Coronavirus

Committed to Our Mission. Guided by Our Values. Driven to Prevail.

As 2019 drew to a close, anticipation of the Centenary increasingly became a galvanising event within NTE. There was excitement throughout the company about the new chapter that was about to begin, and with it a focus on transformation to meet the many challenges of the modern era. By looking to the past, we were inspired by the great men and women who had come before us. Despite odds that at the time would have seemed insurmountable, their commitment brought us to where we are today.

Shortly after work resumed in the New Year, the first reports of market disruption began filtering through from China, a key player in the global leather supply chain. The quarantining of Wuhan and news of a flu-like epidemic sent ripples through the markets. Within weeks, the supply of certain products halted, and demand for sanitisers and medical protective gear rose sharply. Around the world, the response was at first tentative. The threat posed by the novel coronavirus reflected many of the same features of previous outbreaks such as H1N1 and Ebola, which despite their terrible toll did not significantly disrupt society and the economy. Coronavirus has, unfortunately, proven itself unique.

In a matter of three months, COVID-19 transformed into a global pandemic, unprecedented in its impact. From the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, the flight paths of international air travel exposed the fragilities of our globalised world. Like a wildfire, sparks of the illness landed in cities from Iran to Italy and spread onward to every nation across the world. The effect of the virus, and how to react appropriately, are questions yet to be fully answered.

In South Africa the response was swift and decisive. A nationwide quarantine was called on

23 March, backed by a R500bn relief package to support businesses and the country’s most vulnerable. The leadership shown by President Ramaphosa and his cabinet received global praise and acclaim.

An unprecedented crisis calls for an equivalent response, and we are focused on meeting the new challenges as the world returns to work. We are exploring ways to be more flexible in how we collaborate and more innovative in how we communicate with the world. We are listening to experts on developing a safe and responsive workplace that ensures the wellbeing of every member of our team.

In unpredictable times, the chronicle in this book provides guidance. From our earliest forebears who managed through devastating wars, to a company that has weathered countless storms and prevailed, we draw on their stories to pioneer our way through this crisis. It is almost fitting that in an anniversary as momentous as our Centenary, an adversary arrives that may be our greatest yet. With urgency, with new technology and with unyielding determination, we will overcome.

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