Kingsley

Kingsley

Zimbabwe's militant teachers' group, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) says its members will from today start reporting for duty only twice a week as they could no longer afford transport fares to and from work.

This, they announced through a Friday letter they addressed to Public Service Commission chairperson, Vincent Hungwe.

PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe said teachers under his 15 000-member union will also be abandoning formal dressing during their course of duty as they can no longer afford the clothing.

He said teachers' earnings have been eroded by continued price increases that have propelled the country's inflation to an alarming 591 percent, according to top world economist Steve Hanke.

"We hereby give our notice of incapacitation and with effect from Monday the 21st of October 2019 our members will be reporting for duty twice a week at most," Majongwe said.

"Mr Chairman, teachers would also like to advise and notify you that because of their plight, they will no longer be able to abide by the Strict Dress Code Rules as the little pittance they are getting is not adequate to feed them and their families, let alone buy formal clothing."

Majongwe said teachers under his organisation will only resume full time duty when government starts paying their wages based on the US dollar interbank rates, which on Friday stood at $15.8 against USD$1.

"Our humble and honest request to government is simply a radical adjustment of teachers' salaries to the last USD salary paid, at the current interbank rate, that is pegged at $15.8 today," he said.

The pending job action by the radical teachers group comes as junior doctors working in the country's public hospitals Friday went into Day 47 of their crippling strike demanding a review of their wages and allowances based on interbank rates.

The doctors insist they were prepared to report for work, but they were financially incapacitated to do so.

Government has offered the critical health staff a 60 percent wage hike which has been turned down by doctors who want their salaries pegged against the US dollar.

According to latest wage talks, government Friday revised the offer to 100 percent.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa Thursday accused the striking doctors of being used by the enemy to advance a regime change agenda against his under-fire administration.

 

Credit: New Zimbabwe

Boeing Co said on Sunday it understood the outcry over leaked messages from a former test pilot over erratic software behavior on its 737 MAX jet two years before recent crashes, and added it was still investigating what they meant.

The world's largest planemaker, under growing pressure to explain what it knew about 737 MAX problems before it entered service, said it had not been able to speak directly to former employee Mark Forkner but echoed his lawyer's subsequent claims that the problems were linked to a faulty simulator.

The role of the simulator has emerged as a crucial issue since the 2016 messages surfaced on Friday, since investigators will want to know whether erratic movements reported by the pilot meant Boeing was aware of problems on the aircraft itself or only in the artificial cockpit.

The FAA on Friday ordered Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg to give an "immediate" explanation for the delay in turning over the "concerning" document, which Boeing discovered some months ago.

In the messages from November 2016, then-chief technical pilot Forkner tells a colleague the so-called MCAS anti-stall system - the same one linked to deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia - was "running rampant" in a flight simulator session.

At another point he says: "I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)."

The messages, first reported by Reuters, prompted a new call in Congress for Boeing to shake up its management as it scrambles to rebuild trust and lift an eight-month safety ban of its fastest-selling plane.

"We understand entirely the scrutiny this matter is receiving, and are committed to working with investigative authorities and the U.S. Congress as they continue their investigations," Boeing said in its statement on Sunday.

Boeing said it informed the FAA about its decision to expand MCAS to low speeds. The FAA also observed MCAS operation in the low-speed configuration during certification flight testing, from August 2016 through January 2017, Boeing said.

The instant messages prompted harsh reactions from several Democratic lawmakers in Washington, with Representative Peter DeFazio saying, "This is no isolated incident."

"The outrageous instant message chain between two Boeing employees" suggests "Boeing withheld damning information from the FAA," DeFazio, who chairs the U.S. House Transportation Committee, said on Friday.

Muilenburg, who was stripped of his chairman title by the company's board nine days ago, is set to testify before the committee on Oct. 30.

'UNDUE PRESSURE'

DeFazio's committee also obtained details of a 2016 Boeing survey that found nearly 40% of 523 employees handling safety certification work perceived "potential undue pressure" from managers, such as bullying or coercion.

Other top concerns include "schedule pressure" and "high workload," though 90% of the employees said they were comfortable raising concerns about "undue pressure" to management, according to a copy of the Boeing presentation of the survey results seen by Reuters on Sunday.

The presentation was obtained by the committee's investigators and not among a trove of documents handed over the committee by Boeing itself, a person briefed on the matter said.

Evidence of "undue pressure" was also pinpointed by a group of international regulators reviewing the 737 MAX certification.

A Boeing spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the survey results.

SIMULATOR FLAWS

On Sunday, Boeing said it has not been able to speak to Forkner directly about his understanding of the document.

"He has stated through his attorney that his comments reflected a reaction to a simulator program that was not functioning properly and that was still undergoing testing," Boeing said.

"The simulator software used during the Nov. 15 session was still undergoing testing and qualification and had not been finalized," Boeing added.

Reuters reported on Friday that the simulator had a number of software problems, citing a former Boeing test pilot who analyzed the transcript and who had direct knowledge of the flight simulator at the time.

Such calibration problems may have contributed in some way to Forkner's observations and conclusions about MCAS' behavior, the former pilot, and a second former Boeing engineering employee, Rick Ludtke, said.

Boeing's statement was released as its board of directors and top executives from its airplanes division and supply chain gathered in San Antonio, Texas for previously scheduled meetings on Sunday and Monday.

The board meetings come as pressure mounts on the Chicago-based company not only from the regulatory and criminal investigations stemming from the crashes but also from the financial burden caused by the jet's safety ban and continued high production.

Several industry sources said there was speculation inside the company of significant job cuts as it continues to experience a cash drain. The 737 production rate may also have to come down if regulators further delay the MAX's return to service, the people said.

 

Reuters

United Bank for Africa (UBA) Liberia on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, launched its Chat Banking Product dubbed LEO.

The online banking product which can be accessed on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will allow customers to make use of their social media accounts, to open account, transfer money from one account to another, get account statement, buy airtime, get customer service assistance, load their UBA Pre-paid Card and whole lot more.

UBA’s Leo platform is a highly advanced development for a financial institution in Africa, particularly in Liberia, which aims to simplify the way customers transact. The bank says it is something that has become necessary in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quick-time transactions and responses.

UBA Liberia Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Olalekan Balogun, who introduced the online banking platform said, the aim of the product is to create an easy convenient and easy kind of banking in the 21st century thereby, making banking easier for those who do not have the time to stand in the banking hall and always on the go.

Balogun expressed thanks and appreciation to the students and the rest of the audience who turned out for the launch of the product on the campus of the African Methodist Episcopal University. He further encouraged them to be a part of the digital age in banking that is being introduced by UBA.

Earlier, Melody Mezay Ketter, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications at UBA Liberia, spoke on the importance of banking, informing the students of the many digital products UBA offers.

Mrs. Ketter said LEO is one of the many banking products being introduced by UBA, to encourage financial inclusion as part of the Central Bank of Liberia’s vision.

David Ojo, UBA Head of Digital Banking Sales, who made a step by step description about how to access the product, further give some statistics which according to him, birth the idea of the digital product.

He said, there are 2.2 million active users monthly on social media; Facebook, while 300,000 bots (an autonomous program on a network, especially the Internet, that can interact with computer systems or users) on Face Book.

He furthered that Facebook has 200 million subscribers in Africa, noting that 25,000 active Facebook subscribers are currently in Liberia.

“The idea of the Digital Product which started in 2017, is finally being introduced in Liberia” Ojo said, concluding his presentation.

To access the Artificial Intelligence LEO, existing and new customers should type UBA Chat Banking on Facebook Messenger, or send a WhatsApp Chat to +231777684919 and begin chatting.

The Central Bank of Liberia Assistant Director for IT and Cyber Security Regulation and Supervision Diakae Al Lewis, Sr., lauded UBA Liberia team for its innovative posture of bringing modern banking Liberia.

Uber contract drivers helped bring in more than three-quarters of the company’s revenue in this year’s first six months. But as Uber would have it, the drivers aren’t essential.

Uber raised eyebrows last month when its chief lawyer asserted that “drivers’ work is outside the usual course of Uber’s business” in a call laying out the company’s resistance to a California bill that would alter the employment status of many “gig” workers. It is a legal strategy the Silicon Valley company has been honing for years that helps it avoid responsibility for the actions of its drivers.

Documents and a 2017 deposition related to an Atlanta civil suit, Jessicka Harris v. Uber, viewed by The Washington Post offer a rare glimpse at Uber’s strategies for using drivers’ status as independent contractors as a legal shield. Asked in a document to “admit or deny that Uber is in the business of providing transportation,” the ride-hailing company’s attorneys are steadfast: “denied.”

Over the course of a nearly three-hour deposition in the Harris case, Uber executive Nicholas Valentino, then an operations manager for Atlanta, repeatedly corrected the plaintiff’s attorney when he referred to the contractors as “drivers.”

“They are not Uber drivers,” Valentino said. “They’re independent, third-party transportation providers.” He repeated the claim no fewer than 16 times, to the attorney’s apparent consternation.

“If you are going to keep saying they are not drivers, we are just going to be fussing about that all afternoon,” said the attorney, Michael Todd Wheeles.

“That’s okay,” Valentino said.

Uber faces many lawsuits, over issues ranging from fender benders to wage disputes to more-serious incidents. Harris sued Uber and driver Robert Ferguson, alleging that she nearly lost her leg after being struck by Ferguson, who she claimed veered off the road.

At stake for Uber in its many court battles is the potential for millions in new liabilities if its contract drivers are reclassified as employees, and the company is found to bear greater responsibility for their actions.

Many companies rely on contractors and gig workers. But what sets Uber and other ride-hailing companies apart is that its customers spend much more time with the drivers, en route to their destination, compared with, say, food-delivery or dog-walking services. The ratio of contractors to direct employees is high: While Uber has roughly 4 million drivers, the company has 27,000 employees.

In public statements, Uber takes pains to show its collaborative relationship with drivers. Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi refers to them as “driver partners,” noting in an interview last October that “if you’re going to call your drivers partners, then treat them like partners.” Uber declared 2017 “the year of the driver” before it was embroiled in a series of corporate scandals. The company offered some drivers the chance to buy stock when it went public in May, and it hosts regular forums where drivers can give feedback to executives.

“Drivers are independent contractors,” Uber spokesman Noah Edwardsen said in a statement. “But that has never stopped us from making significant investments in safety. Safety will always be a long-term commitment for Uber and we will continue working to raise the bar to help protect everyone who uses our platform.”

Gig workers earn money by performing tasks such as delivering groceries, ferrying passengers or fetching prepared food — tasks generally arranged by customers through mobile apps. Because they are not full-time employees, they can log in to the app whenever they wish to work, but they also have to pay for things such as fuel and health insurance themselves.

A measure in Uber’s home state that could require it to reclassify drivers as employees, with benefits such as paid sick leave, could also open the company up to new liabilities, according to critics. Uber has pushed back against the measure — set to take effect in January — citing what it says may be the impact to drivers’ flexible work schedule.

“Liability is one of the big unspoken-about issues here,” said Lorena Gonzalez (D), a California state assemblywoman who crafted the bill, known as AB5, that would make many gig workers employees. “We want to ensure there’s responsibility at the end of the day and that they are not just passing that along to someone else."

Edwardsen said that “liability for safety incidents has simply never been part of [Uber’s] arguments or strategy around AB5” and that “suggesting otherwise is wrong.”

Uber declined to comment on the Harris case, which it settled out of court, or any other litigation. Attorneys for Harris also declined to comment, as did the driver’s attorneys. Valentino, the Uber executive who was deposed in the case, declined through an Uber spokesman to be interviewed. Harris and Ferguson did not respond to requests for comment.

Uber drivers’ employment status has been challenged in multiple lawsuits, but Uber has avoided having to broadly recognize its gig workers as employees. Uber tends to favor settling individual cases out of court rather than letting them go to trial, say attorneys who have brought suits against the company.

In materials related to the Harris case, sealed after the matter was privately settled, Uber attorneys and executives contend that the company is nothing more than a marketplace that happens to be used for arranging transportation. And its chief legal officer, Tony West, said last month that Uber’s business is “serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces.”

But the company is more involved than many online marketplaces, such as e-commerce sites, including providing driving directions to drivers, setting fare rates and mandating punctuality and car type, among other criteria.

The distinction in the Harris case — and many others like it — is crucial for Uber. The company argues that because they are contractors, drivers and their behavior ultimately are not its responsibility.

It has made similar arguments in other lawsuits. In a case in San Francisco alleging an Uber driver made sexual comments to a 16-year-old passenger, settled in December, Uber’s attorneys said that “the partner driver was an independent contractor responsible for his own means and methods” and that Uber is “a technology company, not a transportation company."

In a case underway in Walton County, Fla., where a driver purportedly drove a passenger to his home and raped her, Uber asserts that the driver “was at all times … an independent, third-party transportation provider” and that Uber “does not and did not employ” the driver and “never had an agency, employment, partnership, joint venture or joint enterprise relationship with him.”

Courts have generally sided with Uber and other companies reliant on gig workers that have made similar arguments.

The Post reported last month that Uber’s Special Investigations Unit, which it turns to when trips go awry, is designed primarily to shelter the company from legal responsibility and quietly resolve serious allegations to avoid press or regulatory scrutiny. Uber has contested that, saying the unit’s role is to “provide specialized customer support to riders and drivers dealing with very serious real-life situations.”

Online marketplaces such as Uber and Lyft, e-commerce companies, food delivery companies and lodging providers have successfully argued that as middlemen they should not be held responsible for the goods and services they help arrange. And courts have generally sided with them, citing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields sites from legal liability for user content by treating them as distributors rather than publishers.

Gonzalez, in an interview, said she is also considering a handful of new bills for the next legislative session that would address various aspects of the gig economy, including insurance considerations.

Seattle University law professor Charlotte Garden, who has studied gig-economy labor, said the California measure could be copied in other states, increasing potential costs to Uber. She said that may require Uber to find new ways to describe its business.

“It’s part of Uber’s playbook to use colorful language to obscure the true nature of their business,” Garden said.

In the Harris case, Uber’s Valentino was asked whether he knew how many drivers Uber had in the state of Georgia. “Zero would be how many Uber drivers, because that’s not what they are,” he said. “But, if you are asking about independent third-party transportation providers — not trying to be difficult — I would say, no, I don’t know the answer.”

“Isn’t it true that Uber drivers like Mr. Ferguson are commanded to transport the Uber customer directly to their specified destination?” asked Wheeles, the attorney, with the firm Morris Haynes in Birmingham, Ala.

“He is not an Uber driver,” Valentino said. “Independent third-party transportation provider.”

 

Source: The Washington Post

Mozambican products exported to the United Kingdom will continue to receive preferential treatment, even with the country’s departure from the European Union, under a recently signed agreement between the two countries in London.

The agreement, also signed by members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), namely South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), establishes a free trade area that allows products from this group of countries access to the British market free of quotas and with exemption from customs duties.

Mozambique, along with other SACU members, in 2016 signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, an organisation of which the United Kingdom is still part.

The agreement signed with the United Kingdom a few days ago is a replica of the EPA that the SACU and Mozambique countries established with the European Union in 2016 and aims to ensure preferential trade between the parties following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

 

(Macauhub)

Africa needs more innovation in the agricultural sector that is both affordable and sustainable if it is to improve its levels of food security, says Dr Max Wengawenga, Assistant Chief Economic Advisor to the President of the Republic of Malawi.

Dr Wengawenga, who will be speaking at the Agritech Africa 2020 conference in Cape Town in June next year, says technology has the potential to make a meaningful impact on food security.  It is not a new concept, he says, as innovation and technology have been used to improve agricultural productivity over the years.

“However,” he says, “In Africa, my message to innovators would be that they should come up with more user-friendly and affordable technologies to increase food productivity, even among the resource-poor farmers.”

Food security has been a topic of heated debate in South Africa recently with the proposed constitutional amendment to expedite land reform. Food security is intricately tied to a healthy and strong agriculture sector.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is acutely aware of this, saying at the time of announcing the African National Congress’s intention to amend Section 25 of the constitution: “The intention of this proposed amendment is to promote redress, advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security.”

The chairperson of the Presidential Expert Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture Dr Vuyo Mahlathi called on the president in July this year, when handing over the recommendations of the panel, to expedite land reform in a way that will not compromise the country’s food security.

What is food security?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Closer to home, South Africa is still largely recognised as a food-secure country. Nonetheless, there are still many people who do not have access to sufficient food. Most of these people lack the financial means to access food, and so it becomes clear that besides being able to physically produce food, a country needs sufficient economic opportunities to help reduce the number of food insecure people. Food is a fundamental human right. South Africa’s unique situation highlights that dealing with food security very often goes beyond the actual production of food.

Regionally and globally, the pursuit of food security may require agricultural productivity-enhancing technologies; it may require mechanisms aimed at raising income levels for people to have the financial means access enough, quality food; and it may involve improving marketing systems that would enable regions with a food surplus to trade with counterparts in food-deficit areas. You may well find it to be a combination of these strategies.

Support

In order to take advantage of the opportunities the fourth industrial revolution presents for agriculture, there needs to be widespread dissemination for farmers to utilise new technologies and increase their productivity. All stakeholders have to work together in a co-ordinated approach, says Dr Wengawenga.

“Policy makers need to support the work of researchers; the extension workers need to take the message and innovation to the farmers. Media is also important to help with the dissemination process,” he says.   

Technology has already had a marked impact on agricultural productivity. Whether it is advances in the internet of things and artificial intelligence, or the use of smart machines or cutting-edge science, innovation has already brought about higher-yielding cop varieties, smarter use of water resources and battle plans to deal with pest attacks.

These technologies need not be the exclusive domain of resource-strong farmers. “Subsistence and emerging farmers, for instance, like being involved in the development of new technologies that address their problems,” says Dr Wengawenga. “This allows scientists first-hand experience of real problems on the ground and not perceived challenges.”

Climate change

Extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts and flooding are made worse by a shift in rainfall patterns and regional climate changes.

As the climate shift has a negative effect on agriculture, families and communities that rely on farming for their livelihood are the first to feel the economic stress, explains Dr Wengawenga. This is one of the ways climate change pushes people deeper into poverty. This increases the risk of social unrest and political instability.

The link between land and food security speaks to the commitment by Ramaphosa to prioritise food security during the land reform process South Africa.

Explaining how technology can and should be implemented to help agriculture mitigate the effects of climate change, Dr Wengawenga says: “Water harvesting techniques and suitable irrigation systems are needed to withstand the devastation effects of droughts.

“Crop varieties also need to be aligned to the weather patterns - agricultural scientists have to come up with fast-maturing varieties for areas having shorter rainy seasons and drought-resistant varieties for the areas that are getting dry,” says Dr Wengawenga.

Dr Wengawenga says that agritech holds immense possibility for Africa and the world. Agritech is broadly defined as the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture to improve yield and efficiency.

Striking Zimbabwean doctors defied a government ultimatum to return to work on Monday, after rejecting a 60% pay rise offer they say is not enough to keep up with soaring prices of basic goods.

The southern African nation’s economy is grappling with its worst crisis in a decade, with triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, medicines and fuel that have revived memories of the 2008 hyperinflation under late President Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), the union for junior and middle level doctors in the public sector, on Monday pulled out of the Health Apex Council that represents public health workers in negotiations with the government, saying it no longer served their interests.

The association said the government offer was “ridiculous” as it would take their monthly salaries to around 1,700 Zimbabwe dollars ($111), well below their demand of a 400% salary hike.

More than 100 of its members marched at the main Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on Monday demanding higher pay and vowing not to return to work.

The doctors have been on strike for more than a month, which has seen some patients being turned away from public hospitals already struggling with shortages of medicines.

ZHDA said in a statement that the government was not willing to address their concerns but had instead responded with “intimidation and threats of disciplinary action or dismissals.”

“The will and desire is there but the means to execute their (the doctors’) duties does not exist,” it said.

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo, who on Saturday issued the ultimatum for doctors to return to work on Monday or face disciplinary action, said he could not immediately comment.

Tapiwa Mungofa, the ZHDA treasurer, later told reporters that the World Health Organisation and other United Nations agencies should help raise funding for Zimbabwe’s health sector and broker a solution to end the strike.

The doctors want their salaries indexed to the U.S. dollar because the Zimbabwe dollar is losing value against the greenback while earnings are being eroded by inflation, which the International Monetary Fund said stood at nearly 300% in August.

The government lifted the price of diesel and petrol by up to 27% on Saturday, which was followed by increases in the prices of goods like sugar, cooking oil and milk and transport.

Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pleaded for time and patience to revive the economy.

Hopes that it would quickly rebound under Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was deposed in a coup in November 2017, have faded fast, as Zimbabweans grapple with inflation that has eroded earnings and savings.

 

Reuters

Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane denied wrongdoing at a graft inquiry on Monday, rejecting testimony by an official who said he was offered a bribe and a ministerial post at a meeting where Duduzane was present.

Duduzane Zuma is a key witness at the so-called “state capture” inquiry set up last year to test allegations of high-level corruption during Jacob Zuma’s nine years in power.

He was a business partner of the Guptas, three Indian-born brothers accused of using their friendship with the former president to win state contracts in the years leading up to Zuma’s ousting as head of state in February 2018.

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the inquiry last year that a Gupta brother offered him a 600 million rand ($40 million) bribe and the position of finance minister at a meeting arranged by Duduzane in 2015, on the condition that Jonas would assist the Guptas with their business ventures.

Duduzane Zuma said on Monday that he did arrange a meeting involving Jonas at a Gupta residence in Johannesburg in 2015 but his testimony about the meeting differed on almost every other detail. He said the meeting was between himself, Jonas and businessman Fana Hlongwane to discuss a rumour that Hlongwane was blackmailing Jonas.

Duduzane Zuma also said a different Gupta brother to the one named by Jonas poked his head into the room where Duduzane and Hlongwane were chatting with Jonas and that the meeting had not ended acrimoniously, as Jonas had said.

“After the meeting everything was cool,” Duduzane Zuma told the inquiry, answering calmly. “As I’ve mentioned in my affidavit, I’ve bumped into Mr Jonas once or twice subsequent to that meeting and my view was there was no hostility.”

He said he had held similar informal meetings at the Gupta residence “all the time”.

The state capture inquiry has shocked ordinary South Africans with revelations about the brazen way in which some people close to Jacob Zuma allegedly tried to plunder state resources and influence policymaking.

But the investigation has struggled to nail down convincing evidence of corruption involving top officials - something analysts say could be a problem for Zuma’s successor Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on a campaign to clean up politics.

Jacob Zuma appeared before the inquiry in July, but he also denied wrongdoing in several days of evasive testimony and said he was the victim of a decades-old plot.

The Guptas, who left South Africa shortly after Zuma’s removal, have not appeared before the inquiry but have submitted an affidavit in which they denied allegations against them.

Zuma still has some loyal followers in the governing African National Congress (ANC) who view him as a champion of policies that seek to address the deep racial inequality that persists more than two decades after the end of white minority rule.

But Zuma’s critics associate his leadership with deeply entrenched corruption and erratic policymaking that deterred investment and held back economic growth.

 

- Reuters

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