News in South Africa 18th November:
1. Courts rule against Santam:
The Western Cape High Court has ruled in favour of Ma-Afrika Hotels and Stellenbosch Kitchen in the high-profile Covid-19 business interruption claims battle against JSE-listed insurance giant Santam.
In a resounding judgment handed down on Tuesday afternoon, South Africa’s largest short-term insurer was ordered to pay out Ma-Afrika’s pandemic-linked claims for the impact over the entire policy period of 18 months, without limitations. The court also ordered that Santam pay Ma-Afrika’s legal costs.
While Santam is likely to follow its industry peers such as Guardrisk in appealing a similar ruling by taking its case to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), this latest judgment represents yet another blow to short-term insurers not wanting to pay out such claims.
“We are grateful for the court’s decision in our favour,” a relieved André Pieterse, chair and CEO of the Ma-Afrika Hotel Group, said on Tuesday night.
He also thanked Ma-Afrika’s legal team, led by Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett QC SC, as well as the support from Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) CEO Ryan Woolley, together with the more than 700 clients the group represents on this issue.
“This outcome will greatly assist in allowing ourselves and others in the [South African] tourism and hospitality sector to weather the ongoing Covid-19 storm,” said Pieterse.
2. Taxi Alliance strike today:
Taxi commuters will be left stranded or risk running extremely late on Wednesday as National Taxi Alliance operators march on Pretoria.
The alliance represents 10,000 taxi operators, 3,000 of which are expecting to strike. Operators have been gathering for the march since 07h00.
The National Taxi Association (NTA) said drivers would be marching to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s office and the Presidency in Tshwane at the Union Buildings to submit a memorandum of demands for the promised Covid-19 relief to be issued.
Drivers said some of their aggrievances included the refusal for the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) to be the main leadership body of the sector.
The industry said drivers had still not received the R1.3 billion COVID-19 relief fund for drivers.
Commuters have been warned to find alternative transport.
3. SABC retrenchment protests:
SABC employees were on Tuesday locked in a heated meeting with management over planned retrenchments of up to 400 workers, with reports that television anchors could refuse to go on air.
The stand-off with management comes after employees had been embarking on lunchtime pickets over looming job cuts by the public broadcaster which is facing financial challenges.
The broadcaster’s 24-hour news channel showed images of staffers locked in a meeting with management, which was called after more workers received letters of redundancies. Workers are also calling for management to resign and accuse them of “decimating Africa’s largest newsroom” by introducing a new structure without consultation.
Communications Workers Union spokesperson, Aubrey Tshabalala, which is one of the unions representing employees, described the retraction as “temporary victory” — adding that they would still push for a legally binding commitment from management that the cuts are off the table.
“As a union we would be filing a notice to strike as required by the law. We see Magopeni’s retraction as a sign of bowing to pressure and we won’t be surprised if they turn around and say the decision to withdraw the notices is invalid,” said Tshabalala.
4. Ramaphosa congratulates Joe Biden:
President Ramaphosa has congratulated US president-elect Joe Biden on his victory in the US elections, and has wished him and the vice-president-elect Kamala Harris well on their transition to power in the states.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is hopeful of a strong partnership between the United States and the African continent in promoting peace and stability in international relations and advancing multilateralism.
President Ramaphosa had a call with US President-Elect Joe Biden on Tuesday evening, 17 November 2020, during which the leaders discussed ways to strengthen US-Africa relations and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris have identified Africa as a major player in international affairs and in the advancement of multilateralism.
5. Sasol announces 20% pay cut for directors:
South Africa’s Sasol said on Wednesday its board agreed to a 20% cut in the fees proposed for approval at its 2020 annual general meeting due to erosion of shareholder value over the past two years and challenges still facing the petrochemical firm.
In view of the significant challenges still facing Sasol and in acknowledgement of the erosion of shareholder value over the past two years, the Board has agreed to commit to a sacrifice of 20% on the Board fees proposed for approval at the 2020 AGM. This fee sacrifice shall remain in place until a revised fee proposal is considered by shareholders at Sasols 2021 AGM. The 20% fee sacrifice will apply to the Chairman fee and the Board fee as set out more fully in special resolution 1 in Sasols 2020 notice of AGM.
The Remuneration Committee will ensure that a review of the fees payable to NEDs is carried out with the objective of ensuring that a new resolution on Board fees is proposed to shareholders at the 2021 AGM.
Problems at its U.S Lake Charles Chemicals project and softer chemical and Brent crude oil prices have weighed on the firms shares.