Friday, July 29, 2011

The African Dream - tin-pot status

Dear Politicians everywhere,
          Yippee we’ve finally arrived.
        It’s been on the cards for some time, but South Africa has now joined the ranks of all the other insult-the-President-at-your-peril tin-pot African states. But we’ve spiced things up by adding a racial mix to it.
          And to make things even better the Black Magistrate, Gugu Mphikeleli didn’t let the evidence cloud her judgment when she found White businessman Daryl Peense had committed an unbelievably serious offence. The case was brought to the notice of the court by the President’s eagle eyed, bodyguards.
          His crime: spilling his drink from a balcony onto the ground below not far from where President Jacob Zuma (pictured in his leopard’s skin regardless of the animal’s dwindling numbers) was standing. The incident happened a year ago at the Durban July, one of the country’s premier horse racing events.
          Peense told the Durban court that he had been drunk at the time and what happen was quite unintentional.
          None of it landed on the Black President who did not complaint. In spite of this our learned Gugu decided that the Whitey had done it on purpose and was guilty of assault. She added, It involves the dignity and integrity of the President which is protected by the Constitution, so it’s not a trivial matter at all.         
          According to her brilliant legal brain the definition of assault included the application of indirect force which could be as serious as the case before her even if the victim had been unaware of it.
          Who was that who said the law’s an ass?
          So what it actually boiled down in this tin-pot country was that Peense had insulted the President, but as they had forgotten to outlaw this, they had to make do with the one governing assault. As he was White I’m surprised that they didn’t upgrade the charge to assault with a deadly whisky and soda.
          Full of her own self importance Gugu turned the proceedings into a typical Africa kangaroo court. The drink had fallen right on top of the President’s head she decided, when there was not a shred of evidence to support this.
          As the prosecution no doubt intended, poor old Peense has been financial ruined by the case that involved numerous adjournments. To mess him around even further he has to return to court in two months time for sentencing.
          Will he get a heavy jail sentence everybody is wondering? Or will he just have to pour the President’s drinks for an indeterminate period?
          African Presidents are not renowned for being broad minded. And laughing at themselves or allowing anybody else to do it is a crime against the state.
          Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who came to power in 2004, complained that he was the most insulted President in his nation’s history. He made this comment after four security guards were charged with insulting him under the Protected Names and Emblems Act.
          Here’s one more from me for your collection Bingu. You deserved every one.
          In Zimbabwe being arrested for insulting President ‘Mad’ Bob Mugabe is almost a daily occurrence. Even Jameson Timba, the shadow Foreign Minister in the Movement for Democratic Change, the rival to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, got the usual treatment when he called Mugabe a liar.
          Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had 20 people arrested for booing him at a campaign rally. In Zambia, where defaming the head of state carries a jail term of up to three years, President Levy Mwanawasa was not amused by what a young South African had to say about him. So he too was arrested and a British journalist also got into trouble for what he said about the President in one of his articles.
          The funniest - not for those arrested - act in this African comedy was provided by Cameroon author Bertraud Teyou. He brilliantly took the piss out of the wife of President Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982. In a book entitled, The belle of the banana republic: Chantal Biya, from the streets to the Palace. It actually had a French title but this is the English translation.
          You can’t get much more daring than that in humourless Africa. To add insult to injury Teyou had planned a public reading of the most controversial parts of his book. You can imagine how far he got with that.   
          In this impoverish country which ranked 138 out of 163 on the world’s corruption index Cameroon’s first lady evidently leads the life of a film star (see pics), while for his bravery in the face of Presidential wrath the author was jailed for two years.
       So I think you will agree with me, African is no joke, in more ways than one.
          Depressingly yours,

P.S. I hope I don’t get arrested for assaulting any of these Presidents by autosuggestion. You never know in Africa where the ridiculous is accepted as normal.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cape Town -unfriendliest City in the Universe

Dear newspaper columnist Mondli Makhanya,
          If Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to sail around the world in 15 something or other didn’t say it he should have.The Cape is the most unfriendliest Cape in all Christendom.
          Not long ago Mondli, as the Black Editor in Chief of the Group that controls South Africa’s Sunday Times, you devoted your usual column in that paper to what you described as black discomfort in Cape Town.
          You gave as an example Black businessmen who came to work in the City only to move on soon afterwards because of loneliness and social discomfort.
          You made out that this was purely due to the fact that the Whites there didn’t like Blacks. You described that City as being the "most racially polarised of South Africa’s major centers.
          "It is often discussed with great emotion by Blacks and steadfastly rebutted by mainly White Capetonians,"  you claimed. 
          Sorry Mondli it’s not as simple as that. You Blacks have such a chip on your shoulders that you seem to think that whenever you have a problem with Whites it’s automatically a racial thing.         
          There is certainly a problem with Whites in Cape Town but it's not what you think it is.
          The dyed-in-the-wool Capetonians take pride in treating outsiders of every colour with an indifference that borders on hostility. Their fellow Whites take the brunt of this approach because they are the people they are most likely to come in contact with socially.
        You see they will only really accept you if you were born there otherwise it takes 50 years of hard labour to become one of them. During that time they will happily come to your home ad nauseam for dinners and the like, but you’ll never be invited back.
          And what you must certainly never do is call round at the home of one of them uninvited. That is an unforgivable sin.
          Even the numerous churches haven’t been able to make a dent in this peculiar White culture that depends so much on having gone to the right school and that sort of thing.
          A long time ago when the country was under White domination my brother-in-law, who was based in Johannesburg, was briefly seconded to Cape Town by the bank that employed him. In those apartheid days he would only have been working with Whites. But in the six months that he was there living in a hotel not one of his colleagues asked him to their home for as much as a cup of tea.
          After three years of living in Cape Town the nearest my wife and I have got to being welcomed into a White home in our suburb was when a four year old girl my wife spoke to in the street invited my wife to her party.
          An equally bad indictment of the City’ indigenous Whities was the conversation my wife had with a woman who is married to a local. She revealed that she was Polish and added sadly, "In Cape Town I’ll always be a  foreigner."
          I could go on and on with similar stories. Walking on an almost deserted beach my wife and I approached a grey haired woman with her grown up daughter. When I greeted the older woman she looked at me with a puzzled expression as if she was thinking, I don’t know you.

          So I said, "I know it’s not done in Cape Town to greet people you don’t know, but I’m doing it anyway." She replied, "Yes, I’m afraid us Capetonians are a stuffy lot."
         So there you are Mondli South 
Africa’s problems are not always just in Black and White.
          Probably since Drake’s time the Whites in Cape Town have been a closed order aptly summed up by this little ditty about two old Cape families.

        The Cape, the land of the grape and the cod,
       Where the Cloetes speak only to the Van der Byls
       And the Van der Byls only to God.        
          Shamefully yours,
P.S. I’m a White, who went to school in Cape Town, but who lost his White, Capetonian nationality because I was a traitor to the cause by living away from the City for too long.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

World's highest return on your money for doing zilch - 24%

Dear Prakash Desai, Avusa Group’s Chief Executive,
          Here’s an idea that makes perfect business sense. I don’t normally share these financial gems that suddenly come to me in between periods when my brain is off-line. But as I got the idea from something I saw in the Sunday Times, which is one of the pillars of your media and entertainment empire, I thought I better let you in on it.
          My proposal is that we go 50/50 on the profits. All you have to do is to dispose of just about everything your Group owns. Get rid of the Sowetan newspaper, your magazines, the Nu Metro cinemas, Exclusive Books, the lot.
           Not quite all them. Perhaps it might be a good idea to still keep the Sunday Times, South Africa’s biggest selling national paper and its sister daily, The Times. They could still be useful to put your views across to the nation.
          Once you’ve collected all the money from the sales I have suggested you should invest all of it in a fool proof scheme that has been advertised regularly in that Sunday Times of yours that has a circulation of some 500 000 and readership at a guess, of around 2-million.
          The scheme I’m talking about is offering 24% per annum on investments. Where else in the world can you get such a fantastic return on your money for doing absolutely zilch? I see that Avusa’s revenue last year was R5.3-billion so I should imagine that by getting rid of the assets I mentioned you could easily top that amount.
          So with say 10 or 15-billion to invest you can imagine how much you would be getting in at 24% a year. I think you are a qualified accountant, if I’m not mistake, so you are far better qualified than I am to put a figure on what the actual return would be. My little calculator won’t take all those numbers.
          An added advantage of my idea is that you and your fellow directors could then play golf all day and be free of any gut wrenching responsibility while still drawing your enormous salaries.
          I would be the first person to take a stand against anybody who suggests that 24% is not possible at a time when my bank and others won’t even give me 7.5%. That 24% must be true otherwise your paper would never have put it into print.
          As an ex-newspaper man I know better than most people that there is absolutely no truth in the popular saying, You can’t believe everything you read in the papers.
          Sorry I’ve rambled on a bit without telling you about the kind of business it is that can produce such glittering results. It’s not a goldmine, it’s diamonds. The promoters of a company called African Dawn say they are into every aspect of  this, from digging them out to polishing and selling them.
          They claim their returns are between 3% and 9% in 6 weeks as shown by proven experience. My maths is not good enough to verify whether or not this amounts to 24% a year, but I’m sure you would be able to calculate this in a flash.
          I would ignore the fact, if I was you that De Beers, that other less well-known, little diamond firm made a profit of about 8% of sales in its last financial year after making a loss the year before.
          How stupid of me. I’ve just notice something in that august Sunday Times of yours. I don’t know how I could have been so blind. Perhaps I saw it but it never registered. As I have already mentioned I do have periods when I’m off-line. But I suppose it’s excusable when you are 110.
          Anyway what I’m talking about it that right next to that ad offering a 24% bonanza there was one from the newspaper itself. And you can’t believe what it said.
        Headed WARNING it told us, Readers are advised to carefully scrutinise advertisements offering investments opportunities. Well I did just that and there was nothing there that I could see that indicated that there was anything wrong with the proposition, unless there was something in invisible ink.
          The warning went on to say, The Sunday Times cannot vouch for the claims made by advertisers.
          Please help me here Prakash? What does that mean? If your paper can’t vouch for what’s in it, what are us readers to make of that? Does this also apply to all the stories written by journalist as well?
        It’s just as well I noticed that because I now have to tell you Prakash that I’m sorry to have wasted your time because I will not now be able to vouch for the viability of selling off Avusa’ s assets and investing the money at 24%.
          Disappointedly yours,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

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.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Playboy editor with a conscience

Dear Hugh Hefner,
          Did you know that your Playboy magazine in South Africa is a family publication that every mother would like to have around the house? It’s full of incisive, well written and informative articles that can only educate and uplift everybody especially the young.
        Anybody who mistakenly thinks that it might corrupt the youth because it is full of naked girls and that sort of thing is terribly wrong. Nobody could understand why, in the old days, under the narrow minded Afrikaans Government that ran the country according to a rigid form of Calvinism, your mag was banned.
        Of course they never mentioned then that a lot of the Government’s supporters risked imprisonment by smuggling your mag into the country. These sneaks also thought nothing of having it off with their black maids when their wives were not looking.
       I’m not sure which was the greater crime, having a copy of Playboy or sex across the colour line. It probably would have been being in possession of that mag of yours especially if it contained a nude, black Playmate of the Month, although I’m not sure if the good old US of A was that emancipated in those days.
          Lets face it your country had its own form of apartheid once. Some say it still lingers on.
          Anyway what I’m trying to get at is that I see that the straight laced editor of your South African edition that was recently re-launched after a 16 year absence has resigned. Peter Piegl has such high standards that he would have made an excellent Minister of Morals in that old South African Government I was talking about.
          According to The Times he stepped down after only three editions of this monthly had been published. His conscience would not allow him to be associated with a magazine that was going to be sold in sex shops.
          This was after the publishers had signed a three month deal with the Adult Sex Shop chain. You couldn’t get much worse than that according to our prim and proper Peter.
          "My vision is that it is a lifestyle magazine, not a skin magazine," he was quoted as saying. He added, "My reasons for resigning have nothing to do with the Playboy brand or its sustainability in South Africa."
          I see he’s got a psychology degree. You would think he would have analyzed himself a bit better before he agreed to accept the Playboy job. And judging by what he says about himself on the internet he has no experience of play at all. He hasn’t got time for it.
          He claims to have"concemptionalised, planned and established Playboy SA from the ground up; determining the look and feel of the publication." I like that feel bit. Is this something new in magazine publishing to make the nudes really come alive?
          Tell me Hugh, where did you get this fellow from, some monastery or other. Last time I took your magazine out from under the mattress when my wife was at church I’m sure I saw quite a bit of skin in it. In fact some of the pictures were skin and nothing else. And you had to be blind to think they weren’t sexy.
          Also Hugh old boy can you tell me what a lifestyle magazine is? Does that have no mention of sex in it; no alluring pictures and is only sold at Church bazaars?
          I was pleased to see Karen von Wielligh, the general manager of your SA edition, has given us the assurance that its entry into the sex shop arena will not detract from its classiness. What a relief. I was so worried that aspect might be compromised.
          I wish my mother had realised that it was classy to look at pictures of nude women when I was two. As it was I kept having to have my  eyes washed out.
          "It won’t change into something smutty," Von Wielligh promised.
          You don’t seem to be having much luck with that SA re-launch of yours. Not only has your Editor resigned but the publisher, Jeremy Lawrence has also copped out for personal reasons, whatever that means. It wasn’t because he also didn’t like that sex shop connection was it?
          Comically your managing director, Johann Botha had this to say, "We are confident Playboy South Africa will continue to be in steady editorial hands."
          Instead of hiring Peter Piegl as your editor your should rather have taken him on as your psychologist to vet the staff you employed when you started to make sure you took on no prudes and Mother Grundy’s.
          Jon, an avid Playboy reader in the hut at the bottom of the garden.

P.S. Hugh I know you are getting on a bit now, but don’t you think you should change out of your dressing gown now and again. But I suppose it makes hopping into someone’s bed a lot easier.

Playboy editor speaks out

Here is what the New Editor of the South African edition of Playboy Magazine had to say about my blog with my comments in red.
Hi John (Does nobody know how to spell Jon properly)
New Playboy ed here. Read some of your blog – curious about how many people follow you currently. (About 3-million on an average day and 8.5-million when I write about Playboy Editor with a conscience - they are so rare)
OK, so I am another hire with a conscience. My conscience – however - tells me that we are free under our Constitution to choose where we buy, what we buy, what we say, what we see, what we read. I am deeply perturbed by your domestic arrangements that send you down to THE HUT to read Playboy. Stand up for your rights! Mouse or Man? (You wouldn’t be so brave if you had met my wife) In the first edition I have edited, hitting streets 25 July, you will find what you have been looking for. More than what you were hoping for. And plenty to share with other adults living in your home. (What! Is there nothing in it for the kids?) 
Hey, and change the font colours on your blog. It looks like Hef's pyjamas and is tough to read. (What more could I want than a colour like Hef’s pyjamas. Every girl has seen those. In any case I don’t know how to make the change)
Seeing that you take some pleasure in researching and ripping the cv's of editors, I will save you the trouble. Law degree UNISA, MBA Yale, and PhD from Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia. Thought I'll mention that PhD in Business Ethics and Governance and then take side bets that you make that joke "Business Ethics (don’t you mean Business Sexics?) – what an oxymoron." (Sorry I don’t know what oxymoron means. Journos don’t use such big words.)
Write on and push the envelope – a joy we both seem to share.
Charl du Plessis (Two plus three in your case adds up to sex)

            Thanks for your email Charl. I’m holding thumbs that your conscience doesn’t get the better of you, at least until you have beaten the record of three months in the editor’s chair that was set by your predecessor.
        Best wishes and Have Fun
PS. If you don’t mind me saying so Charl, you seem to be far too highly educated to edit a “non smut magazine.” But your email has got that Playboy post of mine moved up to the top of the pile again so you can just imagine how sales of that first edition, with you at the helm, will rocket.

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

Does money override a newspaper's morality al la News of the World?

Dear Mondli Makhanya, Editorial Chief of the Avusa Group (Sunday Times etc),
          The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself. That’s what James Murdoch; chairman of the British arm of News Corp said when he announced the closure of the 168 year old paper.
          Well your Johannesburg based Sunday Times; South Africa’s largest national paper with sales of over half a million a week, is doing the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale.
          What’s more, as you know, it blatantly advertises its guilty conscience by telling its readers to watch out because the Sunday Times cannot vouch for the claims made by advertisers. This is what it says in ads headed WARNING in large black letters and it goes on to say Readers are advised to carefully scrutinize advertisements offering investment opportunities.
          Does it believe this will make it blameless when some pensioner or other investor loses their life savings after putting it into some dodgy scheme promoted in your paper?
          I would love to know why these warnings, which The Paper for the People had apparently carried for years, suddenly stopped some months ago. I liked to believe that this was as a result of my on-going campaign to get it to stop taking the dubious advertising that these warnings were presumably referring to.
        However the warnings have recently reappeared and needless to say the suspect ads have never ceased even though Thabo Leshilo, the previous internal ombudsman for your Avusa Group, wrote a Sunday Times article some two years ago saying that ads, like the rest of the paper, should be believable. The article was in response to my complaint.
          Is this kind of claim believable Mondli? Earn R60 000 per month. No selling. No effort. Totally passive income. Capital required R295 000(money back guarantee). That was conveniently parked on a page that did not have the warning.
          For an investment of R15 000 another one promised a return of R60 000 per month between months 3 and 6. This was said to be the truth about making money. As if anybody could possibly not believe it.
          Then elsewhere those, who are even more gullible than the people at your paper who accept these ads, were told they could earn 24% P.A. with a minimum R25 000.
          This was at a time when none of the major banks or the Government’s Retail Bonds was offering more than 8%. And to get that the investment would have had to be tied up for two years or more.
          Your warning does not refer to any specific type of investment opportunity so in its present form it casts a slur on the type of ads I have just referred to as well as whole page, colour ones from reputable banks and other financial institutions
       But like the News of the World it seems that making money takes precedence over morality even if you are, like the News of the World, in the business of holding others to account.
       And we all know now where that policy got that newspaper.
          Yours doggedly,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman
P.S. I don’t know if you remember this, but a recent Sunday Times Editorial, right next to your usual column, had this to say. We are open to criticism. More than that, we welcome it. South Africa’s media will not improve their standards if they ignore what their critics have to say. Well so far this critic hasn’t exactly been ignored on this subject. The only trouble is your paper made an undertaking which it never stuck to.
Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on   It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.