Monday, December 12, 2011

Defining 'HONESTY' - a headache for Judge to be

Dear Lovers of the Truth,
Honestly this it the truth, the Gospel truth, and nothing but the truth, according to my advocate.
          It looks as though the honesty bar has been set far too high for South Africa’s judges and lawyers; a recent court case has shown.
          What is even more sickening is that there are people in the advocates profession charged with upholding ethics who rally round rotten colleagues in an effort to let them off as lightly as possible. There are Judges too, who watch the show in court, and remain silent. 
          Three High Court judges were asked to decide whether 13 advocates, who they picturesquely described as having mounted the steed of greed, should be allowed to continue riding to bank their ill gotten gains.
         They had ripped off the Government’s Road Accident Fund (RAF) for millions by taking two or more briefs a day and charging a day’s fee for each one.
         The judgment makes fascinating reading.  It revealed that there is such an insidious rot in the justice system that advocates in high places can’t even agree on what is honest.
          Before the judges were asked to make a decision the men were dealt with by the disciplinary committees of their regional Bar Council in Pretoria. That’s when the word honest became such a thorny issue.
          The first hearing dealt with 10 of the men. It was headed by Hennie de Vos, a Senior Council no less, who is now a Judge. It decided that they all acted honestly, admirably and in the interests of the public and the furtherance of the administration of justice in helping to clear the congested court roll. Their breaches of the rules were not to be condoned but were not dishonest.
          With pals like that you can’t go wrong. How could anybody possible think that it was dishonest to charge for hours not worked and to overcharge as well. Billing for a day as long as 49 hours is nothing more than dedication it seems, if you are being judged by your friendly peers.
          Two more appeared at the next hearing headed by Louis Vorster SC who is now an Acting Judge, and it took a diametrically opposite view on the same facts. It decided, what the first tribunal should have done, that these advocates had been dishonest and that a Court should order them to be struck off the roll.
Their user friendly Bar Council then galloped to their aid. It sided with the first honest definition and refused to accept the second one. It imposed sanctions similar to the ones given to the initial 10.
All of them were fined between R16 000 and R230 000 and as the judges observed, It strikes one as odd that the Bar Council did not required them to make amends by returning the ill-gotten gains.
You can say that again Your Honours considering the amounts involved ranged between R94 000 and R1.9-million. The Bar Council evidently believed that enterprise on this scale should be rewarded.
It did give them a token, additional penalty by suspending them for between one and six months. Hardly a hardship when you are a millionaire.
        More importantly everybody could go on kidding themselves that advocates were like George Washington, who could never tell a lie, and were as honest as any client could possibly want.
          Unfortunately for these virtuous gentlemen the three judges ruled in favour of the second definition of honesty saying that the De Vos hearing had closed its eyes to the obvious and that sanctimonious statements that they were doing this to help the Court to combat the congested roll do not wash.
But they too showed a soft spot for their fellow legal practitioners. Having said that if dishonesty was involved only exceptional circumstances would prevent somebody from being removed from the roll Your Honours only struck off six of the offenders.
It was hard to believe that more than 50% of these dishonest advocates, who had been at the Bar for up to 32 years and had all pleaded guilty, could be classified as exceptions for reasons like, appears not to have been actuated by greed(he filched R984 000, but luckily he was not greedy) ; expressed regret; blew the whistle on himself; felt ashamed and so on.
          The judges ordered all of them to return their wages of sin to the RAF. The other penalties that the Bar Council had imposed remained. It’s hardly a great imposition to have to refund money that you have had the use of, interest free for ages. To cushion the blow some were allowed to repay it in 12 monthly instalments.
         Four even had the gall to ask for the repayments to be reduced by 33% to account for income tax which they might not be able to recover from the Receiver of Revenue.
          It would be interest to know how much of the loot had been reflected in the tax returns of these pillars of the legal fraternity.
         The judges asked, Why did the Bar Council fiddle while Rome burnt? The evidence showed that the problem had been going on for years because there was a widely held fallacy that without a specific complaint no action could be taken. This was like a fire brigade that sees a fire but fails to deal with it because there has been no complaint.
         In 2007 Sam Maritz SC, convenor of the Professional and Ethics Committee, countered suggestions that nothing was being done saying that the problem had virtually disappeared and helpfully he flatly refused to become a policeman.

         No wonder the fires blazed on.

          And it was not surprising that Maritz’s name should pop up again as a member of the De Vos panel that found there was no dishonesty involved.
         Most disturbing of all was what the beaks had to say about their fellow judges. They shut their eyes to this insidious practice of double briefing and even commended some advocates for their help in combating the congestion of the trial roll.
         Then there were all those attorneys who instructed these advocates knowing perfectly well what was going on, who must also share the blame.
         So that’s how bad it has got. In 2006 a warning circular was ignored. And as what the judges dealt with only concerned the year 2009, nobody knows who got away with what.
It’s debatable whether any more thieves will be caught with their hands in the till when there are so many people whose legal expertise extends to sweeping the muck under the carpet.
What happened to number 13 you are probably asking? He was by far the worst of this Millionaire’s Club, yet his disciplinary hearing had not been completed. But at the request of the Pretoria Bar, of which he had been a member for 25 years, the judges struck him off and ordered him to repay the R5.9-million he received in just eight months.
Inexplicably he got away without a fine.
Of course run of the mill crooks, who are not in the sheltered employment of the legal profession, would not only lose their jobs but be sent to jail for doing what these advocates have done.

So isn’t it time that the law treated everybody equally?

An outraged,

P.S. I have cancelled my application to operate an honesty bar at the advocate’s club and the picture (top right) is not of the Klu Klux Klan, but a proud member of the Millionaires Club leaving court.

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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Man's real forte`- buggering up our planet

Dear Green People,
         All this Greening nonsense is wishful thinking in the extreme. Thousands of delegates have attended the BO17 (there’s no deodorant yet invented for that) conference in Durban where they waffled away for days and came away with nothing that will have any noticeable affect on Global Warming.
         Polar bears will continue to be on ever thinning ice and so will the rest of us while the real problem will go on being ignored.
         The South African Government wasted R200-million on this junket and if you add on what the thousands of delegates spent on flights, their accommodation etc the total cost could have been double that or more.
        Could any of those who attended tell me how many trees you can plant for 200 – million grand?
         To coincide with this massive holiday by the sea the local papers and TV channels were full of ridiculous advertisements telling us how everything would be rosy if only we would turn off the lights and that sort of thing.
         They also ignored the real problem.
         Probably half the 7-billion people in the world don’t even have lights to turn off. And even if they had and we all agreed to have two nights a week in complete darkness it wouldn’t help one bit while the factories in the industrialised nations like China and the USA continue to belch out hot air in ever increasing volumes.
         Added to this lethal concoction you have nuclear power stations that melt down every now and again. And ironically South Africa has plans to build plenty more of these as well coal fired ones while it’s Government was trying to convince the conference that everybody else should go Green.
So it’s obvious that you might as well leave you lights on 24/7 because that’s not what’s doing the damage.
         Still the real problem went unrecognised.
         If the rich nations don’t care about putting a break on Global Warming unless it can be done without affecting their pockets who in their right mind can expect  the poor to do anything about it. If you’ve got nothing, a tree is something to be cut down for firewood or to sell. It’s not something you plant when it won’t benefit you in your life time.
         All those delegates spent days at this COPOUT 17, trying to agree on a repeat of the pathetic Kyoto Protocol. That momentous non-event committed 37 developed countries to reduce their stinking footprints to 5% below their 1990 levels (whatever they were) by 2012. Five percent; that’s just a couple of fags for every person on the planet.
         Even if these squabbling countries agree to continue this charade it will take them 220 years to get to a 50% reduction and by then we will all be underwater or gassed by an atmosphere that you’ll have a job cutting with a knife.
        As man can’t even run many families successfully let alone entire countries what chance is there that he can put the world right when he has buggered it up himself.
         That’s why nature is stepping in as it has done since time began. And when it gets going democracy goes out of the window and it doesn’t waist time in endless, fruitless conferences.
         Over population that’s our real problem, which nobody wants to mention. No wonder you can’t see the trees for the people.
         Man might have come up with fantastic inventions but his real forte` is letting his you-know-what and his uncontrolled greed ruin our planet.
But don’t worry nature will sort this out in its own ruthless way without the help of Facebook or Twitter.
         It will take out those who man doesn’t kill with earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, floods, droughts, hurricanes, diseases and a few other things that it will no doubt come up with along the way.
         And when the population has been cut by half perhaps the world will cool down and get back to normal so that man can start buggering it up again.
More ominously nature might not give him a second chance.
         Who was it that wiped out the dinosaurs?
         Yours despondently,
         Jon, who is desperately trying to find a desert island that won’t be under water. 

P.S. While the delegates were procrastinating in Durban nature was getting on with  the job very efficiently outside the conference centre where its wild weather brought floods that killed eight people. 

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Great Walls of Shame

 Dear Minister of Police,
         In South Africa the very rich are ignoring history and it’s the fault of your Government.
         It teaches us that high, thick walls were a great means of defense in the days when the only weapons available were bows and arrows, swords and the like. Then with the advent of gunpowder and artillery the wall became obsolete.
         The most famous wall of all is the Great Wall of China. That was effective for centuries. Now it is nothing more than a tourist attraction.
        But South Africans are determined to turn the clock back by building thicker and higher walls to protect themselves from gangs of burglars, rapists and murderers, who are invading homes all over the place, often armed with up-to-date weapons. Put these walls end to end and who knows one day they could stretch as far that one in China.
         It all happened after the advent of your African National Congress Government in 1994 because you let crime get completely out of hand.  
         Nowhere are these walls more evident than in Johannesburg. There, as the crime levels have gone higher and higher, so have the walls. Up and up they go as money, bricks and cement gets poured into them at an astonishing rate. 
         Many have got one up on the one in China. A wall five meters high, higher than the average house, is not considered enough protection by itself, it still has to have an electric fence on the top.
         I’m sure there’s one round your house. And how much of our precious resources are going into these fortifications when they would be far better spent on uplifting the masses?
         The next logical step in the great fortify-your-home race would be to have a moat inside the boundary ramparts with a drawbridge at the gate. That would provide an extra obstacle for the cat burglar, who arrives with ropes and pitons or a grappling-iron.  
         In the morning the gardener could fish out the ones who could not swim. Think of all the prestige a moat could bring. For the slightly less, well healed owners it could double as a swimming pool.
         Everywhere the rich are barricading themselves like a tortoise going into its shell. But like the tortoise they have to come out some time and that’s when they are so vulnerable to predators.
         The predators are after their flashy limousines, their diamond rings, their big bucks, their cell phones and anything else of value. As you know they think nothing of killing to get what they want, or just for the thrill of it. It’s scary and the more you’ve got the scarier it gets.
         For every meter a boundary wall goes up those prying eyes on the outside are registering that as the owner has so much to protect, they will have be more ingenious or  more vicious to steal what’s inside. 
         So does it really pay to advertise wealth with those high walls in a land where the majority can not afford to build just one meter of one of them?  
         Some walls are so high that for the people inside and their neighbours sunrise in winter is close to mid-day with sunset around the middle of the afternoon. Talk about interfering with nature.
         And what’s worse is that an environmental impact study is not required before permission is granted to put one up. Protection is the new buzz word that over rides everything else.
         Of course people can have their 4X4 , their fancy BMW or Mercedes Benz armour plated, the equivalent of having a wall around their vehicle.  It will enable them to get in and out of their fortress without being hijacked or shot.
         But once they’ve left their home environment this moving safe deposit box only keeps them in one piece as long as they don’t get out of it.
         These high walls are already becoming obsolete as ingenious crooks have come up with a Trojan horse. They rent a home inside the ramparts of a posh townhouse complex and continue to rampage among the rich.
         Will the day ever come do you think Mr Minister, when the Great Walls of South Africa will be nothing more than tourist attractions?
         Will there be a time when a guide points to the walls and says, Those were built to keep invading hordes of thieving, murdering have-nots from plundering the homes of the haves. But fortunately these days they are no longer necessary. They remain just a reminder of our evil past.
         Sadly I don’t think I’ll live to see that day unless we get a new Government that can tackle the crime problem far more effectively than you and your colleagues are doing now.
Talk, talk and more talk without effective action will never get the job done.
Yours truly,
Jon, a Chinese trained wall builder of distinction. 

P.S. It doesn’t do much to discourage crime when our country’s overall Police Chief gets 15 years for corruption and his successor is suspended for much the same thing. 

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.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Smoke and mirrors - cigarette adverts by another name

Dear Newspaper Readers,
It’s amazing how papers that have made their names to a large extent on their investigative abilities have two types of morality. There’s one for advertisers and another one for non-advertisers.
         Non-advertisers accused of all kinds of suspect activities will get nailed to the wall, but paying customers are immune from this kind of treatment.
         Is this what they call journalistic licence? Is advertising allowed to have more flexible morals than the rest of the paper? Is this what they mean when they say, money talks?
        Both the Johannesburg based Sunday Times and the Mail and Guardian (M&G) have greedily carried huge cigarette advertisements from British American Tobacco (BAT). In the M&G it was a whole page and in the Sunday Times, which has a larger format, it took up half a page.  
         These probably raked in a total of close to half a million bucks for these papers.
         What’s wrong with that you might ask? Nothing much except the suspect part was that BAT was using smoke and mirrors to get round the South African law that banns the advertising of tobacco products.
What was even more disturbing was that the papers were quite prepared to go along with this without question, even though another publication had earlier cast doubt on the veracity of similar adverting.
Big hearted BAT was suddenly concerned that illegal cigarettes were costing the country over R3 billion a year in lost tax revenue. This is what it told the 3.6 –million people who read these two national publications each week.
That’s the equivalent of the cost of more than 44 000 new policemen and 60 000 new homes, the adverts claimed
It deliberately failed to mention the cost to the nation of treating the millions of people, including policemen, whose health is affected or who die through smoking.   

The main thrust of the advertisements was that smuggled cigarettes bring crime syndicates into your neighbourhood.
So BAT and the papers that support this campaign believe that it’s better to die a slow lingering death from lung cancer or some other nicotine induced illness than to have bullets whizzing around your street. If I had a choice I think I would rather take my chances in that crime riddled neighbourhood that BAT is so worried about.
Earlier this year BAT was flying higher with scare tactics that were even more ridiculous. It had billboards on major highways with messages like DANGER-Buying illegal cigarettes may fund hijackers and armed robberies.
Complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and it ordered BAT to pull the ads because there was no proof that contraband cigarettes lead to violent crime. The Authority conveniently ducked the issue of whether or not this was an illegal means of adverting cigarettes.
In its issue of July this year Noseweek, the News you’re not suppose to know magazine, attacked this type of advertising saying, Tobacco companies are blowing rings around the law with subtle advertising and smuggling tricks.
How right it was. And the Government can’t be fagged to do anything while lives continue to go up in smoke.
            Significantly the magazine quoted from a submission made to the World Health Organisation by a group called Action on Smoking & Health Canada. It said that a company that does not ensure its brands are smuggled risks losing market share to those that do. The evidence shows that companies treat smuggling as just another distribution channel and manage it through third parties where they control the price and availability of their products.
        And low and behold, one of the companies that does this, the group claimed, is none other than our public spirited BAT.
        So BAT if you are so worried about the distribution of illegal smokes why don’t you do the decent thing and STOP making cigarettes altogether.
         That way you will eradicate the gun runners, the hijackers, the gangsters and all the other criminals and contribute enormously to the general health of the nation and we can all live happily ever afterwards.
         Jon, a Non-smoker of Note, Consumer Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman 

P.S. I forgot to mention that BAT had this comforting, understatement at the end of its ads, Smoking has health implications.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Silensing the people - draconian new law

Dear President Jacob Zuma,
         If you take off your dark glasses for a moment you’ll see that it’s only a very small section of the population that believes you should change your spots. They’re barking up the wrong tree completely when they run down your brilliant idea to change South Africa’s national coat of arms to something more meaningful.
         With that in mind I’ve attached a few ideas that could form the basis of the new design. These are so appropriate in a view of the modern direction in which you are leading our country with your see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil legislation.
         The one with bananas is very much in keeping with African culture that has spawned so many of those wonderful banana republics that have all adopted this approach.
        Enough of the praise.  I thought you should know that I’ve come across something of great national importance to South Africa. It’s something that could ---- your Government sky high.
         It concerns a ----- of well ------- , well ----- people who are hell bent on ---------- our country.
         I’m not talking about the usual Government officials who are busy ---------- their nests with the tax payers help and your ----- ing. No, this is a lot more serious than that.
         But thank goodness your Government has ensured that I can’t talk about these things. I didn’t even mention it to my four wives and ten children.
         They’ve kept secrets before but I couldn’t trust them with this one. After all who wants to spend 20 years in one of our overcrowded jails now that you have very wisely outlawed loose talk with your Protection of State Information Bill?
         That sort of thing only alarms everybody and gives people the ----- idea about our leaders.
         In the past anybody who had stumbled on the kind of information I’m not talking about would have rushed to some newspaper or TV channel and then it would have been all over the place.
         Now, thank goodness, all we are going to get is the good news. It’s so much more uplifting than the kind of thing I’m not talking about.
         Shutting up whistleblowers is long overdue. All they do is tell lies, disturb the neighbourhood and wake babies. So that’s another service you have done for our country Jacob.
         And if anybody knows what hell it can be when somebody wakes the little ones, it’s you. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention how many you’ve got or whether that’s now classified. But don’t worry I’m not taking any chances.
         Don’t let those depressed Western Nations try and tell you that preventing people from blabbing about all our secrets will do irreparable harm to our country. Look where that policy has got them.
         In Britain for instance, if you were a celebrity or somebody else in the public eye you couldn’t even fart in private without it making headlines somewhere or other. So it looks as though they will soon be coming round to your way of thinking.
         And if Joseph Stalin and the rest of that Commy mob could successfully keep the Soviet Union going for all those years there can’t be much wrong with this closed mouth policy of yours. If it does nothing else my neighbour will think twice about telling everybody what he thinks I’m doing with the girl down the road, when it’s a figment of his imagination.
         I hope, Mr President that you are going to have enough secret police to back up this new legislation. Why not do what the Russians did and get everybody to spy on everybody else.
         My mistake. That won’t work. In such a law abiding country as ours nobody will ever talk about these things once there’s a law against it. They are too patriotic to do anything that would endanger the security of the State.
        And you and your Government are shining examples of this kind of thinking.        
        As you rightly surmised, all our people needed was a good, healthy Act of Parliament to spell it out for them.
         Thanks for your foresight Mr President.
         Yours faithfully,
P.S. I badly need coaching from one of your advisers just to make sure that I don’t end up being WANTED.