Christo Weise Resigns As Steinhoff Chair

Steinhoff International chairman and largest shareholder, billionaire Christo Wiese, is stepping down from the supervisory board following the accounting scandal that has engulfed the retail giant. The board accepted Wiese’s resignation to resolve questions of conflict of interest, the owner of furniture chains such as Mattress Firm in the US and Conforama in France said in a filing on Thursday. Heather Sonn, a member of the board and its independent subcommittee, will take the role of acting chairwoman.

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DA Suspends De Lille

The federal executive of the DA has decided to suspend City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille from party activities pending the outcome of ongoing investigations into a series of reports and an affidavit containing allegations of maladministration in the city, also asking her to give reasons why she shouldn’t resign as mayor. This comes after the conclusion of an investigation of the allegations by a subcommittee.

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Lungisa Fezile Appointed Standard Bank CEO

Standard Bank has appointed Lungisa Fuzile as CEO for its South African unit. A former director-general within the Treasury, Fuzile will take over from Sim Tshabalala, who has served in the role since 2008. “This appointment follows the recent changes to the group’s executive structure, which resulted in the disbanding of the joint group CEO construct,” Standard Bank Group said in a statement. Ben Kruger stepped down as joint CEO of Standard Bank Group in September, leaving Tshabalala as the sole head of Africa’s biggest bank by assets.

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Zuma, Ministers And Guptas Sued Over Eskom

The Helen Suzman Foundation and Sygnia Asset Management CEO Magda Wierzycka have approached the courts to deal with the capture of Eskom. According to an affidavit filed at the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday, the foundation and Wierzycka want the courts to set upside the “series of unlawful, improper and corrupt” exercises of public power, and to recover all the proceeds lost in order to benefit the fiscus. The application has been brought against 73 respondents including Eskom itself, President Jacob Zuma, Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Eskom executives including Anoj Singh and Brian Molefe and former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa and Oakbay’s Ronica Ragavan, and both Ajay and Atul Gupta.

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University Fee Increase Capped At 8%

Universities South Africa says it’s decided to cap fees at 8% for the 2018 academic year. Last month President Jacob Zuma released the findings of the Heher Commission, which was tasked with investigating the feasibility of free higher education in South Africa.

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Govt Plans To Raise R4bn From Telkom Share Sale

South Africa is reportedly seeking to raise as much as 4 billion rand ($297 million) from the sale of part of its 39 percent stake in Telkom SA SOC Ltd. to raise funds for the country’s unprofitable state airline and post office

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Currencies: Bitcoin R263,370. Ether R9,843. R/USD13.50 . R/GBP18.10 . R/EUR15.90

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Zuma Must Personally Pay Legal Costs

Jacob Zuma has been held personally liable for all costs incurred in his bid to block the release of the Public Protector’s ‘State Of Capture’ report. The DA’s James Selfe said, after speaking to the DA’s legal team, that the approximate costs of the litigation since October 14, 2016 would be around R1.5-million. But Zuma will also be liable for costs incurred by other parties as well.

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Zuma Given 30 Days To Set Up Inquiry

President Jacob Zuma was ordered by the high court on Wednesday to set up a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture headed by a judge selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. For the second time in less than a week, the High Court in Pretoria found that Zuma could not effectively exercise his powers as head of state due to personal conflict of interest. It said the president was so conflicted that he was unable to fulfil his constitutional duties.

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IRBA Receives Steinhoff Fraud Notice

The Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) has confirmed that a notice of a reportable irregularity has been filed with it in the last week regarding suspicions of fraud in relation to the accounts of Steinhoff. This is notable because a reportable irregularity (IR) is filed by an auditor of a company in the event where an “unlawful act or omission” committed by an executive in charge of an entity that has caused, or will cause “material financial loss” to the company, including other providers of capital.

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17 New Shopping Malls In SA This Year

A new study published by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) Real Estate South Africa on behalf of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC), has found that local malls are getting bigger. The data indicates that the average size of centres developed have steadily increased in size since the 1990s, with centres slated for completion between 2017 and 2020 being significantly larger than those developed during the 1990s and 2000s. As of July 2017, the South African retail development pipeline measures 1.9 million square metres across 68 centres – the bulk of which is planned for completion in 2018. Currently, there are 17 shopping centres slated for completion in the remaining weeks of 2017.

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US Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates one notch higher as the U.S. economy continues to get healthier. The rate hike, which was widely expected, was the third this year. Policy makers pointed to the lower number of unemployed workers, increased spending by households, and bigger investments by businesses in recent quarters.

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Alibaba To Sign Deals With NBC And Sony

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s video streaming service, Youku Tudou, has signed content licensing deals with NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Television, marking a deeper foray into entertainment for the Chinese e-commerce giant. The multiyear agreements gives Youku subscribers access to hundreds of films from the studios, the service said Thursday in a statement. Users will also have faster access to new and recently released movies, including “Blade Runner 2049”

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SARS Wants To Track CryptoCurrency Earnings

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) is in discussions with some of the top technology companies in the world to enable it to track cryptocurrency trades more efficiently. Interest in cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, has risen significantly, but since the environment is fairly opaque, regulators around the world are still struggling to formulate a plan to deal with it. The exponential rise in the price of bitcoin in particular poses a threat to Sars’ revenue collection efforts as it is largely dependent on traders’ own truthful declaration of profits. Financial institutions like banks are required to supply Sars with information on the investments of their clients for verification purposes, but in a crypto environment where such information is lacking, Sars may have to trust that a taxpayer made honest declarations with regard to crypto gains.

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Currencies: Bitcoin R263,799 . R11,854 . Rd/USD13.47 . R/GBP18.06 . R/EUR15.92 

Australia Exchange To Use Blockchain

Australia’s main stock exchange has said it will use blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency bitcoin, to process its equities transactions in a shift touted as a world-first for a major financial institution. The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the eighth-largest share market in the world, will replace its current system Chess with the distributed ledger technology to manage the clearing and settlement for buying and selling stocks. ASX chief executive Dominic Stevens said the move “will put Australia at the forefront of innovation in financial markets”, in a statement.

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Matsela Koko Wants His Job Back

Suspended Eskom executive Matshela Koko yesterday claimed the power utility had failed to prove wrongdoing against him and wants to be reinstated to his old job immediately. In his closing submission to the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing Mzungulu Mthombeni, Koko said Eskom had dismally failed to establish a strong case on any of the six charges he faced.

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California Fires Cause Billions Of Damage

Wildfires in California have caused insured losses of more than $3.3 billion, based on claims reported by 15 insurers, and the figure will rise. The number includes claims for 10,016 partial residential losses, 4,712 total residential losses, 728 commercial property losses, and 3,200 personal auto losses. California is the largest U.S. insurance market, where insurers collect about $289 billion in premiums per year. The $3.3 billion total is more than three times the $1.05 billion preliminary estimate. It’s also more than an estimate of $2 billion to $3 billion made last week by Boston-based AIR Worldwide.

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Russia Signs $30bn Nuclear Deal With Egypt

Egypt and Russia have signed a $30bn deal to build North Africa’s first nuclear power plant as the Kremlin moves to expand its influence in the region. The project increases Russia’s economic presence and political influence in the Middle East, already on the rise since Putin intervened in Syria’s war in 2015 and began a more active role in Libya, conflicts where he and El-Sisi see eye to eye. The Cairo visit comes less than two weeks after the countries said they were in talks to use each other’s military air bases.

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Russian Hackers Steal $10 Million From US Banks

A previously unknown ring of Russian-language hackers has stolen as much as $10 million from U.S. and Russian banks in the last 18 months, according to a Moscow-based cyber-security firm that runs the largest computer forensics laboratory in eastern Europe. The MoneyTaker group broke into 20 systems, which includes 15 U.S. lenders, targeting ATMs with “mules” and Russia’s interbank money-transfer system

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Blue Label Telecom’s Acquisition Of 3g Approved

Blue Label has completed its acquisition of 3G Mobile through its subsidiary The Prepaid Company. Blue Label successfully completed the initial acquisition of 47.37% of the issued share capital of 3G Mobile for R900 million in August. It has now received permission to acquire the remaining 52.63% of the issued share capital of 3G Mobile for R1 billion.

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Currencies: Bitcoin RR245,478 . Ether R7,664 . R/USD13.64 . R/GBP18.16 . R/EUR16.05

 

 SASSA And Post Office Sign Deal

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (Sapo) have signed an agreement to ensure social grant beneficiaries continue to receive their payments after Sassa’s contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) ends on March 31, government announced on Sunday. The cost of the five-year plan, will be within the government’s current budget, if not cheaper, according to Sapo CEO Mark Barnes. It entails a hybrid payment model that will provide SA’s 17-million social grant beneficiaries with the choice of four payment channels: Sapo’s Postbank, commercial bank accounts, merchants in large retail shops, or a “second tier” of merchants that includes village banks, general dealers, small retail outlets and spaza shops.

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Bitcoin Futures Trading Begins

Bitcoin landed on Wall Street with a bang. Four hours after the debut of Cboe Global Markets Inc.’s bitcoin futures, the contracts climbed more than 20 percent and triggered two trading halts designed to cool volatility. Dealers said initial volumes exceeded expectations, while traffic on Cboe’s website was so strong that it caused delays and outages. The exchange said all its trading systems were normal. The launch of futures traded on a regulated exchange is a watershed for bitcoin — testing infrastructure that will make it easier for legions of professional traders and mainstream investors to bet on the cryptocurrency’s rise or fall, potentially helping to steer its price. Until now, trading in bitcoin was driven mainly by individual investors who were willing to risk buying on mostly unregulated markets. Some users of those little-policed venues have been targeted by hackers who’ve stolen digital tokens.

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Carl Niehaus Caught In Another Scam

Political spin doctor Carl Niehaus  has been caught in yet another lie — concocting an elaborate scam to convince a businessman he owed money to that his mother had died and he was about to inherit millions. Niehaus owes R4.3-million for rental of two luxury apartments in Sandton —   as well as damage to expensive furnishings and artwork —  unpaid concierge charges and interest. In an audacious bid to avoid legal action, he claimed his mother had died and he would soon receive a generous inheritance, 90% of which would allow him to settle the debt. His mother, Magrietha Niehaus, 88, is in fact alive and living in a home for the elderly in Johannesburg, other Niehaus family members said.

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FSB Demands Steinhoff Exposure Details

Financial Services Board takes the unprecedented step of requesting all financial services providers supply it with details of their exposure to Steinhoff International. The FSB’s move appears to have been prompted by concern expressed by the minister of finance earlier in the last week. In the latest development in the scandal that has rocked SA, the company announced it would set up a board subcommittee to engage with its banks.

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Apple To Buy Shazam

Apple Inc. is close to acquiring Shazam Entertainment Ltd., the startup whose music recognition app is already built into Apple’s Siri virtual assistant, according to a person familiar with the discussions. A deal for the London-based app maker could be announced as soon as Monday, said the person, who declined to be identified because the details are not yet public. TechCrunch earlier reported the takeover, adding that it could value Shazam at about 300 million pounds ($404 million).

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Social Welfare Director Arrested Over R5m Theft

One of the directors of a social welfare organisation doing business with the Gauteng government has been arrested following the alleged theft of more than R5million meant for the rehabilitation of drug addicts in the province. Nomawethu Kunene, who is a director of Are Ageng Social Services, was arrested in a police trap in Pretoria on Friday following intense police crime intelligence surveillance. The arrest came after a criminal case of theft was reported at the Randfontein police station in November last year, after the owner of Are Ageng made a report to senior officials of the Gauteng Department of Social Development that their bank account was hacked and an amount of more than R5m had been stolen.

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SA Banks Could Freeze Exiled Zimbabweans Accounts

After months of uncertainty surrounding their stay in South Africa as their permits neared expiry, thousands of Zimbabwean nationals in the country are now contending with threats by local banks to freeze their accounts by end of the month when the permits elapse. Some 250 000 holders of the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP), who are among millions that have fled economic and political crises to the neighbouring South Africa, are in panic mode as none of the new permits would be issued by December 31.

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Youtuber Made $16.5Million This Year

You may not see Daniel Middleton walking down a red carpet, but he is a celebrity in a league of his own. With nearly 17 million followers, a world tour that included four sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House and over 11 billion views on YouTube, gamer DanTDM, as he is known to his fans, ranks as the world’s highest-paid YouTube star of 2017 with $16.5 million—the highest came of any YouTube star since Forbes started keeping track in 2015. The rising stars on YouTube may spend most of their time in pixelated worlds, but make no mistake, they’re collecting millions of dollars in cold, hard cash. For the first time, nearly half of those on our annual list are gamers. Viewers flock to their channels to watch them play the latest titles while delivering pithy commentary. Six of the 10 celebs on the ranking are newcomers, who entertain with videos of stunts, children unwrapping toys and, in DanTDM’s case, Minecraft streams. Combined, the world’s 10 highest-paid YouTube stars earned $127 million between June 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017, before management fees and taxes.

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Currencies: Bitcoin R248,949. Ether R6,906. R/USD13.65 . R/GBP18.24 . R/EUR16.07

R180 Bn Wiped Off JSE After Steinhoff Crash

Investors are shell-shocked after the market witnessed a stunning crash yesterday. Shares in the biggest retailer in Africa, Steinhoff, went into free-fall and fell by more than 61% as the JSE opened – plunging from R45.64 to around R17.50. The company fell even further during the day. This means that more than R130 billion was wiped off the company’s market capitalisation or value in one day. And R180 billion was wiped off all related companies combined.

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Christo Wiese Lost R28bn In A Day

Following Tuesday evening’s announcement that Steinhoff would not be publishing its financial results due to allegations of accounting fraud, South African billionaire and chairman of the company Christo Wiese has seen his net worth halved. Retail tycoon Wiese, who owns 23% of Steinhoff, was named as the fourth richest person in South Africa with a net worth $5.5 billion of according to a January 2017 report by Forbes. This amount was nearly halved on Tuesday as shares in the company dropped to R17.56, a loss of R28.09 or 61.53%, shortly after the JSE opened. According to Forbes’ real-time tracker, Wiese lost $2.1 billion (R28.3 billion) by 11:40AM on Wednesday. This equates to a loss of 54.2% of his total net worth since 5PM EST on Tuesday (midnight local time).

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Bitcoin Soars Past R14000

Bitcoin climbed as much as 7.9% on Thursday as it surged above $14 000, extending this month’s advance to more than 40%. The price of the cryptocurrency touched $14 399.99, a new record, according to Bloomberg pricing

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Mugabe’s Missing $15 Billion Saga

Zimbabwean opposition parties have welcomed a call by Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa for all persons who under Mugabe’s rule, externalised money to return the said monies within three months. Mnangagwa has set the amnesty deadline line to February for the return the ill-gotten wealth with the promise prosecution post deadline. Former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe previously revealed that the country had “lost” an amount of USD $15 billion in diamond mining revenue. The missing money is believed to have been externalised and squandered by government officials with the aid of dodgy investors.

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New Regulation Structures For Financial Services Sector

At present, South African insurers, pension funds, collective investment schemes and other financial services providers are regulated by the Financial Services Board (FSB), whereas banks are regulated by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). Each institution is required to comply with its own industry-specific legislation. The current Financial Services Board (FSB) will be transformed into the FSCA – responsible for regulating how firms conduct their business, design and price their products and treat their customers. While the Prudential Authority will regulate financial institutions’ solvency and liquidity.

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Tshwane Asks Treasury For Help

Tshwane city manager Moeketsi Mosola has approached National Treasury to help draft a financial recovery plan that might see it restructuring income and expenditure in its current approved budget. Tshwane’s creditors amount to R6.9 billion and include service providers such as Eskom, Rand Water and many small businesses that are normally dependent on timeous receipt of the payment for the services rendered.

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Currencies: R223,400 . Ether R5,922 . R/USD13.54 . R/GBP18.07 . R/EUR15.97

Mandela Funeral Fraud Report Expected Today

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela announced in 2016 that her office was investigating allegations of maladministration, corruption and misuse of public funds relating to the procurement of service providers for the former statesman’s memorial services and funeral. Various Eastern Cape municipalities allegedly spent nearly R65m without following proper procurement procedures. A report in May 2016 revealed that R22m was used for T-shirts, food and transport. The full report is set to be released today.

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FIFA Struggling For World Cup Sponsors

Teams from 32 countries learned Friday who they will play at the soccer showcase, but with just six months until kick off, FIFA is struggling to find companies that are willing to spend millions of dollars on ads and logo placement. Brands have been scared off by the 2015 corruption scandal that ensnared top FIFA officials, including former general secretary Joseph “Sepp” Blatter. Political controversies involving Russia, sanctioned in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea and accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election, haven’t helped.

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Eskom Says Loadshedding Is Unlikely

On Thursday investigative news outfit AmaBhungane reported Eskom may be forced into nationwide electricity cuts after a coal mine linked to the Gupta family threatened to halt supply. Eskom has been at the heart of allegations of illegal contracts and undue influence in awarding tenders to the Gupta family, friends of South African President Jacob Zuma. Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed Eskom had held an emergency meeting last Friday to determine whether strategic coal stockpiles at Hendrina and other stations were sufficient after Tegeta Exploration and Resources threatened to halt supply to Hendrina.

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Gauteng To Build Five Mega Cities

Gauteng is currently undergoing massive infrastructure development with over a R100 billion being invested in more than 800,000 houses within 30 residential developments, across five designated development corridors. According to the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements’ (GDHS), these developments form part of a new mandate to shift away from sporadic and uncoordinated developments to purposely planned and developed “Mega Cities” that are completely self-sufficient in providing for the housing, economic and social needs of the community.

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Germany Offering Migrants Money To GO Back Home

Germany wants to support rejected asylum-seekers who voluntarily move back to their home countries with a one-time payment of 3,000 euros ($3,570). The Interior Ministry says those who qualify can apply by a Feb. 28 deadline and they would get the money once they return home. Migrants who agree to go back even before their asylum request is rejected have already been offered 1,200 euros per adult and 600 euros per child under a different program for almost a year. They are now eligible to apply for both programs.

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AdvTech Fraud Drops Share Price

Private education group ADvTECH’s share price dropped by 7.06% on the JSE after the group said on Friday it had uncovered incidents of fraud in the schools division. ADvTECH shares closed 3.99% lower on the JSE at the end of the day at R15.65. The group said that the fraud was perpetrated by a financial manager in the schools division head office and took place over a period of three years, beginning in 2015.

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MTN Launches Data Saver Option

MTN has launched a simple way for subscribers to block out-of-bundle (OOB) data usage, with its new “Out of Bundle Barring” service. Out of Bundle Barring is available to users via the USSD menu, by dialing *141*0# and selecting the relevent option.

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Currencies: Bitcoin R170,013 . Ether R6,942 . R/USD13.78 . R/GBP18.51 . R/EUR16.35

 

Koko Claims Eskom Bosses Were Bribed

Suspended Eskom executive Matshela Koko on Thursday accused some of his colleagues of taking bribes from suppliers and said that they had started leaking damning allegations against him in retaliation when he dealt with corruption. The allegations against him, said Koko, started surfacing when he dealt with corruption on becoming interim CEO. For instance, France Hlakudi, the former Kusile power station project manager, was paid a R61m bribe, Koko said. He produced a document that showed another R400,000 was paid to Hlakudi Interpretation and Translation — owned by Hlakudi — by Tubular Construction Projects on the day that Eskom’s tender committee approved a tender for Tubular. The money was transferred into Hlakudi Interpretation and Translation’s bank account in 2015, said Koko.

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Gigaba Says Ignore Economic Gloom

Speaking in the National Assembly on Thursday during a debate on the Medium Term Budget Policy statement he delivered last month‚ the Finance Minister chose to look on the bright side of life. “South Africans should brush aside the message of despondency and doom. Even at our bleakest moments we must not drown ourselves in our own message of doom and gloom. The difficult decisions are being taken now‚ but our economy will turn around. A brighter day beckons.” he said.

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Taxman Going After US Bitcoin Traders

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has won a US court case which will force Coinbase to disclose customer information. Coinbase must now share the data of users who have bought, sold, sent, or received over $20,000 through their accounts in a single year, between 2013 and 2015. This is estimated to be 14,355 individuals.

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Firstrand To Drop State Capture Implicate Companies

Outgoing FirstRand chairman and cofounder of the group Laurie Dippenaar expressed extreme disappointment on Thursday with “the number of large corporations that have been complicit” in state capture, saying that some would lose FirstRand’s business. Commenting on state capture, he said: “I’ve been bitterly disappointed. We have expressed our disdain and disappointment [to these companies] and some of them will not get business from FirstRand again.

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NPA Panel Convened For Zuma Corruption Charges

Controversial KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions Moipone Noko will lead the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) team that considers President Jacob Zuma’s representations on corruption charges. NPA boss Shaun Abrahams gave Zuma until Thursday to argue why he should not be charged after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a high court judgment that the 2009 decision to drop charges had been irrational. The president is facing 783 counts of fraud, corruption, racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion.

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Guptas Hijacked Lesotho Mine

In August 2014 Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane appointed Atul Gupta as an “economic investment envoy”. Thabane said ANC president Jacob Zuma had introduced him to the Gupta family and he had enlisted them “to help scout for investment” for the country. Now new evidence is emerging that the main “investment” the Guptas were touting – apart from in Thabane himself – was their takeover of a Lesotho diamond mine.

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PWC Does First Major Commercial Bitcoin Transaction

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), one of the world’s largest accounting firms, has accepted its first ever bitcoin payment for its advisory services. PwC in Hong Kong revealed it is working with a number of startups involved in bitcoin and the wider cryptocurrency industry, prompting the firm to accept the world’s most widely-known cryptocurrency. Notably, PwC also confirmed its advent into advising clients about crypto funds and investments, cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings –  a radical new form of fundraising powered by cryptocurrencies.

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Currencies: Bitcoin R156,949 . Ether R6,934 . R/USD13.73 . R/GBP18.54 . R/EUR16.36