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VFS South Africa Update

Please see below the update that Relocation Africa received from VFS South Africa, detailing the procedures they will be taking during the lock-down.

As recent measures are put into place by our honourable President Ramaphosa to help flatten the curve of the covid-19 pandemic, the following operational plan will be in effect. 

  • Wednesday 25th March 2020 will be the last day of submissions –no critical skills, general work and business visa related applications will be accepted on this day for temporary residence permits only. 
  • Thursday will be the last day for collections, collections times 10:00 to 15:00
  • Any walk-ins that have visa’s expiring tomorrow or during the lockdown will be turned away. We will prioritize scheduled appointments and appeal related applications only. 
  • DHA have authourized all those holding visa’s expiring during the lockdown period commencing tomorrow will not require a good cause letter when we return to full operations.

It is no secret on what we are dealing with, we are all at risk if not dealt with accordingly. We urge you as professionals to reduce crowding in centres as we will be monitoring traffic. 

VFS reopening will be dependent on the department’s decision to be made soon.  Communication will be made via all channels on complete reopening and strategy for submissions. 

Our sincere apologies for the delayed email but discussions had to be made. 

Thank you for understanding and stay safe!

For any queries, please contact VFS directly. You can visit their website here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa’s Lock-down Explained

South Africa will be going into a 21-day national lock-down, beginning at midnight on Thursday 26th March. To clarify, Thursday will be the final “normal” workday for South Africans, and the lock-down will begin on Thursday night. The lock-down will end at midnight on Thursday 16th April, so the first standard workday will be Friday 17th April.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made exceptions for certain businesses to remain open during the lock-down period, including drug stores, grocery stores, and banks. While people may be panic buying at present, the government has assured everyone that this is not necessary, as normal the supply of goods will remain during the period.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) and South African National Defense Force (SANDF) will be patrolling to ensure that the lock-down rules are adhered to. This is South Africa’s opportunity to “flatten the curve” – stemming the rapid spread of COVID-19. If we work together, we can reduce the infection rate, and work towards restoring normality.

Anyone found to be breaking the rules of the lock-down could be imprisoned. Please follow the President’s instructions and remain at home.

To track the spread of the virus, click here. And for information about coronavirus from the WHO, click here. Below are some infographics explaining the SA lock-down.

Please note that Relocation Africa staff will be working from home during the lock-down period. Our landline will be down, but we will be contactable via email.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa on Lock-down from Midnight Thursday 26th

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a drastic new measure to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in South Africa – a three week lockdown with severe restrictions on travel and movement, supported by the South African National Defence Force.

Speaking in a briefing on Monday evening, Ramaphosa thanked the nation and people from all sectors for heeding the call to tackle the growing crisis. However, he said that more needed to be done to avoid “an enormous catastrophe” among the population.

Staying home and avoiding all social engagements and contact with other people has proven to be the most effective way to avoid spreading the virus – but we must now do everything within our means to curb infections.

Ramaphosa said that the next few days are crucial. Without decisive action the number of cases will increase. This extremely dangerous for a population like South Africa, he said.

Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more effective in controlling the spread of the disease. “Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands,” the president said.

The president announced that  new measures would now be put in place to urgently and dramatically escalate the response. The main measure is a three week lock-down (21 days) taking effect from midnight on Thursday, 26 March to midnight on Thursday 16 April.

This includes:

  • All South Africans will have to stay at home.
  • Exempted: health workers in public and private health sectors; emergency personnel; security services such as police and soldiers; those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods; those working in essential services.
  • People will only be able to leave their homes to buy food, visit the pharmacy, or seek medical care; or to collect a social grant.
  • Shelters for homeless people will be identified, as well as quarantine areas for those who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All businesses will close – only medical facilities pharmacies, laboratories, petrol stations and food stores will remain open;
  • Essential transport services will also continue.

Specific plans on exemptions and services that will remain open are to be be published in due course, the president said.

The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.

It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water, and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products.

All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open, the [resident said.

“The lockdown is necessary to fundamentally shift the progression of the virus,” Ramaphosa said. The SANDF has been deployed to support government in the plan, as screening and testing is ramped up to identify high-risk areas.

The announced measures come after a memorandum on the SANDF deployment and a presentation from advisors to the president were leaked to the media.

Similar measures have been taken in other countries affected by the virus, including European countries where the spread has been exponential, putting severe strain on medical facilities and supplies.

Support plan

Ramaphosa said the government will put measures in place to assist local businesses which will be negatively affected by the restrictions implemented during the lockdown.

Money will be spent to save lives and to help businesses survive, and Ramaphosa noted that the Rupert and Oppenheimer families have donated R1 billion each to the cause.

“We call on large business in particular to take care of their employees,” added Ramaphosa.

R200 million will also be made available to small and medium businesses in the tourism sector who have been hit hard by travel restrictions, said the president.

Coronavirus in South Africa

South Africa now has 402 confirmed cases of Covid-19 – an increase of 128 from Sunday’s announcement. There have been no deaths, however, Ramaphosa said the number of infections will continue to rise.

As of Monday (23 March), 360,000 cases have been confirmed around the world, with over 15,400 deaths. 100,600 people have recovered from the virus, but 244,000 remain infected – 11,600 of which are in serious or critical condition.

Italy has overtaken China in terms of deaths as a result of the virus, with alarming numbers reported each day. The USA, meanwhile, is recording the most number of new cases, with the latest jump of 7,000 new cases reported.

To track the spread of the virus across the world, visit Microsoft’s map site. And for information about COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s site.

We implore everyone to follow President Ramaphosa’s instructions, and take the 21 day lock-down seriously. This may be our only chance to slow the spread of the virus, and protect everyone, including ourselves. Please do not panic buy/stockpile – there is enough for everyone in stores. Stay at home. Stay calm. Stay healthy. We can get through this together.

Click below to view the President’s speech.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Coronavirus: The End of the Office?

Many SA companies have resisted the idea of letting employees work from home. The coronavirus will force them to reconsider.

Could the coronavirus pandemic hasten the demise of the traditional SA office environment? The country is several years behind much of the world in adopting “remote working” — the ability to work for your company from wherever you want.

But now, as in the rest of the world, the need to limit Covid-19 infection rates is likely to force many SA companies to have employees work more from home. Once the trend takes hold, it will be difficult to turn back the clock, say experts.

For many people, remote working, sometimes called “telecommuting”, enables them to work away from their corporate cubicle either full-or part-time. As long as the work is good and on time, companies that encourage the practice don’t care where their staff are based.

It’s difficult to get an accurate estimate of the popularity of remote working. The US census says about 8-million Americans, or 5.2% of the working population, work from home full-time. Swiss research suggests that 70% of professionals around the world work from home at least one day a week, and 53% for at least half the week. Another study found that 44% of companies around the world don’t allow any remote working.

Remote working is not limited to home. Coffee shops and libraries are among venues favoured by people whose domestic circumstances don’t allow work.

Research by Jack Hammer, the US-based executive head-hunting firm with offices across Africa, says that of SA companies polled, 80% say they will offer remote working options to job candidates.

The company says the trend is in its early stages locally — a view reinforced by Sharron McPherson, a former Wall Street investment banker and attorney who is now an expert on technology disruption in emerging markets.

McPherson, a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, says that globally the number of remote workers grew 173% between 2003 and 2019. She says SA is “about four or five years behind the curve”, but predicts “a big spike” over the next two years — even without the coronavirus.

Why has SA been slow to adopt the idea? McPherson blames culture and mindset. South Africans, she says, like being together. For many employees, the idea of a solitary working environment does not appeal. “Some people are simply better suited to remote working than others,” she says. “Self-initiation and self-motivation are crucial traits.”

It’s not just employees. Many employers cling to the idea that staff must be seen at all hours of the working day. As Esther Canónico, a UK-based author, researcher and consultant on organisational behaviour, says: “As far as some companies are concerned, if they don’t see a worker working, then that worker is not working.”

Wits Business School professor Bhekinkosi Moyo thinks the problem is particularly prevalent in Africa. “This whole thing of going to the office and seeing people says to me that while the rest of the world is caught up in the fourth industrial revolution, our leaders are stuck in the second,” he says. “They measure people’s performance by how long they spend in the office. We need a strong culture shock.”

Covid-19, as devastating as it may be, could provide that shock. “If it wasn’t this virus, it would be something else,” says Moyo. “Something has to give.”

Canónico, who lectures at the London School of Economics, believes that while traditional offices will always have a place — companies need people on site and some employees like working there — the need for vast, expensive corporate HQs will diminish.

She agrees that the coronavirus will force companies that have resisted the idea to reconsider.

The pandemic isn’t the only factor forcing a rethink in SA. Gridlocked urban roads, made worse by failed traffic lights during load-shedding, cause workers to waste hours of potentially productive time sitting in traffic. Then, when they get to work, loss of Eskom power causes more frustration.

“Flexible hours and remote working may be the best solutions to helping businesses survive amid the chaos,” says McPherson.

But there’s more to it than convenience. As Canónico points out, remote employees are more loyal, happier and more productive.

Jack Hammer research shows that, in many interviews, remote working is one of the first issues to be raised by potential employees.

McPherson says: “Research from Stanford University shows that people are 13% more effective when working remotely. They take off fewer days and are less likely to take sick leave. They are also less likely to leave their company. There’s a clear bottom-line impact.”

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Green Chameleon [1], [2].

South African COVID-19 Update

South African employers react: many employees now working from home.

The South African government has encouraged ‘social distancing’ as it grapples with coronavirus pandemic. A number of large South African companies have indicated that they will follow these restrictions and allow employees to work from home. Companies such as Old Mutual have reacted quickly, and already put such measures in place to protect the health of their employees. Labour law specialist, Natasha Moni, told Health-e that employers have to ensure that employees have a safe environment to work in.

Research by Jack Hammer, the US-based executive head-hunting firm with offices across Africa, says that of SA companies polled, 80% say they will offer remote working options to job candidates. Many employers cling to the idea that staff must be seen at all hours of the working day. As Esther Canónico, a UK-based author, researcher and consultant on organisational behaviour, says: “As far as some companies are concerned, if they don’t see a worker working, then that worker is not working.”

Wits Business School professor Bhekinkosi Moyo thinks the problem is particularly prevalent in Africa. “This whole thing of going to the office and seeing people says to me that while the rest of the world is caught up in the fourth industrial revolution, our leaders are stuck in the second,” he says. “They measure people’s performance by how long they spend in the office. We need a strong culture shock.” Covid-19, as devastating as it may be, could provide that shock. “If it wasn’t this virus, it would be something else,” says Moyo. “Something has to give.”

Shoprite, Woolworths and Pick n Pay are rationing these items because of coronavirus panic buying

The Shoprite Group says it has begun rationing certain products as consumers have not heeded the call to refrain from stockpiling. The group said it would now ration certain products to ensure that all customers have access. This includes toilet paper, tissues, wipes, liquid soap, hand sanitizer, canned food, painkillers, and cereals. “Sixty60 orders have been limited to a maximum of 30 items and individual products are limited to three per customer. This facilitates quicker order fulfilment and enables more customers to be served with necessities at home.”

Woolworths said it has seen an increase in sales of certain products and are working to meet the demand. “To ensure enough products for everyone, we have set a limit of 5 units per product per customer. We will continue to replenish our products regularly,” it said.

Pick n Pay has indicated that where stocks were temporarily low due to heavy customer demand, it would be limiting the number of certain products per customer. “Understandably, as customers act on the advice about effective hygiene measures, they are stocking up on household cleaning and personal hygiene products,” said chief executive officer Richard Brasher.

Pick n Pay will open all its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour earlier every Wednesday for elderly customers to shop for their groceries and essentials. The initiative will start on Wednesday (18 March) and stores will be open exclusively for customers over the age of 65 years from 07h00 – 08h00. Customers should have a valid ID to enter the store during this time, Pick n Pay said.

New coronavirus laws

Government has published new regulations empowering it to act on declarations made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the state of disaster. Authorities can now break up unsanctioned gatherings, and take legal action against those who endanger themselves and others. This includes people who spread fake news, fake illness, deliberately infect others, or business who sell alcohol after 18h00, or don’t limit crowds.

According to the new regulations anyone who creates or spreads fake news about Covid-19 can be prosecuted. It therefore applies to both the creators of fake Covid-19 news and those who spread the news through social media and other channels.

Any person who intentionally misrepresents that he, she or any other person is infected with Covid-19 is also guilty of an offence. On conviction this person is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both a fine and imprisonment. The new regulations have also introduced severe punishment for people who intentionally expose others to the coronavirus. Deliberate spreading of Covid-19 would result in the person being charged with either assault, attempted murder or murder. It further prohibits any person who is infected with Covid-19, or is suspected to be infected, to refuse to be examined, treated or be isolated or quarantined.

SARS makes changes due to coronavirus

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has announced a number of changes as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Taxpayers are discouraged to come into branches and are advised to make use of online digital channels for all engagements. The majority of business can be done on the SARS eFiling platform: www.sarsefiling.co.za.

The mobiApp in addition to Personal Income Tax functionality provides additional information which SARS encourages you to download through an app store (Google Play or Apple Store). The SARS website (www.sars.gov.za) will also be regularly updated with news and announcements. If you still need to visit a SARS tax branch, strict adherence to social distancing and general hygiene practices will be applied.

SA Express suspends all operations due to coronavirus

In light of adverse recent developments including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, SA Express said that it will suspend operations from 18 March 2020 until further notice. The airline said that this decision will impact both SA Express customers and staff in the following manner: all customers will be accommodated on alternative flights, and all non-critical SA Express staff will be placed on compulsory leave during this time.

South African universities close early over coronavirus fears

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has announced that all post school institutions will be closed for early recess from 18 March, in line with government’s plans to prevent further spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. This will include the normal institutional break that was coming in the next few weeks, with the minister noting that some institutions have already implemented this particular plan.

Several universities had already suspended contact lectures following the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic as a state of disaster in South Africa. Currently, the plan is to return from this break on 15 April 2020, just after the Easter weekend; however, Nzimande said that the exact dates for coming back will be based on the assessment of the severity of the coronavirus in South Africa.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: [1], [2].