South African non-profit narrowly avoids death after R600,000 cyberattack

After months of uncertainty, The Big Issue is back on its feet thanks to a number of donors.

In June 2023, the magazine was scammed out of R600,000 and its survival was at stake. The funds were stolen by a scammer posing as the magazine’s printer who requested a change to the bank account number.

None of the stolen money has been recovered. The banks and police were unable to assist.

“So that’s over. I’m not trying anymore,” says Derek Carelse, the managing director.

Carelse says staff have now had cybercrime and phishing training, and new protocols have been put in place. He encourages all companies to do likewise.

Anyone in a company can be a target, whether a cleaner or the managing director, he says.

The operational costs for The Big Issue are about R3.5-million a year.

Big Issue vendors sell the magazine on the streets for R30, and half of the money goes to them. The organisation also runs skills development workshops.

Mkhululi Magqabi, one of over 100 Big Issue vendors in Cape Town, lives in Driftsands, Khayelitsha. He has been selling the magazine for over eight years. He depends on the income.

He was unaware The Big Issue had been scammed. If the magazine closed down it would cause a lot of suffering, he said.

Magqabi sells the magazine at traffic lights in Observatory from 8am until at least 6pm. He says he sells four to ten magazines a day. He also sells knitwear, such as hats, hand-stitched trinkets and thermal cooking bags. Some of these skills he learnt at workshops run by The Big Issue.

Mkhululi Magqabi has been selling The Big Issue for over eight years. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp

By Ashraf Hendricks for GroundUp. Republished under CC BY-ND 4.0.

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South African non-profit narrowly avoids death after R600,000 cyberattack