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Nailed By Imposters

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Imagine you lose your identity document; on your way home from work, you get arrested. You discover someone has been committing fraud under your name. It could happen to you.

This happens across Africa and no one is safe. It’s called identity theft.

This is the sad tale of 37-year-old Bokang Tsie. We meet outside a restaurant in Krugersdorp, a town known for mining, west of Johannesburg. He is a bit anxious as he tells of what happened when his green identity book was stolen from him.

On a quiet Saturday afternoon in 2014, Tsie was going home from varsity when three men attacked him and ran off with his bag. Inside was a phone, books and an ID book.

“They grabbed me, and my bag. I tried to take it back but one of the guys managed to run away with it,” says Tsie, who is now a pastor.

Tsie opened a case at a police station and received a case number but nothing happened. Four months later he got a call from a police station in Pietermaritzburg informing him of fraud they alleged he tried at a bank.

“A policeman asked when I was last in Durban; I told him I haven’t been to Durban for five years. He also asked when was the last time I used my ID, I said I had lost my ID. And I started opening up to him about what happened,” he says.

Before he could plead his case, the police came to arrest him. It was a petrifying moment for Tsie; he says his heart beat fast. He was taken to a police station. Luckily for Tsie he had reported the loss of his ID book.

“They said if I didn’t report my missing ID I would have been arrested on charges of fraud. Imagine, I’d be sitting in jail for a crime I didn’t commit and I’d have a bad credit record,” he says.

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Fraudsters wanted to cash a cheque of R160,000 ($12,000), that they had stolen, under Tsie’s name. They failed when a banker noticed the photo was torn out.

“I was told that when the banker was checking out the ID, they noticed that. They were caught and ran away. That’s when the bank called the police station.”

That’s not all. The fraudsters also opened an account at a retail shop, it also failed – because of a sharp-eyed shop assistant.

They removed Tsie’s photo and replaced it with another person who looked a few years younger than Tsie.

Tsie got his ID back and took it to private investigators to check for other accounts the fraudsters tried to open.

Sadly, its It’s been three years now and the people who attacked him and used his ID haven’t been arrested.

“Criminals don’t care how they ruin lives, they just don’t care. They could be stopping a person’s life, I don’t know what happens with their conscious,” says an upset Tsie.

‘It’s Like I’m Dead’

Aphelele Busuku got the shock of her life when she discovered she was married to a person she doesn’t know and had a child she’s never met.

Aphelele Busuku (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

A devastated Aphelele Busuku found out that she was married to a person she never met.

It was the end of October last year, when Busuku moved to Johannesburg, from Durban, for a new job. She needed a place to stay and after meeting a private property agent, she had to submit an ID number, bank statements, proof of address and a payslip.

“It was just two weeks into my new job, I gave him all my documents and went to view the place and found out that it was a scam,” says 23-year-old Busuku.

The fraudster took Busuku’s money and documents.

“I was going to apply for a car so I had to get my credit record at TransUnion and found out that my score was very low. I was wondering what was going on because I only had a certain amount of debt which was from owing school fees and one account,” she says.

“When I received my credit statement I saw that I have a recurring Vodacom under my name, and there was a Sportscene account.”

What shook her most is when she found out that she’s married to a man she has never met.

That’s not all; she also found out that she has a child. She submitted an affidavit to dispute this.

“I was so shocked because I don’t have a child and now I’m registered as a mother of one. It confused me.”

“On the statement there were phone numbers that are not mine. When I called it a lady answered, I asked her who are you and then she hung up. I don’t even know if I’m married to a male or female, Home Affairs couldn’t give me proper details,” says Busuku.

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Home Affairs told her if she wanted to get married in the future, she’d have to first get a divorce.

Busuku had to start afresh; a new bank card, ID number and a cell phone number.

“I had to change at least one digit so that I can have a new ID book, and have a clean credit record. It’s like I’m dead.”

‘People Thought I Was A Scam’

After having her identity stolen, journalist Gabisile Mbele had to sign her own death certificate.

Gabisile Mbele (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

“I’ve been a whole new person since April last year. I had to get a new passport, a new ID number, I had to denounce myself and sign a death certificate. Everything that I’ve done in my life doesn’t exist.”

These are the words of Gabisile Mbele, a journalist and one of many victims of stolen identity. But here’s the twist; she never even lost her ID book.

It was in 2000, in matric when somebody opened a bank account using Mbele’s ID number.

“Luckily I was with FNB since I was nine years old; they quickly picked up that someone is using my ID and told me that this person has the same ID number, same birthday but different address,” says Mbele.

The person also tried to open an account at an Absa bank. All the banks were alert and informed Mbele.

Criminals use an ID, change the photo, buy on credit, apply for loans and open bank accounts.

“When I looked at that girl’s ID, I could swear it was mine but I had never lost my ID before. I was like ‘how the hell did this person get my identity when I’ve never lost my ID?’” she says.

Four years later, the problem resurfaced. Mbele had just started work and wanted to open a retail account.

“I wanted to open a Woolworths and an Edgars account. Woolworths was like ‘sorry this is fraudulent, we’ve already got an account with this number’. I gave them my bank details and cell number but they still said no.”

It got worse when Mbele fell pregnant and needed to apply for UIF at the Department of Labour.

“I was told I need to own up for the job of being a domestic worker and why don’t I have a UIF form. The first thing I thought was ‘do these guys think I worked as a journalist first and left to become a domestic worker?’ It didn’t add up,” says a puzzled Mbele.

She asked the labor department to give her the woman’s contact details.

“I called her employer, it was a white lady from Kempton Park; she said her domestic workers name is also Gabisile Ndebele, but from Zimbabwe. I then asked her ‘do you know that she can’t possibly have an ID?’ Her response was she has an ID, she went and registered her at the Department of Labour.”

When Mbele gave birth she couldn’t register her daughter for four months. She was a non-existent citizen because, according to Home Affairs, Mbele had another child who was eight years old.

“I’ve sworn at everybody, including Malusi Gigaba, the [then] Minister of Home Affairs, I went to them over and over. And still nothing.”

Mbele’s parents, and a witness not related to her, had to do an affidavit confirming that she never had a child. She also had to change her surname from Ndebele to her father’s surname Mbele.

In April last year, when she wanted to renew her passport for a trip to Los Angeles for the BET Awards, she couldn’t.

“A woman at Home Affairs said ‘hayi sisi (no my sister), we’ve just given you a passport last week and now you want a new one. I remember crying and sitting on the floor at Home Affairs thinking that this cannot be my life,” says Mbele.

“I had to change everything, people thought I was a scam. I had to get all the paperwork, emails and faxes. It is the most devastating thing ever; I don’t wish it on anyone.”

What to do when your identity is stolen:

  • Contact the credit bureaus
  • Change bank accounts
  • Change your car registration number
  • Seek legal advice
  • Report it to the police
  • Hire a private investigator
  • Renew your driver’s licence
  • Alert the Fraud Prevention Services

What to watch out for:

  • Identity thieves may shoulder-surf when you are entering your pin at an ATM
  • Dumpster diving – criminals seaching through rubbish
  • Phony websites that look identical to those of authorized banks

How to avoid identity theft:

  • Shred your documents
  • Do not disclose your identity number unless it’s necessary
  • Don’t provide sensitive information over the internet
  • Check your credit reports regularly
  • Never carry more credit cards than you need

 

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Climate Explained: How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?

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How much climate change is natural? How much is man made?

As someone who has been working on climate change detection and its causes for over 20 years I was both surprised and not surprised that I was asked to write on this topic by The Conversation. For nearly all climate scientists, the case is proven that humans are the overwhelming cause of the long-term changes in the climate that we are observing. And that this case should be closed.

Despite this, climate denialists continue to receive prominence in some media which can lead people into thinking that man-made climate change is still in question. So it’s worth going back over the science to remind ourselves just how much has already been established.

Successive reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – mandated by the United Nations to assess scientific evidence on climate change – have evaluated the causes of climate change. The most recent special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees confirms that the observed changes in global and regional climate over the last 50 or so years are almost entirely due to human influence on the climate system and not due to natural causes.

What is climate change?

First we should perhaps ask what we mean by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines climate change as:

a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.

The causes of climate change can be any combination of:

  • Internal variability in the climate system, when various components of the climate system – like the atmosphere and ocean – vary on their own to cause fluctuations in climatic conditions, such as temperature or rainfall. These internally-driven changes generally happen over decades or longer; shorter variations such as those related to El Niño fall in the bracket of climate variability, not climate change.
  • Natural external causes such as increases or decreases in volcanic activity or solar radiation. For example, every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips and this can cause small fluctuations in global temperature, up to about 0.2 degrees. On longer time scales – tens to hundreds of millions of years – geological processes can drive changes in the climate, due to shifting continents and mountain building.
  • Human influence through greenhouse gases (gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane), other particles released into the air (which absorb or reflect sunlight such as soot and aerosols) and land-use change (which affects how much sunlight is absorbed on land surfaces and also how much carbon dioxide and methane is absorbed and released by vegetation and soils).

What changes have been detected?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report showed that, on average, the global surface air temperature has risen by 1°C since the beginning of significant industrialisation (which roughly started in the 1850s). And it is increasing at ever faster rates, currently 0.2°C per decade, because the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have themselves been increasing ever faster.

The oceans are warming as well. In fact, about 90% of the extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is being absorbed by the oceans.

A warmer atmosphere and oceans are causing dramatic changes, including steep decreases in Arctic summer sea ice which is profoundly impacting arctic marine ecosystems, increasing sea level rise which is inundating low lying coastal areas such as Pacific island atolls, and an increasing frequency of many climate extremes such as drought and heavy rain, as well as disasters where climate is an important driver, such as wildfire, flooding and landslides.

Multiple lines of evidence, using different methods, show that human influence is the only plausible explanation for the patterns and magnitude of changes that have been detected.

This human influence is largely due to our activities that release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well sunlight absorbing soot. The main sources of these warming gases and particles are fossil fuel burning, cement production, land cover change (especially deforestation) and agriculture.

Weather attribution

Most of us will struggle to pick up slow changes in the climate. We feel climate change largely through how it affects weather from day-to-day, season-to-season and year-to-year.

The weather we experience arises from dynamic processes in the atmosphere, and interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land surface. Human influence on the broader climate system acts on these processes so that the weather today is different in many ways from how it would have been.

One way we can more clearly see climate change is by looking at severe weather events. A branch of climate science, called extreme event or weather attribution, looks at memorable weather events and estimates the extent of human influence on the severity of these events. It uses weather models run with and without measured greenhouse gases to estimate how individual weather events would have been different in a world without climate change.

As of early 2019, nearly 70% of weather events that have been assessed in this way were shown to have had their likelihood and/or magnitude increased by human influence on climate. In a world without global warming, these events would have been less severe. Some 10% of the studies showed a reduction in likelihood, while for the remaining 20% global warming has not had a discernible effect. For example, one study showed that human influence on climate had increased the likelihood of the 2015-2018 drought that afflicted Cape Town in South Africa by a factor of three.

Adapting to a changing climate

Weather extremes underlie many of the hazards that damage society and the natural environment we depend upon. As global warming has progressed, so have the frequency and intensity of these hazards, and the damage they cause.

Minimising the impacts of these hazards, and having mechanisms in place to recover quickly from the impacts, is the aim of climate adaptation, as recently reported by the Global Commission on Adaptation.

As the Commission explains, investing in adaptation makes sense from economic, social and ethical perspectives. And as we know that climate change is caused by humans, society cannot use “lack of evidence” on its cause as an excuse for inaction any more.

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The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation

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Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.


As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

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How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap

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As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

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“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

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“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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