Sunday, December 17, 2023


 Dear Readers,

Gareth Ackerman

          Did my well intended good deed turn out to be just the opposite? When I saw Fabi Rameez standing around the only scale in Pick n Pay in the Longbeach Mall in Cape Town I got talking to her. Her primary job it seemed was to weigh and price loose fruit and vegetables for customers. So I was surprised when she told me she had to stand all day. If tellers were able to do the job sitting down I felt it must be very hard for Rameez, who had been with Pick n Pay for 17 years and had been doing this particular job for seven, to have to stand all day, so I set out to get her something to sit on.

          As I got nowhere initially I emailed the Chairman Gareth Ackerman via his PA Vivian Ford, but he did what the heads of major companies usual do when I email them. He passed the buck back down the line and Vivian assured me he had seen my email. The rare, really top notch chief executives, I have contacted, deal with the problem themselves and email me accordingly. Here's the perfect example from a C.E.0. in a million Norbert Sasse.

          The buck was passed to Jarett van Vuuren, Divisional Head of Coastal for Pick n Pay. He replied:  “Our staff working in our fresh areas don’t only stand at the scale, they also assist in making labels, rotating stocks, and filling up the sectors when there are not customers at the scale. All our service areas operate in a very similar manner and hence we don’t give chairs to these areas. From time to time should one of our employees have an injury or a disability we do allow this. I am not aware that the current staff in Longbeach have any injuries and hence we will not be placing a chair in that section.”

          A few weeks later, when I was in that Pick n Pay doing my normal shopping there was no sign of Fabi and I had to hunt around for a shop assistant to weigh my purchase. One of the managers told me that Fabi had been given “voluntary early retirement.” So that is what I got her it seems instead of a chair, but I haven’t been able to contact her to find out just how “voluntary” her departure was.

The deserted scale

           After that when I went shopping there I often had to hunt around the store to find somebody to operate the scale for me. And on one occasion when I could not find anybody I took my purchase with all the other stuff I had bought to a teller and she sent somebody to go and weigh the loose vegetables I had bought.

          The comedy became a real joke a month or so later when I found a baffled lady in front of the deserted scale with two aubergines on it. She hadn’t a clue how to weight them so I told her to take them to a teller. “I’ve just done that,” she replied. “And they told me to go and weight them myself.” I then hunted around the store until I found a shop assistant to help her.

          I couldn’t resist visiting the management’s office where I told the guy who was there what had happened and he just looked at the ceiling and pulled a face as if he was thinking: ‘Oh hell I knew that was going to happen one of these days.’ 

          My biggest gripe about shopping at this Pick n Pay is the way the stock keeps getting moved around and I assume this is the norm at all their stores. For instance if I find a particular type of bread in a particular place this week the chances are it will still be somewhere in the bread section the following week, but I will have to hunt for it all over again because it will be in a different place. This applies to just about everything else in my experience.

            When I asked somebody in the manager’s office what the thinking was behind moving things to different places all the time he looked blankly at me and mumbled something about stock having to be moved around.

          Then it doesn’t help when an entire shelf doesn’t have a single price on it. On another occasion this is the experienced I had when I bought a box of cooked pork ribs. These are pricey items so when I saw the price on the front of the shelf was very reasonable I took a box which didn’t have the price on it. Shortly afterwards the manager of that section pointed out to me that these ribs that I had picked up actually cost a good bit more than the price on the side of the shelf .

       After a visit to the manager’s office and some haggling I eventually got it at the price that was on the side of the shelf.

          For a bit of fun on one occasion I went to the manager’s office and asked if somebody could help me shop. And as I was obviously the doddering 90 year that I am they sent somebody with me. It turned out that he had almost as much trouble finding things as I do.

          It’s far from good service to have a scale that is unmanned a lot of the time with the situation having been made a lot worse since they got rid of Fabi.  Why doesn’t Pick n Pay follow Woolworth’s good example by having loose fruit and vegetables weighted at the tills?



P.S. One of Pick n Pay’s Longbeach managers told me that 16 staff members had left there in recent months because of early retirement or for some other reason. Another manager put the figure at 26.



















Tuesday, December 12, 2023


 Dear Readers,

            As I live in Cape Town and nearly all the surviving members of my family are in Johannesburg I went there for my 90th birthday with Mandy, Sally and their husbands and Belinda flew in from Australia. Sally and Alan put on an excellent lunch at their home for me and the entire clan. And as you don’t turn 90 every day I had to make a speech so here it is.

            ‘Thank you for coming. I nearly didn’t make it to my own birthday celebration because I aged so drastically on the flight from Cape Town. When we landed in Joburg and everybody was waiting to disembark the two airhostesses and the Captain announced to everybody that I had just turned 100. That’s the kind of Lift you get when you fly on an airline with that name.

            ‘The fun didn’t end there. A couple of days later after I moved in here with Sally and Alan I decided to have a bath instead of a shower in one of the two full bathrooms adjoining  my room. Guess what happened next?

            ‘As a brand new centenarian I didn’t realise that I should not bath alone. I got stuck in it. Alan and Sally were out somewhere working, but fortunately Joyce the house manager heard my distress calls and she and her husband pulled me out. Luckily I didn’t lock the door otherwise I might still have been there now.

            ‘Those are the funny things that occur in my life every now and again, but the longer I live it is pockmarked with sadness. This is one of the penalties of old age. I have outlived two ex-wives and a wife, a younger brother and a half brother and two grown up children Simon and Samantha. Samantha was the mother of my grandson in England who I will never see. Currently my youngest brother 82 year old Anthony is teetering on the edge saying things like, “I’ve had a good innings.” We can only hope that he goes as painlessly as possible.

            ‘Thankfully, very much on the plus side I have the Magnificent Trio of Mum’s babies, oops, sorry LADIES, Mandy, Sally and Belinda Boo. Thanks again LADIES to you and your husbands for being such a help to me after Mum died.

The Magnificent Trio
Sally, Belinda & Mandy

          ‘I have been very fortunate to have found Andi my 55 career. She is a real gem and is better known as Handy Andi because she can fix just about anything, the TV, my computer and ME. She was not able to be here today because somebody had to look after the house and our two dogs.

          Please join me in paying tribute to all those who have been such an asset to me and in particular Rosemary Gayle Abbott. If she had not looked after me so well for a few weeks short of 50 years I too would not have been here now. They say dynamite comes in small packages. Well that was our Gaylie, who lived for other people. So can you stand and drink a toast to her and all the other people who have been so much a part of my life.




P.S. Anthony died the day before my birthday but I was only told about this a day later so as not to cloud my special day.

P.P.S. Sally and Alan gave me the T-shirt I am pictured here wearing, but as I told them at the lunch you would have thought they would have learnt by now that it is rude to ask somebody how old they are.



Saturday, September 16, 2023


 Dear Readers,

          Born in England Jim Jones was a mining journalist who edited Business Day from 1989 to 1999 when it was South Africa’s most successful financial daily. It was a sister publication to the Financial Mail magazine.

          Jones subsequently left South Africa to live in France but his newspaper connections enable him to continue working as a journalist for South African publications. This was when his dubious morality really came to the fore while he was freelancing for Business Times, the business section of the Sunday Times, in spite of the fact that he had been fired by Moneyweb, the online financial publication founded and owned by Alec Hog.

          He was Moneyweb’s Mineweb editor until he diverted $20 489 (About R200 000) due to Moneyweb by a Canadian firm into the Mauritius bank account of  P.J. News Service, which just happened to be his own company. He only returned the money after being threatened with a criminal prosecution.

          He then committed the worst of journalist crimes. He used his position as a recognised Business Times freelance writer to get back at Hog with an article that described Moneyweb’s performance as “shambolic” with “tumbling” advertising revenue etc. It could not have been more derogatory.

          “The full might of the Sunday Times was brought to bear on our small company with falsehoods published as fact and not so much as a suggestion that we be asked for a response to some of the outrageous claims,” Alec Hogg the founder of Moneyweb said at the time.

          “My initial response was to ignore the nonsense. Surely people would see through the axe grinding of a former employee who was forced to repay R200 000 that he had stolen from our company.”

          Noseweek South Africa’s only investigative magazine reported what had happened. The Sunday Times in-house ombudsman Thabo Leshilo was asked to adjudicate. I had found him particularly ineffective when dealing with my own complaints that the Sunday Times was promoting scamsters by accepting their obviously suspect get-rich-quick advertisements.

          In Moneyweb’s case he was no better. Noseweek reported he offered Hogg a 30 cm space in the paper to give his side of the story. This was cut to almost half in the editing and the frivolous headline: “Jim Jones a naughty boy indeed,” told its own story of how seriously the paper regarded what was a particularly unforgivable thing for a journalist to have done.

          It was a disgraceful whitewash job, with the Ombudsman showing his bias, like a distress flare in the middle of the night.

          At the time Jones’ stories were all over the Business Times together with his impressive byline. Then he became the willow the wisp of the business section as it got smaller and smaller, disappeared for a time only to reappear now and again at bigger and bigger intervals, but still in its hardly noticeable form as if the paper was hoping nobody would notice he was still a contributor.

          As this incident showed the Sunday Times had morals of an alley cat so its backing of a crooked reporter was to be expected.

          Jones was 81 when he died of a heart attack at his home in France.  His obituary was by freelance Jonathan Katzenellenbogen who was the economics editor of Business Day under Jones, so no wonder he just glossed over Jones’ theft of R200 000 with “Jones worked for Alec Hog but departed after a falling out.”

          He also wrote that although the Business Day circulation peaked under Jones’ Editorship the owners gave him the “push” because, according to Jones’ wife Frances Potter they believed that editors should not serve for more than 10 years. I find that story very difficult to believe. How many newspaper owners get rid of editors when their papers are at their most successful?

          Katzenellenbogen did give us some insight into Jones’ dubious side. The Financial Mail lost a court case over an article he had written and he had previously been fired by this magazine for taking time off to freelance without permission. In spite of this unacceptable record he still got the job as Editor of Business Day.


Here is the link to the first story I wrote about Jim Jones six years ago.




P.S. I never expected to find that the Sunday Times, a paper I once worked for as an investigative journalist, had sunk to the level of some of the crooks I was after.





Friday, June 9, 2023


 Dear Readers,

The Burning Bush of Bible fame has just reappeared in our garden in Cape Town. It is particularly odd that is should materialize in the garden of an infidel like me, but it is a strange world we live in.

The burning bush (or the unburnt bush) refers to an event recorded in the Jewish Torah (as also in the biblical Old Testament). It is described in the third chapter of the Book of Exodus[1] as having occurred on Mount Horeb. According to the biblical account, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name.[2] In the biblical narrative, the burning bush is the location at which Moses was appointed by Yahweh to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.



Thursday, June 8, 2023


 Dear Readers,

David Moody a paramedic in the Channel Island of Jersey who joined the pack of cyber-bullies led by BBC radio presenter Murray Norton that resulted in the death of my son Simon in 2013 has now been charged with rape.

            Moody (59) faces 20 charges involving a woman referred to only as “Miss X’ in court. He retired from the Ambulance Service on the island after more than 20 years service.

            He evidently held her captive and was said to have raped the woman twice and sodomise her as well. The charges include 12 counts of sexual penetration without consent.

            In the Magistrate’s Court the Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris said that the offences were too serious to be considered by his court and he ordered Moody to appear in the higher Royal Court in June this year (2023). He was released initially on conditional bail which shows that in Jersey even a shocking rape like this is not taken very seriously.

            No wonder nobody was held to be responsible for Simon’s death after he was relentlessly cyber-bullied over a period of two years.



Tuesday, May 2, 2023


 Dear Readers,

How many people realise that braces have a far more interesting and sexy use than for just holding up your trousers or shorts?

         I am sure that those of you who have ever worn braces will have found, unless you had a wife or girlfriend to help you that it is not easy to ensure that they are flat and the right way round behind your back. I started wearing them recently because I was sick of having my shorts fall down when the cord that was supposed to hold them up kept coming lose.

         As I no longer had anyone at home to make sure my braces were as they should be I inevitable went out with one or other of them twisted at the back. That was when I realised how strong the natural urge women have to make sure men are smartly turned out.  

         In a shopping mall a lady tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned round she asked if I minded if she straightened out my braces at the back and before I could reply she had gently done it. There is nothing like the feeling that of all the people in a huge mall you are the one she has noticed.

         I never realised until this happened that a pair of simple braces could be such a turn-on. Now I don’t go out without making absolutely sure that one or other of them or both are twisted at the back, even if it means asking a complete stranger to check this.

         Braces or suspenders as they were sometimes called went out of fashion in the 20th century when belts took over.  In any case they were usually worn under suits or jackets which would have completely nullified the kind of experience I had otherwise they could well be still very much in vogue.


         Jon a Consumer Watchdog who knows a good buy when he sees one.


P.S. I’m not trying to revise the fashion and nor am I prepared to say where I bought my braces. I COULD NOT STAND THE COMPETITION.


Sunday, April 23, 2023


 Dear Readers,

Willem Hunlun

          At the Sun Valley Checkers Hyper  in Cape Town I got somewhat lost because I entered it down the one side opposite one of the two main entrances and moved into various isles via the wide passageway that rums across the middle of what is a large store in keeping with its Hyper image. Here you find you can go right or left into the various isles but there are no signs to tell you what’s in them. These are only at the beginning where the main entrances are and at the far end of the store. And your chances of being able to find somebody to help you are remote in my experience.

          Believing that this problem could be easily solved I emailed Pieter. Engelbrecht, the CEO of Shoprite Holdings, the owners of Checkers. From a previous experience of emailing him I found him to be from the pass the buck school of CEO’s, but I still felt I should start at the top.

The signs at the beginning and end of each isle
that run the length of the store in English
to begin with & Afrikaans at the end

          However he ran true to form and passed my ‘complaint’ down to Dean Olwage, Head of Customer Relations & Experience. He replied thanking me for my email to their CEO Pieter Engelbrecht and went on to say that they had checked their Sun Valley Hyper and it “does have isle signage.” And he sent me photographs to prove it.

          I replied: “That’s very strange Dean. Why would one of your managers at the Noordhoek branch (Sun Valley) tell me that they had raised the problem of not having isles properly marked (indicating that other people apart from me had complained) with top management and this had been with them for some two years now. This is after I had been in the store and gone down the one side into various isles, which are rather long, and from where I was looking down the isles I could see nothing in the middle of them high up or anywhere to indicate what was in the particular isle I was in at the time.” 

This is the side entrance where I went in. There are
no isle signs here.
            I followed this with another email saying: “Dean I have just had another look at the pictures you sent me and it is clear that those don’t help if you cross the store in the middle because all these signs are at the beginning of the isles and only at the one end. (I mistakenly said there were none at the ends which there are but they still don’t help if you are in the middle.) So that explains why people like me have evidently been complaining.”
Here are Pick n Pay's very obvious overhead signs

I then really put my foot in it by suggesting they should follow the example set by their big rival supermarket group Pick n Pay. “You badly need signs suspended above the isles, like Pick n Pay has in several places so that wherever you happen to be in the store you can reasonably easily find what you are looking for. The way the nearby Pick n Pay (the one I was referring to is much smaller than a Hyper being an ordinary supermarket) does it is even more essential in a Checkers which is so much bigger.”

This is the passageway in the middle where there 
are no signs to tell you what is in the isles

Dean really put the kibosh on my efforts to improve the service Checkers provides with this email: “We have discussed this with the COO Checkers, Willem Hunlun. In Hyper stores like Sun Valley, there are signs at either ends of the isles, but not in the middle where isles are split by a passage. This is based on the standard store design for hyper stores and at this time we won’t amend the store design.”

So that was that.


Jon, a Consumer Watchdog who gets things done, but that’s life even I can’t always win.