Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Criminals' delight - big fat cops

Dear Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa,
       Is anything really being done to get our South African cops into shape?
         Your previous deputy Fikile Mbalula, who by coincidence now happens to be our Minister of Sport, attacked our Police officers for not being fit enough to catch a bus let alone any criminals.
        He accused them of ballooning after leaving training colleges. He went further by saying They can’t be busy massaging their beer bellies when criminals are on the run.
       Are you fit enough to fight the criminals, he asked. If not the police service is not for you. We need officers who can match criminals pound for pound.
        That pound for pound part was a bit ambiguous, but I think we all got the message.
        Fikile’s outburst about fat cops was more than a year ago. So you would have thought that some hard graft would have been introduced after that.
But if the latest South African Police Service magazine is anything to go by Fikile’s get fit ideas went the way of so many Police dockets. They got lost.
         The magazine tells us that at the Force’s (sorry is it Service or are we going back to the more feared Force again) 2011 Functional Fitness Championship there were only 350 competitors out of a total of 150 000 policemen in the country. And eight of these got certificates for having competed in the Champs for the last 10 years.
        Were these 350 the only ones fit enough to compete or were they the best from all our nine provinces?
         Whatever the answer it seems that the compiler of the article was so hard pressed to find photographs of athletic looking officers who had taken part that the anonymous, pot bellied gentleman shown above had to be included among the four illustrations
         I hope he didn’t do himself an injury struggling over the 12 obstacles that were designed to take into account the kind of things members might encounter when chasing crooks.
         Being a Police publication the magazine had to have a mystery.
I see he was wearing a 2010 T-shirt. Did this mean he wasn’t awarded one for 2011, or did the magazine, which is very amateurish, take his photograph from a file when he in fact didn’t even take part in the 2011 Champs?
We’ll have to get the CID to answer that one.
Either way his picture is a terrible advertisement for the state of our cops and for the Functional Fitness Championship which has been going for 13 years. And if it is representative of the entire Force then Fikile’s criticisms needs to be taken a lot more seriously.
Our diminutive Fikile was bound to come to grief throwing his weight around with the big boys. No wonder he got moved from Police to Sport because it was bad for moral to have him picking on pot bellies and big bums. You’ve got to have something to give the criminals a laugh.
But he took the Sport portfolio even more seriously than the Police one and gave everybody a laugh. The athletic Fikile’s high jinks with model Joyce Molamu were a perfect recipe for getting your cops into shape.


And think how popular this kind of gym work would be.


Joyce said she became pregnant on her first date with the married Minister. He admitted having sex with her and using a condom, but it broke. He must have been using one of those poor quality, Government issue ones.
He claimed he had been separated from his wife and it was only when they got together again that Joyce became bitter when this gallant, sportsman dumped her.
Aren’t our cops compelled to keep fit, Mr Minister? I see officers claim there are no exercise programmes and that many of them put on weight because they eat so much junk food bought from street hawkers while on duty.
What about hiring Joyce as a consultant? I’m sure you would have no problem getting most officers to keep fit classes if she was there.
Yours respectfully,
Jon, a concerned citizen who was turned down by the Force because his 100 m over obstacles was not  below 10.510 seconds.  
                           

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Consumer Watch - Not-so-Cheap-&-Very-Nasty car hire

Dear Consumers,
       If you want to hire a car in Johannesburg steer clear of the one in Republic Road in the suburb of Randburg which has a large billboard on the roadside advertising cars at R99 per day.
         I had a lucky escape at Not-so-Cheap-&-Very-Nasty, real name Cheaper Car Hire after I went there because my brother-in-law’s daughter hired a car from there without any problems.
         That R99 sign is just a come on because the firm’s documentation that hirers get doesn’t mention it and has rates starting at R139 day.  I would love to hear from anybody who managed to get one at the lower price.
         When I phoned I was told that all the cars at R99 had been taken by corporates on long terms. Well, as I subsequently found out, no firm in it’s right mind would hire one of Cheaper’s old bangers.
         I was told the best rate was R139 a day for a minimum of five days. That turned out to be a lie as there was an additional admin fee of R91.20, which they didn’t mention when I phoned.
So that made this cheap hire R157.24 a day. Not so cheap after all. There Miss I-don’t-care was behind a desk and she certainly lived up to her name with very indifferent service that turned out to be almost as bad as the car I got.
After giving her cash for the rental and my credit card to cover the R5000 required in case of an accident she asked me for proof of home address in the form of a rates or telephone account for my home in Cape Town 1 500 km away. Who carries this with them when they travel and what other car hire company asks for this?
I asked Miss I-don’t-care if I could speak to the owner about this as well as her indifferent service and she replied I don’t care. According to her he was conveniently in Australia and the only name she would give for him was Craig. She was not allowed to give his surname, she claimed.
Anyway I managed to provide proof for the address of my daughter’s home in Johannesburg where my wife and I were staying and went out to inspect the Volkswagen Chico Golf that I was to drive.
The check list on the Pre- rental form had a cross next to gear lock and the staff member I was with explained that the U shaped pin that locked the gear lever had been lost.
 So I asked for a car that had one because I would not have been able to insure my own car without a gear lock. We looked at half a dozen other cars all of which had no gear locks so I ended up taking the one I started with. 
The bodywork had some dents here and there which I had expected for a so called cheap car but it was only when I drove away that I realised how bad the mechanical side was.
I had to push the foot brake to the floor to get it to come on and even then I had doubts about its efficiency. When I stopped at the entrance to my daughter’s townhouse complex after going only a few km I battled to start the car even though the choke had been jammed in the full on position.
I immediately returned the vehicle and on the way there I found the hooter didn’t work which was another indication that the vehicle was not roadworthy.
And, judging by the hire agreement I had to sign, I was extremely lucky to get my money back. Highlighted in the agreement was a clause that stated that I had to pay R590 plus Vat if I cancelled under any circumstances.
I only noticed afterwards that the check-list showed that there were four different makes of tyre on the vehicle turning it into a dangerous death trap, a tyre dealer told me.
As you can see from the insert from the consumer website Hellopeter somebody else was not so lucky. He got ripped off for R1 000 for a four day hire which he described as the worst experience I have had with a care hire co. 
Hopefully Not-so-Cheap-and-Very-Nasty’s unroadworthy vehicles will soon be off the road. I’ve given Superintendent Wayne Minnaar, the spokesman for the Johannesburg’s Metro Traffic Cops, details of my experience as well as the one on Hellopeter.
It turns out that the person that Miss I-don’t-care was making such a mystery of is Craig Freeman at carcch@telkomsa.net. He answers emails when they involve a potential booking, but don’t expect an answer when you have a complaint.
Surely Australia is not so off the map that they can’t get emails, but perhaps not with a telkomsa.net address.
Regards,
Jon, the Not-so-Wide-Awake Consumer Watchdog. 

 P.S. Rentalcars were offering cars in Johannesburg from R139 and they guaranteed they would be from leading suppliers such at Budget, Europcar, Hertz etc.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon com It s a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Comedy airline's true toilet joke

Dear Erik Venter Chief Executive of Kulula Airlines,
        It’s all very well having a low cost airline that made its name by being funny, but the jokes mustn’t be at the expense of the passengers.
         Coming up with the first budget airline in South Africa was a stroke of genius for your Johannesburg based Comair, which is the franchisee for British Airways.
It was also a brilliant, publicity idea to have all kinds of graffiti on the outside of Kulula’s Boeing 737s. Like the one under the nose saying Big Cheese with an arrow pointing to the cockpit. Or a square marked Loo - or mile high club initiation chamber and large arrows on the side of the aircraft with a sign saying This way up.
        And the air hostesses carried on the fun with announcements like: Ladies and Gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section is on the wing. If you can light em, you can smoke em. Here’s another one: Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.
        All this is nothing new to you of course but I wonder how much you know about the not so funny side. 
        When my wife and I flew to Johannesburg from Cape Town just before Christmas on one of your flights we were in the last row at the back next to two toilets.
The one had an Out of Order sticker on it and nobody, including your cabin crew, seemed to be able to make out whether this was true or just one of your jokes.
JON on his own GREEN toilet
         After I had seen several people going in there I asked an air hostess if it was really out of order and she said somebody had probably forgotten to remove the sign.
        When I said, I hope they don’t have one of those on the engines she replied, I hope so too.
Shortly afterwards, while I was standing in the isle and my wife was in the other toilet a small boy came to use the toilet so I told him he could go into the Out of Order one.
         It’s got no water, he told me dejectedly having already tumbled to the joke in the smelliest possible way.
Is this one of your schemes to give your planes extra propulsion?
         As I didn’t want anybody else to kick up a stink I told an air hostess about this and she immediately locked the door.
         That left just two toilets for 186 people, but I suppose that’s why you have those bags in the pockets in front of every seat. Are they really strong enough to be used for purposes other than if you are air sick?  
         In your in flight magazine you list the pay-as-you-eat food available, proudly supplied by Woolworths. Well on our flight there were no muffins, so the joke was on us.
         A friend who travelled from Durban to Cape Town over the holiday period also experienced one of your poor maintenance jokes. The catch on the turn down table in front of him had broken so the entire table had been taped firmly in the closed position. It couldn’t have been much fun trying to hold a drink while eating something at the same time, especially if there had been  turbulence. 
         My last howler concerns the steward, who appeared to be the only male among our cabin crew. When I saw women struggling to put their bags in the overhead bins I asked him why he didn’t help them.
His answer was that they were not allowed to do this because one of his colleagues hurt his back putting up a bag and as he could no longer work he was laid off. While Superman was watching I saw air hostesses further down the plane doing exactly what our Hero was too frail to do.
Please let me know which of these experiences that I have mentioned were not supposed to happen or were part of your Keep-pulling-the-Passenger’s leg policy.
If your maintenance crew can’t fix a toilet and a table catch, it becomes very scary when one thinks about what happens when they start tinkering with an engine.
How about this for an announcement? Thank you for flying with Kulula. Anybody who can tell our jokes from reality will get a year’s supply of Woolworth’s muffins for free, if they have any. And next year graffiti will be allowed inside the planes and you will find spray cans, crayons etc underneath your seats instead of lifejackets, so we’ll try not to fly over water.
Sorry if I got a bit muddled up with the pictures in this letter. It’s not you with the Captain’s cap on at the beginning. I assume you will recognise yourself a little further down.
Happy landings,
Yours,
Jon, a Special Air Services trained parachute jumper and Consumer Watchdog with a strong sense of smell. 
P.S. As you can see I'm a bit of a toilet expert. That's yours truly relaxing on one of the latest Green aircraft.

Here's Erik Venter's answer
Dear Jon,
I am confident that we have the best maintenance in South Africa. While it is performed by SA Technical, we also have our own engineers to oversee the work. SA Technical is the only maintenance facility in South Africa to have International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit accreditation and we are also audited by British Airways and the fuel companies (kulula is the only low cost airline in South Africa approved by the fuel companies for their corporate travel).
Minor faults that occur in the cabin during the day might have to be left until the aircraft is available at night.
It does occasionally happen that due to unusually high water usage the water for a toilet might run out for the return to Johannesburg, in which case a technician will put an “out of order” sign on the door. The toilet can be used as it works on a vacuum system, but it is not ideal. The crew have been told to direct customers to the toilets with water, but if there is a high demand then the dry toilet can be used.
Regarding the crew assistance with overhead luggage. I will follow up on this. There is no reason for crew not to assist passengers with luggage as the weight limit for cabin luggage is 8kg. If a crew member can not handle this we will ensure that he/she spends some time in the gym.
Best regards,
Erik

Friday, January 6, 2012

Judging High Court Judges

Dear Judges everywhere,
         First we had advocates judging advocates (see Honesty-a headache for Judge to be).What a farce! All it proved was what a bad idea this is.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that two factions of the Pretoria Bar Council could not agree on what honesty is – something that is elementary even in kindergarten – 13 crooked advocates who ripped off the South Africa Government’s Road Accident Fund might well have got away with token punishments while being allowed to keep their wages of sin totalling millions.
When the ball was thrown into the court of Judges Kees Van Dijkhorst, Piet Combrinck and William de Villiers they listed their qualifications for the job as our long experience as advocates and on the Bench. Modesty prevented them from mentioning that two of them (Van Dijkhost and De Villiers) were previous Chairmen of the Pretoria Bar.
Excuse me Your Honours, but shouldn’t that part about having been advocates be a disqualification rather than a reference? If you were picking a jury wouldn’t you object if three of them had this kind of relationship to the accused?
You were in effect being asked to judge family and there is something terribly wrong with a system that puts you in that position.
And I’m sorry Your Honours but I think you blew you own argument in your judgment when you decided to allow seven of them to go on practicing when all 13 had agreed that they had been dishonest.
From legal history you quoted what was expected of an advocate as defined by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal and you can’t go much higher than that. The preservation of a high standard of professional ethics having thus been left almost entirely in the hands of individual practitioners, it stands to reason, firstly that absolute personal integrity and scrupulous honesty are demanded of each of them and, secondly, that a practitioner who lacks these qualities cannot be expected to play his part.
Did you miss that bit about absolute personal integrity and scrupulous honesty? According to my humble interpretation this leaves no room for dishonest advocates who should all be kicked out of the profession.
Yet you stated that this involved weighing up the conduct complained of against the conduct expected of an advocated and this was a value judgment.
Well it’s beyond me how your value judgment complied with what the Supreme Court of Appeal had to say on the matter.
You effectively turned the English language upside down by telling us there are degrees of dishonesty that can still comply with absolute personal integrity and scrupulous honesty.
You muddied the waters still further by quoting from decided cases. Your first example was that even when an advocated had been found to be dishonest he could escape being struck off if there were exceptional circumstances. But you also said that these decided cases were not binding on a court’s discretion so what was the point of mentioning them.
If one goes on your judgment Your Honours it seems that just being an advocate, especially a Senior Counsel qualifies as an exceptional circumstance. As a layman I would have thought that instead of putting the two Senior Counsel, who were in this rogues’ gallery, into the group that should be allowed to go on with their job, you should have given them an even heavier penalty than the ordinary advocates.
And that’s ignoring the fact that all of them should have been sent packing.
Some of your other references to decided cases indicate how the law pussy foots around when it comes to dealing with its own.
 It is apparently considered unbecoming and disgraceful for those who profess to have knowledge of the law to be ignorant of the laws of the land.
No really. Do you need a court to spell that out? No wonder some advocates have such a problem defining honesty.
And the systematic breaking of the rules to which an advocate subscribes may indicate a lack of responsibility and integrity which is characteristic of an advocate. What only MAY?  And if this case of the 13 is a yardstick Your Honours it is far fetched to describe integrity as being characteristic of an advocate.
It now looks as though the Supreme Court of Appeal is going to be asked to do the job all over again because the General Council of the Bar, the umbrella body for the Pretoria Bar and the other Bars in the country, is taking the matter to this court to have the remaining Magnificent Seven struck from the roll.
Honestly the law’s an ass or is the legal term arse?
Yours faithfully,
Jon, a Barman of repute. 


P.S. Pictured is Senior Counsel Brenton Geach hiding his identity outside court as poorly as he hid his thieving ways. 


Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon Kindle  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.