Sunday, March 17, 2019

SUNDAY TIMES IS AT IT AGAIN WITH 'TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE' INVESTMENT ADS


Dear Readers,
Rose Scott
          As far back as 2010 I started a campaign on my blog to get the Johannesburg based Sunday Times to stop carrying dubious investment advertisements.
          Around that time it published a report in its Money and Careers section which told readers about the danger signs they should look for in advertisements offering investment opportunities.
          One of these was: If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Among the others was: Terms such as ‘act quickly’ or ‘limited space available’ puts pressure on investors to make hasty decisions.
          It was ages before the paper appeared to have stopped taking these kinds of come-ons, which the Group’s one time Ombudsman Joe Latakgomo described as “eroding the public’s trust in newspapers.” He added that “Advertising that makes claims which are patently exaggerated, impact on consumer confidence.”
          This was in an article he wrote headed Beware of dubious adverting claims, which appeared after my complaints to the Sunday Times.
          At one stage when these types of ads were still being carried the paper undertook to ensure that the full contact details, as well as the physical address of the advertiser would have to be included.
           In January this year a prominent ad appeared in the Classified section of the paper. It had some of the same characteristics the paper had warned its readers about all those years ago. It claimed that if you invested a minimum of R350 000 up to a maximum of R1 050 000 you could double your money in two years.
One of the Sunday Times advertisements
The promoters were giving presentations at Johannesburg venues and those interested were told: “Venue and times to be advised on application for a seat. Limited seating available.”
          The contact details were equally limited being only a Red Brick Enterprises email address.
          The paper had this inconspicuous warning in the business section nowhere near the Classified section or any other advertising. The management seems to think that this will absolve it from any responsibility to anybody who might be taken by ads that are not kosher.
          When I tackled Jyoti Govind, National Sales Manager – Direct, Classified & Legals for the Tiso Blackstar Group, the owner of the Sunday Times, about this, she replied on 11 February: “Yes you are correct in saying that we had stopped many of the bogus type investment opportunity advertising sometime back. However, this advert was placed due to the fact that the investors have to attend a presentation prior to committing to investing.”
          How this made the ‘too good to be true’ claims any better only she would know.
          “I do apologise on behalf of the salesperson,” she went on, “for not having a telephone number or physical address in the advertisement. Going forward we will ensure that all the correct details appear. This advert appeared over three weeks and yesterday was the last day of inserting.”
          Although she said she was sorry for what happened she inexplicably refused to give me the missing details “due to a confidentiality clause.” She undertook to ask the client to contact me.
          Soon afterwards Bev Peinke emailed me saying: “We are currently developing a cutting edge estate of 344 apartments along the Garden Route and are very excited for the opportunities on offer to long term investors.” Earlier she assured somebody I know that the returns would be “guaranteed.”
          Their shareholders, she said, would be in Johannesburg on March 11 to hold a presentation at a guest house there.
          “We are limiting the number of seats to 15 which will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.”
          She evidently thought I was a potential investor, although I had made it clear to Govind that I was journalist who had a blog.
          Bev’s initial answers to my questions gave the impression that she had an interest in Red Brick Enterprises that is proposing to develop an estate called Yikusasa, but she was actually the “executive PA” to Rose Scott Redbrick’s Financial Director.
          When I asked Rose how people were expected to double their money in two years as Bev had referred to it as being for “long term investors,” she told me the ad was correct, but Bev was not.
The 18 ha development site is in the Plettenberg Bay (Bitou) suburb of Ladywood, which an estate agent described as being in a part of the town that has “never taken off.” It is next door to the Black township of Kwanokuthula and consists of small holdings with a poor road infrastructure.
What the proposed apartment blocks will look like
 There were plans to have the offices of the Bitou Municipality centralised in new buildings in Ladywood but this has so far not materialised. The Municipality is currently mired in corruption allegations. These are so bad that according to a November 2018 edition of the Knysna-Plett Herald it could be placed under administration depending on the result of a forensic investigation the municipality tried unsuccessfully to stop.
          According to Scott in her development, which is being sold off-plan, investors were being offered an opportunity to purchase two bedroomed units at a 50% discount on the initial selling price. The proposed selling prices of the units given on the Yikusasa (the future in  isiXhosa)website are one bedroomed from R575 000; two bed R713 000 and three bed R813 000. They are between 50 and 75 sq m.
          “We limited the opportunity to a maximum of three options to buy to spread the risk and to encourage participation from a broader base of investors,” she stated. “The offer is to secure the funding to build furnished show units so that purchasers can see what they are buying.”
          The head of one of Plett’s largest estate agencies had this to say when I told him what the Sunday Times’ advertisement was promising: “There is nothing in the world that can give you that kind of return.”
            “Several people are prepared to take that risk based on the facts and figures presented to them,” Scott countered
          The two and three level blocks of flats will be built in seven stages in an area earmarked for middle to lower income housing.
          At this stage all the planning requirements have not been finalised and the promotional video tells us that construction will start in February, but it doesn’t say which February.
Yikusasa's location
          So those hoping to double there money in two years have to be supreme optimists, especially when the country’s economy is in tatters.
          If anybody should know how unlikely to be true this newspaper advertisement is, it is Rose Scott, because not only is she an accountant in Plett, but she also claims to be the founder of what she calls Better Business Practice.
          Regards
          Jon, a Consumer Watchdog and the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who hopes that the Sunday Times will finally put ethics before money and stop promoting investment opportunities that are too good to be true.
P.S. Bev Peinke told me she ceased working for Red Brick Enterprises on February 19. Her husband owns The Pie Shop in Plett and had nothing to do with Red Brick.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

MARTIN WELZ - NOSEWEEK'S TAKE A LOT SCROOGE


Dear Noseweek Readers,

          As Noseweek magazine might tell you this is “News you’re not supposed to know”.
          What’s more it’s so hot I can assure you it will never appear in Martin’s publication, which he founded 25 years ago as South Africa’s only investigative magazine.
          As a former Sunday Times investigative journalist, turned self employed Private Eye, I have had a hard hitting blog for nearly 10 years to keep me off the streets in my retirement. From time to time I gave Martin some of the exposés that have appeared in it. He used them, sometimes crediting only my Dearjon-letter blog, while on other occasions my name was mentioned as well. An article I wrote specifically for Noseweek had my byline on it.
          Knowing full well that I was a pensioner he never once suggested paying me and nor did he ever offer to give me a free copy of the Noseweek edition in which my contributions appeared.         
          It was one way traffic. My blog is not a money making exercise. On the other hand Noseweek must be, otherwise it would not have survived for so long. Bad habits die hard. I just write for fun.
          As recently as a few weeks ago Martin phoned me to ask if he could use the story I broke in 2016 about the Cape Town doctor who ripped off his elderly, terminally ill patients. I agreed and even passed on two pictures I got for my post headed Caring doctor who cashed cheques for his elderly patients.
          The Health cheques for GP report in the February 2019 edition of Martin’s monthly magazine took up two pages with a large section of my post used almost word for word in most of it. I must concede it did credit me and my blog as the originator of this scoop.
          In January this year I published a book entitled Dearjon Exposed. It contains what I believe are some of the best posts from my blog. As Noseweek features in several of the posts as well as in the blurb on the back of the cover I thought I would get Martin to give the book a plug.

          Although his magazine is never much more than 30 pages it does devote one page to Books.
          When I gave him a brief run down about my book on the phone he told me to bring it to him. After driving a considerable distance from my home I handed it to him in his Cape Town office. Impatiently he said he was too busy to discuss it then and that I should phone him in a day or two. “Then we’ll talk,” he added.
          “Then we’ll talk” became his mantra for several weeks after that as he was always too busy to discuss my book. He kept putting me off, but at no stage did he have the courage to say anything like, “That’s not the kind of book we would write about in my magazine.”
          He kept me on the hook like a fisherman enjoying the torment.
          It ended on a Monday or Tuesday I think it was. He was initially not available when I phoned in the morning so I sent him an email. In it I asked when we were going to have this “talk” about whether or not he was going to give my book a plug. I referred to the unpaid writing I had done for Noseweek and complained that he was often not available when I phoned, but he never phoned me back when I left messages.
          Later that day I did get hold of him on the phone. He sounded angry and again told me to phone him on another day when “We’ll talk.” After I told him I had sent him an email he said he would have a look at it. In all my dealings with him he has seldom, if ever, replied to any of my emails.
          I never heard from him again.
          This tale had quite a few similarities to the way Lynne Johns, the news editor of the Cape Times behaved when I gave this Dr van Rooyen exclusive of mine to her paper in 2016. It was used as a front page lead without any reference to me or my blog.
          Johns and other members of that paper’s staff lied to me repeated. Much like Welz did over my book they kept leading me on by repeatedly undertaking to credit me as the originator of this story. Many lies later neither my name nor my blog had been mentioned anywhere in the Cape Times.
          Having taken on dubious business leaders and crooks of all kinds over the years you would have thought that Martin’s ethics would be of a higher calibre than to play this dishonest game of pretend.  He created the illusion that he was considering promoting my book when, as it turned out, this was never, ever his intention.
          My guess is that he probably didn’t even open it.
          Well Martin a.k.a *Ebenezer this is my side of that “talk” that you actually lied about because, in spite of numerous undertakings, it never took place. There’s one consolation: I certainly won’t be out of pocket if my exposés don’t ever appear in Noseweek again.
          Regards,
          Jon, a disgusted contributor, who has learnt a valuable lesson. No doubt this was “News you are not supposed to know,” but you sure know it now.
*Ebeneza Scrooge was made famous by Charles Dickens in his 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. His last name has become synonymous in the English language with a person who is very tight fisted with their money.

P.S. It is very short sighted of the news media and editors like Martin Welz to treat people like me the way he did. In this tech age everybody is a reporter on social media and on blogs that are all over the place, so this makes it harder than ever for the likes of Noseweek to get exclusive scoops. He should therefore nurture anybody who is prepared to pass on good tips or in my case actually write the entire story with an investigative background. Ironically he was prepared to sacrifice a relationship that goes back years because he would not promote a book that actually includes quite a few puffs for his own magazine - Noseweek.   
See also: Rip-off doctor and Newspaper's lies    
     

Sunday, December 30, 2018

SHOULD THE PRESS STILL BE JUDGED BY ITS OWN OMBUDSMAN

Dear Newspaper readers,

          South Africa’s Press Ombudsman Johan Retief has shown once again what a bad idea it is to have the press policing itself.
          Tucked away in the one corner of Page 5 of the Sunday Times of December 16 was a tiny story headed Press Council RULING Apology to Collins Letsoalo.
          This was a retraction of everything it published in its June 24 issue under the heading “Pay it back, AG tells Prasa’s 350% boss.” It apologised to Collins, the former acting CEO of South Africa’s Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) for “falsely, misleadingly and unfairly stating, both in the story and in the headlines, that the auditor-general had issued a special report on the matter and ordered Letsoalo to pay back the money to Prasa.”
          The office of the AG has categorically denied that it issued any such “special report,” it went on.
          “We apologise to Letsoalo for creating the false, misleading and unfair impression that he had obtained money to which he was not entitled, thereby unnecessarily tarnishing his dignity and reputation.”
          It ended by telling us that Letsoalo had complained to the Press Ombudsman who had found in his favour and that readers could find the full story on the Press Council’s website.
          This brief apology gave readers, who had not been following the story very little idea of what it was all about. Any other flaky report like this would be quite unacceptable elsewhere in the paper.
The little apology is on the right if you can see it
          The original story that carried the lies was a page lead yet, as so often happens, the Ombudsman lets papers get away with apologies which are given nothing like the same prominence as the stories that cause the damage to people’s reputations. It’s clear that they are being allowed to make them as inconspicuous as possible so that as few people as possible see that their paper cannot be trusted.
The original story
In this case Retief’s conclusion that the reporter, who did the story was a liar, was conveniently not published in the paper but left on the Ombudsman’s website for readers to go and find it for themselves.
The same applied to Retief’s very damning remarks.
Like: “Need I say what immense damage such reporting does to the credibility of the South African media in general, and the Sunday Times in particular.”
And: “I have hardly, if indeed ever, seen such misleading, unfair and untrue statements in a headline.” And, as the Ombudsman, he has been dealing with complaints like this for 10 years, although he recent resigned and will leave his position in the New Year.
The name of Caiphus Kgosana, the reporter responsible for damaging the Sunday Times’ reputation so badly, was not even mentioned in the apology that appeared in the paper.
The background to the story is that after Letsoalo was appointed acting CEO of Prasa the Sunday Times dubbed him the 350% boss for increasing his annual salary from R1.7 million to R5.9 million. The Board decided to dismiss him after the story appeared, although he was subsequently vindicated by a judge who ruled that he was entitled to the increase as it was in line with what his predecessor was getting.
The judge’s decision was made before the controversial story appeared and Letsoalo claimed that Kgosana agreed to quote the judgement to give balance to any report he wrote. But this never happened.
Dealing with the claim in the Sunday Times story that the Auditor-general had issued a special report in which he ordered Letsoalo to pay back the increase, Retief stated that the AG’s office had denied ever issuing such a report or telling Prasa that the increase had to be repaid.
He wrote that he had given the paper ample time to “provide me with the special report that Kgosana says he has seen and from which he has quoted so lavishly.
“I have no other explanation for Kgosana’s inability/refusal to provide me with this document than one of the following alternatives:
·      Either there is no such document, in which case the journalist has deliberately misled the public, his own  newspaper, and this office; or
·      He has accepted the existence of a forged document as a real one, without proper verification.
     “I am highly suspicious of Kgosana’s failure to provide me with the report.”
          He believed the first alternative was the most likely one.
          “This can only mean one thing,” he added. “The journalist has deliberately misled all and sundry.”
          Retief ruled that the apology the paper had to print should be on Page 3 which was the same page where the original story appeared. 
          He also decided that due to the “seriousness of the matter” the Sunday Times had to carry a so called kicker on its front page that had to include the word apology and Letsoalo’s name “referring to the text on Page 3” – Ha! Ha!
But the Sunday Times didn’t regard it with the same seriousness. It ignored this directive and put the apology on Page 5, presumably on the basis that it was less likely to be seen the further into the paper it was placed. In any case the front page kicker was so innocuous it would not have alerted many people to the existence of the apology.
Letsoalo has threatened to sue the Sunday Times, Prasa and its former executives for R20-million for loss of income and defamation. 
        Newspapers would be less likely to behave badly like this if they knew they would have to publish an apology just as prominently as the original story, at the very least. That’s what should happen automatically if proper justice was to prevail instead of these token wishy -washy, penalties that are the inevitable result of an industry that has got away for years with a system of judging itself.
Retief told me that he always directed a publication where to publish the apology, “even determining that the word ‘apology’ be published in the headline.
“It depended on the seriousness of the transgression. Normally I direct a newspaper to publish on the same page. In some instances I have gone to page one even though the transgression was not on that page. A few times I have taken a whole page.”
        Inexplicably he told me he did not know what I meant when I asked him this: “Why is it that you allowed a newspaper like the Sunday Times, which is not an on-line publication, to merely refer its readers to your website for the most damning part of your ruling in this particular case?”
          In a supplementary question to the one above I asked if it was his normal practice to allow newspaper apologies to carry just a small part of his ruling in print and then refer readers to the Press Council’s website?
          He merely answered: “I always ask a newspaper to publish the sanction – this is normal practice.”
          He assured me that as soon as his office reopened after the Christmas recess the Sunday Times would be told to repeat the Letsoalo apology, this time on page 3.
You would think our lying reporter would be in for the high jump, especially as the SundayTimes has been forced to carry a rash of whole page, record setting apologies in the last couple of years.
As recently as Oct 2018 the Sunday Times carried a screed by media
 strategist Chris Vick to try and convince us that it had reformed. This
was part of it, but the tall stories keep getting printed

         You would be wrong. The week after the apology appeared Caiphus Kgosana’s name was the first of two in the byline for the papers’ front page lead story, as if nothing had happened.
But this is nothing new. It took ages for it to get rid of its long time ‘ace’ investigative reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika for mixing fiction with fact. And then it continued to employ Jim Jones as a freelance writer in its business section (Business Times) for eight years after it knew he was a thief.
Regards,
Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman who worked on the Sunday Times in the days when its fairy tales were true (goldilocks and big business).

P.S. Before I had seen his tweet I sent Kgosana an email telling him briefly what I intending writing and I invited him to make any comments he wished on the Ombudsman’s damning report. I also asked him how current this Linkedin profile was and he never replied although I got a read report.
If this is correct is he the right person to be teaching
journalism at a university?
Note:The Press Ombudsman comes under the Press Council that has been established by the media industry to police it with the aim of maintaining a high standard of ethics. It only has the power to make rulings involving its member publications and it can’t order any of its members to pay damages. Aggrieved parties, who believe this is what they deserve, have to go to the supreme court for that.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

THE MOST PRECIOUS RUGBY TEAM IN THE WORLD

Dear Parents,
Guy Pearson Headmaster
of Bishops

          Boys at Cape Town’s Diocesan College, commonly known as Bishops, are so special that the school feels it necessary to make sure that its rugby first team stands out from the from the commoners at other schools.
          With a motto of Pro Fide et Patria – For Faith and Fatherland you could hardly expect anything different from this private, all boys school where the annual College fees in Grade 12 will set you back R240 380 per boy, plus no doubt thousands more in extras. So you wouldn’t want them treated any other way would you?
          The boys in the team I’m talking about have no numbers on their jerseys, because as one of the boys said on TV just before a televised match: “We are one.”
          Meanwhile the teams they play against such as those from the nearby Government schools like South African College Schools (SACS) and Wynberg Boy’s High all have numbers. The fees for Grade 12 borders at these two schools are considerably less than half what you would pay at Bishops.  
          This was Guy Pearson, the headmaster of Bishop’s explanation for this very elitist behaviour: “In his book ‘Bishops Rugby, a History’ Paul Dobson writes the following: Bishops does not wear numbers, partly because there are usually no programmes at matches, partly because it holds to the belief that rugby is a team game and individuals should not be singled out. At worst it is a harmless tradition; at best it is an expression of idealism.”
Bishops & Wynberg players
          Idealism has been defined as the unrealistic belief in perfection – hardly something boys should be taught so early in life I would have thought.
          And just to make sure that Bishops has no big heads in its teams Pearson told me: “You are correct; we do not pick a man of the match. You will notice that when the game is televised the commentators pick a man of the match, but we don’t.
          “I forgot to mention that the teams we play do not mind us playing with no numbers, they appreciate this tradition. We have other ‘quirky’ traditions like running on as a group from behind the post and not through a ‘tunnel of adulation’ like other schools.”
          Is this Bishops approach to rugby the best way to prepare boys for the real world, where everybody is certainly not equal? Didn’t Communism fail dismally with its no class divisions ?
          Bishops evidently believes it is so unique that it can blithely ignore the whole purpose of having numbers on jerseys. As everybody must know they are there to enable referees to easily identify players that transgress, and it also makes the job of commentators of televised games a lot easier. They complain that when Bishops is playing they sometimes get picked out for getting the names of players wrong.
          Mr Pearson was not exactly correct when he told me that the schools Bishops play against don’t mind this no number business. I canvassed the heads of just two other Cape Town schools that play Bishops and they have both been sporting rivals of the special one for longer than most people can remember. 
Jan de Waal


          Jan de Waal, Headmaster of Wynberg Boy’s tactfully phased what I believe most people would say: “This is a classic case of tradition, which is now having a negative impact on the modern game.
          “Many schools have little traditions passed on from one generation to another.
Queens (Queens College, Eastern Cape) for example do not play with a number 13, Bishops have no numbers etc. I’m sure there were soundly thought through reasons for the original decision, but maybe its time to revisit those traditions to adapt to the current realities.”
          On the other hand Brendan Grant, Headmaster of SACS has a very passive approach. “That is Bishops tradition and we have no problem with it at all. We look after our traditions and do not dictate to other schools what they should do.”
          While doing research for this post I came across an advertisement that must have given the boys a laugh. It was immediately below a video of a Bishops vs Wynberg match and was for Vascamen, available at Clicks and Dis-Chem, where it can also be bought on-line. It’s in the sexual wellness category with ingredients like horny goat weed.
          Nobody seemed to know how it got there.
          “It doesn’t seem right to me that they should have videos of school rugby coupled with ads like this without obtaining the okay from the schools involved,” I told Pearson in an email. “As if teenage lads are not horny enough without getting them to take horny goat weed etc. Does anybody at Bishops or any other school know if this product is a performance (on the rugby field as well as in the bedroom) enhancing drug?” 

          Pearson told me that the video streaming of schoolboy matches was done by a company called School Sport Live. Bishops had nothing to do with this. “I will let them know that some of their adverts are not appropriate in a school context,” he said, adding: “I personally do not watch these videos so am unaware of the content of the adverts.”
           “This advertisement is not created or endorsed by us,” Rowan Raaff head of School Sport Live emphasised. “We deal with schools, so we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we associated ourselves with a product of this nature.”  
          Vascamen is a local South African, Loock Pharmaceuticals product. Its Marketing Director Marieke Prinsloo assured me they would never place an advertisement for this anywhere connected with schools. “We do however have a few deals with sports magazines, both printed and on-line, that fit our target market profile, mostly 35 years and up.”
          The advertisement in question must have been one of those Google phenomenons because when I looked again it had gone.
          “While it offers a variety of sporting choices rugby is truly at the heart of the school,” Bishops tells us. “The main rugby field was the first in South Africa and is sometimes used by the Springboks for practice sessions out of the public eye. Many Bishops boys have gone on to become Springboks, most recently Robbie Fleck and Selborne Boome.” 
Former Bishops boys have become rugby internationals
all over the world
          Bishops was established in 1849 by Robert Grey, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town. He founded two schools, one for native children and the other for European children and it was the latter that became Bishops.
          The Bishop was certainly not preaching "We are one" in those days.
          Regards,
          Jon
P.S. When I was at Bishops a hundred years ago we were not nearly so precious and if you stepped out of line you knew all about it. Six of the best with a flexible cane left an indelible impression on your backside, and your mind for quite a long time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

CRAZY COMPLAINT REQUIREMENT OF THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR: 'PROVE YOUR CASE BEFORE WE CAN DECIDE IF WE CAN START'


Dear Readers,

          Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, South Africa’s Public Protector recently announced that in the years 2016/17 and 2017/18 they finalised 21 176 out of 25 288 complaints.
Well, if mine is anything to go by these figures must be extremely suspect.  After more than a year her Cape Town office had not yet decided whether or not the law allowed them to investigate my complaint against the Cape Town City Council.
For nearly three years now I have been investigating why the Council goes on spent millions on ineffective schemes to try and keep the sand dunes in place, above a municipal rubbish dump at Witsands near Cape Point. The dump was closed more than 30 years ago.
26 June 2017: I emailed my two page complaint about this shocking waste of money to the Cape Town office of the Public Protector.
29 June 2017: The receipt of this was acknowledged in a letter signed on behalf of a senior manager in which I was told that once they had established “whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint” they would contact me again.
6 November 2017: Ayanda Mngqinya asked me to provide proof of my allegations against the Council and two days later I sent her a five page email in which I expanded on my original complaint. This included links to six of my posts on the subject in which there were numerous pictures, which showed conclusively how the use of nets to try and keep the sand in place had failed dismally. They had either been blown over or buried by the very strong winds that are endemic to the area. I quoted Councillor Johannes van der Merwe, the Member of the Mayor’s Executive team at the time, who was in charge of the Environment, as well as other people involve in the project. Van der Merwe claimed that what they had been doing was an extremely cost effective way of managing the landfill site. I pointed out that on 30 March 2016 the Cape Argus carried a story based on my blog that effectively verified what I had written. I mentioned that in another post addressed to the Mayor Patricia de Lille I had emphasised the fact that the Public Protector had described the conditions in the township of Masiphumelele, which is not far from Witsands, as the “most disgusting I have seen in my life.” And I appealed to her to get the Council to stop wasting money at Witsands. I also pointed out that although my posts had all been very critical of what the Council had been doing, I never had single complaint about the accuracy of what I had written.
22 January 2018: I sent an email to Ayanda Mngquinya asking her what progress there had been with my complaint as the money wasting by the Council was starting all over again at Witsands. I attached photographs that showed how nets had been blown over just days after they had been erected.

11 April 2018: Ayanda replied saying she was “currently unavailable” and that I should directed all queries to Mrs Judith Steyn. This I did.
16 April 2018: Nkagiseng Motaung replied under the heading PROGRESS REPORT. “Kindly take note that your complaint was received by the Public Protector Western Cape Regional Office and I am the investigator assigned to your matter.” She went on to say that she will be “assessing my matter” and will revert back to me with the “outcome of the assessment.” So it was clear from what she told me that at this stage, 10 months after her office received my complaint, nobody had yet decided whether it was something they were entitled to investigate.
12 June 2018: I sent an email to Advocate Stoffel Fourie, who I was told was in charge of the Cape Town Public Protector’s office, even though he is apparently based at Bhisho in the Eastern Cape. Before I was given his email address my phone calls to the office in Cape Town, the head office in Pretoria as well as the one in Bhisho went unanswered. His email address wasn’t much help either, because all I got was two read reports in reply to my emails, and nothing more.
23 July 2018: Although my complaint was now more than a year old this unbelievably inefficient organisation was still trying to work out if it was qualified to deal with my case. Nkagiseng Motaung told me in an email that they required some more information to “assess whether the law allows your complaint to be investigated.” She wanted to know the following (My comments are in brackets):
1.    Issues that you wish the office of the Public Protector to investigate (As if I hadn’t told them already).
2.    Outcome sought by yourself should your matter be investigated (This must have been painfully obvious from what I had already sent).
3.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the City of Cape Town Ombudsman, your reference number as well as proof of outcome (This I hadn’t done because I didn’t think it was necessary as the Mayor and a member of her Mayoral Committee must have been aware of what I had written)
4.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the Office of the Speaker in as far as the conduct of the Councillor and Council is concerned and the proof of outcome (Same answer as Item 3).
5.    Proof of any other institution/s you raised your complaint with as well as the out come thereof (Same Answer as 4).
6.    Any other relevant information and/or documentation including correspondence between yourself and the official you communicated with. (I wasn’t prepared to send all this because I felt I had already sent more than enough information for any investigator to get started)
It ended with “Please take note we will now proceed to pend your file to the 3rd of August 2018 in anticipation of the above requested documents, as we cannot commence the investigation due to insufficient information. As soon as the above has been received, we will then proceed to asses the matter further and advice (sic) accordingly.” In this email this ace investigator also changed my sex by addressing me as Ms. J. Abbott, although all my emails had ended “Regards, Jon Abbott.”
24 July 2018: I replied to Nkagiseng Motaung saying that her office was an “absolute disgrace” because more than a year after I submitted full details of my complaint I was now being asked what outcome I wanted “should your matter be investigated.” I added that it was like reporting a murder to the police and being asked what outcome I wanted. “If something appeared wrong it was up to the Protector’s office to investigate it and not expect the complainant to provide all the proof,” I told her. “How could some poorly educated person possibly provide any of the information you are now asking for?”
10 September 2018: I got an email with a letter attached signed “PP Sune`Griessel (Mrs), Provincial Representative (Western Cape). It began with: “For further enquiries: Mrs N. Motaung, 31 August 2018.” The gist of the five paragraph letter was that as the Public Protector was “an office of last resort” I had not taken “all reasonable steps to exhaust all remedies available” to me
          “Due to the insufficient information regarding your complaint, we are unable to assess the matter further. We will now proceed to close our file and thank you for engaging with the office of the Public Protector.”
          I’m a retired former Sunday Times investigative journalist. So if I can’t present the Public Protector’s office with sufficient information to get it started, what hope has the average person?
          My experience shows how very unlikely it is that 83% of complaints to this branch of Government were finalist in the last couple of years as Busisiwe claims.
          Regards,
          Jon, a very disgusted Consumer Watchdog, who hopes she does a much better job than this.
See also: Monumental waste

Sunday, October 14, 2018

SUNDAY TIMES EDITOR APOLOGISES FOR PAPER'S LIES WITH ANOTHER WHOPPER

Dear Bongani Siqoko,  

Editor of the Sunday Advertiser aka Sunday Times,
          I feel terribly sorry for you. They take you from that piddling little Daily Dispatch (Circulation 25 000) in East London (population260 000) and make you Editor of the country’s top selling national paper, the Sunday Times (Circ. 260 000) that operates out of Johannesburg, our biggest city (pop.1-million). That was at the end of 2015.
          Ever since then you have been the face of record breaking Sunday Times apologies.
You were just getting into the hot seat in December 2015, when the Press Ombudsman gave you his Christmas and Welcome to the Sunday Times present. It was his ruling that the ‘rogue unit’ expose` about the SA Revenue Service (SARS) was rubbish. It had been running for months and he order that your new paper must retract everything and apologise in writing.
          One has to wonder what really went on here. Pearlie Joubert, a member of your paper’s investigative team at the time, says she was isolated when she began to question what was going on. What was the motive for ignoring the very perceptive alarm bell she was ringing? Could it have been something more than just a front page lead?
          When she could not get her message through, she very bravely resigned.
          She’s was the real hero of that disgraceful chapter in the history, of a once proud newspaper. What she did is actually the front page lead for next week, but of course you will never print it.
The REAL HERO Pearlie Joubert: She's laughing here
but it was no joke on the Sunday Times
          Did you know at the time that you were being brought right across the country just to be thrown among the Great Whites, without a cage, almost straight away? Soon afterwards you had to explain that whole page apology that appeared in April 2016.
          At the time your appointment was announced Andrew Bonamour, Times Media (Now Tiso Blackstar – the Group changes it’s name more often than a chameleon changes colour) CEO had this to say about the outgoing editor Phylicia Oppelt, under whose watch these lies occurred: “We are delighted that Phylicia will remain with the group and help drive the exiting changes across the titles.”
          What?  Just when she had so completely messed up. Why wasn’t she asked to explain how it happened, instead of you, in that whole page apology? And where is she now - still driving “those exiting changes?”
          Today I see you are at it again, apologising once more for cock-ups that occurred even before Oppelt was the Editor. Now it’s all about the 2011 Police “death squad” lies that appeared when Ray Hartley was the Editor.
          These, as you say, “created the impression that Gen Johan Booysen was operationally in charge of the unit, and by association directly and personally responsibly for the killings.”
          Only a trivial libel that just happened to be completely untrue.



          You gave Booysen a lot of space to have his say. Unfortunately this shows how meaningless these apologies of yours are, if your paper and other sections of the Tiso Group go on employing the same journalists, who have proved conclusively that they can be relied upon to get it wrong in a big way.
          The scribes mentioned in the bylines on the stories you are apologising for now are Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Africa and Rob Rose.

                                                *     *     *     *     *     *
Breaking News

            In having his say Booysen told us that he had to contact the Editor Hartley to “demand to be heard” to give his side of the story, when that’s one of the basics of journalism that every cub reporter gets told: Always get both sides of the story.
            Hofstatter then comes to see him and they had a recorded teleconference with Wa Africa. Booysen tells them that the photographs they had of dead suspects had nothing to do with the story they are doing. He also told them that he knew their “sources” and that they were being investigated by the Hawks.
          Undeterred your ace investigators “evidently made no effort to verify the facts with the institutions” Booysen had referred them to. “Instead the versions of the suspects under investigation were published,” Booysen went on.
          This Don’t let the facts spoil a good story team then ensured that the gruesome pictures of the bodies appeared with their story when, as Booysen had told them, they had absolutely nothing to do with it.
How brainless was that?  These were supposed to be senior journalists behaving like naughty kids. 
Your apology today, which is full of excuses, loses any value it might have because you have including something that is clearly not true. What good is there in saying Sorry for our lies and then explain why with another one.
“We were in pursuit of nothing but the truth and we were not motivated by political, commercial or personal interests,” you told readers. “We stood to gain nothing from reporting on these issues, but merely fulfilling our constitutional obligation to inform you”(Isn't "were" missing somewhere?).
What a lot of guff. Is the Sunday Times now a charity? Does it not need money to exist? Your paper was purely motivated by getting exclusive, sensational stories that increase readership and the profits that flow from that.
I know we are supposed to have a very good constitution, but I can’t find the section that says newspapers have a duty to inform us. It’s probably just me. I can’t see for looking.
Bongani, I accept that you can’t be blamed for the fictitious scoops that appeared before your time, but some odd things have happened while you’ve been in charge.
For a start how can you still have Wa Africa doing investigations for your paper and having regular front page leads?  He should have been bowled out as soon as it was apparent that the police death squad story was rotten to the core.
He was still there after Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers came out in October 2017.  In the book he accused Hofstatter and Wa Africa of “Helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” He was talking about a group of people in SARS who lost their jobs as a result of the “rogue unit,” to which your paper gave credence to.
There’s perhaps a follow up book for him: The Rogue Unit at the Sunday Times – the inside story.
The Terrible Twins - Hofstatter & Wa Afrika
Then too you should have known that freelance Jim Jones was a crook when the Business Times, your business section, continued to use him.(love affair with a crook)  You were also very much in charge when that whole page, paid African National Congress anti Democratic Alliance plug, masquerading as a news story, appeared.(dropping moral standards)
I know you don’t decide these things but the management of your group must also be censored for making Rob Rose the Editor of the Financial Mail and keeping  Hofstatter on reporting for the this publication and Business Day. His excuse for going astray was that they were “under pressure for scoops.” This is the life of every reporter, so imagine what it would be like if they all come up with fairytales.

Both Rose and Hofstatter have written allegedly factual books about shady goings on. One has to wonder now, how much of these are actually fiction.
Regards,
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who tries to keep his factual fiction to a minimum. I must add that my only motive in writing this blog is to put the world right without any thought of being rewarded.