Thursday, November 24, 2016


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Cape Times News Editor
Lynette Johns
          Was my complaint to the Press Council about being lied to repeatedly the final one that broke Independent Media’s faith in that body’s ability to fairly police its publications?
          As you probably know that’s Iqbal Surve's empire that claims to be the leading newspaper group in the country with titles like the Cape Times, the Cape Argus, The Star in Johannesburg and various others. 
          As a former newspaper investigative journalist living in Cape Town I have a blog to keep me off the streets. So when I got an exclusive I thought the post would make a good story for my local morning daily the Cape Times.
          It was about a doctor (caring doctor) charged by the Health Profession Council with abusing his doctor/patient relationship to enrich himself.
          The Cape Times News Editor, Lynne Johns evidently agreed with me after I sent her an email on 11 July with a link to the post. I told her, “You can take anything off my blog, just credit it. I’m a former Sunday Times investigative journalist so I know a bit about how to do investigations.”
          I followed this with a call the same day to make sure she got the email and I again emphasised that my blog should be credited. This she agreed to, if the story was used.
          In an email she thanked me for giving her the link and said she would pass the story on to one of their reporters.
          After that I got nothing but one broken promise after another.

13 July: The story appeared as the front page lead under the byline of Francesca Villette. I had given her the contact details of the complainant and had sent her affidavits I had received. She too undertook to credit my blog. But nothing appeared and nor was I or my blog mentioned in the brief peace the following day about the hearing being adjourned. There was still room of course for Villette’s email address at the bottom.
14 July: I outlined what had happened in an email to the Editor Aneez Salie. It began, “What has just happened to me is what gives journalists a bad name.” He later claimed he only saw my email on 18 July and he would “meet with those involved tomorrow and revert to you.” This he never did even though he expressed his “sorrow for the inconvenience.”
19 July: When I complaining to Johns on the phoned she said she did not know about any undertaking. Her email response made nonsense of this when she wrote, “Once again thank you for alerting us to the story and sharing your knowledge, we really appreciate it. Unfortunately the subs had to cut the story. This is why the reference to your blog did not make the paper. However, there will be a follow-up and then Francesca will do a sidebar on you, your blog and how you uncovered the story. Please accept my apologies.” I told her it could be months if not years before the case came up again to warrant a follow up story and that it was “ an old tired excuse to blame the subs.”  
20 July: The paper had another chance to put things right, but didn’t. On page four it had a story about how, for the second time in seven months, the Cape Times front page had been chosen among the world’s Top Ten by the Newseum in Washington DC. And as life would have it this was the one with the story I originated splashed across it. The article about this achievement told readers what the story was about but again there was no mention of who had tipped the paper off. In the background at the top of the page was a photograph of President Zuma and Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa unveiling the Delville Wood Memorial in France. The story about this was on the inside pages.

24 July: Fed up with the ongoing deceit I complained to the Press Council.
28 July: The Council’s Public Advocate, Latiefa Mobara replied saying that the Cape Times is keen to set the record straight.” She included the paper’s response from Damien Terblanche, its Internal Legal Counsel. He began by explaining, for my benefit, how a newspaper works. His reason for my blog not being mentioned in the Newseum’s story was that it was not “the front page lead that got us the accolade, but the page in its entirety, specifically our masthead picture” showing the unveiling of the memorial. How this prevented my contribution being credited in the part that referred to the front page lead or any of the earlier stories only he knows. “We are surprised and disturbed that Abbott has turned to the Press Ombud when we were still in communication with him,” he went on. He repeated the paper’s offer to do a sidebar about me and my blog when the case came up again. “This is surely more than we would do for anyone else. We request that the Ombud refers Abbott back to us.” She did that and I told her I would accept their offer provided I could be assured that the next time the matter came up I would not be told there was again no room for a sidebar. I explained that I had only complained to her because I got no reply to my last email. I asked her to tell the Cape Times “If it makes an agreement it should stick to it.”
3 November: A report on the resumed hearing appeared on Page 4 of the Cape Times by Johns herself this time. There was another one by her the following day after the case was again adjourned. True to form that promised sidebar never materialised and nothing about me or my blog was mentioned.
Johns telling us about how important 'truth' is at the
Cape Times
4 NovemberI complained to her again.
6 November: This was a Sunday and her email was as though there had never ever been a problem. “Good morning Jon, how are you,” she began. “I can do a sidebar this morning. I have quite a bit of copy left over from last week. Can I call you? Regards, Lynette.” We had a conversation shortly afterwards and she again promised me that illusive sidebar would appear with her story in the following Tuesday’s edition. Guess what, not only was the sidebar invisible but so was the story as well. 

8 November: My email of disgust to her went unanswered. I told her “It looks as though the Cape Times has been pulling my chain.” It ended, “The obvious heading for my next post would be Newspaper Immorality a la Cape Times.
10 November: The surprising twist to the saga was when I told Latiefa what had happened. She disclosed that as Independent Media, the publishers of the Cape Times, had withdrawn from the Press Council they no longer had any jurisdiction over any of its papers. It appears that with 77 complaints against it to the Press Council this year, including some unfavourable findings, Independent Media decided it would be better off dealing with them itself. Heaven for bid that I should tell a lie, but it’s a possibility that my complaint was the one that finally pushed this Group into resigning. It pulled out allegedly to save legal costs because it felt that the Council should never have abolished the waiver clause. This compelled complainants to agree to relinquish their right to take legal action against media owners if they wanted their complaint heard by the Council. And when I Googled this I saw that Jovial Rantao, a former editor of various papers in the Independent Media Group, had been appointed its internal ombudsman to deal with complaints with “immediate effect” from October 21.  Having dealt with ineffective internal newspaper ombudsmen before I didn’t have much faith in this one. But I thought I would test him with my Cape Times experience. Bad idea.

11 & 15 November: I emailed him, but got no reply.
17 November: I tried phoning him at the Group’s Johannesburg head office on the number (011 633 2180) that I had been given for him and the automatic response was that his voice mail had not yet been activated.  On the same day I spoke to Jennifer Johnson in another section of the headquarters and she undertook to get him to contact me. She copied me an email she had sent him asking him to do this. By 24 November I had heard nothing from him.
So that’s a very cost efficient way of getting rid of a complaint with the minimum of effort.
          When he was appointed Rantao was quoted as saying, “Independent Media has always maintained high standards of ethical journalism as guided by the Press Code. My role will be to ensure that our publications continue to adhere to these high standards and that complaints from members of the public are dealt with fairly and efficiently.”
          My experience was a long way from making this Rantao statement a reality.
          Among his many accomplishments he is a former Chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum. Ironically under the heading of “Core Principles” it states “SANEF is founded on high ideals in an industry that, around the world, is often maligned for its lack of integrity.”
          And if you want to know why, you need look no further than the Cape Times.
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who has never been in favour of self policing. Would you value my opinion if I told you that my blog was the best one in the world?

P.S. With the advent of social media information of all kinds gets flashed around the world in an instant, making it more and more difficult for papers to get exclusive news. That’s one of the reasons why so many of them are declining. So it’s very short sighted of papers if they don’t treat people like me in a way that encourages them to keep passing on good stories. In my case at least they got the raw material for their business for free. Most firms would relish this prospect.         

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Dear Peter Bruce,

          In your Sunday Times column this week you proposed an idyllic solution to what you describe as South Africa’s “single most pressing social threat - land.”
          You told us that “everyone knows South African capitalism is Victorian. It makes only a few people rich.”
          You are making us out to be unique. Isn’t that what happens all over the world, whatever system is in place?
          After first telling us that capitalism is the only answer “to poverty and inequality because it creates wealth” you suggested remedies that are the antithesis of capitalism.
(If anybody knows how well capitalism works it's Warren
Buffett capitalism needs overhauling )                                                                           
       Handouts never made anybody rich except for those who corrupt the system. They certainly don’t encourage people to work hard and make a prosperous life for themselves.
          Your idea is to give every person who has nothing a 1000 sq m plot from the country’s unused land, as close to “an existing town or city as possible.” Imagine the in fighting and bribery there would be to get the plots next to the big cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. A further complication would be that the value of the plots would vary enormously and a lot of well off people would suddenly claim to be poor.
          Your other pie in the sky idea is to have R20 000 deposited into a bank account in the name of every child born. The money would then be invested by our asset managers for “at least a 10% return” until the child could access it at the age of 21.
          Anybody who has had a retirement annuity where they are forced by law to have the money looked after by an insurance company will know how much the returns suffer from the amounts that are creamed off in fees. Mine has grown well short of 10% in the last 10 years.
          You go on to say that about 1.1 million people are born every year and by the time the first children turn 21 there would be more than R20-trillion in the kitty. You add more wishful thinking with, “The state would claim its investment back from their estates when they die.”
          Much like the current student loans scheme, no doubt, where they are supposed to repay their loans once they have a job, but many don’t bother and the Government doesn’t make much effort to collect what is due either.
          “We would never have to entertain a ratings agency ever again,” you claim.
          It’s as simple as that. Only you don’t say where all this money would come from; where you would find the people honest enough to look after it for all those years and so on.
          Your Communist type, master plan would produce different “pressing social threats,” like protests from people who urgently need their money paid before they reach 21.  Then too we would have abandoned plots of land all over the place in areas where people don’t want to live.
          You also told us that your dream scheme depended on the impossible, certainly in South Africa that is …. “clean, efficient government and brave politicians to make it happen.”
          The real answer surely is to reform the capitalist system itself. It can’t last in its present form where so few people have more money than the rest put together.
          There should be a ceiling on wealth. And once that ceiling is reached you pay say 90% of your income in tax.
          Of course that will never happen because the power is in the hands of the rich.    
          A French Revolution type revolt is the only way to placate the destitute and give the rich the fright they need. But that won’t solve anything either as most people, particularly the masses, will then be far worse off than they were before.
          It wouldn’t be long before man’s greed would produce a new crop of super rich once again.
          Can you imagine Julius Malema and his cronies choosing to ride around in an old bakkie instead of a top of the range Mercedes Benz or BMW if your plan became a reality? 
          Thanks Bruce for this idea that was no doubt conceived to convey the message that the Sunday Times has the welfare of the poor of our country at heart. It was a bit of light hearted reading on a par with Zapiro’s cartoon which was on the same page. Luckily the poor can’t afford to buy your paper otherwise they might soon be clogging our cities with marches when they don’t get their free bit of land.
 P.S. Note to readers: Apart from being a regular SundayTimes columnist Bruce is also Editor-in-Chief of Business Day and the Financial Mail in Johannesburg, so he won’t be needing a free plot. He’s already a very healthy CAPITALIST.  But no doubt any additions to his immediate or extended family would qualify for that R20 000 nest egg.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Dear Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town,

            As the head of what your Democratic Alliance party claims to be the most efficient municipality in the country can you please, please stop your Council wasting more money on a rubbish dump that was closed 30 years ago?
            The cost so far this year could exceeded R1-million or even reach R1 500 000 before the year is over.
            Don’t blame me if I haven’t got my figures spot on because ever since I began my expose`of this scandal Councillor Johan van der Merwe, your Mayoral Committee member in charge of Environmental Planning has not been very forthcoming about the cost and exactly what is being done to maintain this site at Witsands next to a popular surfing beach not far from Cape Point.
            I have had to drag information out of him bit by bit. At one stage he told me my figures were not correct but he didn’t give me the right ones.
            Now my questions and the posts I have written about what is going on at this 19 ha sand dune covered area have clearly got too hot and embarrassing for your Council.
            How else can you explain why Van der Merwe has now clammed up and refuses to answer any more of my questions? I’m not surprised that he doesn’t want  more publicity because this is a shocking waste of ratepayer’s money made worse because it is taking place not far from the townships of Masiphumelele and Ocean View where the residents so badly need funds to upgrade facilities.
            In March this year he told me that managing this site to ensure that what is left of the rubbish under the sand - plastic, bottles and other biodegradable material – doesn’t get washed into the sea by streams that develop in the winter rainfall season, has cost R500 000 a year for the last 10.
            He added that “more than 60%” of the amount spent had gone to “the employment of unskilled labour.” This would have meant that the poor in the area would have benefited by a massive R3-million over the period, a figure that I would dispute as ‘Unbelievable.’ But I am happy to apologise if your Council can give me some kind of reasonable proof that this actually happened.
            I have been going to Witsands regularly over the last few years and this year your Council has gone berserk with its spending there as if money is no object.
            Since February hired heavy earth moving equipment consisting of a huge tracked bulldozer; an excavator and two dumper trucks was brought in on two occasions. They spent several weeks on the site moving the sand around. And if the job had been done properly the first time this equipment would not have been needed again just a couple of months later.
            These machines don’t come cheap and at a rough guess R700 000 has already been spent hiring them. To this must be added another R400 000 for the maze of nets that have been put up in an effort to keep the sand in place in a very wind swept area.
            The disregard for the way our money is being thrown away was graphically illustrated when a lone excavator recently arrived on a Monday to deepen the stream that had started running into the sea on the one edge of the site.
            It stood idle until Thursday, was used on that and the following day, and remained parked at least until noon on the following Monday. When I questioned this Van der Merwe told me that the City’s hire rate at Witsands for an excavator was R538 an hour and it didn’t cost anything for the first three days of the week as it was delivered earlier than required.
            On the site I got a different more probably version and that was that the excavator could not be used initially because the operator was waiting for the nets that went across the stream and near it to be lifted so that it could get in.
            I would have expected your experts to have been able to predict where the stream would run so the nets did not end up straddling it and then have to be removed.
            The deepening of the stream was definitely an absolute waste of money. Where the work began it was about six meters wide and the water was a mere two or three centimeters in the deepest parts.

            The sand was dug out in the middle of the stream to a depth of a meter and piled on the side for about a kilometre. It evidently hadn’t occurred to the Council’s experts that if you dig holes in waterlogged sand they close up almost immediately and in this case, before the excavator left the site, the stream had reverted back to its original depth. 
After the stream was dug it went back to this which was
no deeper than what it was before the excavator moved in
            So that was at least another R21 000 thrown away on the dump.
            Among my very first questions to Van der Merwe I asked what effort had been made to cover the land fill site with vegetation as this was internationally accepted as the best and most cost effective way of stabilising coastal sand dunes.

            He replied that in this case it was “almost impossible to do” and in any event to “modify this natural system” could not be done “without several authorisations.”
            He didn’t explain this and on several occasions since then he repeated that an “Environmental Authorisation” would be needed to do this.
            The contract to erect the netting was given to Vula Environment Restoration a firm of dune restoration specialists at a price of R200 000. It claims to have stabilised dunes with indigenous grasses and to be able to produce vast quantities of indigenous plant seeds.   
            “The reason why the entire 19 ha has not been instantaneously vegetated is that there has not been a detailed study of the viability of this and there in not an Environment Authorisation in terms of the viability of the relevant legislation to implement this,” Deon van Eeden the founder of Vula told me. 
            So for more than 10 years your Council has been happily spending millions on this site without bothering to do the “detailed study” he talking about or getting the necessary authorisation that would allow the site to be covered in vegetation in much the same way as the adjourning dunes, thus solving the problem forever at minimum cost.
            It now transpires that Van Eeden’s firm is doing what I advocated six months ago even though that mysterious authorisation has not been obtained.
            “Natural recolonisation by local vegetation has taken place in certain areas where seed banks exist,” he told me last month. “This has been possible with the reduction in sand movement created by the netting. Some limited planting of cuttings taken from the area is taking place adjacent to existing vegetated areas where sand has inundated areas that previously had vegetation.”
            However when asked him if he had solved the Environment Authorisation problem he again repeated what had now become a council mantra: “Any proactive planting of the historical mobile dune field will require an Environmental Authorisation.”
            In March Vula initially put up 5 km of netting on a 4ha ridge that was made by the earth movers parallel to the sea. The nets were supposed to force the wind to drop the sand on top of the landfill between the rows.
            The first two winter storms flattened or buried much of the netting and a large area of rubbish was exposed. That was when the earth movers had to return in May to dump tons more sand on the exposed areas.

Some of the first nets that were erected
Nets put up more recently near the stream
              Since then nets have been erected over another huge area further inland. But like the first lot the wind flattened or buried a lot of them within weeks of them being put up. Once this happens according to Van der Merwe they are supposed to be restored to their original positions, but from what I have seen this has only been done in a very small section.
            I believe that if the Council stopped disturbing the dunes so often with earth moving equipment there would be far less chance of existing vegetated sections being covered with sand and the plants would be more likely to spread across the entire site.
Left to nature this is how vegetation is growing on the
dunes on the edge of the Council's sand pit next to the beach
What the dunes in the Council's sand pit next to the beach
look like after being shifted around and netted.
             It’s odd that Van Eeden’s company, the experts, should start planting now just when the Cape’s rainy season is coming to an end.
After the Council gave Van Eeden permission to answer my questions and he told me that his R200 000 vat inclusive contract lasted until March 2017 he never made it clear that this was purely to put up the nets and maintain them.
It was only by chance that Van der Merwe disclosed recently that the nets themselves plus the poles to hold them up were bought from two other different suppliers in December 2015 and June 2016 at cost of R101 000 and R111 400 excluding vat.
The depressing thing is that spending on nets and putting them up is not yet over because Van der Merwe says that the City will soon be advertising for quotes for “the remaining netting and maintenance work required on the site.” He added that the cost of this would only be known once the job had been awarded.
“It is the intention to net the entire dune field before next summer and the ongoing management will include strategically lifting some nets while leaving others to encourage sand to accumulate in areas where it is needed.”
            And who knows, if they don’t do the job properly we might see the earth movers back.
Questions that Van der Merwe would not answer:
·       Why is it that after spending R500 000 annually on the site for the last 10 years the Council has not yet got Environmental Authorisation to enable vegetation to be planted on the entire 19 ha?
·       Why is planting taking place when there is no Environmental Authorisation?
·       From whom and how it the necessary Environmental Authorisation obtained if the Council wants to go ahead with vegetating the whole of the site?
·       Was Vula’s price to put up nets on the 19 ha or only the 4ha that was done in the first phase?
·       If it was only for the 4ha section how much will it cost to do the rest of the area?


P.S. My suggestion, which was clearly regarded as sacrilege, was to plant fast growing Port Jackson willow over the dump. As you no doubt know this was originally brought from Australia to cover coastal dunes, similar to the ones at Witsands, in other parts of Cape Town.
It spread so quickly it got the alien tag so your Council would rather carry on squandering millions than plant this. Meanwhile a whole mountainside is covered with it 
a few kilometers from Witsands and your Council is doing nothing to get rid of that. It is now flowering, so it won’t be long before millions more Port Jackson seeds will be sprouting all over the place.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Dear Facebook and Twitter worshipers,

With the tech aged now upon us it's open season
For destroying reputations without rhyme or reason.
On Facebook or on Twitter
The gutless can troll their dirty litter
Which will be picked up and hurled
To every corner of the world.

It’s according to the gospel of St Facebook and St Twitter
That’s all they ever think,
Not noticing the stink,
That’s such a subtle smell
It’s beckoning them all to hell,
As they go on worshiping according to St Facebook and St Twitter.

Followers are the coin of this shadowy crowd
Where true names get lost in banks of cloud,
But that’s okay according to the gospel of St Facebook and St Twitter.

Watch out; watch out for your little teen,
He could be paedo or he could be clean,
It’s nowhere there in the gospel of St Facebook or St Twitter.

He’s so smooth and so kind,
Mum and Dad will never mind
If I go on making love according to St Facebook and St Twitter.

Dad did you hear Mum scream
That’s sis’ dress they’re dragging from a stream.
It must be true it’s on Facebook…. and on Twitter.

This speaks for itself,

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Dear Patients everywhere,
Marjorie Pelton

          Have you ever come across a GP as helpful and caring as Johann van Rooyen? What more could you want than to have a doctor who looks after you so well in your old age that he even takes you to the bank to cash your cheques. And if you can’t make it he goes there for you.
          Marjorie Pelton was living alone in a flat in Trianon, a Cape Town retirement complex when Van Rooyen began providing her with this unusual medical service. When it began in 2007 her memory was failing her but she had every confidence in Van Rooyen, after all he had been her doctor for 30 years.
          If you had looked at her bank statements you would have thought: Here is a real merry widow living it up.
          The true picture only emerged early in July 2009 when her daughters Cheryl Bluff and Carol Weber went to her flat to find their mother “very emotional and tearful.” She kept repeating that “she could not believe that someone she loved and trusted could have done this to her,” Cheryl wrote in an affidavit she attested to in 2009.

          The sisters then sat down to go through a pile of Nedbank cheques and other documents their mother had obtained from her bank. And this is what they discovered according to Cheryl’s statement.
          “Of all the cheques written between January and July 2009, 39 of them were for money Dr van Rooyen took for himself. Twenty six of these were actually in his handwriting and 13 were written by my mother, who says he would ask her for money to settle unpaid medical aid bills.
          “Even a cursory glance revealed that something was very wrong,” Cheryl a 53 year old estate agent with RE/MAX Elite in Cape Town continued.  She maintained that her mother had had no major operations that year and her medical accounts were paid by her medical aid Medihelp, yet large amounts of money had been taken out of her account either as “CASH” cheques or ones made out to Van Rooyen.
          According to Cheryl her mother’s funds dropped from R490 000 in 2007 to almost zero. In January 2009 she had R370 000 in the bank and by July that year only R100 was left. “Her entire life savings had vanished.”
          “For example” Cheryl went on; “Just from the short statement she got from the bank we saw that; February 2009 he took about R57 000; March 2009 - R150 000; April 2009 - R117 000 and in May 2009 – R20 500.
          “At least 13 of the 39 cheques written from January 2009 did not match the stub amounts he had written into my mother’s cheque book.”
          One was a cheque dated 1 April 2009 made out to Van Rooyen for R24 000 that had only R1 700 written in the stub section.
          “I believe Dr Van Rooyen has taken advantage of my mother’s deteriorating state of mind. He has known her for 30 years and therefore knows how sweet and completely trusting she is. She is a religious woman who never believes ill of anyone.”
          Mrs Pelton was aged 80 in 2009 and Cheryl made the statement then on her behalf as her mother’s memory was not up to it. She had also been diagnosed with brain, lung and breast cancer and she died the following year.
Cheryl Bluff

          Cheryl claimed that the “similarity of the dates of doctor’s visits (to her mother) and bank withdrawals ties up with what was reported by the staff at Nedbank in Plumstead.” There she was told that whenever her mother arrived at the bank during the relevant months Dr Van Rooyen was at her side.
          “The staff there claim he’s there repeatedly with old ladies, ‘helping them’ to do their banking,” Cheryl added.
          She gave the two affidavits to the Police in 2009 when she made a complaint against Van Rooyen. The Specialised Commercial Crime Unit decided they could not prosecute without Mrs Pelton who was the key witness. So the case was passed to the Health Professions Council (HPCSA), the body responsible for policing doctors. 
Part of Cheryl Bluff's affidavit

          The HPCSA then dragged its feet judging by a letter dated 6 August 2013 sent by Advocate Malini Govender, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in the Unit for the Western Cape to the Legal Services section of the Council. In it he stated “In your letter dated 11/7/2012 you acknowledged my letter with annexures.” He said he had sent them the statements to enable the Council to decide if it wanted to investigate Van Rooyen or not.

          “This is your decision and I believe you will act in the best interests of the medical profession.”
          Now FOUR YEARS after the Medical Council received Govender’s first letter it is actually going to hold a Professional Conduct inquiry at which Van Rooyen is to be charged with being “guilty of unprofessional conduct” in that he abused his doctor/patient relationship with Mrs Pelton to enrich himself.
          The hearing will take place in Cape Town later this month.
          When I asked Dr Van Rooyen if he would be 
attending the hearing he said he didn't know what 
was happening. That was for other people to organise.        
        Questioned about the allegations relating to him and Mrs
Pelton he said: "That was about eight years ago. I just get on with my work. I don't get involved."
        The Council might have given him the gap to slip through to enable him to have the hearing adjourned at the very least. It's humpty dumpty medical cops could't even get his name right on the charge CHARGE SHEET.
            It is given as DR JOHANN ROOYEN
                                          *     *     *
          The Mrs Pelton’s case is not the first time Dr van Rooyen has been reported to the HPCSA after drawing money from a bank allegedly on behalf of one of his very ill elderly patients.
          In 2011 Eric Rowberry, who was then working in West Africa, asked me to look into Van Rooyen’s relationship with his father Richard who died aged 69 at his home in Cape Town on 21 July 2010.  Van Rooyen began treating him four months earlier when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
          During this time the doctor went to the bank allegedly on Richard’s behalf and cashed seven cheques made out to cash totally R68 000. There was no dispute that the doctor cashed the cheques and the fee he charged for all his services was an agreed  R5 000 a month.
          The only statement Van Rooyen gave the family was for a total of R30 000 and as one of the beneficiaries Eric wanted to know where the rest of the money had gone.
          Eric, who had considerable email correspondence with Van Rooyen, told me, “The doctor's argument has been that he was doing my father a favour by going to the bank for him as he was too weak or was too cold and he was worried my father would catch a cold/pneumonia. I don’t buy this as he was strong enough to take me to lunch; tour Robben Island and drive himself to Calitzdorp (a round trip of 800 km from Cape Town). It was totally out of character for my father to spend money like this. He was frugal to say the least.”
From his website
         I saw Van Rooyen at his surgery in Gabriel Road in the Plumstead suburb of Cape Town. He has been practising in the area for almost 40 years. His room was at the end of a passage leading off a dentist reception area. Van Rooyen’s patients waited there but he had no receptionist and the dentist’s receptionist evidently did not deal with the doctor’s patients. While I was waiting there an elderly woman came through from the doctor’s room and said to the receptionist, “Don’t I get a receipt?” She was told to go back and speak to Van Rooyen. She returned soon afterwards saying that everything was now in order. I then went in to see Van Rooyen.

          During our conversation he showed me a cash cheque which he said he had just received. He stuffed it into the top pocket of his jacket. It was probably from the lady he had just seen. He told me he did not pay tax on cash payments. He agreed this was wrong but said that all doctors did this and they had a receipt book for this purpose. He then opened his one to show me. I told him that if he was cheating the tax man, how did he expect anybody to believe that he wasn’t ripping off his patients.
          The doctor evidently realised he had put himself in an invidious position by cashing the cheques because he asked me what I thought he should do to placate the Rowberry family and I suggest he repay R20 000. He replied; “I just don’t have that kind of money.” He added that I should get Eric to come and see him as he might consider paying a thousand or so to get the whole thing over with. He didn’t like dealing with a third party.
          Shortly afterwards Eric returned from West Africa and met Van Rooyen at Knead CafĂ© in Muizenberg. Eric told me that the doctor had agreed to pay back R25 000 in six monthly instalments of about R5 000. The money would come from a family trust that paid out dividends every six months.
          Van Rooyen told him that he was concerned that if the matter went to the Medical Council he would be accused of malpractice.
          He didn’t pay anything for the first six months and after some email reminders he made a cash payment of R2 000 into Eric’s account. Nothing was paid after that and he stopped answering further emails from Eric.
          In October 2012 I submitted a Letter of Complaint to the HPCSA on behalf of Eric. It contained everything in the report I had given him.
          Just over a year later a Legal Service Officer from the Council replied in a letter dated 19 December 2013 saying  that the Committee concerned had found that there was “insufficient evidence to make a finding” and the “matter is closed.”
          Included in the letter was Van Rooyen’s “explanation” from his lawyers Michael Matthews and Associates which stated:
          “Our client’s explicit instructions are that these cheques were cashed on behalf of Mr Richard Rowberry as per his formal request and our client was initially extremely uncomfortable in cashing these cheques but Mr Rowberry requested that our client attend to same.
Richard Rowberry
          “It was clear that on each occasion the late Mr Rowberry signed each cheque whilst fully compos mentis, although he may not physically have been able to cash a cheque himself, he was completely aware of what he was requesting and doing.
          “Whether this matter was irregular or not, we wish to reiterate that it was done at the express instructions of Mr Rowberry.”
          “Mr Rowberry was attended on our client in a professional and ethical manner at all times.”
          The only reference to the settlement offered by Van Rooyen was “It appears that Mr Abbott and Mr Eric Rowberry have been trying to coerce our client into making some form of settlement, which our client does not and did not need to do in anyway whatsoever, as services were professionally rendered to the late Mr Rowberry, on his express instructions.”
          The Medical Council completely ignored the fact that not only did Van Rooyen ask me what settlement I would suggest but he then went on to make an offer of R25 000 to Eric and paid one installment of R2 000.
          THIS WAS EFFECTIVELY AN ADMISSION OF GUILT. Had he been as innocent as he claimed through his lawyer he would never even have mentioned the possibility of a settlement, let alone have discussions about it with both me and Eric independently? And then make a deal with Eric which he ratted on after only one payment.
          Neither the Council nor his lawyer commented on the fact that he told me that he does not pay tax on cash payments.
          The Council is more like a doctor's protection
society than an organisation to keep them in line.
        Conveniently for them it seems that it never does any of
its own investigations. Complainants are expected to present
it with an open and shut case.
        Conveniently too it doesn't have the power to order doctors to repay any money they might have taken from a patient. 
        For that the aggrieved person has to mount their own
expensive civil action in the High Court.
              Even the Council’s former President Dr Nicky Padayachee conceded in its 2007 annual report that the perception was that the Council is “soft” on practitioners.
          To take FOUR YEARS before setting up an inquiry into Mrs Pelton’s case showed appalling inefficiency. Even some of the witnesses could have died during this time. Some might have even left the country.

          If I remember rightly I had to badger the HPCSA to get a decision out of it during the year I was kept waiting for the Rowberry finding. It is hard to understand why it took so long, especially as all they appear to have done is to accept Van Rooyen’s explanation given by his attorneys without question.

P.S. Good health to you all and may you never have reason to call on the Health Professions Council to sort out your doctor.