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Items filtered by date: Monday, 07 August 2017

South African Airways has identified Vodacom Group Ltd. executive Vuyani Jarana as the leading candidate to become the struggling state-owned carrier’s first permanent chief executive officer since November 2015, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The debt-laden airline hasn’t made a profit since 2011 and is in talks with banks about repaying or refinancing 8.9 billion rand ($685 million) of loans due at the end of the week. The carrier needs an experienced executive from the private sector to turn it around, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public.

Jarana, 46, has been head of Vodacom’s enterprise division since 2012 and was previously chief operating officer of the Johannesburg-based wireless carrier. He is the preferred choice of a number of board members appointed to SAA by the National Treasury last year, one of the people said. Chairwoman Dudu Myeni, who also heads President Jacob Zuma’s charitable foundation, has a different candidate in mind, the person said.

Jarana declined to comment.

The identity of SAA’s new CEO “is currently under consideration by the shareholder,” spokesman Tlali Tlali said by email, referring to the National Treasury. “The shareholder department may decide to table the name of the recommended candidate to cabinet for final approval. We have to wait until all these processes have been finalized before we could know and announce the CEO designate.”

Cabinet Approval

Jarana hasn’t been offered a job by SAA and is focused on delivering Vodacom’s business strategy, a spokesman for Vodacom said in an emailed response to questions. Treasury spokeswoman Yolisa Tyantsi couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by phone.

After the board identifies a candidate the name will to be presented to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who will seek cabinet approval for the appointment, the second person said. Only then can an offer be made to the candidate, adding that the process could take until the end of July. The Sunday Times reported last week that Myeni attempted to halt an SAA board meeting aimed at approving Jarana’s nomination, as she doesn’t approve of the candidate.

SAA has been run on an acting basis by Chief Technical Officer Musa Zwane since 2015. He is the seventh permanent or temporary CEO of the airline since 2010. The leadership vacuum is one of many challenges to have beset the airline, which said June 20 it has made “significant headway” toward a five-year plan aimed at returning the company to profit.

On Tuesday, SAA and the National Treasury said they are in talks with lenders about settling 2.3 billion rand of 8.9 billion rand in loans due at the end of this week after one of the banks refused to ease the debt’s terms. The airline has been relying on government debt guarantees in order to remain solvent.

Vodacom, 65 percent owned by Vodafone Group Plc, is the market leader in South Africa with 37 million subscribers in the country. It also has customers in Tanzania, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Credit: Bloomberg

Published in Travel & Tourism

The democratic ideal visualises a government in which supreme power is vested in the people. They exercise this power indirectly through a system of representation that allows them to elect the leaders of their choice.

In practice, the reality is far more complex. The influence of big business in financing parties and candidates means that some of the biggest owners of capital are inextricably linked to high-level politics.

For example, the funding of US presidential campaigns by big business interests is often hidden in contributions to independent political action committees, or super PACS. The committees can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.

As an old maxim goes:

He who controls the country’s wealth controls its politics.

When wealthy business people invest in elections they expect their interests to be protected. This has been the expectation in Kenyan politics since the birth of the nation. Over the years, the influence of big business has grown and led to deeper entrenchment of the minority elite.

Big business interests in Kenya range from banking, to manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesale concerns, farming, insurance, and media among many others. Quite a number of large corporations and wealthy business people rely heavily on political patronage to maintain a steady growth trajectory.

Kenya is also experiencing the rise of the “tenderpreneur” - a person who uses their political connections to secure government contracts for personal advantage.

So who finances political campaigns in Kenya? It’s a difficult question to answer because campaign financing arrangements are opaque, and there’s no legal obligation for sponsors to declare all their interests. Large corporations and high net worth individuals tend to be discrete about their donations, but have been known to attend fundraising dinners and to quietly join political foundations.

This model denies the people a seat at the table by allowing only the wealthy minority to participate in determining electoral outcomes. The effect has been to lower trust in the electoral system. Coupled with deep ethnic cleavages, this has led to violence and conflict around elections as different groups jostle for the privileges that come from holding power.

The relationship between big money and the electoral process is worth considering in Kenya at a time when inter-ethnic conflict and violence is so closely linked to the electoral cycle.

Redesigning campaign financing

There is a way out of this. In a functioning democracy financing would be open and transparent to the public and not limited to a small section of the population. This would reduce the monopoly of state tools by a minority elite, by increasing the democratic space for the majority voice.

True democracy presupposes equality of opportunity and transparency in campaigning that reduces the advantage held by wealthier parties and candidates.

But how to achieve this? Given Kenya’s context it wouldn’t make sense simply to mirror the political funding models of the West. The country needs to come up with its own system to suit the African context. Campaign financing needs to be redesigned so that it’s more transparent.

That said, some attempts at reform have been made. Kenya’s main political parties are now entitled to funding by the exchequer under the Political Parties Act. But a party must have received at least 3% of the total votes cast in a general election to qualify for funding. This means that only the big parties benefit.

In the 2014-2015 financial year, for example, the National Alliance received USD$866,679, Orange Democratic Movement USD$848,239 and United Republican Party USD$273,688 on the basis of their numbers in parliament.

According to the Election Campaign Financing Act (2013) political parties can receive up to Sh15 billion (USD$150 million) in contributions, and individuals can make single contributions of up to Sh3 billion (about USD$30 million). Presidential candidates are limited to spending Sh5 billion (USD$50 million) for the duration of the campaign period.

The law doesn’t bar political parties and candidates from raising funds to facilitate their campaigns, or making use of money raised by their friends through events such as fundraising dinners.

But even existing regulations aren’t strictly adhered to. For instance, political parties are failing when it comes to campaign-finance reporting. In practice, very little meaningful political finance data is reported, and even less is easily available to the public.

Reforms to Kenya’s laws on party financing are being considered. But crucial amendments to the legislation that would have improved transparency have stalled. This means that party finances are still not well tracked and therefore, large corporations and wealthy individuals can continue to heavily fund campaigns without much scrutiny.

What steps should be taken

There are steps Kenya should consider to increase the country’s resilience as a society especially during election time.

First, the country must acknowledge that there’s a connection between the money being spent and the influence of special interests on the political process.

Secondly, it’s critical to distinguish between the money necessary for a candidate’s voice to be heard, and that being used to corrupt the political process. If money must be raised for campaigns in a transparent way, then regulations and laws governing campaign financing are crucial.

Third, the issue is not necessarily the sheer amount being spent. The problem is a political system in which the overwhelming majority of political contributions come from a tiny number of individuals. Kenya must shift from this model of financing because it turns politics into a high-stakes game that very often turns violent.

Given that campaign contributions are often understood as purchases of “goodwill” whose returns benefit a select group of political entrepreneurs, reducing their margin of influence is a step in the right direction.


Faith Kiboro, PhD Candidate in Political Economy, SMC University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Economy

South Africa’s Parliament is debating the 2017 Copyright Amendment Bill which is aimed at aligning the country’s laws with the digital age.

I, as well as other experts and civil society organisations, have submitted comments praising many of the bill’s provisions. But we advocate for an important change – for the new law to adopt an “open” fair use right, instead of the “closed” version in the current act.

By an “open” fair use right, we refer to one that would authorise any fair use of a copyrighted work, not just uses for prescribed purposes like criticism and review. The reason this is important is that, in the digital world we live in today, there are an increasing number of technological uses that are fair in that they do they do not substitute for the work in the market but that are not for traditional purposes like criticism.

Modern copyright law was first drawn up in the era of the printing press. At its core it gave exclusive rights for making and selling a copies of a particular work. Every time the work was reprinted it was made available to a new consumer or new group of consumers. So protecting copies created an economic system whereby copyright owners had a clear and distinct point at which they got paid for their work.

In the digital age, a large and growing number of technologies rely on intermediate copies that do not express the work to the public in any way. These new and important uses include cloud computing, text mining, detecting plagiarism and constructing search engine indexes. All of these kinds of uses make copies of works, but not the kinds of copies that compete with rights owners. Rather, they create entirely new services for users that couldn’t exist without the right to copy.

The copying at the heart of these technologies is sometimes referred to as “non-expressive use”. The term refers to the fact that such uses may reproduce protected works, but do not do so in a way that expresses (or communicates) the work to the public, and therefore cannot substitute for the work in any market. Such uses are fair by definition.

What ownership means in a digital world

Non-expressive uses rely on the ability of machines to read thousands (sometimes millions) of works to abstract metadata from them. The metadata is fundamentally different to the original, primary work. The metadata is fact – not expression.

Non-expressive uses have enormous potential to advance human progress without prejudicing the interests of authors or copyright owners. Language translation software makes communication across borders and cultures simple and easy for anyone with a Smartphone. But to teach computers to translate you must feed them with millions of examples of text from copyrighted sources. We have web applications that can recognise pictures of animals and name them, and that can recognise patterns in music and play along. But to teach computers to learn we have to provide them with data in the forms of millions of examples and pictures or songs to learn from. These examples do not substitute for the works - they cannot be enjoyed by a consumer instead of the original – but they are nonetheless “copies” in the literal meaning of the word.

Allowing non-expressive uses of copyrighted works is consistent with the goals of copyright. Copyright law is not an end in itself. It was established to motivate and reward the creation of new and original expression. That’s why the law distinguishes between facts and ideas (unprotectable) and expression (protectable). A work is only regarded as having been copied when a substantial part of its original expression has been reproduced. If the purpose of copyright is to protect original expression, it stands to reason that non-expressive use shouldn’t infringe copyright.

What’s missing

South Africa has a general exception that authorises a “fair dealing” with a work. But it’s closed – not open. It applies only to uses for the purposes of research or private study, personal or private use, criticism or review, and reporting current events. Non-expressive uses are not on the list.

The alternative to a closed list of exceptions is a general public interest exception, known in the US as “fair use”. Many countries, including in Singapore, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, and Philippines, have adopted open fair use or fair dealing clauses in their laws. Such laws have been interpreted to permit non-expressive uses. And, importantly, they provide the flexibility needed to recognise other (e.g. future) fair uses of works that benefit society without harming authors. The openness of the fair use is thus often referred to as the secret sauce of the US and other fair use country’s innovation-enabling environments.

What changes need to be made

South Africa could make suitable provision for non-expressive use by simply adding the words “such as” before the list of authorised purposes in its existing fair dealing clause. This would make the clause similar to the US fair use right in that it would be open to application to purposes not specifically mentioned in the Act, but which are nonetheless fair to authors.

An alternative to an open fair dealing right, or as a clarification, South Africa’s law could be amended with a specific provision to protect non-expressive uses. Such a provision would safeguard many uses we know of today, but would have the disadvantage of lacking the flexibility we may need to permit the uses of tomorrow.

Sean Flynn, Law Professor, American University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Business

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