Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Dear Samantha Enslin-Payne, Deputy Editor of the Business Times,

The titled of your column today (May 14) headed: Inequality: how can we face our children? should have read: How can I face my readers after this?
You wrote how difficult it was to explain to your children that the lives of Blacks in South Africa had hardly changed since the Black majority government came to power in 1994.
To back your line of thinking you quoted from the 2016-2017 annual report of the Commission for Employment Equity. As a journalist in your position I would have thought you would have analysed it in a reasonably unbiased way and not cherry-pick it to suite your own argument.
As this Commission is a Government organisation, one would hardly expect it to be anything other than very pro-Black. And that is certainly reflected in this report to a quite unnecessary extent. 
You quoted Tabea Kabinde, chairperson of the Commission as saying: “Whites, despite constituting only 9.5% of the economically active population, still took the lion’s share of top management positions in the private sector.”
Your story continues with: “Africans, who constitute 78% of the economically active population, account for 10.7% of management positions in the private sector compared to 72 % among whites.”  
Nowhere in your entire column did you mention anything about the colour of those employed in the public sector where a Black Economic Empowerment policy (old time apartheid in reverse) is the norm.
I can understand why you didn’t want to mention that because it pretty well blows your cause completely.
Tabea Kabinde

Perhaps you didn’t see or didn’t want to see that the Commission concluded that Africans hold 74.6% of the top jobs in Provincial Government and 76.0% of those in Local Government. “There is a 33.3% split between African and White males in National Government” we were told. Women evidently don’t count and if you look at a picture of the members in Parliament you don’t get the impression that there are an equal number of Blacks and Whites.
Can colonialism and apartheid be blamed forever for the slow progress of Blacks in our economy? Surely after 22 years of running the country the Blacks must take a lot of the blame for keeping the majority back with things like an appalling education system.
Also it evidently doesn’t bother you that we are still perpetuating apartheid style government by colour coding the entire population so that our rulers know who to give preferential treatment to. As you no doubt saw that report gives figures for Whites, Africans, Indians, Coloureds and Foreign Nationals, with only Blacks being classified as Africans when most, if not all the Whites, Indians and Coloureds were probably born in South Africa making them as African as anybody else.
Many of our problems with nation building will never come right until the Government leads the way by referring merely to “people” without classifying them the way it is doing.
Even though huge operations like the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Airways and the Post Office get bailout after bailout from the Government, they are still in deep financial mire.
The private sector has no such limitless backing, yet I defy you to name one large comparable company headed by a White that is in anything like the same kind of trouble.
Talking of the Post Office I am sure you know what colour the man is who has been brought in to save it. Significantly he was put there by our Black Government that wasn’t prepared to uplift one of its own by giving him or her the job.                                                    

There’s hardly anything run by the Government that is not suffering from terrible inefficiency and mind boggling graft. The railways are in a mess with Cape Town’s Metro rail inconveniencing thousands daily by having more delays than running time. Main line passenger trains are no better. They are guaranteed to stop for hours in the middle of nowhere so that passengers never have any idea when they will actually arrive at their destination. Numerous local councils are bankrupt with the Police Service and Eskom’s hierarchy in disarray. Not to mention a President hiding under a huge cloud hoping nobody will notice what he’s been up to, while prominent members of his own party call for him to step down. And that’s just a rough sample.
Oh and whose fault is it that our country has been downgraded to junk status?
These are the areas that the Commission tells us are mostly headed by Blacks so surely we must thank God for that 9.5% of Whites who are keeping the most productive part of the economy on the road. Without them we would all be even further down the drain than we already are and nobody would have a job of any kind.
It would be just as futile then, as you have done, to blame colonialism or apartheid when we know perfectly well what the real cause is.
If your column is an indication of what you are telling your children I think you are misleading them. You neglected to put things fairly in perspective by giving both sides of the story like every cub reporter learns to do at journalism school.
Unfortunately the way things are heading that small percentage of Whites, who are our life line at the moment, might soon disappear altogether. Then we’ll have to see if we are any better off with top management in the private sector being 100% Black. But it will be one hell of a gamble judging by what has already happened in the public sector.
The papers are full of stories about the rich planning their escape to other countries if radical economic transformation means having their properties seized and riots get completely out of hand. The ‘rich’ they are talking about are almost certainly 100% White.
I hope I haven’t whitewashed the seriousness of the situation.
Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman.

P.S. You are in good company when it comes to understanding the Black and White complexities of our employment situation. Advertising in your own paper for a Municipal Manager the King Cetshwayo District Municipality had this to say:
The Municipality subscribes to an Affirmative Action Programme, which is non-racist, non-sexist, non-discriminatory and based on merit.

P.P.S. For readers who don’t know Business Times is the business section of the Johannesburg based Sunday Times. Its Editor Bongani Siqoko certainly hasn’t let the country’s history hold him back. And presumably he’s in that 10.7% of Blacks who have made it to top management in the private sector.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Dear Readers,
          While the scenes of these two horrific crimes were some 13 000 km apart separated by nearly half a century, and the precise details might have been different, they have an eerie sameness about them that certainly makes one wonder how this could be possible.
          In 2015 20-year-old Henri van Breda was the only person to survive virtually unscathed when his father Martin 54; his mother Teresa 55 and his brother Rudi 22 were butchered around 3.0 am in their luxury town house on the De Zalze Winelands Golfing Estate near Cape Town. Both his parents, brother and sister were hit on the head repeatedly with an axe and Marli 16 had a gash across her throat leaving her close to death. However she recovered after being hospitalised for months, although she still suffers from retrograde amnesia and prosecutors are hoping that her memory of what happened will eventually return.
The Van Breda family in happier times
          Henri, who had a history of drug abuse, had razorblade-like cuts on his chest and a knife wound to the left side of his chest. Medical reports described them as “superficial” and “self inflicted.” All he required was treatment at the scene.

          In 1970 27-year-old Dr Jeffrey MacDonald a Princeton-educated, Green Beret army surgeon was the only person to survive virtually unscathed when his pregnant wife Colette 26 and daughters Kimberly 5 and Kristen 2 were murdered in their home near the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. Colette, who was expecting a son and her girls, were stabbed multiple times with a knife and an ice pick and were also clubbed on the head.
          Macdonald’s wounds were not severe. He was taken to hospital with minor cuts and bruises to the face as well as a stab wound to the left side of his chest which punctured his one lung. It was described as a “clean, small sharp incision” and he was released after a week.  
          One of DStv’s true life crime channels IDx has been showing The Accused Jeffrey MacDonald in South Africa in the last few weeks. 
          Almost two years after the killings when Van Breda appeared in the Cape Town High Court accused of the murders he claimed his family was hacked to death by a masked, axe wielding man wearing a balaclava, who entered their home in the early hours of the morning. He was in the toilet at the time playing games on his phone. The court was told through his lawyer that he saw the silhouette of the man hitting his brother and father and heard him laughing. His mother and sister were attacked in another room. Henri managed to wrestle the axe from the man who then stabbed him in the side with a knife before knocking him out. Inexplicably when he came round he waited four hours before raising the alarm at the high security complex after first trying to contact his girlfriend. Both the bloody axe and a knife from the kitchen downstairs were found in the apartment. 
          At 3.42 a.m. dispatchers at Fort Bragg received an emergency call from MacDonald who reported a “stabbing.” When four military police officers went to his house in Castle Drive they initially thought they were going to settle a domestic dispute. They found the front door locked and the house in darkness. After no one answered the door they went to the back of the house where they found a door wide open. Inside they were confronted with the gruesome scenes in both bedrooms. 
Colette was lying on the floor in her room with her husband’s torn pajama top draped over her chest. He was found wounded next to his wife. He told investigators that after one of the children had wet his side of the bed he had moved to the living room couch where he fell asleep. He was awakened by the children’s screams and as he got up three men, two white and one black attacked him with a club and an ice pick. A white woman with them was chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” His pajama top was pulled over his head in the scuffle and he used this to ward off the thrust from the ice pick. Eventually like Van Breda he was overcome by his assailants and knocked unconscious. The blood covered murder weapons, an ice pick, a paring knife and a length of timber ripped from Kimberly’s bed were found outside the back door.
          Van Breda’s trial is continuing while MacDonald now aged 73 remains in jail after being sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in 1979.  Van Breda is out on bail of R100 000.
          MacDonald’s story has inspired books; a TV mini series and is the most appealed case in US history. As recently as early this year his lawyers launched another appeal as he has consistently maintained his innocence.

          MacDonald was found not guilty at an army hearing and given an honourable discharge. His father-in-law Freddy Kassab initially believed in his innocence. His undoing was when he made jokes; painted himself as the person who had been wronged and showed complete indifference to what had happened to his family, when he appeared on the The Dick Cavett TV show.
          Kassab was so incensed by his behaviour that he joined forces with an army investigator to file a citizen’s complaint to have MacDonald tried in a Federal Court. In 1975 MacDonald, who had returned to work as a doctor, was arrested and given bail of $100 000.  
          Investigators concluded that an enraged Macdonald killed his wife during an argument and disposed of the children as they could have been witnesses against him. He then stabbed himself to substantiate his story that he was attacked.
          The living room where MacDonald claimed to have fought for his life against three armed assailants showed little sign of a struggle.
          They believed he tried to make it look like a Charles Manson type murder done by hippies by writing “Pig” in blood above their bed. Six months earlier in 1969 the nation had been mesmerised by the story of how the followers of cult leader Manson killed five people including actress Sharon Tate. They wrote the word “Pig” in blood on the walls where the murders took place.
          The prosecution’s reconstruction of what happened in the MacDonald home was fortified still further when they found a copy of Esquire magazine that contained a detailed account of the Mason massacre.
MacDonald as he is today
          In 1991 MacDonald became eligible for parole but refused to ask for it as he believed that would involved him having to show remorse for something he had not done. He finally applied in 2005 because he wanted to live with the woman he had married three years earlier while still in prison. But this was turned down.
He can’t apply again until 2020.
          At the parole hearing Kassab described him as a heartless psychopath who would never admit to butchering his family.
It remains to be seen what the verdict will be for the good looking Van Breda.