Monday, October 16, 2017


Dear Readers,

         The drought in Cape Town devastated our kikuyu lawn which can normally be expected to revive as soon as the winter rains arrive. But this year it was so pathetic that instead of being green it turned red.
         Flanders poppies took over. We didn’t plant them nature did.
         About four years ago a neighbour gave us a few seeds. They are minute, like small grains of sand.
After that we had some in the flower beds here and there and one year they almost disappeared completely for no particular reason. So the last thing my wife and I expected was that a drought would supercharge their growth to something we had never seen before in the 10 years we have been in our house.

             And they didn’t only appear where the lawn had been. They popped up all over the place. If our driveway hadn’t been brick paved it too would have been covered in red. As it was they still managed to end up flowering in some of the joints between the pavers.
         One even gained a foothold on the side of a small brick wall. How that little seed could have remained there long enough to germinate in a soilless environment only nature knows.
         The majority are red, but inexplicably a few pure white ones appear every now and again.  We have tried planting the seeds from these in the past, but we never get anything like a bed of white. How it works I don’t know.

         A Canadian doctor’s haunting poem and the efforts of an American school teacher put this red flower on the map as a symbol of remembrance of those who fought and died in various conflicts from the First World War onwards.
         In Flanders Fields, the world’s most famous War Memorial Poem was composed by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on the battle front at Ypres, Belgium in 1915. These poppies grow naturally in areas of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe, so when World War 1 churned up the fields of Flanders and Northern France they turned the barren earth into a sea of blood red so different to the fighting that had just ceased.
Lt. Col. John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields
         Then thanks to the determined efforts of an American school teacher Moina Bell Michael an artificial red Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy was adopted by numerous organisations around the world to raise money for ex-service men and women in need of assistance. 
        Now almost 100 years later it is still the inspiration for a Poppy Day every November because it was on the 11th of that month that the Great War ended in 1918.
          Michael, who was inspired by McCrae’s poem, wrote her own one We shall keep the faith. And that’s exactly what she did by starting this everlasting remembrance movement.
         The White Poppy has had a much more chequered existence. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t grow nearly as prolifically as the Red one. Britain’s Women’s Co-operative Guild adopted it in 1933 as a lasting symbol of peace.
         Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Day white poppy replicas were at one time produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion refused to be associated with its manufacture. Veterans felt it undermined the meaning of the red poppy.
         It was so divisive that some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing the white ones. In 1940 Britain’s Daily Mail called for it to be banned because it was encouraging conscientious objectors.
         The White Poppy Appeal is now run by the Peace Pledge Union, the oldest non-sectarian pacifist organisation in Britain.

P.S. Here’s hoping they will stick to gardens and won’t be popping up after any battles in South Africa in the future.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Dear Home Owners,
          A new French law stipulates that publications with digitally altered pictures of models have to make this clear in a warning. This, it is hoped, will avoid false ideals of beauty in a country with 600 000 people with eating disorders.
          The penalty for those that ignore this is huge with a minimum fine of R597 000 in our money.
          South Africa should do something similar to stamp out the subterfuge in estate agency advertising.
          I recently took Greeff Properties, a Christies International Real Estate affiliate in Cape Town, to task for misleading advertising (advertising). Its newspaper advertisements contained ON SHOW pictures of homes in new developments that had not yet been built. The illustrations were very realistic computer generated ones.
The next time this was advertise Artist's Impression appeared in
very small letters below this same picture of the complex
          Mike Greeff, the CEO and founder, told me initially that his firm was doing nothing wrong as the pictures were obviously an artist’s impression. Then he had second thoughts and when the same properties appeared again in the Cape Times the advertisements had Artist’s Impression in the smallest of letters in the one corner.
          He thanked me “for my input in this regard.”
          But if a South Africa law was to make this compulsory it should require the truth warning to be a certain size in relation to the advertisement so that agencies could not get away with something that is so small as to be almost meaningless.
          As I have already told Mike I can’t understand why he doesn’t openly admit in these advertisements that building has not yet begun because anybody who is interested will soon find this out when they go to the vacant site.
Mike Greeff

          Since he changed his newspaper advertisements his firm’s “Top 21 Property SHOWCASE – CHRISTIE’S International Real Estate” for the Kommetjie and Scarborough suburbs of Cape Town has been circulated. It’s in the Spring 2017 Village Post, a local news flyer originated by Village Homes before it was absorbed into Greeff Properties. This is delivered to people in those areas.
          The entire one side of it is taken up with pictures of what appear to be 18 existing homes with the three others being clearly vacant plots.
          So in an email I told Mike that it would make an interesting competition to ask the people who had the flyer dropped in their letter boxes if they could spot any fictitious buildings.
          “There is not a single picture there in which the building shown clearly looks like an artist’s impression. So if people know that one of them doesn’t exist, doesn’t it make the whole lot suspect?” I asked him.  
            I attached pictures of some of the 18 featured including the one of the building not yet built. I only know about this one because I live nearby. I have no idea if the others are fact or fiction.
          The one spotlighted is The Aviary.
          It is described too grandly as an “Exclusive Estate” when it is a small development of seven semi-detached units of just over 200 square meters being shoehorned into a tiny piece of land.
          Construction has not even started on any of the dwellings.
The empty Aviary site
           I wonder what Christies International Real Estate (christies) that is in 46 countries and prides itself on picking the right affiliates which are by invitation only, thinks about this unreal promotion.
          To give Mike the benefit of the doubt perhaps the honesty remedy that appeared in his later newspaper advertisements had not yet been formulated when the flyer was printed. So we’ll have to see what happens with the next one.            
          I once again asked him about his “Greeff Developments” claims for developments that had been advertised in his firm’s various newspaper supplements. He made no comment when I had previously suggested that this was misleading.
          I told him that people I had spoken to interpreted this as meaning that his firm had a financial interest in the developments mentioned and was not just the selling agent.
          “If you are merely the selling agents I think that most people would say that it is misleading to describe them as ‘Greeff Developments,’” I pointed out to Mike.
          Chapman’s Bay Estate was one of them and when I checked with one of the developers mentioned on its website I was told that Greeff Properties was the selling agent but not part of the development consortium.
          A lot of houses have already been erected on what can clearly be called an estate because it's huge and is for 145 well spaced homes.
Mike evidently read my email but did not reply.
          I have no knowledge of the property business so I don’t believe it should have been up to me to teach the likes of Mike Greeff what is or isn’t misleading in his advertisements.
          He should have known that already.
          The law I suggested would let me off the hook.
          Happy house hunting and watch out for those ads that are “clearly artist’s impressions” that could fool anybody they are so realistic. In the French case at least the models ON SHOW do actually exist.
          Jon, a model Consumer Watchdog.

P.S. The South African Government’s Estate Agency Affairs 
Board(real estate) is supposed to keep estate agents in line, 
but its efficiency leaves much to be desired.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Andrew Bonamour CEO of Tiso
Blackstar Group
          Being in the business of cornering shysters and highlighting inefficiencies would surely have taught the Sunday Times that coming clean was always the best way to defuse any situation.
          But when it had its own back to the wall about employing a crooked journalist it showed it has learnt nothing from its exposés or what it advocates for others.
          Apologising was not in its vocabulary.
          This was disturbingly illustrated after my post: Exposed: The Sunday Times’ love affair with a crook (love affair) was published on my blog on 10/9/2017.
          I pointed out how wrong it was that Jim Jones, the one time Editor of the Johannesburg based Business Day, had continued to be featured as a writer in the Sunday Times’ business section (Business Times) for eight years after he had been publicly exposed as a thief in a 2009 report in Noseweek, South Africa’s only investigate magazine.
          As if that was not bad enough Noseweek also revealed that he had abused his position as one of the paper’s freelances to get his own back by writing a scathing article about Moneyweb, an online financial publication. This was founded by Alec Hogg where Jones had been employed as its Mineweb Editor. Hogg was still there when the firm fired Jones after he stole the equivalent of R200 000 from it.
Bongani Siqoko

          On 21/9/2017 I asked the Sunday Times Editor Bongani Siqoko in an email if he was “big enough to tell me that Jim Jones will not write for the Sunday Times again.” But he wasn’t. I got a read report and nothing more.
          So I put the same question to Andrew Bonamour the Chief Executive of Tiso Blackstar (formerly Times Media) the Group that owns the Sunday Times. I told him I got no answer to my email from his Editor Bongani and gave him the link to my post.
          I added; “I accept that this happened before you took over as CEO (This was in 2012), but that should not stop you from healing the wound to some extent now, by giving me the undertaking that I have asked for.
          “How different in principle is this kind of behaviour by the Sunday Times to what KPMG and the like have been doing, even if it is on a smaller scale?”
          The replies I got were made even more peculiar by the fact that Andrew has been, or still is a director of a host of companies and his areas of expertise include investment banking and corporate finance. They were so odd that I wondered if perhaps they were the work of a hacker.
          Apart from this aspect his assertions had the same tone as the ones Jones displayed when he took Moneyweb apart. Bonamour’s ones however, did not even have a semblance of truth in them.
          “Are you sure you have the eighth(sic) person,” his email said. “*Jim Johns bea(sic) was former editor of BD. There is a *Jim Jones who is also a union leader.”
          Business Day is in the same Group as the Sunday Times so I would have expected Bonamour to have got his facts right about Jones’ tenure there. He also should have been aware of what happened to Jones when he was at Moneyweb, and if he didn’t know he could have easily found out.
          In a subsequent email he told me: “You(sic) wrong. Don’t just take Alec Hogg’s word for something.”
          “I’ve got the right person alright,” I replied. I included two attachments from Google that showed that Jones had been the Editor of Business Day and Noseweek had carried an article entitled: High on the Hog. How Jim Jones ripped off his website employer and then spun the story…… Former Business Day Editor Jim Jones.
          “If I had got it wrong,” I told him “I would have expected the Sunday Times Editor and the Business Times Editor to have corrected me by now.”
          Nothing I could do would get him to agree that his biggest selling paper had made a huge mistake in continuing to employ a known crook and that it would not be using him again.
          Having dismissed Hogg as a liar quite unjustifiably, he said something similar about Noseweek in his final email: “Noseweek is hardly a source. They write what they want.”
          So with the Sunday Times in the dock his pathetic defence was to just rubbish the prosecution regardless of the overwhelming evidence against his paper.
Alec Hogg

          Hogg, who is now the Editor and Publisher of BizNews, had this to say when I passed on Bonamour’s comments about him: “I never expected that from him. Sad.”
          He explained that the Moneyweb board had given Jones the chance to repay the money which he did. “I was against it and wanted to press charges but was overruled,” he stated. “They did agree that we would inform the SA Reserve Bank and tax authorities, which we did. I never heard anything more.
          “After he consulted his lawyers Jones’ defence was that I said he could inform our Canadian partners, Infomine, to divert money due to us into Jones’ Mauritius bank account.
          “Your concerns are valid but mud wrestling is an over-rated sport. There is nothing more powerful than the truth and it always wins in the end.
          “I moved on long ago.”
Today 1 October the Sunday Times explained exactly why its editor would not answer my question and why Bonamour was defending the use of Jim Jones even though he doesn’t seem to know who he is. 
Jim Jones

          Jones’ byline was on another Anglo American story on Page 6 of the Business Times. Could we suddenly find him being moved up to the paper’s Mining Editor, after all he did have the title of Mineweb Editor at Moneyweb.
          In the Letters to the Editor in the same edition Dave Harris fortifies my point perfectly. Headed Sunday Times is no holy cow he wrote that the paper had rightly shown no sympathy for KPMG, but we must not forget that by its own admission it had made mistakes in its reporting of the SARS investigative unit.
          “Barney Mthombothi (columnist) writes that the media has done a sterling job of exposing malpractice, while your editorial demands all must come clean and take it on the chin,” he continued.
          “The Sunday Times always needs to take into account its own fallibility, otherwise it may be the case of people in glass houses throwing stones.”
          Well it is certainly not making any admissions in the Jones case. It is doing exactly the opposite to coming clean, or taking it on the chin.
          How long can we expect this love affair to continue? And what will it do to the paper’s reputation, especial among the business fraternity that is well equipped to see the implications of this sort of thing.
          Before I posted this I sent a copy to Bonamour and invited him to make any comments he wished.
          He retorted that it was “bizarre that you would drag me into this when I don’t choose columnists nor do I interfere in ST or any publication. Media accounts for 20% of our business. I had never heard of Jim Jones until you emailed me.”
          It certainly was bizarre that he didn’t mention this in the first place.
Anonymous contributor
          He told me to take this up with the Editor of the Sunday Times and the Editor of the Business Times which I had already done.
He ended by saying: “You are welcome to run whatever story you like.”
So here goes.
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who tells you what the main stream media won’t normally reveal about its fellow club members.

*Note: Jimmy Johns is a substantial American sandwich restaurant chain and James Jones, known as Jack Jones was a well known British trade union leader who died in 2009. Were these the people Bonamour was thinking of when he got Jim Jones’ background so terribly wrong and asked me: “Are you sure you have the eighth(sic) person.”