Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Times - haven for dubious adverts

Dear Sunday Times internal ombudsman Joe Latakgomo,
         Two years ago the story I instigated was headed Taking a stand on unsavoury adverts. That was written by your predecessor Thabo Leshilo, who disappeared with out a trace earlier this year.
         It arose after I complained that this paper, South Africa’s largest weekly with over 3-million readers, was carrying suspect get-rich-quick ads that could easily result in unsuspecting investors losing a fortune.
In the story Leshilo wrote, he said that adverts like the rest of the paper should be believable.
But the headline certainly wasn’t because far from taking a stand, the paper continued to accept this type of adverting in spite of my continuous campaign to get it stopped.
Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy of the article and it was nowhere to be found when the Press Council’s deputy ombudsman Dr Johan Retief asked for it.
Stranger still Leshilo told him that he didn't know what I was talking about.
The latest in the saga is another story, once again instigated by my complaints. This time it was your handiwork and was headed Beware of dubious adverting claims.
          As you rightly said, Such advertising erodes the public’s trust in newspapers. But, even more critical, false advertising, or advertising that makes claims which are patently exaggerated, impacts on consumer confidence.
       That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell your Avusa Group (Sunday Times, The Times, Sowetan, etc) for these many months. But from what you wrote your Group is still refusing to listen.
         It is happy to sit back and passed the buck to the Advertising Standards Authority, which has the job of policing adverts, although as far as I know it doesn’t go looking for trouble. It only deals with complaints. So as your papers can’t do anything decisive about these ads I have just submitted my own complaints to that body.
         The really pathetic part about the whole issue is that it is the Sunday Times and other papers in your Group that are publishing this reprehensible stuff that erodes the public trust in newspapers and not the Advertising Authority.
So if they had any morality at all they would put their own house in order and stop making excuses.
         What’s the point in punting the Sunday Time’s consumer watchdog, Megan Power in whole page adverts all over the place, if your own papers are making it easy for dodgy, get-rich-quick schemes to be promoted to a vast audience.
         In the same edition of the Sunday Times in which your story appeared mentioning my complaint there was an ad telling us we could earn R25 000 per month for an investment of just R100 000 with a money back guarantee. And best of all this fantastic return involves, No work. No effort. No Hassles. 
I challenger you, or any member of Avusa’s staff, to take up  this offer, and tell me how their investment is progressing in a year’s time.
You seem to think that by publishing a WARNING to readers to be careful about making investments this absolves your papers from any blame if somebody loses their shirt in one of these schemes.
Clearly they are not a bit bothered about eroding public trust in newspapers and it is this kind of attitude that sunk the News of the World.
What makes this even more inexplicable is that you say that this type of advertising forms only a small part of the total advertising revue. So why do the papers stubbornly hang on to something that can only damage their reputations?
We will continue as journalists to expose those who cheat and lie to our readers, those who compromise our integrity and damage our credibility as news sources for our readers, you wrote.
We are distressed by the number of scams that infiltrate our pages and cheat our readers. If that’s the case have you stopped to think who is aiding and abetting them?
You, or the Royal We, are so distressed that I wonder how many of these dicey schemes that have been advertised in the Sunday Times and other papers in your group have ever been investigated by a reporter.
My guess is: absolutely none in the last two years since I have been monitoring the situation.
Yours watchfully,
Jon, The Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Colour problem for Rugby World Cup

Dear Bernard Lapasset Chairman of the International Rugby Board,
          This problem goes back years. Haven’t you noticed what has been going on right under your nose?
          It is so obvious that I can’t understand why you or any of your predecessors haven’t done anything about it.
         I’m not talking about the colour of the players or anything to do with racialism, although it does involve prejudice. And the people who have been and still are being prejudiced are the millions of rugby followers who watch the game.
          One minute the team they happened to be supporting is wearing black the next minute it is in white. Then when they see it again they are wondering is that really our team or has it been cloned.

How many teams do the All Blacks have at this year’s World Cup in New Zealand? I know they haven’t won the title since its inception 24 years ago, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to enter more than one team. Should they get this kind of special treatment and home advantage as well?
You’ve contrived to produce a whole lot of international rugby chameleons that change their colours from one match to the next.

The way you and your Board have organised things it seems that teams are entitled to go to their vast rugby wardrobes and pick out whatever colours they like for their next match. And if they happened to clash with those of the opposing team one or other of them has to do a quick change.
Surely you owed it to the paying rugby fans that keep the whole show on the road to be able to immediately recognise their teams, by the colours they wear, the minute they run onto the field.
Have any of you ever thought of getting all the rugby playing countries to register their colours and style of their kit with your Board on a first come first served basis? This would ensure there would never be any clash of colours and the fans would know exactly who was who.
In addition it would be possible to build national loyalty to a particular colour scheme. 
So far in the current World Cup matches I have seen England appeared in all black and all white in another game; Scotland in what looks like all black; New Zealand in its customary all black; France in all white and its more recognisable dark blue jerseys and black shorts and Georgia in all white and all red.
And when it comes to variations of red jerseys there are enough to confuse even the most ardent rugby followers. Russia wears red jerseys and white shorts; Japan has reds tops with a hardly noticeable white stripe and white shorts; Wales are in red jerseys and white shorts and so is Canada, although their jerseys have a small white panel in them.
If you wanted to sow confusion you’ve done a great job.

I’ve included a sample of some of the jerseys of the various teams and I’ll leave you to guess who they belong to.
          Have fun and let’s hope you can solve this baffling colour problem in time for the next World Cup in four years time.
Just remember that nothing is simply Black or White even in rugby and there are a lot more colours to play with.
          Jon, Rugby jersey manufacturer by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.

Racist census to continue dividing a nation

Dear Statistician General Pali Lehohla,
         What’s it feel like to blow money on a grand scale on nothing more productive than bits of paper? And to make matters worse you are doing it without a thought for the majority who live in slums with nothing better to do than riot and trash the place.
         Eighteen years after racialism was supposed to have replaced 40 years of White domination that spawn the hated apartheid system in South Africa and kept Blacks as serfs you are still at it - classifying people according to colour. 
         Refresh my memory; what colour gets preference when Government jobs are dished out?
         Now that the Black African National Congress Government is in charge you are having an expensive census to put everyone in their place; Blacks, Whites, Coloureds, Indians, Chinese and any other colour of the rainbow nation that you can think of.
         It’s pure, unadulterated racialism.
         Surely we are all people now, all 50-million of us. So when your 300 000 part-timers call round at houses shortly, with those 75 question forms, everybody should refuse to complete the colour question.
         I hear we’ll be asked a host of things designed to improve the lives of everyone. Like: How often do you have sex? Have you done it outside your racial category? Have you had aids? If so how many times and in what racial group was the person who gave it to you?
          Sorry I’m wandering. What I really wanted to tell you is I’m organizing a National Census in opposition to your official one. I was shocked to read that you are only going to have the results of your one two years later when it’s completely out of date unless you expect us to put breeding on hold while you do your sums. And that’s stretching it even for African Time. And it’s going to cost a very reasonable R2.8 billion plus.
          I don’t know which Government official’s salary that equates to but no doubt the meddling press will tell us, if they are still allowed to by next year. I don’t suppose you’ll be happy about my rival census but South Africa’s a free country; at least it was yesterday.
          Mine will be a cut price one. With any luck you will have a lot to thank me for because it will make the official one unnecessary and the nation will save a packet.  Oh! I forgot your Government is not in the business of saving tax payer’s money. It’s on a glorious spending spree for the good of the few at the expense of the many.
          I’m calling for volunteers to go to their nearest shanty town and question just 10 hut owners and their families. Here’s what they will be asked.
          1. Have any of the ANC’s Promises become a reality for you and give us an idea of how they have improved your life.
            1.1 How long have you lived in abject poverty?
            1.2 How many times a year do you get a square meal?
            1.3 Have you been forced to connect electricity illegally?
            1.4 How many times has your shack been burnt down in the last year?
            1.5 How many people, above 20, live in your one roomed tin hut?
Then come the Billion Dollar questions as it were which you may not be too happy with, but I’m afraid I have to ask them to complete the picture.
            2 Have you heard of the Government Census scheduled for October 2011? If so answer the following:
            2.1 What would you do with R2.8-billion?
            2.2 Have you ever eaten a 14 page census form? If so did it alleviate your hunger?
            2.3 How many houses for the poor do you think could be built with that money?
            2.4 How many trees do you think would have to be cut down to produce the paper to record all the questions for 50-million people? And if you had the wood instead how long would it last your community when used for heating and cooking?
          I know it’s being a bit familiar but do you mind if I call you My Pali from now on; it’s so much friendlier? You have to be Pali to go into people’s homes and ask them all kinds of intimate questions.
Imagine how long it’s going to take, especially among unsophisticated people with huge families, to fill in forms with 75 questions. In our President’s house, as an example, it could take a week or more at a rough guess. What with all his wives and I don’t know how many children.
How does it help to know things like in the Western Cape 35 000 of us live in houses with brick walls and corrugated iron roofs while another 20 000 have houses with tiled roofs and no walls.
Your Government won’t do anything about it anyway.

At the end of the day My Pali the exercise won’t feed or house anybody and you will have blown enough to keep the poor in food for years. Is that something to be proud of?

       Jon, Classified: Unemployed, homeless, starving. Race: Other. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

The King's speech - an Oscar for hypocrisy

Dear Anti-fur Lobbyists,
When Jennifer Lopez, singer and US idols judge recently appeared in Vanity Fair magazine looking as if she was naked except for a very revealing Artic fox fur coat, animal lovers were outraged. Britain’s Sun newspaper quoted a reader as saying, Fur is worn by beautify animals and ugly people. 
         Well I wonder what that reader as well as the anti-fur lobby would say about South Africa’s Zulu President, Jacob Zuma; the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Chief Mangosuthu Buthlezi, a Member of Parliament and long time leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, and their followers who don’t exactly subscribed to this, You shouldn’t wear animal fur nonsense.
         Has the Anti-Fur Society, the worldwide organisation for the betterment of fur bearing animals, ever said anything about what has been going on for decades in Kwazulu-Natal which is in the country that is supposed to be the most civilised part of Africa?
         And have the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) noticed?  It claims to be the biggest enemy of fur wearers in the world with over 2-million members and is supported by South Africa’s Oscar winner, Charlise Theron, Pamela Anderson and Sir Paul McCarthey’s ex-wife Heather Mills. He has also slammed Lopez for wearing animal furs.
         My question to these two bodies is this: Isn’t it time you started attacking African leaders with the same vigour that you use when getting stuck into film and TV stars as soon as they appear wearing animal fur.
         After his recent speech at the annual Reed Dance at his palace King Goodwill should have been awarded the hypocrisy Oscar of the year.  At the event the girls present the King with reeds to symbolise their purity which made the monarch’s words even more ridiculous.
He took the opportunity to tell his guests and the 3 000 maidens that he would personally hunt down the dogs who did not care about the future.
        The dogs he was referring to were rhino poachers.  And he told the crowd that included  President Zuma, the Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, and guests from Swaziland, Mozambique and Angola that these animals are a wealth given by God to the people of Kwazulu-Natal.
        Change the way you are behaving because the killing of rhinos is a defiance of my order as your King to respect and protect wild life, he said.
         The King recalled that last year 333 rhinos were killed and so far this year the total was 274. Stop this, I urge you, he added.
The animals are being butchered because their horns can fetch up to $50 000 a kilo in Asia where they are believed to have all kinds of curative powers and are also an aphrodisiac.
         What do you think the King and his closest followers were wearing – LEOPARD SKINS. Uncharacteristically Zuma, who is normally covered in these spotted furs on these occasions, had on ordinary clothes.
Please Jennifer Lopez don’t encourage them. They already have a twisted enough view of preserving wild life. And the way they and the rest of Africa are going there won’t be anything left soon. It’ll be either eaten or used  for traditional robes or medicine.
The AK 47 is a lethal killing machine. 
         Goodwill sir, isn’t it time you started practising what you preach by showing some good will to the dwindling leopard population. They are just as much, if not more of a tourist attraction than rhinos.

         Leopards are protected in Provincial and privately owned reserves in South Africa, but are persecuted relentlessly outside these. Poison baits, cruel traps and other means are widely used to kill them and land owners who claim that a leopard has killed their livestock can easily get a destruction permit.
         The Government recently doubled the hunting quota for leopards to 150 for the country.
What else would you expect when all the President’s men have to be adorned with one of their skins on every ceremonial occasion? It’s tradition you know and artificial leopard skin just will not do.
So get cracking Anti-Fur Society, Petra as well as film stars and other high profile people, and raise hell all over the world so as to embarrass these African big wigs who think that some long standing tradition can go on being an excuse for blasting animals into extinction.
Jon, owner of a factory that makes fake leopard skin guaranteed not to change its spots.
P.S. That's Zuma dancing at one of his numerous weddings surrounded by leopard skins and wearing his traditional dark glasses.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bed and Breakfast - how to do it the easy way

Dear Potential B&B Owners,
             Before you go into this very lucrative business, which is also called homestay and other funny names, I thought you might like to hear from a couple who have actually done it.
        This is something I recorded when, through no fault of our own, my wife and I had to give up our life of fine living by the seaside because the South African Government was about to introduce another lot of helpful regulations to make life that much easier for B&B owners.

*   *   *
         The joys of running a Bed & Breakfast are never ending. As my wife will tell you she (She’s the brunette – not bad for 85 – in these pics) worked like hell while I spent my time chatting up the guests, especially the 20 year old blondes, and watching sport on TV.
        "No wonder you keep saying it’s a piece of cake," she used to say. "You do nothing to help." She refused to acknowledge the huge contribution I made.
         Anyway the argument will soon be over. We are bailing out. It has become obvious that at over 90 I am not making the beds to the same 5 Star standard that I did when we started eight years ago.
The other day I put the sheets on top of the blankets. It’s a mistake anybody can make. But do you think my wife will let me forget it.
         It was the same story when she found tomato sauce on plates I had washed the day before. Fortunately the guests were so busy eating the excellent breakfast I had cooked they didn’t notice.
         Another reason why we have to give up our luxury, five bedroomed B&B is that my knees are killing me. I have to face the fact I can’t go on polishing all those floors any longer. And I can hardly expect my wife to start doing something for which she has had no training.
         Also you should see my varicose veins. All that standing and slaving away over a hot stove is what has caused them.
         Would I have these afflictions, which you only get from constant hard work, if I spent my time slacking, as my wife tries to make out?
         Oh I forgot. I also did all the maintenance as well. Women are hopeless at this sort of thing. You don’t know what it’s like at my age climbing on the roof to clean the gutters.
         Do you think I got any sympathy from the old lady?  No. But she was quick to moan if it wasn’t done yesterday. And just because I once forgot which side I left the ladder, when I wanted to come down, that makes me incapable of running a B&B.
         I was prepared to suffer for a few more years so my lady wife could continue to enjoy the good life; going to bridge four times a week as well gym just when the guests are coming in to breakfast and attending church twice on Sundays and during the week.
         You would think I was the one who should have been praying. Now I’ve finally decided to quit because she said my rotten jokes and poor guesses were bad for business.
         My crimes……..I told a dour guest that if he had any complaints our MD lived on a farm near Kuruman in the desolate Northern Cape, where he was mostly in meetings; there was no cell phone reception and his party line was often out of order.
         "We don’t have party lines there anymore," was his angry reply. Kuruman it turned out was his home town, if you could call it that.
         Then I judged a couple by their accent. "Which part of Germany do you come from?" I asked innocently. "Eez my accent zat bad," the man snapped. Oops, he was from Switzerland.
         Next week my wife, who has never had time for bridge; doesn’t know what a gym looks like and only goes to church infrequently when the B&B is empty, is having me locked up in Fawlty Towers.
        There my delusions of grandeur will be recorded by the BBC (Bed & Breakfast Council) as part of the SA Government’s latest compulsory training scheme for all those men who think they can run a B&B better than their wives.
         Yours thankfully
          B&B consultant of note

PS. The Government firmly believes in building character through struggle businesses. So if you have any ideas for more regulations to keep the little man in check then pass them on to your MP, if you can find him. 

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.