Happy holidays 2017
The Investment Committee of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) held a meeting yesterday to discuss the recent
developments regarding Steinhoff. It is important to note that notwithstanding the collapse in the Steinhoff share, the GEPF portfolio remains financially healthy, because of its diversified nature. It is also important to note that GEPF members’ benefits will not be changed by these developments, given that the GEPF is a defined benefit pension fund.The investment loss recorded was 0.6% of the total GEPF portfolio on 6 December 2017.
Despite the fall in Steinhoff share, the total GEPF equity portfolio had created a value of approximately R140 billion over the preceding 12 month period, and had performed better than the equity benchmark. Albeit a relatively small reduction in the total portfolio, and despite the signs of recovery in the share price this week, the PIC and GEPF remain deeply concerned about Steinhoff.
GEPF and PIC agree that the recent developments point to serious governance challenges at Steinhoff and that the following steps are necessary to secure the GEPF’s
interest in the company:
1. GEPF and PIC will insist on the appointment of at least two independent nonexecutive directors on the Steinhoff and Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) boards.
2. GEPF and PIC will highlight their discomfort with the lack of independence of the Board, including the possible conflict of interest by Dr Christo Wiese as interim
Chief Executive Officer. Furthermore, the GEPF and PIC will express their concern about the Steinhoff Audit Committee concluding the terms of reference of the
3. GEPF and PIC will insist on representation on the Board Committee tasked with investigating the Steinhoff situation, so as to ensure that the process is transparent
and that, amongst other matters, the terms of reference address critical governance issues.
No new PIRLS of wisdom just yet – Lessons to Learn
President of NAPTOSA, Mr Nkosiphendule Ntantala, while welcoming the global release of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 presented to stakeholders in Centurion today, questioned what lessons we can learn from this study.
South Africa still performs at the bottom of the 50 country list. The Russian Federation tops the list at 581 points and South Africa again scores the lowest on 320 points. Mr Ntantala asks what we can learn from the Russian Federation in order to improve our educational reading strategies in South Africa. ‘Given that the Russian Federation spends almost double the instructional time South Africa does on language and reading, it is perhaps not surprising that it continues to top the list,’ said Ntantala. Furthermore, the Russian Federation has better instructional strategies in that by the time learners reach Grade 1, they are better prepared for school. ‘Reasons for this could be because pre-schooling in that country is of a high standard, something NAPTOSA has continuously urged the Department of Basic Education to formalise,’ said Ntantala.
NAPTOSA notes that 71% of our Grade 4 learners wrote the test in the language which they speak at home. The lesson to be learned is that learners should be allowed to write assessments in their mother-tongues; a position which NAPTOSA continues to advocate. ‘Thus, despite the fact that there was a negligible increase in the bottom line result, this is likely due to the fact that learners wrote in their mother-tongue language. What this result does is mask the fact that we are still performing poorly overall. We need to question whether this is a reflection of the quality of language teaching in our country,’ said Ntantala.
South Africa has come a long way in the fight against HIV and AIDS. HIV and AIDS has claimed the lives of many teachers. Through the PTCA programme, NAPTOSA teachers became directly involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS. NAPTOSA has successfully contributed towards reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. The PTCA project came to an end in 2012, but the fight against HIV and AIDS continues.
Teachers and learners are equally burdened by the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. One in every five teenage pregnant girls is infected with HIV. These learners are often faced with discrimination. Some of these learners end up dropping out of school unable to deal with the double impact of HIV and stigmatisation.
The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), a body that provides strategic direction to the country on HIV, developed the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB), 2012 -2016. The NSP is built on the vision to achieve:
-Zero new HIV and TB infections
-Zero new HIV infections due to vertical transmission (mother to child)
-Zero preventable deaths from HIV and TB; and
-Zero discrimination associated with HIV, STIs and TB.
The 16 Days of Activism - “No Violence Against Women and Children” - is an international awareness-raising campaign, which takes place annually from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). This is preceded by the Universal Children’s Day (20 November) and also encompassing other key dates, namely:
-International Women Human Rights Defenders Day – 29 November;
-World AIDS Day - 1 December;
-International Day of Persons with Disabilities - 3 December; and
-The Montreal Massacre - 6 December.
This collective event, widely known as the 16 Days of Activism, calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and children. It is unfortunate that violence against women and children has encroached into schools as well. As activists around the world and in South Africa commemorate 16 Days of Activism, NAPTOSA wants to focus attention on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees in lower positions, those seeking promotions, young and temporary educators can be regarded as vulnerable employees. These employees are therefore susceptible to sexual harassment. NAPTOSA calls for the eradication of sexual harassment in the workplace.