Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Dear Samantha Enslin-Payne, Deputy Editor of the Business Times,

The titled of your column today (May 14) headed: Inequality: how can we face our children? should have read: How can I face my readers after this?
You wrote how difficult it was to explain to your children that the lives of Blacks in South Africa had hardly changed since the Black majority government came to power in 1994.
To back your line of thinking you quoted from the 2016-2017 annual report of the Commission for Employment Equity. As a journalist in your position I would have thought you would have analysed it in a reasonably unbiased way and not cherry-pick it to suite your own argument.
As this Commission is a Government organisation, one would hardly expect it to be anything other than very pro-Black. And that is certainly reflected in this report to a quite unnecessary extent. 
You quoted Tabea Kabinde, chairperson of the Commission as saying: “Whites, despite constituting only 9.5% of the economically active population, still took the lion’s share of top management positions in the private sector.”
Your story continues with: “Africans, who constitute 78% of the economically active population, account for 10.7% of management positions in the private sector compared to 72 % among whites.”  
Nowhere in your entire column did you mention anything about the colour of those employed in the public sector where a Black Economic Empowerment policy (old time apartheid in reverse) is the norm.
I can understand why you didn’t want to mention that because it pretty well blows your cause completely.
Tabea Kabinde

Perhaps you didn’t see or didn’t want to see that the Commission concluded that Africans hold 74.6% of the top jobs in Provincial Government and 76.0% of those in Local Government. “There is a 33.3% split between African and White males in National Government” we were told. Women evidently don’t count and if you look at a picture of the members in Parliament you don’t get the impression that there are an equal number of Blacks and Whites.
Can colonialism and apartheid be blamed forever for the slow progress of Blacks in our economy? Surely after 22 years of running the country the Blacks must take a lot of the blame for keeping the majority back with things like an appalling education system.
Also it evidently doesn’t bother you that we are still perpetuating apartheid style government by colour coding the entire population so that our rulers know who to give preferential treatment to. As you no doubt saw that report gives figures for Whites, Africans, Indians, Coloureds and Foreign Nationals, with only Blacks being classified as Africans when most, if not all the Whites, Indians and Coloureds were probably born in South Africa making them as African as anybody else.
Many of our problems with nation building will never come right until the Government leads the way by referring merely to “people” without classifying them the way it is doing.
Even though huge operations like the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Airways and the Post Office get bailout after bailout from the Government, they are still in deep financial mire.
The private sector has no such limitless backing, yet I defy you to name one large comparable company headed by a White that is in anything like the same kind of trouble.
Talking of the Post Office I am sure you know what colour the man is who has been brought in to save it. Significantly he was put there by our Black Government that wasn’t prepared to uplift one of its own by giving him or her the job.
There’s hardly anything run by the Government that is not suffering from terrible inefficiency and mind boggling graft. The railways are in a mess with Cape Town’s Metro rail inconveniencing thousands daily by having more delays than running time. Main line passenger trains are no better. They are guaranteed to stop for hours in the middle of nowhere so that passengers never have any idea when they will actually arrive at their destination. Numerous local councils are bankrupt with the Police Service and Eskom’s hierarchy in disarray. Not to mention a President hiding under a huge cloud hoping nobody will notice what he’s been up to, while prominent members of his own party call for him to step down. And that’s just a rough sample.
Oh and whose fault is it that our country has been downgraded to junk status?
These are the areas that the Commission tells us are mostly headed by Blacks so surely we must thank God for that 9.5% of Whites who are keeping the most productive part of the economy on the road. Without them we would all be even further down the drain than we already are and nobody would have a job of any kind.
It would be just as futile then, as you have done, to blame colonialism or apartheid when we know perfectly well what the real cause is.
If your column is an indication of what you are telling your children I think you are misleading them. You neglected to put things fairly in perspective by giving both sides of the story like every cub reporter learns to do at journalism school.
Unfortunately the way things are heading that small percentage of Whites, who are our life line at the moment, might soon disappear altogether. Then we’ll have to see if we are any better off with top management in the private sector being 100% Black. But it will be one hell of a gamble judging by what has already happened in the public sector.
The papers are full of stories about the rich planning their escape to other countries if radical economic transformation means having their properties seized and riots get completely out of hand. The ‘rich’ they are talking about are almost certainly 100% White.
I hope I haven’t whitewashed the seriousness of the situation.
Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman.

P.S. You are in good company when it comes to understanding the Black and White complexities of our employment situation. Advertising in your own paper for a Municipal Manager the King Cetshwayo District Municipality had this to say:
The Municipality subscribes to an Affirmative Action Programme, which is non-racist, non-sexist, non-discriminatory and based on merit.

P.P.S. For readers who don’t know Business Times is the business section of the Johannesburg based Sunday Times. Its Editor Bongani Siqoko certainly hasn’t let the country’s history hold him back. And presumably he’s in that 10.7% of Blacks who have made it to top management in the private sector.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Dear Readers,
          While the scenes of these two horrific crimes were some 13 000 km apart separated by nearly half a century, and the precise details might have been different, they have an eerie sameness about them that certainly makes one wonder how this could be possible.
          In 2015 20-year-old Henri van Breda was the only person to survive virtually unscathed when his father Martin 54; his mother Teresa 55 and his brother Rudi 22 were butchered around 3.0 am in their luxury town house on the De Zulze Winelands Golfing Estate near Cape Town. Both his parents, brother and sister were hit on the head repeatedly with an axe and Marli 16 had a gash across her throat leaving her close to death. However she recovered after being hospitalised for months, although she still suffers from retrograde amnesia and prosecutors are hoping that her memory of what happened will eventually return.
The Van Breda family in happier times
          Henri, who had a history of drug abuse, had razorblade-like cuts on his chest and a knife wound to the left side of his chest. Medical reports described them as “superficial” and “self inflicted.” All he required was treatment at the scene.

          In 1970 27-year-old Dr Jeffrey MacDonald a Princeton-educated, Green Beret army surgeon was the only person to survive virtually unscathed when his pregnant wife Colette 26 and daughters Kimberly 5 and Kristen 2 were murdered in their home near the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. Colette, who was expecting a son and her girls, were stabbed multiple times with a knife and an ice pick and were also clubbed on the head.
          Macdonald’s wounds were not severe. He was taken to hospital with minor cuts and bruises to the face as well as a stab wound to the left side of his chest which punctured his one lung. It was described as a “clean, small sharp incision” and he was released after a week.  
          One of DStv’s true life crime channels IDx has been showing The Accused Jeffrey MacDonald in South Africa in the last few weeks. 
          Almost two years after the killings when Van Breda appeared in the Cape Town High Court accused of the murders he claimed his family was hacked to death by a masked, axe wielding man wearing a balaclava, who entered their home in the early hours of the morning. He was in the toilet at the time playing games on his phone. The court was told through his lawyer that he saw the silhouette of the man hitting his brother and father and heard him laughing. His mother and sister were attacked in another room. Henri managed to wrestle the axe from the man who then stabbed him in the side with a knife before knocking him out. Inexplicably when he came round he waited four hours before raising the alarm at the high security complex after first trying to contact his girlfriend. Both the bloody axe and a knife from the kitchen downstairs were found in the apartment. 
          At 3.42 a.m. dispatchers at Fort Bragg received an emergency call from MacDonald who reported a “stabbing.” When four military police officers went to his house in Castle Drive they initially thought they were going to settle a domestic dispute. They found the front door locked and the house in darkness. After no one answered the door they went to the back of the house where they found a door wide open. Inside they were confronted with the gruesome scenes in both bedrooms. 
Colette was lying on the floor in her room with her husband’s torn pajama top draped over her chest. He was found wounded next to his wife. He told investigators that after one of the children had wet his side of the bed he had moved to the living room couch where he fell asleep. He was awakened by the children’s screams and as he got up three men, two white and one black attacked him with a club and an ice pick. A white woman with them was chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” His pajama top was pulled over his head in the scuffle and he used this to ward off the thrust from the ice pick. Eventually like Van Breda he was overcome by his assailants and knocked unconscious. The blood covered murder weapons, an ice pick, a paring knife and a length of timber ripped from Kimberly’s bed were found outside the back door.
          Van Breda’s trial is continuing while MacDonald now aged 73 remains in jail after being sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in 1979.  Van Breda is out on bail of R100 000.
          MacDonald’s story has inspired books; a TV mini series and is the most appealed case in US history. As recently as early this year his lawyers launched another appeal as he has consistently maintained his innocence.

          MacDonald was found not guilty at an army hearing and given an honourable discharge. His wife’s father-in-law Freddy Kassab initially believed in his innocence. His undoing was when he made jokes; painted himself as the person who had been wronged and showed complete indifference to what had happened to his family, when he appeared on the The Dick Cavett TV show.
          Kassab was so incensed by his behaviour that he joined forces with an army investigator to file a citizen’s complaint to have MacDonald tried in a Federal Court. In 1975 MacDonald, who had returned to work as a doctor, was arrested and given bail of $100 000.  
          Investigators concluded that an enraged Macdonald killed his wife during an argument and disposed of the children as they could have been witnesses against him. He then stabbed himself to substantiate his story that he was attacked.
          The living room where MacDonald claimed to have fought for his life against three armed assailants showed little sign of a struggle.
          They believed he tried to make it look like a Charles Manson type murder done by hippies by writing “Pig” in blood about their bed. Six months earlier in 1969 the nation had been mesmerised by the story of how the followers of cult leader Manson killed five people including actress Sharon Tate. They wrote the word “Pig” in blood on the walls where the murders took place.
          The prosecution’s reconstruction of what happened in the MacDonald home was fortified still further when they found a copy of Esquire magazine that contained a detailed account of the Mason massacre.
MacDonald as he is today
          In 1991 MacDonald became eligible for parole but refused to ask for it as he believed that would involved him having to show remorse for something he had not done. He finally applied in 2005 because he wanted to live with the woman he had married three years earlier while still in prison. But this was turned down.
He can’t apply again until 2020.
          At the parole hearing Kassab described him as a heartless psychopath who would never admit to butchering his family.
It remains to be seen what the verdict will be for the good looking Van Breda.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cape Town's Money Wasting Department is at it again where millions have already been blown away

Dear Cape Town Ratepayers,
Patricia de Lille
          Your City’s futile efforts to stabilise the sand above a rubbish dump that was closed 30 years ago have already wasted nearly R6-million. But the Council has learnt nothing from this reckless use of your money.
It has just started splurging more on a repeat of what it has proved conclusively doesn’t work. This scandal is particularly galling because there are so many more deserving causes among the poor.
My plea to the Mayor Patricia de Lille to stop this has proved fruitless and yesterday kilometres of costly, brand new netting was once again being erected on the dunes at Witsands next to a popular surfing beach not far from Cape Point.
        About a year ago netting was put up at exactly the same place after the wind exposed the rubbish and tons of sand was twice brought in by heavy earth moving equipment to cover it.
         The nets were supposed to ensure that the sand remained in place. But the strong winds that are endemic to the area just blew them and the sand away. And again the plastic and other non-biodegradable material that still remains was revealed.
This time the nets have been erected directly onto the exposed rubbish without it being first covered with sand. So if the experiment didn’t work the first time it is even more unlikely to work now.

February 2016 sand was dumper here to cover exposed rubbish
which was netted. Within a couple of months this had to be
repeated because everything had blown away 

Feb 2017 the place where the sand shown above was dumped
       and had nets put over it after it was all blown away

March 2017 part of the same area immediately above showing
the rubbish more clearly
April 2017 new nets that have just been erected over the exposed 
rubbish shown in the above two pictures
     The whole idea of all this fruitless tinkering with nature is to try and ensure that in the winter rainy season none of the existing rubbish gets washed out into the sea.
Yet the Council is making little effort to do what the international experts believe is the most cost effective and sure way of stabilising sand dunes. And that is to cover them with vegetation. This is growing naturally on either side of the 19 ha site but it doesn’t stand a chance of getting established over the dump if the Council keeps moving the sand around almost annually with heavy earth moving equipment.
        How can Patricia de Lille, her City and ours still claim to be “committed to building a Caring City, a city that does everything it can to help  those most in need of our assistance” when it regards misusing huge amounts of money on a obsolete RUBBISH DUMP as more important than people.
Jon, a disgusted ratepayer who deplores this kind of public waste which is one of the main reasons our country is being dragged into the gutter.
P.S. See: millions blown away

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Andrew Bonamour Times Media's CEO
          You would have thought that a large organisation like the Times Media Group that claims to be a “premier newspaper and magazine publisher with the most recognised brands in South Africa” would know one of the most elementary advertising legal requirements.
          Included in its stable are the Sunday Times and its daily offshoot The Times.
          For years The Times and perhaps other newspapers have been blatantly breaking the law by carrying illegal CorporateSport advertisements for its business breakfasts.
Part of Times Media's pledge
          This firm that is in sports management and marketing claims that these occasions “have become the most established breakfast forums in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and offer sponsors a cost effective and focused environment through which to impact large captive business audiences and enjoy the effective brand exposure.”
          Various high profile sporting personalities such as rugby coach Brendon Venter; Proteas cricketers Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn and All Blacks Kieran Read and Israel Dagg have been the stars of these events.

          Sponsors of the breakfasts have included firms like Vodacom, Mimecast international cloud based email managers, Landrover, Accenture the business management consultants and McCarthy Toyota. The backers of these get togethers must surely take some of the blame for what has been going on.
          But none of the top business people who have been involved in these breakfasts over the years or anybody at the Times Media Group appear to have noticed that the CorporateSport advertisements were illegal because the prices given excluded VAT.
          The VAT tax came into force in South Africa in 1991 and the South African Revenue Service’s VAT Guide begins its “10 Important Principles” with this: “All prices charged, advertised or quoted by a vendor must include VAT at the applicable rate (presently 14% for standard-rated supplies).”

Another extract from the Times Media pledge
          The earliest CoporateSport advertisement I could find was a 2013 one that gave the prices for individuals and tables of 10 marked (excl.VAT). And the firm has been breaking the law like this since then or even before that aided and abetted by The Times Media Group, which more than perhaps any other type of business should have known better.
          When I pointed this out to Andrew Bonamour the Chief Executive of Times Media in an email he replied promptly saying: “I will look into it. Thanks.”
          Oops almost a month later on 10 April I told him, “You need look no further than one of your own papers, today’s The Times.”

          In one of those quirks of life Wendy Knowler, that ace consumer expert, who writes regularly for The Times, just happened to have a page spread about advertising. In it she told us: “‘The price you see is the price you pay’” was the catchy phrase devised by the Government “many years ago when value-added tax was first introduced.”
          “By law,” she went on, “retailers had to advertise VAT-inclusive prices - and still do. So that was intended to impress on consumers that no retailer could add tax to an advertised price.”
          But undeterred CorporateSport has been doing just that.
          Bonamour passed the problem on to his General Manager Reardon Sanderson who told me he had spoken to Ross Fraser, the head of CorporateSport and “he will amend the adverts going forward. We should not have a repeat of this,” he added.
          Meanwhile my efforts to get comment from Fraser went unanswered. I assume he got my 11 April email because I checked with his PA and she phoned me back to say it had been received.
          He seems to keep out of the limelight as I could find nothing about him on the internet. So perhaps not answering my emails is just part of his hideaway approach to life.  
          In the last one I told him that as his advertisements stating “excl.VAT” were illegal then people who had paid more than the advertised price were all entitled to a refund, going back years, of 14% if that’s what they were charged. And judging by the website pictures showing the crowds of people who attend these CorporateSport gatherings this could mean a great deal of money.

          Evidently as a result of my inquiries an advertisement for the 11 May 2017 breakfast gives two prices for tables of 10 and two for individuals. One is the (excl.VAT) price while the other one is the (incl.VAT) price.

          This prompted me to email Reardon saying: “I suggest this is not right either. If ALL advertised prices have to include VAT then the ones that don’t are surely not legal. And this latest ad suggests you have a choice, to pay the price that includes VAT or the one without it.”
          I questioned why CorporateSport was so obsessed with pointing out the Vat aspect in its ads. “Surely the Vat amount is given on all its receipts and everybody who goes to the kind of event that it organises will know that VAT will be charged,” I argued.
          Reardon has yet to reply to this email.
The Times & Corporatesport finally get it right in the
paper's 21 April edition although the '(incl. VAT)' is
not necessary
         Jon, the Spoil Sport; Consumer Watchdog and Poorman’s Press Ombudsman who evidently reads the The Times a lot more thoroughly than they do at Times Media.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Dear Patricia de Lille, the Mayor of Cape Town,

          Sorry to have to repeat myself but you evidently ignored my previous requests to stop our City, yours and mine, from squandering millions more on a rubbish dump site closed 30 years ago.
          It was at about this time last year that the spend thrifts on your Council started the annual waste of money here that has so far seen something like R6-million of ratepayer’s cash being literally blown away.
May 2016 new nets

Jan 2017 nets buried and blown away
          So I am appealing to you once again to stop this misuse of our money on futile attempts to stabilise the sand dunes at Witsands, next to a popular surfing beach and boat launching slipway between Kommetjie and Scarborough not far from Cape Point.
Feb 2016 tons of sand dumped on exposed rubbish
May 2016 rubbish showing again where the sand had been
 dumped & flattened in Feb 2016
June 2016 more sand being dumped in the same place as
before because last lot had blown away
Feb 2017 back to square one where the sand shown in above
 pictures was dumped
March 2017 another section of the area immediately
          As you know all this money has been blown trying to ensure that what is left of the rubbish is covered with sand so that when the winter rains come it doesn’t get swept into the sea.
          Last year heavy earth moving equipment costing a fortune was used to shift the dunes around. They were then covered in a web of nets that were supposed to keep the sand in place in an area that is plagued by very strong winds.
          Well none of this worked. Today just about all the lines of nets have either been completely buried or flattened by the wind. And on huge sections of the 19 ha site the plastic and other non-biodegradable material that had been buried by the earth movers is now exposed because the nets failed to do the job they were designed for.  
August 2016 stream on edge of dump being deepened
Jan 2017 the place where the stream was
          When I first began making inquiries about the management of this site Johan van der Merwe, your Mayoral Committee Member responsible for Environmental Planning  told me that the wind blows the dunes around causing the waste to be expose and that the “wind netting will keep a more permanent sand ‘blanket’ and also reduce annual operating costs.”
          He also said that if the nets got buried they would be lifted from time to time so that they could continue to do the job they were intended to do. Well this virtually never happened, because if this had been done the nets would not be in the useless state they are now. 
          Please, please Patricia stop this terribly waste. It has been made even more of a scandal by the fact that a short distance away is the Black township of Masiphumelele which the City you head has clearly been neglecting.
          Why else would the Provincial Government, which like the City of Cape Town is also controlled by your party the Democratic Alliance (DA), have taken your Council to task for not ensuring that Masi’s refuse removal, toilet and other facilities were kept up to standard. The Province claimed that the City had let things slide to such an extend that there was a “significant danger to the health and well-being of the residents there.”
How far would R6-million have gone to alleviate this deplorable situation?
Is it more important to spend massive amounts of money year after unsuccessfully trying to keep the sand in place at an old rubbish dump site, than to ensure that the environment in Masi is such that the people there can live reasonably well?
In much the same way as you and your Council refuse to accept that what has been going on at the dump is ineffective, I see Cape Town is appealing the Province's directive that you should pull up your socks, as it were, in the way you are administering Masi.
This kind of thing is just asking for trouble when the poor all over the place are protesting almost daily for better living conditions.
So I implore you to ensure that not a cent more is blown away at the Witsands dump. If money has been earmarked for this it will be far better to use it in Masi.
The pictures illustrate what a criminal waste this whole exercise has been.
Jon, who is not only a blogger but is also a Cape Town ratepayer who is very much interested in how his money is used – or SQUANDERED.
See also: municipal intelligence ; scandalous dumping ; city won't stop ; wasting money ; never ending .

P.S. Blue is the DA’s colour

Monday, March 20, 2017


Dear Lovers of Free Speech,
          The Letter’s Column in today’s The Times puts Hellen Zille’s controversial tweet about colonialism being not all bad into the right perspective.
          It mirrored exactly what happens on social media and in the press in South Africa.
          If you are Black your freedom of speech, which can be just as controversial, if not more so than Zille’s tweet, can be a lot more free than if you are White saying much the same thing. And racialism as well as other kinds of prejudice is also far more serious if you are White than if you are Black.
          Under the heading Zille:Racist or truth teller? there were five letters on the subject. The first three broadly speaking supporting Zille’s view appeared to be from Whites with the last two from Blacks joining the hysteria about her remarks.

          The most telling one from Louis highlighted what the wild dogs of the media conveniently ignored when jumping on the #ZilleMustGo bandwagon.
          He pointed out that in the Saturday Star of February 4 Kabelo Chabala, who is clearly Black, wrote: “The truth is South Africa and many other African countries are better because of colonialism.  We are better developed because of the infrastructure that was built by colonisers.”
          So there are some Blacks who can see exactly what Zille was talking about through the prejudice.
          “The reaction? Not an indignant squeak,” was Louis’ comment. He added, “In the new South Africa everybody has a place. And Whites’ place is in the wrong even when we are in the right.”

          Significantly Chabala’s very balanced view appeared in Saturday Star more than a month before Zille’s tweet on 16 March. And when our impartial media that is always looking for the truth, was doing its utmost to cash in on the social network frenzy that Zille caused, did anyone hunt him down for a more extensive interview. If they did I can’t find it anywhere. 
          Social media appears to have been ominously quiet when the long running case against Jon Qwelane, the veteran journalist notorious for his homophobic views, came up again. The Times tucked the story away under the innocuous heading ‘Hate speech laws not consistent’ on one side of Page 6. A day later Zille’s crime was splashed across the front page headlined: Zille’s tweet too far.
          Compare his case with that of Penny Sparrow, an elderly, sickly former estate agent. She got into trouble early in 2016 for her tweet complaining about hordes of “monkeys” being allowed to mess up Durban’s beaches over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
          Within months she was fined R150 000 by an Equity Court with a further R5 000 in a Magistrates Court for the criminal offence of crimen injuria.
          Qwelane made his own headlines in 2008 when he outraged the gay community with a column in the Sunday Sun entitled Call me names but gay is NOT okay.
He has yet to be found guilty and sentenced, 8 years after the column appeared.
          In it he lauded Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s anti gay stance. He went on to complain that “you regularly see men kissing other men in public and shamefully flaunting what are misleadingly termed their ‘sexual preferences.’”
          He lambasted the constitution and wrote that he prayed the politicians would have “the balls” to rewrite it “to excise those sections which give license to men marrying other men, and ditto women.
          “Otherwise at this rate,” he went on, “how soon before some idiot demands to ‘marry’ an animal and that this constitution ‘allows’ it. And by the way tell the Human Rights Commission that I totally refuse to withdraw or apologise for my views, because wrong is wrong.”          
          Our own President Jacob Zuma appears to have agreed with Qwelane because in 2010, while at least one court case against him was pending, he appointed the scribe as the South African Ambassador to Uganda. Evidently in his wisdom our President felt that Qwelane would feel at home there because Uganda has outlawed homosexuality with life imprisonment being the penalty for those who transgress. The previous death sentence was apparently considered too harsh.
          In 2011 a South African Equity Court ordered him to pay R100 000 towards a gay rights group and to apologise to that community. His was a much more serious offence than Sparrow’s when one considers not only what he wrote, but that the Sunday Sun has a readership of over 2-million. In addition he made it clear that he had no intention of apologising, whereas Sparrow did just that.
          The South African Human Rights Commission received a record 350 complaints about Qwelane’s column. That’s how bad it was yet the Equity Court showed, by the penalty it arrived at that his offence was not regarded as seriously as Sparrow’s. Did his colour stand him in good stead?  
          The newspaper, which is in the Media 24 stable, printed an apology but why it was never charged for carrying such obviously contentious muck, only the state will know. Qwelane on the other hand won’t say sorry. He believes what the paper did was enough.
          That was not the end of the story. The Equity Court’s finding was annulled because Qwelane was not at the hearing as he was conveniently in Uganda at the time.
The Human Rights Commission then took up the case in which he has been challenging his conviction in the Johannesburg High Court on the basis that the parts of the Equity Act, under which he was found guilty, infringed his right to free speech.
          Various hearings have been held, sometimes without him as he claimed he was ill and it still hasn’t ended. It just goes on and on.      

          It’s a very far cry from the almost instant “justice” meted out to the little old White lady who didn’t have an editor or sub-editor to vet her thoughtless tweet before she let it loose on the world.
          There are only one or two African countries that have never been colonised. So perhaps somebody should see if their infrastructure and other facilities are up to the standard of the ones that have. But I don’t think the colonialism-was-all-bad school would want that. It might just blow their case.
          If colonialism and apartheid had nothing to commend them what will the plusses be for South Africa by grabbing prosperous farms without compensation and an affirmative action policy that rewards people essentially on colour rather than ability?  
          Jon, who believes that if all South African’s media showed the same social media maturity as Panyaza Lesufi ( most mature social media user ) we would all be a lot better off. He’s BLACK by the way.

P.S. Helen Zille is the 66 year old Premier of the Western Cape and the former leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Dear Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa,

          Surely the most important thing we need to do in our country at the moment is to ensure that the millions without a job get work, any work at any rate.
          By forcing a minimum wage of R3 500 on all employers, all you are doing is looking after the people who are already in a job when our unemployment rate is sky high at 26% and rising.
          And it could even cause some workers to lose their jobs if their employers can’t afford the new rate. By far the worst aspect is that at the same time it will ensure that a lot of those without work will never, ever be able to get started.
Letter in The Times
          In its analysis of this plan the Institute for Race Relations also believes that it will “only further limit the access to the labour market” for the unemployed.
          Sir, which would your prefer to have; a regular job that pays say R2 000 or even less per month or no job at all. Imagine, if you can, that you also have a wife and two children to support and her job as a domestic came to an end because her employer could no longer afford to pay her the minimum wage stipulated for her category when that came into force a few years ago.
          How many domestic workers lost their permanent jobs and are now working on an hourly basis a few days a week because a minimum wage was decreed for them?         
          I almost missed out on a career in journalism because of the minimum wage for reporters that was in force in Britain when I started. Typically it was a union idea -the National Union of Journalists.
          I was 22 when I arrived there from South Africa determined to become a journalist. The only problem was that according to what the Union decreed an apprentice started at 17 so a 22 year old had to be paid the rate of somebody with five years experience.
          Hardly surprisingly I battled to find anybody to take me on, even though I was happy to work for just about nothing to get a foot in the door.
Letter in The Times
          Eventually I was accepted by one of the few papers in the country that didn’t recognise a union and nobody bothered about this because it was so small. That’s where I started on a pittance and I was actually married at the time.
          It was a real sweat shop that consisted of the editor, a sadistic news editor and three very green reporters – me, another guy and a girl who was in tears almost every day. The turnover of the staff was such that after eight months I was the most experience reporter.
          It was the fastest learning school I ever experienced. For instance on my first day in a little town I had only been in for a few days the news editor asked me to report on an accident. He gave me the address and when I naively asked where this was he flew into a rage and told me to damned well look it up on the map.
          You had to report just about everything that happened there to fill the paper and if the news editor heard you had passed the registry office without noticing the confetti in the street that showed a wedding had taken place there was hell to pay. You would then be grilled by him and the editor for an hour or more.
          The training I got there enabled me to write for just about all the major British newspapers as a freelance and become an investigative journalist on The Star and the Sunday Times in Johannesburg. All of this would not have been possible if that minimum wage had been rigidly enforced.

          Of course unions love minimum wage regulations because they do what they do best; they destroy enterprise and reduced everyone to the lowest common denominator. They also ensure that nobody works at a rate that will undercut their members.
          Pandering to them however does nothing to ensure that the majority have a job, any job as long as they can earn something.

          Fortunately like so many of our African National Congress master plans a minimum wage is unlikely to work because the policing will be so bad. We have lived in the same place for the last 10 years and nobody has every come to us to ensure that we pay our maid the required minimum.
          Jon who believes that anything that stifles freedom of choice in the job market can only be bad, very bad.        


Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Dear Capetonians,
Philip Prins
            As fires are a regular occurrence all round Cape Town every year you would think that the Table Mountain National Park’s (TMNP) experts would know how to deal with them by now.
          When this one started in the early hours of Sunday 12 February their advice ensured that not only were people and homes needlessly endangered, but a huge amount of money was spent unnecessarily on fire fighting helicopters. 
            Arsonists evidently started it, but the way it was dealt with you would be excused if you thought it was one of TMNP’s “prescribed burns” that it does from time to time as part of its ecological management.  
            It involved the Noordhoek wetlands, an uninhabited flat, sandy area of 100 hectares or more next to the sea not far from Cape Point. This is covered in indigenous fynbos and other highly combustible vegetation.
            On the side opposite the sea, below a nearby mountain is the Wildervoel vlei, an expanse of water that varies from several hundred meters wide to a stone’s throw across as it meanders down to the sea. While it used to be dry at this time of year in the Cape’s rainless summers, this no longer happens as it is fed continuously with treated effluent from the nearby sewage works.
Fire approaching built up area
            On the mountain side of the vlei going up to Kommetjie Road there are various up-market housing developments at the one end and at the other there is a light industrial zone following by the heavily populated black township of Masiphumelele with its numerous shack settlements and low cost housing.

             It was no place to be playing with fire.
            The wetlands are controlled by TMNP a division of South African National Parks (SANParks) and the built up areas come under the jurisdiction of the Cape Town City Council. 
          So it would seem that the City had no option other than to go along with the decision of the TMNP boffins to just let it burn.
          Day and night it blazed away with the authorities apparently unaware that people living in the area were scared to death, having sleepless nights with their windows glowing red. Many of them would have seen it creeping along the edge of the water and heard the ominous crackle when it got among the thick reeds beds along the vlei’s edge as it jumped the water to the side where everybody lives.
            I live a couple of streets above the vlei in the Imhoff’s Gift estate so I had a grandstand view of the fire from our upstairs bedroom as it flared up in numerous different places.  
Inside our upstairs bedroom even though we were quite
a distance from the fires.
            With a near hurricane blowing it could have gone anywhere while the master minds of this fiasco were no doubt sleeping peacefully nowhere near a fire.
            In an email Philip Prins TMNP’s Fire Manager explained the bizarre thinking behind what was very nearly a serious disaster. “After consulting with Park Management, ecologists and the City of Cape Town it was decided to allow the fire to slowly back burn into the wind. No threat to lives or property was established at the time and SANParks and Cape Town officials monitored it to ensure it did not threaten any lives or homes.”
            It seems that Prins was very ill informed because that’s exactly what it did do.
            On the night of Day 3 Tuesday 14 February it really got going among the reeds in front of Imhoff’s Gift estate. Franko Maritz and his family could see the flames frighteningly close to their waterside home on the one edge of the estate next to the industrial park. At 8 pm they called the City Fire Department only to be told they didn’t have the resources to deal with it but were monitoring the fire. Four agonising hours later a fire engine arrived just in time to put out what was burning just 50 meters or so in front of their property.
Burnt out reeds close to the Maritz home
Tinder-dry grass and reeds in front of the homes
            It was a very close call because if the fire had gone any further it would have been into the very dry grass and other reeds that are in front of all the properties along the side of the water. At the other end of the estate it was just as scary.
           Prins went on to say: “On Wednesday 15th the wind switched direction and unfortunately due to a temperature inversion the smoke was trapped until it lifted by midday. The helicopters were called in immediately to prevent the fire from reaching the urban boundary near Imhoff’s Gift.”
            This had already happened more than 12 hours before but the helicopters couldn’t take off in the dark or fly through the smoke. However the fire had by no means been put out by the end of that day.
            That’s what happens when you play with fire.
            He added that “around Imhoff there was a very dense thicket of vegetation on very soft sand which makes it extremely difficult for wildfire fighters to access the area with their equipment and remain safe, making fire fighting extremely dangerous in this area.”
            That was another very good reason why his department should not have been playing with fire there.
            On Thurs 16 February a helicopter continued to water bomb the area, but by this time it had 20 or 30 separate fires spread over a wide area to put out. And inexplicably instead of taking water from the vlei it flew several kilometres a time to fetch it from the sea.

            At something like R30 000 an hour this just put up the helicopter costs considerable.
            When I asked Prins why sea water was used as I always thought this was bad for the soil he gave me this very strange answer: “TMNP is very aware of the water crisis in Cape Town and is trying to minimise the use of any municipal water to fight fires, as a result the helicopters were requested to use sea water rather than any fresh water sources which could deplete water reserves.”
First day of helicopter bombing
Fires were still going strong after the helicopter's first day
in the air
            Since when do you have “fresh” water in a vlei fed by treated effluent that often becomes very toxic because of the algae that grows in it? If anybody should have known this it should have been Philip Prins the Parks Department’s fire chief.
            In the past helicopters have often taken water from it to put out fires, so it was odd to say the least that this was not done on this occasion.
          At a rough estimate the helicopter costs were R300 000. This would have been a lot less if one had been used on the Sunday when the fire first started and would have been so much easier to put out.
          One has to face the fact that this was an irresponsible bungle that could so easily have resulted in the loss of lives and homes.
If cigarette manufacturers have to give this warning
shouldn't the Parks Department have to give a similar one
          As the advertisement for Nandos flame grilled peri-peri chicken restaurants tells us: “25 years and still playing with fire.”It might be fine for Nando’s but the Parks Department showed on the Noordhoek wetlands that it is not a game it should be playing.  
It’s just too dangerous.
Jon, who wonders if the Park’s experts realise that it’s not only the flames themselves that can affect people lives but the smoke as well, not to mention the powdery ash that is blown about afterwards.
This could be what Cape Town's like soon if arsonists
       and the Parks Department go on playing with fire
P.S. Undeterred the Park has just announced it plans to play with fire once again near Cape Point; at Black Hill from Sun Valley to Glencairn; on Roodeberg in the Capri Village area; off Orphen Road, Tokai and at Constantia Nek by starting its own “controlled burns” in March and April. But don’t worry these will be “supervised strictly by TMNP” – like the one in the Noordhoek wetlands presumably.