If this year’s medium-term budget policy statement, which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will unveil today, delivers any surprises, it could at the least humour the public with an expanded focus on national communications.
When it published the Budget Review for 2013/14, the Treasury committed itself to allocating funding for national broadband connectivity once a national policy framework had been agreed.
Much of the investment to date had been at the expense of the private sector, it acknowledged, bar the contributions by state entities Broadband Infraco and Sentech to roll out broadband to rural schools and clinics.
Some cold comfort is that on Friday the Department of Communications will host a day-long debate in Pretoria on the national broadband policy ahead of its finalisation next month. The way in which the government proceeds with an upgrade of South Africa’s broadband status could be a positive development in its poverty alleviation initiatives.
Multinational firm Ericsson’s study titled “Measuring the Impact of Broadband on Income” suggests that households in emerging markets can attract an increase of $800 (R7 840) a year in income with a broadband connection of 0.5 Megabits a second. In comparison, a broadband connection of about 4 Megabits per second can boost household income by $2 100 a year in more developed nations.
The capability of households to apply broadband for economic gain is another story. But whether this leads to a tipping of the scales in global internet connectivity speeds in years to come remains to be seen.
Not even Johannesburg, with its patchwork of trenches and orange netting for optic fibre rollouts, earns a ranking among the top 30 cities worldwide that boast the fastest internet download speeds on Ookla.com. That index is dominated by European and Asian cities.
Cosatu in the Western Cape has welcomed a ruling by the Labour Court that provincial demographs should be taken into account in respect of employment equity.
Provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said this ruling made it clear that black people generally should “be preferenced ahead of whites for employment equity purposes”. The ruling, in effect, includes coloureds as a designated group of historically disadvantaged and recognises they constitute a majority in the Western Cape.
Ehrenreich, who is ANC leader in the Cape Town Metropolitan Council, said the ruling “will hopefully serve as a clear indication to the provincial government and the City of Cape Town, (other) municipalities and private sector that have an over-representation of white people in the senior positions”.
This case also clarified that provincial demographics must be used, “which will make it compulsory that the make-up of the population of the Western Cape must be reflecting in all jobs in the Western Cape. This will mean that coloureds, who are the majority in the Western Cape, will be the majority of persons in employ,” Ehrenreich said. Cosatu welcomed the fact that white people would not be considered as a designated group.
Cosatu accused the Solidarity trade union – which backed court action of nine coloured correctional services workers and one white worker – as being part of “the racist organisations [that] have used this case to try to undermine the principle of affirmative action”.
Solidarity’s threat to take the matter on appeal “is just an attempt to keep this issue alive for the elections as a way for the white parties to promote the notion of white/coloured solidarity”.
Cosatu said it would use the ruling “to ensure that every workplace becomes representative of the province’s demographics… even if we must strike at companies to enforce it”.
An unnamed “prescribed officer” was the highest-paid executive at JD Group for the year to June. The prescribed officer – who was referred to only as “E” – was paid R10.5 million in financial 2013, which might have been a bit discomfiting for the group’s chief executive, David Sussman, who was paid R8.4m.
However, many analysts believe Sussman may have been a little overpaid, given the group’s performance during the year.
Prescribed officer “E’s” basic salary of R2.6m was boosted considerably by variable remuneration of R7.2m, which we’re told, was the “cash amount paid during the period”. Market sources reckon that prescribed officer “E” could be a hotshot in the group’s marketing department.
Given the difficulties facing the company and the industry as a whole, the board will certainly be keen to hold onto whatever hotshots it has. Two high-profile executive directors, Ian Thompson and Grattan Kirk, departed from the company during financial 2013.
Talking about departures from retail companies, someone at Woolworths is preparing for his pending retirement with the recent disposal of R37.6m worth of Woolworths shares. Last Friday’s sale of almost half-a-million shares was done at an average price of about R75.
In a Sens announcement the company explained: “In anticipation of his retirement, and to diversify his share portfolio, [chief financial officer] Norman Thomson will be selling 19 percent of his Woolworths Holdings shares.” In September, Thomson sold shares worth R15m.
Other executive directors to sell in September were Ian Moir and Zyda Rylands. In addition, non-executive chairman Simon Susman sold R54.5m worth of Woolworths shares in two tranches during the month. In the first tranche he managed to sell at R68.50; this increased to R73.50 in the later tranche. The share briefly reached a high of R80 in May this year.
The good news for shareholders is that non-executive director Stuart Rose has been buying a few shares.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Asha Speckman, Donwald Pressly and Ann Crotty.