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SA’s tech CEOs heed ‘Thuma Mina’ Solidarity Fund call

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South African CEOs in the technology industry are slashing their salaries for the coming months in response to the Solidarity Fund established by president Cyril Ramaphosa to help fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.

The Solidarity Fund is a vehicle set up to help citizens and businesses contribute to mitigating the financial impact of the national disaster. Through this fund, individuals and organisations will be able to support these efforts through secure, tax-deductible donations.

On its Web site, the Solidarity Fund says: “‘Thuma Mina’ means ‘send me’. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most definitive ‘Thuma Mina’ moment for our country.”

On 23 March, Ramaphosa announced a Solidarity Fund had been created, saying: “Following consultation with social partners, we have set up a Solidarity Fund, which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute to.”

Leading by example, the president announced last week that he and his entire executive as well as provincial premiers will take a 33% pay cut for the next three months to support the fund.

Detection and prevention

Taking the cue from Ramaphosa, Vodacom confirmed group CEO Shameel Joosub has heeded the call by the president and will donate a third of his salary for the next three months to the Solidarity Fund.

According to the mobile operator, the fund enables individuals and organisations to contribute to the detection and prevention of COVID-19, to provide care for those that need medical care and to support those whose lives have been disrupted by the health crisis.

Commenting on his decision, Joosub says: “On Thursday, South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, set an incredible example by announcing that he would be taking a one-third pay cut for the next three months and that his entire cabinet will do the same.

“I, too, will heed the president’s call by donating a third of my salary for the next three months to the Solidarity Fund and call on other CEOs to follow suit. Not only is it the right thing to do but it will, in a small way, help towards South Africa’s recovery from the pandemic.”

Financially-constrained IT services firm EOH last week also announced its top executives are set to take salary cuts of up to 25%, as the company battles to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 lockdown in SA.

Asked for comment on the Solidarity Fund, Telkom says: “Telkom was the first South African company to make a donation to COVID-19 relief with the commitment of R15 million prior to the announcement of the Solidarity Fund.

“At the time, we invited South Africans to pledge their support. In addition, as part of our standard practice, Telkom enables dedicated giving from employees through payroll. COVID-19 relief has been added as one of the causes employees can contribute to.

“Telkom company and employee contributions are distributed to the Red Cross. We have been working with the Red Cross to enable tracking and tracing capabilities.”

Banking response

Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown also responded to the call made by Ramaphosa during last week’s lockdown extension announcement and will take a one-third cut in salary for the next three months. These funds will be donated to the Solidarity Fund.

Says Brown: “I encourage those executives who are able to do so to respond to the president’s call.”

FirstRand on Sunday also announced the group’s CEO, COO and CFO, and the CEOs of its largest businesses, FNB, RMB and WesBank, will forego 30% of their salaries for three months.

FirstRand CEO Alan Pullinger says the group wanted to demonstrate unity with the president and his ministers, who on Thursday night made the same pledge.

“The president’s request is meaningful, and we believe he is right to ask business leadership to step up and make the same sacrifice, particularly given what is at stake for our country,” he says.

FirstRand says the proceeds will be directed to FirstRand’s SPIRE fund, which, together with the Solidarity Response Fund and other industry initiatives, is focused on accelerating South Africa’s COVID-19 critical care capacity, including the provision of protective equipment to healthcare workers.

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