Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Dear Would-be Students,

         Do you know the story of the vulture that went round in ever decreasing circles until it eventually disappeared….
         That’s the censored version I’m using for decorum’s sake and so as not to corrupt the youth.
         Anyway what I’m getting at is that South African universities have a bad case of the vulture syndrome epitomised by the University of Cape Town (UCT).
         There the race track is far from level for everyone. And what’s more disturbing is that its Vice-chancellor Dr Max Price is so proud of it.
         Periodically he hits the headlines with up dates on this latest brand of social engineering.
         When I first wrote about this subject it was Funny Ha! Ha! unless you happened to be a White, Indian or a not Black enough student trying to get into this renowned establishment of higher learning.
         Now it has graduated to Funny Absurd but not many people are laughing especially young Whites and their parents.

         The idea of the policy was to give Blacks an artificial leg up because they had been discriminated against in all walks of life by the previous White apartheid Government.
         At the time of my first post the Black African National Congress had been in power running down the country for 17 years. It pretended that it stood for a non racial society when it was lying through its sparkling white teeth by doing its utmost to promote Blacks at every opportunity, at the expense of other races, particularly Whites.
         Priceless Max was reveling in it. At the University’s Medical School for instance Whites and Indians were expected to get at least 80% in their university entrance exams to stand a remote chance of even being considered for admission.
         Blacks only needed a mere 60% to walk in.
        Being the right COLOUR gets you the highest marks of all.
         Now 20 years since White rule ceased Price is in the news again with an even more baffling version of the policy he claims has now been changed so it is no longer based on race.
Will this be any help to the Whites who have been discriminated against as a reprisal for what the Whites only Government did when they weren’t even born then?
         However the gobbledygook Price told Chris Barron in an interview for the Sunday Times showed how difficult he is finding it to justify the indefensible. The longer the interview went on the more Priceless Max looked like that vulture I mentioned in the beginning.
         I hope Chris won’t mind if I lift a few quotes from his excellent report just to show you what I meant when I said that policy had reached the Funny Absurd stage. Actually it’s a lot worse but as I never went to university I can’t think of any more suitable words to describe it.
         Here’s part of the interview with my comments in brackets.

Barron: Why are you going to such pains to pretend that you will no longer be selecting on a race basis?
Price: We’re saying that race remains important, but that we don’t have to use race classification to achieve demographic targets.
Barron: So the bottom line is that race will remain as much of a factor as it is under the existing policy.
Price: Race will, race classification will not. (It’s hard to imagine how a person who speaks this kind of Double Dutch can become a vice-chancellor at a university).
Barron: In effect you’ll be selecting on the basis of race rather than merit?
Price: No. If we have two students who have 70% and one of them, whether black or white comes from a disadvantaged background, then that student will get in (The odds of a White being more disadvantaged than a Black are remote so this changes nothing).
Barron: What about the case of a black student who is accepted for medical school with 70% whereas the white student with 90% is rejected?
Price: Let’s bring it closer to reality. Probably 77% would get in above a white student with 90% (That sounds so much fairer and you can’t get more Priceless than that).
Barron: Whose interests are served by that?
Price: If you had a white student with the same background (in other words poor) with 77%, that white student would also get in above a white student (well off) with 90%. The idea is to give disadvantaged students the same opportunity as advantaged students (How can opportunities be equalised by excluding someone with 90%? In any case Price wandered off the point by compared White with White instead of White with Black).
         Max concluded by saying If we were to take all our applicants in this year 2014 for medical and judge them only on the marks they’ve achieved, there would only be about five or 10 African students in a class of 200 (Yet he’s still waffling away trying to make us believe that the policy has changed when it’s still as Black as ever). 

         It’s a very poor reflection on South Africa that after 20 years of Black rule being Black is the most important qualification to enable anyone to become a doctor through UCT’s Medical School.
         This might be okay for somebody learning to throw the bones to become a witch doctor, but it’s scary when the qualified could be transplanting hearts and doing other major operations.
All the University is doing is perpetuating apartheid that was so abhorred by the entire world when the previous White Government was in power. Only now it’s the other way round and that makes it – perfectly alright.
So Black is still the most beautiful colour and the policy vulture will remain flying around in ever decreasing circles with the difference being it will – NEVER DISAPPEAR
        Harmonious mixing of people of all colours doesn't have much of a future when universities teach How to play the race card to win as part of their curriculum.
Jon, a Consumer Watchdog and if you ask me I would say that Dr Price’s master race plan badly needs a transfusion of mixed blood.

P.S. Will any of us live to see the day when South Africa has matured sufficiently to treat us all on merit rather than on COLOUR?

P.P.S. Chris congratulations on your no holds barred interview and the many other admirable ones you have done over the years reminiscent of the BBC’s Hard Talk.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Dear Readers,                                               

Mathatha Tsedu
  My campaign to get the Johannesburg based The Citizen newspaper to stop carrying adverts that even its own editor agrees are not believable led me to the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF).
         My posts The Citizen’s Aladdin’s Cave of unbelievable adverts; Ridiculous Advertising Standards Authority; Print & Digital Media’s appalling hypocrisy and Caxton Bosses duck dubious advertising issue didn’t make the owners of the paper blush even slightly.
            So I took the advice of Ingrid Louw the CEO of the Print & Digital Media SA (PDMSA). This has as its members all South Africa’s major newspaper publishers including Caxton, the owners of The Citizen.

        As these decisions on what content to included or not to include is taken by editors, she told me, I suggest that a discussion be held with the South African Editors Forum who could address it as a strategic industry imperative.
         SANEF is a voluntary forum of editors, senior journalists and journalism educators from all areas of the media industry in South Africa.
         Its current director is Mathatha Tsedu a journalist of considerable standing who was SANEF’s Chairman in 2010. He was recently seconded to this position by his employers Media24 which is part of Naspers the country’s biggest media empire. There he headed its Journalism Academy.
He has a very impressive CV. Last year he was awarded Media24’s All Time Legend Award. He has won a host of other awards including the Nat Nakasa one for courageous journalism. A Nieman fellow he is a former editor of City Press and the Sunday Times and he was also the deputy editor of both The Star and the Sunday Independent.  
         He was fired as the editor of the Sunday Times after less than a year because Johnnic Communications, the owners at the time, accused him of not sticking to his contract with the result that the paper lost circulation and consequently revenue.                                               
         His version was that the management and staff had not supported his efforts to Africanise the paper, which was denied by the owners.
         So as somebody who was prepared to put his job on the line for the African cause I thought he was the ideal person to back my crusade to get rid of these adverts that are designed to rip off less sophisticated Africans.
         Attached to my email was a letter in which I gave him the history of my campaign with links to all the posts and I said that it was Louw’s idea that I contact SANEF.
         I mentioned that on its website SANEF claimed to have ideals similar to all the organisations that I had so far contacted.
         This is how my email continued:

         It says that ‘SANEF is founded on high ideals in an industry that around the world is often maligned for its lack of integrity.’
         This is understandably when you have papers like The Citizen that is quite happy to publish fiction for profit with nobody in the industry prepared to do a thing about it.
         Your website goes on to tell us under a Vision heading that you aim to ‘promote quality and ethics in journalism’.
Some Commitment???
And under your Values heading you claim to stand for ‘integrity, tolerance, accountability and the public interest.’
         Well it certainly can’t be in the public interest for any newspaper to carry advertisements that are clearly not true and are designed to rip off people particularly the less sophisticated and poorer sections of our community.
         It remains to be seen now if SANEF will live up to the ideals it sets and be ACCOUNTABLE.

         What follows is the sad story of my email conversation with this legend of the profession.
          JOURNALISM might not be a crime but what about some of the

10 June: This, my first email with my letter attached, was mistakenly addressed to a previous SANEF director but sent to the address  I said: Hopefully your organisation will do what no other one has been prepared to do so far. And that is to take a stand against newspapers that carry extremely dubious ads. When I got no reply I phoned SANEF and the lady who answered alerted me to my mistake and told me that Tsedu was now the director and he would still have got my email.

13 June: In this email which was addressed to Tsedu I referred to my mistake and said that my previous one had probably been given to him, but just in case it hadn’t I was attaching the letter as if it was addressed to him. I ended with, Please let me know what you decide.

17 June: I would be much obliged if you could reply, I asked.


It was like trying to get a reply from Caxton’s top executives all over again.

         When I still got no reply I phoned Tsedu’s office several times but he was not in. I finally managed to speak to him on 18 June. And this is how the conversation went.

Jon: Are you going to answer my email?
Tsedu: At some point.
Jon: When will that be?
Tsedu: When we are finished with what we are dealing with.
Jon: What are your immediate impressions?
Tsedu: I haven’t looked at the attachment, your link.
         I am not holding my breath waiting for a reply as I don’t expect to get one.
         But I do have this observation and you readers may or may not agree with me.
         I am sure you will agree that if you started speaking to me while you were standing in front of me and I completely ignored you I would be regarded as being very rude.
         Well my belief is that not acknowledging an mail when the sender knows you have received it is the technological equivalent of this.
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman and Consumer Watchdog, who does his best to right the wrongs that the establish Media is happy to go along with.

P.S. Before posting this I sent it to Tsedu and invited him to correct any factual errors and to make any comments he wished.  I GOT NO REPLY.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


 Dear Readers,
Paul Jenkins
         You may have noticed that I have been trying to get the Johannesburg based The Citizen newspaper to be responsible by ceasing to carrying unbelievable advertisements. They promise all kinds of miraculous health cures with medicine that does such things as enlarging your manhood. Then there are lucky wallets that make you rich over night and instant answers to just about all life’s problems.
         When my first post THE CITIZEN’S ALLADIN’S CAVE OF UNBELIEVABLE ADVERTS (Unbelievable adshad no affect I tried South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
         This authority that is supposed to police advertising rejected my complaints out of hand even though it had previously ruled against similar advertising (Ridiculous ads).
         The ASA passed me on to the Print & Digital Media SA (PDMSA), an organisation of virtually all South Africa’s media owners that has the Caxton & CTP Group, the owners of The Citizen as one of its members.
         It too refused to take any action even though it claims to promote high standards and integrity within the print and digital media industries (Appalling hypocrisy).
         Next I tried to contact Terry Moolman, Caxton’s co-founder and CEO who is the controlling shareholder of a group that turns over R5-billion year. From the beginning that appeared even more hopeless than my other efforts.
A rare picture of TERRY MOOLMAN

         Dubbed The Invisible Media Baron he keeps such a low profile that when I phoned his flagship paper The Citizen and asked for him the girl on the switchboard had never heard of him. EHe heads an empire that consists of the daily newspaper The Citizen, plus numerous local newspapers as well as magazines and a massive printing section that not only produces the Group’s own publications but others as well.
         But even though he has this huge media business he apparently never gives interviews.
       The nearest I could get to The Invisible Man was to send an email to him via his PA. I asked why it was that the The Citizen continued to carry ads that even its editor agreed were not believable. I referred him to my post about this and pointed out that his Group’s Code of Ethics stated that the Group acts in an open and honest way in all its dealings and was socially responsible.
         The Code stipulated that all the managers and directors have a responsibility to ensure that this Code is adhered to at all times. I added that as his Group was a member of the PDMSA this also set certain standards of integrity.
         I told him that I did not believe that what The Citizen was doing complied with the PDMSA’s principles or his Group’s own Code of Ethics.
         In keeping with his Invisible Man reputation I got no reply from Moolman but his PA told me my email was passed to Paul Jenkins, who is described as the Group Chairman and Chairman of the Social and Ethics Committee.
         I gave it to him and he was going to respond, she told me. That was on 20 May 2014.
         After that I sent two more emails trying to get a reply. In my last one addressed to Jenkins and dated 26 May I asked, Can I now assume that you will not be commenting on my email?  And that you have nothing to say about The Citizen’s dubious advertising even though you appear to be in charge of ethics for the Caxton Group?
         A week has now elapsed since this email and it doesn’t look as though I will ever get a reply.

Caxton's Advertising Committee
         Could it be that there is more than one Invisible Man in the top echelons of the Caxton Group when it comes to the ethics of whether or not to continue making money out of advertising fiction in a newspaper?
         Yours sincerely,
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman and Consumer Watch Dog who can’t necessarily win them all, but he can certainly spotlight the things that are very wrong.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Dear Consumers,
         I promised at the end of my post headed RIDICULOUS ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY (Ridiculousthat I would tell you whether or not the ASA’s close ally the Print & Digital Media SA (PDMSA) is just as ridiculous.
         Well it turns out it is.
         So the ASA is in equally bad company.
         The PDMSA too pretends that it sticks to various impressive principles but when it comes to dealing with one of it own that clearly has a very warped idea of morality, it won’t take any action.
         It claims to represent more than 700 newspaper and magazine titles. Its members groups are Times Media, Caxton & CTP, Independent Newspapers, Media 24, Mail & Guardian – all the big boys in the South African industry – and the Association of Independent Publishers.
         So you would expect it to set a shining example.   
Its website talks about its commitment to promote high standards and integrity, but put to the test this turns out to be hogwash.

After my complaints to the ASA about the unbelievable adverts in The Citizen newspaper (Unbelievable ads) were dismissed out of hand even though the ASA had ruled against similar ads in the past, Leo Grobler, its Manager, Dispute Resolutions, continued the ridiculous trend by suggesting I should contact the PDMSA.
The ASA he said, did not have the power to stop newspapers carrying this sort of ad, but the PDMSA would have some say over the business practices of publications.
The Citizen belongs to the Caxton & CTP Group, so you would think it would abide by what the PDMSA stands for.
In an email to Hoosain Karjieker, the President of the PDMSA I asked if his organisation had the power to take action against its members that do not maintain its standards. I told him I was asking this because a paper that belongs to one of your members carries advertisements offering miraculous remedies and the like that are so outlandish that even the editor of the paper agrees the ads are not believable. But it doesn’t stop the paper carrying lots of them on a daily basis, while on its editorial side under a Code of Conduct heading it tells readers it is ‘committed to report news truthfully in accordance with the highest standards of journalism.’
Karjieker replied that he had given this to the Chief Executive (Ingrid Louw) who has been dealing with a few of these issues of late and would revert back to me. He still passed the buck even further by telling me that there is indeed the Advertising Standards Authority that has a process where complaints of this nature can be laid.
In a subsequent email I told Karjieker I wanted his comments for a post I was writing about my unsuccessful attempt to get the ASA to consider my complaints about The Citizen’s ads. I pointed out that The Citizen was owned by Caxton, which is a member of the PDMSA, and that his association claimed to be committed to promoting highs standards and to internationally recognised good governance practices
I submitted that what The Citizen was doing complied with neither of these ideals.
Ingrid Louw the PDMSA CEO then explained why they would do nothing to stop these ads. She said the PDMSA supported two industry mechanisms to standardise and regulate issues that are editorial in nature. These were the Press Council that has a Press Code that is guided by public interest and deals with reporting, the conduct of journalists and complaints.  The other one was the ASA that dealt with advertising in the print media, amongst others.
The PDMSA and its members subscribe to both codes, she went on.
Then she too joined the ASA’s realm of the ridiculous.
She explained that her organisation had no say over the content of newspapers and magazines as this was covered by the two bodies she had already mentioned.
It is critical, she said, that as media owners we are not seen to be infringing on editorial independence as these decisions on what content to included and or not to include is taken by the editors.
That’s an image that is constantly being perpetuated by newspapers and their owners when there is no question of owners allowing editors a completely free rein. In most cases the owners set the standards by which editors must abide even to the extent of which political party a paper must support.
She wandered further into the ridiculous by telling me, There are also other constitutional considerations that must be taken into account. For example the Constitution provides for freedom of expression which also includes freedom of commercial speech. This could possibly be further explored with the assistance of a constitutional expert.
She added that there were many layers to this discussion and she followed her President in passing the buck once again by suggesting that a discussion be held with the South African Editors Forum who could address it as a strategic industry imperative.

What were clearly unbelievable adverts from people masquerading as doctors, professors and the like had now become a strategic industry matter that nobody in the industry was prepared to make a judgement on.
My email to Louw said, Your reply is the copout that I expected. In my experience most newspaper editors make out that advertising has nothing to do with them. The PDMSA is a joke if it claims to have various high ideals but it won’t get its members to stick to them. What sort of morality is that?
 But that’s what newspapers do. They are a dismal failure at practising what they preach. And when you suggest that carrying dubious ads in a paper should be protected under the Constitution’s provision for freedom of speech you are going into the same dubious area as the ads themselves.
What you have told me is made even more ironic by the fact that your President is also the CEO of the Mail &Guardian, a paper that has made a considerable name for itself for exposing the wrong doings of others.
The PDMSA’s hypocrisy is such that while it refuses to do anything about those ads it continues its proud association with awards that are in keeping with our commitment to promoting high standards and integrity within the print and digital media.
These include the Nat Nakasa Award, presented by the PDMSA, the SA National Editors Forum and the Niemen Society.
The judges look for:
·      Integrity and fearlessness (both characteristics of the Dearjon - letter).
·      Tenaciousness in the face of insurmountable obstacles (another Dearjon - letter attribute).
·      Courage in making information available to the people of South Africa (what the Dearjon - letter is doing when nobody else will).

That’s the Media for you. It has set up these self regulating bodies which it hides behind to give it an air of respectability.

So don’t expect it to do anything about advertisements that con, poor unsophisticated readers, when these are worth a tidy sum to the paper concerned, in this case The Citizen.
Jon, The Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman and Consumer Watchdog

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