Sunday, March 17, 2019


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.
          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.

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