legitimate staffing companies. “These websites, however, host the malicious payloads. In other cases, the actor uses a range of malicious attachments to distribute More_eggs,” the company said.
What is malware?
After a week, hackers then send a direct email to the target’s work address reminding the recipient about the prior attempt to communicate on LinkedIn.
“It uses the target’s professional title, as it appears on LinkedIn, as the subject, and often suggests the recipient click on a link to see the noted job description. In other cases, this actor used an attached PDF with embedded URLs or other malicious attachments,” Proofpoint added.
The URLs link to a landing page that spoofs a real talent and staffing management company, using stolen branding to enhance the legitimacy of the campaigns. This page then kicks off the download of the malicious Word document that then attempts to download and execute the “More_eggs” payload if the recipient has enabled macros.
“These campaigns demonstrated considerable variability, with the actor frequently changing delivery methods and more,” the researchers added.
They said that hackers are turning away from very large-scale “spray and pray” campaigns to focus more on focus on persistent infections with downloaders, RATs, bankers, and other malware.
The researchers warned: “We can expect more threat actors to adopt approaches that improve the effectiveness of their lures and increase the likelihood of high-quality infections.”

Terrorists and politicians exposed by Dow Jones data leak

2.4m records left exposed on unsecured AWS server
A Dow Jones watchlist of more than 2.4 million entities that its clients should consider ‘high-risk’ has been inadvertently leaked to the public, thanks to an incorrectly configured and unsecured Elasticsearch database.
The database, which was hosted on AWS, was discovered by Bob Diachenko, a security researcher who has previously identified similar data breaches involving Veeam and contact aggregator Adapt.io. Diachenko wrote that the list was “sitting on a public Elasticsearch cluster 4.4GB in size and available for public access to anyone who knew where to look”.
The watchlist in question is a database of individuals and companies that Dow Jones considers ‘high-risk’ – which in this case refers to their potential links to terrorism or organised crime. Doing business with such entities can carry high penalties if they are under official sanctions, and financial institutions use lists like this to ensure they do not run afoul of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations.
Individuals and companies contained in the database include government officials and politicians, suspected terrorists and perpetrators of major financial crimes. According to TechCrunch, the profiles included a varying range of details personal details like names, ages, geographic locations and sometimes photographs, alongside detailed notes culled from sources such as news reports, government filings and EU and UN data.
“In other words, it contained the identities of government officials, politicians and people of political influence in every country of the world,” Diachenko wrote. “What makes this data so much more valuable is the focus on premium and reputable sources. In the age of fake news and social engineering online it is easy to see how valuable this type of information would be to companies, governments, or individuals.”
A Dow Jones spokesperson said that the data, which is part of their risk and compliance offering, was no longer available, saying: “This data is entirely derived from publicly available sources. At this time our review suggests this resulted from an authorized third party’s misconfiguration of an AWS server, and the data is no longer available.”
Unsecured Elasticsearch databases have been behind a number of data breaches recently, including one involving 32 million Sky Brazil customers. Hackers have also been targeting Elasticsearch clusters in an apparent attempt to implant victims’ machines with malware. Watchlists have also been something of a security risk; Thompson Reuters suffered a breach of its own watchlist in 2016 which exposed 2.2 million records.

South Africa: Load Shedding – Over 400 Organisations, Small Businesses Join Class Action Against Eskom

A law firm believes that its plans to launch a class action against Eskom over load shedding are viable, despite a previous statement from the power utility that there are limited grounds for such a case to be successful.
De Beer Attorneys in April called on businesses and organisations which suffered losses due to power cuts to join a class action suit against Eskom. The damages claim is against Eskom directors over fraudulent, unlawful and reckless acts which had a role in the deterioration of Eskom’s generation and resulted in load shedding. Subscribe to Fin24’s newsletter here
In March, Eskom implemented Stage 4 load shedding over several days, due to failing power plants. Power cuts were worsened by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, which affected a power line from the Cahora Bassa dam.
Eskom has stated that based on the National Code of Practice for Emergency Load Reduction and System Restoration Practices of 2010, the power utility cannot be sued for load shedding, Fin24 reported previously.
Eskom is yet to respond to Fin24’s queries following the most recent communication from De Beer Attorneys.
“De Beer Attorneys believes that there is still a firm basis for a claim,” the law firm said in a statement issued on Monday. The firm says it is relying on revelations in the State capture inquiry which implicated office bearers at the power utility for corrupt activities.
“It seems that a number of office bearers at Eskom have engaged in corrupt activities in the past and that this pattern of conduct has resulted in Eskom being unable to meet South Africa’s electricity demand.
“On this basis, a damages claim for individual businesses that have suffered financial loss as a result of load shedding may still lie against these responsible directors,” said Abduraouph Kamaar, senior associate at De Beer Attorneys.
According to De Beers, some of the losses should at least be recovered from the directors themselves.
‘Fed up’ with corruption
Commenting on the responses from the public about the suit, Kamaar said that a number of local organisations supported the endeavour.
“They are fed up with corruption and having their livelihoods compromised as a result of malfeasance,” Kamaar said.
“South African businesses are dependent upon a stable electricity supply and are entitled to compensation for at least some of the losses they have suffered. If not from Eskom, then from the directors themselves whose questionable conduct has resulted in these losses.”
Kamaar called on more businesses to join the class action suit. So far businesses from various sectors such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing, IT and hospitality have joined the suit.
De Beer Attorneys MD Elaine Bergenthuin has said the firm would require the permission of the businesses to name them publicly.

‘Downies’ under threat as coffee shop founder is barred from SA

Brownies & Downies, a coffee shop in Cape Town staffed by people with Down syndrome, may have to close its doors after home affairs banned its owner from SA.
Wendy Schultz, a Dutch social worker, started the restaurant-cum-social benefit organisation in Long Street more than two years ago and has since then been locked in a struggle with the department to get her visa renewed.
She left for the Netherlands in January to marry her South African fiancé, Wade, after being told she could not get married in SA due to the struggle to get her papers filed with the department.
Store manager Tauriq Hendricks said Schultz had been told that because she left SA with an expired visa, she would be banned from the country for five years.
Her husband returned alone to SA, and Hendricks said the future of six able-bodied Brownies & Downies staff and 25 students with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to foetal alcohol syndrome now hung in the balance.
Schultz explaining what had happened.
“I have battled in an appeals process spanning close on two years to sort out my paperwork with the Department of Home Affairs, but seem to hit one snag after the other,” she wrote.
“Apart from wishing to be reunited with my husband, Brownies & Downies needs me back in South Africa to continue the work that we have started.
“Essentially, Brownies & Downies runs a training programme where young people with special needs are taught culinary skills so that they are empowered, can have a sense of purpose, and can contribute meaningfully to society.”
Since opening Brownies & Downies, the post said, Schultz had been inundated with calls from special needs schools and families with special needs children. They all wanted to start similar initiatives in other parts of SA because of the success achieved in Cape Town.
“The impending closure of Brownies & Downies will not only impact the many young people who are benefiting from the programme, but trainers and other support staff face the prospect of losing their jobs too,” said the post.
The training programme, which sees young people with special needs taking orders and serving customers, has already integrated 12 people with intellectual disabilities in work environments. Another seven are awaiting Schultz’s return so they can be placed.
Hendricks claimed home affairs set up unnecessary bureaucratic barriers when it came to Schultz’s case.
“We even had inspections from home affairs, which is almost unheard of. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for a long time and home affairs never does any inspections on foreign nationals. Why on Wendy?” he said.
“It felt like a bit of victimisation, the way they came in. They specifically knew what they were looking for and they were very arrogant about the situation.
“The point of this is, Wendy is Brownies & Downies. This is her dream. She came to South Africa three years ago on a social work experiment and saw a need for something like Brownies & Downies.
“She made sure that she did everything by the book, but by doing everything by the book she’s probably shot herself in the foot.”

Inside the deranged bureaucratic belly of the Home Affairs beast

CAPE TOWN — Ayi, yay, yayi! If you want a powerful example of callous, disinterested, mindless South African bureaucracy, walk with multiple ward-winning investigative writer, Jeremy Gordin, here as he tries to help a young Spanish colleague secure a visitor’s visa from Home Affairs. It’s a tribute to Gordin’s tenacity (and mental health) – and to the apparent minority of senior civil servants in that notorious department – that he succeeded at all. Juxtapose that with the thousands of ordinary citizens and foreigners who don’t have the nous, experience and contacts to ‘facilitate’ a seemingly straightforward application. Conclusion; we have a dysfunctional Home Affairs. No parade of earnest politicians over the last quarter century can counter that; check your newspaper archives. It’s Catch 22 gone beserk; you have to be insane to try and buck the system – while meekly working within the system will drive you mad. Gordin isn’t pontificating here; this is first-hand experience rendered deliciously palatable by that essential antidote to lunacy – the wry wit of a seasoned scribe. Story courtesy of Politicsweb. – Chris Bateman
I have a young (half my age) journalistic colleague and friend who hails from a small town in Spain and whom I’ll refer to as M.
Although he could reside in Barcelona or Madrid, or for that matter pretty much anywhere in the EU, for some reason M feels drawn to and interested in South Africa and has worked hard to understand and appreciate the place. He has looked forward inter alia to covering our great national general election, scheduled for May 8. “Whatever gets you through the night,” as we used to say in the 70s.
In November, M went along to apply for a new journalist’s visitor’s visa, which he thought would just be a formality. As you might know, such matters are handled these days by VFS, “an outsourcing and technology services specialist” that “manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments”. The notation at the bottom of VFS emails reads: “VFS Global: 60 Client Governments. 139 Countries of Operation. 2722 Application Centres. Over 180 million applications processed.” According to Dr Google, the company was founded in 2001 in Mumbai, India and is based in Dubai (hello, Atul; hello, Ajay). The local staff seem mostly to be Seffricans.
But why “we” don’t use home-grown software and nous to issue visas and such-like, I cannot quite grasp; nor do I understand why the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) had to outsource its work. Perhaps reversing this is one of the things on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lengthy to-do list; as various pundits have assured us, the president shall inter alia feed the hungry, heal the sick, make the desert bloom and fix the DHA.
As mentioned, M submitted his application for renewal of his journalist’s visitor’s visa at VFS at the start of November. He was told by the person there that he’d receive a response in 8-10 weeks (i.e., end-December/mid-January). He didn’t get a notification; but, as you know, the DHA is busy, or whatever, and M had to wait until 19 February to hear his application had been refused. Bear in mind he would become “undesirable” on 13 April. (For those familiar with the technicalities, M was by the way on a tourist visa, having earlier left the country when his previous journalist’s visitor’s visa expired.)
Why the refusal? M was informed that (a) he had not presented proof of “sufficient funds” and (b) had not attached a SAPS police clearance.
However, M had done both. But perhaps the DHA hadn’t noticed the receipt for the fee paid to VFS for obtaining and submitting the police clearance and perhaps someone misplaced his/her calculator thus failing to convert Euros into Rands.
So, M returned to VFS – with an attorney, nogal – and pointed out that there’d been a minor oversight and asked whether his application could please be “reassessed”.
A BIG mistake – though M didn’t know this then, nor did the attorney, and nor, apparently, did the VFS official. It seems one just can’t do that; turns out one must make a formal “appeal” – or it’s cheers, big ears. However, the VFS official accepted M’s “reassessment” re-submission without any qualms, saying there’d be a response within two weeks.
But time marched inexorably onwards, as it’s won’t to do. February turned into March and March marched to the beginning of April. It’s also important to know that when an application is refused, one is allowed 10 days only in which to appeal it; by April, the 10-day window was therefore long gone. But the VFS official said no worries, the reassessment was “in the system”.
M, notwithstanding being a chilled Spaniard, mañana, Cuando calienta el sol, and all that, grew a trifle anxious. If he became “undesirable,” he’d have to fly back to Spain to re-apply – airline tickets cost mucho dinero – and he would also miss the election – a re-application takes close to three months, if not longer – and he would have to kiss his (local) partner goodbye for an unforeseen period. Young(er) people take these separations seriously.
When officials screw up your paperwork without a blush and seem not to care that you’re going to be kicked out, then, as calm and level as you might be, the matter turns personal. You start feeling as though no one wants you around and that they don’t care either way. Trouble is that the latter is true; the DHA don’t give a tinker’s damn.
Remember that the previous incumbent minister was one Malusi “Gigabyte” Gigaba, who had about as much interest in setting up an effective and caring ministry as Donald Trump has in poetry; the present boss is Siyabonga Cwele, who probably has about as much commitment to a functional DHA as my bull terrier, Olsen. Probably less. Before them were a bunch of ministers whose disinterest was truly breath-taking, including inter alios IFP leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (I’ve been around a while – and I take notes.)
Meanwhile, with only a week to go, M wrote to everyone he could find in the department – all the main manne what count – and I did the same.
Ironically, by the way, if I could dwell in Barcelona, I’d rather do that than live in Joey’s – even though, in the 1490s, my ancestors, or some of them, were booted out of Spain, lock, stock and barrel. Anyway, it’s probably handy that Jews have gone through expropriation sans compensation “in all the civilised languages,” as George Steiner once wrote, i.e., that I carry the Jewish-Spanish experience of five centuries ago in my DNA. Consider: it might soon be revealed – after the election perhaps? – that pre-colonial era folk once lived where I reside now, and I might have to give up “my” tiny swatch of land in Johannesburg.
M and I wrote to the DHA officials that clearly there had been a misunderstanding – and asked whether, without apportioning blame, we could all just accept that M seemed not to be an axe-murderer, the necessary documentation existed, and, jeez, couldn’t he just get a piece of paper without being kicked out and being forced to spend a great deal of money?
Neither of us had the courtesy of a reply. As for the fore-mentioned VFS official, she kept saying she was waiting for the DHA response. Then, when M finally received a one-liner from the department (here I paraphrase): “There is no such thing as a ‘reassessment’; appeal or be damned; period past for appealing? Get lost” – the VFS official said in effect, “Well, you wanted to do this, I never promised you a rose garden, did I?”
We asked everyone we could find for assistance, e.g., someone attached to a political party (not the ANC), who was said to be able to work “magic” in such matters. But, with five days to go, M, in the immortal words of Barry Fantoni, “was nowhere, man”. He girded his loins to transfer some of those Euros so he could buy his ticket home.
What to do? I do not have Cwele’s telephone number; and for some reason Jacob G Zuma hasn’t called for years.
There are many, many things and people that p*ss me off big-time [i]. But what gets straight up my nose (almost) above all is what William Shakespeare described in Hamlet as “The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely/ … the law’s delay, / The insolence of office and the spurns/ That patient merit of the unworthy takes” (i.e., “The insults that a forbearing/diligent person receives from the unworthy”).
In other words, the callousness, disinterest, insolence, time-wasting and moronicism of bureaucrats. Let a bureaucrat say to me “It’s not possible” – and, unless s/he has a very, very good reason, and even if s/he does, I strip my moer, sometimes I even strop my kukri.
But I’m getting too doddery to unearth my AK-47 from the garden. Besides, I’m a pinko-liberal and my battle-cry is therefore “moderation or death” [ii]. What to do?
I hit, as it were, my mobile telephone. I estimate I spent about five hours in total calling everyone I could find, working my way up the bureaucratic ladder, including all the officials to whom M and I had previously written. No one even answered the phone. Oh yeah, one senior official did; he said he hadn’t seen the email from M – too many emails on his machine. But anyway, the rules were the rules. I suggested politely that perhaps I should try to find the DG or the minister. Do what you like was his response.
Then bingo (alpha)! Continuing my crawl up the bureaucratic ladder, I reached the “assistant,” young and feisty, to one of the bigger wigs. She said I’d never reach her boss, though she gave me his number, and she also gave me the cell numbers for two other big wigs, X and Y. Which one should I call, I asked? Well, she said, she couldn’t “advise” me but, she added, Y was a decent straight-shooter.
Bingo (beta)! Y didn’t answer my call – he was, surprise, surprise, in meetings all day (what do they meet about all day?). But he responded with a message: that I could call after 5pm. I did and he even listened to what I had to say. By now there were four days to go. I get it, Y said, but it’s not my department. “Tell you what though, we’re in meetings wall-to-wall for the next two days, but I’ll discuss the matter in full with Mr X [whose department it was – and who had not deigned to reply to one of M’s emails] and I promise that I’ll get him to call you before 8am tomorrow morning.”
X did not call; so, I called Y again, forwarding emails from the VFS official that demonstrated she had accepted the attempt at a reassessment. The next day – two days to goodbye-M-day – Y sent a copy of M’s new visa to my iPhone.
Was this a remarkable accomplishment? Should I – or rather Y – get the Order of the Baobab? Ought I to refer you to the ancient Islamic, Jewish and Persian tradition that tells us the world is saved from being submerged in its follies and wickedness by the presence in each generation of a small number of 36 just men [people, if you prefer], who operate inconspicuously, hardly recognised by others or even themselves. Should we consider Y one of them?
Does the presence of Y – the chink in the darkness he represents – mean that we at Winterfell could defeat the army of the dead [maybe the army of the zombies?] who are about to take over Seffrica again via the ballot box?
Tempting as it is, I’ll not suggest any of the above, especially as much worse things have happened to people at the hands of the DHA[iii].
But I must say the small light in the darkness represented by Y and that I achieved something through dint of sheer cussedness did make me feel exhilarated – and even “distinguished” in the sense used by HD Thoreau in his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods:
“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”