Sunday, July 28, 2019


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Pippa Green Press Ombudsman
          Did you know that large sections of our press are running their own protection racket unhindered by the Press Ombudsman or anybody else? And a Judge, who is currently heading a media ethics inquiry, is not prepared to consider this decay in our newspaper morality.
          The inquiry has been established by the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) and the Judge’s treatment of my submission does nothing to support SANEF’s claim that it is there to “fight for the highest standards of ethics in the media.”
          The papers involved are the Daily Sun and the free People’s Post community weeklies in the Media24 stable as well as Caxton's The Citizen daily.
          Even Professor George Claassen Media24’s own Ombudsman had nothing good to say about the Herbalist advertisements that appear in his Group’s papers. "I agree with you, many of these ads are totally misleading and even fraudulent,” he said.
          Steven Motale the Editor of The Citizen at the time I wrote my story also agreed that the ads were not believable.
          They have people claiming to be doctors, professors and the like who can win you the lotto, enlarge your penis and do all kinds of other amazing things, almost over night. Some even offer a 100% guarantee. 
          Of course its illegal to call yourself a doctor when you are not one, but the papers don't worry about that. All they are interested in is making money. In the 17 May 2019 edition of the Sun there were two pages of these ads with 10 advertisers claiming to be doctors.
          As I knew the Press Ombudsman did not deal with advertising, another aspect of my campaign to stop these papers lying daily occurred to me. This was the editorial side of these, something this Ombudsman is definitely mandated to deal with, as she is there to rule on complaints against print and on-line publications. So I contacted Pippa Green, who became the new Ombudsman a couple of months ago.
This is typical
of the Herbalist
ads that appear
in the Daily Sun
          “I realise that your office does not deal with advertising,” I began. “But this is about the immoral way certain newspapers give crooks, who advertise in their papers, editorial immunity from having their activities exposed in their editorial sides.
          “At the same time a host of other dubious characters, who don’t advertise, get their comeuppance in the same papers.”
          My complaint, she told me, first had to go to the Public Advocate Joe Latakgomo. A former newspaper editor he was given this job last year to champion the complaints of members of the public, because one of the issues raised at a press commission was that the public’s voice was not being heard.
          The irony was that way back in 2011, when I was campaigning to get the Sunday Times to stop carrying get-rich-quick ads that promised unrealistic returns on investments, he was the internal Ombudsman for the Avusa Group, the owners of that paper. I upset him by suggesting that he was a lame duck ombudsman.
          An article he wrote in the paper, prompted I believe by my complaints, was headed Beware of dubious advertising claims. It looked as though the paper was finally going to stop aiding crooks.
          “These come-ons,” Joe told readers, “eroded the public's trust in newspapers and false advertising, or advertising that makes claims that are patently exaggerated, impact on consumer confidence.”
          He then gave this assurance, “We will continue as journalists to expose those who cheat and lie to our readers.” Nothing happened and it took several more years of my campaigning before the paper stopped taking this kind of ad. I’m sure it would never concede that my blog had anything to do with this change of policy. It did however have one lapse last year.
          Joe left the Group not long afterwards and as far as I know it has not had an internal Ombudsman since. It has changed hands several times in the last few years.
          I told Pippa that I did not think Joe was the right person to deal with my complaint in view of my dealings with him when he was with Avusa and she replied: “I cannot breach the Complaints Procedure by leapfrogging the Public Advocate in the first instance.”
          Guest what: she evidently did exactly that because I never heard from Joe and she effectively kicked my gripe into touch.
          She conveniently ignored what I wrote about the editorial side of these papers, even though this is the part of them that is the reason for her existence. “We do not at the moment have the jurisdiction to deal with advertising,” she told me.
Judge Satchwell
          Retired High Court Judge Kathleen Satchwell, who is heading the SANEF Inquiry with two retired journalists, took much the same view of what I had put to Pippa. She too completely ignored the editorial aspect.
          In my email to her I stated: “The gist of my submission is the immoral way certain South African newspapers have for years been aiding and abetting crooks to rip off those, who can usually least afford it, by carrying their advertisements that are clearly fraudulent. This media cancer has been compounded by the papers giving the shysters editorial immunity from having their activities exposed in their editorial sides.”
          She replied saying: “We consider that your concerns as to ‘fraudulent’ advertising falls beyond our remit. We have no powers to investigate criminal behaviour, which the connotation of ‘fraud’ certainly encompasses.”
          Her last statement was absurd as nowhere in my 13 page submission did I so much as suggest that they should investigate the fraudulent advertisements. It’s patently obvious that this is not something the Inquiry could be expected to do.
          I told her that in her reply to me Pippa Green wrote that they had another complaint from a man who lost a lot of money by responding to an ad in a community paper for a Profit. “We wrote to the editor of that paper,” Pippa continued, “and she has undertaken to help the police investigation and to speak to their advertising department about the type of advertising they accept.”          
          So once again somebody was ripped off with the help of the dubious side of the South Africa press, I stated in my submission to Judge Satchwell.
          I pointed out that Pippa Green did concede, however that: “We agree that many advertisements are problematic and undermine the credibility of newspapers. But we only have the tools of persuasion at the moment rather than instruction because we do not have jurisdiction over ads per se.”  
          She added that the Press Council’s Executive Director Latiefa Mobara had met with the new head of the Advertising Regulatory Board CEO Gail Schimmel, “who is also aware of the problem of misleading ads.
          “Will continue working with her and speak to editors to see what we can solve, but in the meantime, the ARB is the body to deal with such complaints.”
          The ARB replaced the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that was so bad it was liquidated. When I complained to the ASA about misleading newspaper ads I got the complete run around. I was told they did not have the power to tell papers to stop carrying these, as they could only deal with the individual advertisers. They wanted me to submit a separate complaint for each ad that I believed was not kosher.  And I don’t expect the ARB to be any different.
          At one stage the ASA stated it had ruled against Herbalist advertisements "on numerous occasions, and it is hoped that the appropriate authorities will address this issue as it is no doubt causing harm to the credibility of legitimate healers and practitioners and this industry at large." As usual nothing happened.
Former Sunday Times
Consumer columnist
          These advertising authorities, like the Press Council (the Ombudsman is part of this) were established and financed by the industries they serve, so their impartiality is very questionable when it comes to dealing with complaints. What’s more they only have a tenuous control over those advertising agencies and media groups that are their members. They are essentially there to protect their masters, who pay for them and to give the illusion that they are looking after the interests of the public.         
          I ended my submission with: “It’s not surprising that newspapers go on printing the kind of lies I have referred to because the Press Council has little or no power to effectively police the press in South Africa. As the Independent Media (It owns papers like the Cape Times, The Star in Johannesburg and various others) showed, if a newspaper group doesn’t like Press Council decisions that go against it, all it has to do is resign as a member. It then has a free rein to go on doing whatever it likes or in this case appoint its own internal ombudsman.
You can’t get more absurd than having a Press Ombudsman, who concedes that the kind of advertisements I have referred to “undermines the credibility of newspapers,” but, conveniently,  she hasn’t been given the power to do anything about them.
        The terms of reference for the Inquiry that the Judge is heading state that its purpose “Shall include: Investigation of ethical breaches on the part of the media industry in South Africa and those obstacles to accountable and credible media practice.”
Well if ever there was an obstacle to “credible media practice” it was the Judge’s decision to refuse to consider my submission.
Jon, the self appointed Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.
See also (sunday times at it againlies lies and more lies & 
sunday times will never expose this)
P.S. I wasn’t optimistic that my submission to the SANEF Inquiry would get beyond first base. But if you don’t try you never know. SANEF represents editors and senior newspapers journalists and other people in the media. So I could hardly expect my views to be taken seriously because, if they were, the papers concerned might have to do without a good slice of their income. In my one man, 10 year long campaign to stop papers from continuing to print what are obviously money making lies I sent emails to SANEF’s director at the time Mathatu Tsedu, as well as the current director Kate Skinner to try to get them to do something about this. I didn’t even get a reply. 
P.P.S. The two journalists with the Judge on the panel are described as being 'retired from the industry.' They are Nikiwe Bikitsha and Rich Mkhondo. In an email to Nikiwe I told her I presumed this was done to emphasise their independence. But if Google is up to date she is the founder and CEO of Amargi Media and Rich also has his own public relations company. From what I know about public relations firms, keeping in with the press is very much part of what they do when they want to get maximum exposure for their clients. So people who are still in this business can never be described as being 'independent,' if they form part of a panel that is investigating newspaper and journalistic ethics, even if they were once journalists of some kind and have since moved on into the public relations world. Some might argue that even journalists, who are retired  and are in no business at all, can't be described as 'independent' when heading an inquiry of this kind. I sent this to her on 21 July  and on 24 July I emailed her again saying that if I did not hear from her by the week-end (27 July) I would assume that everything in this email was was correct. I heard nothing from her, although she was 
the person who acknowledged the receipt of my submission.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Dear Sports Lovers,
Kane Williamson
          New Zealand is a tiny country with a population of a mere 5-million, yet it shows up South Africa’s 58-million badly when it comes to producing team sport winners.
          After reaching the final of the Cricket World Cup for the second successive time earlier this month its Silver Ferns have just won the Netball World Cup for the sixth time having been runners up on 8 previous occasions.
South Africa came fourth. It had some consolation when wing defender Karla Pretorius was named Player of the Tournament. The team’s best performance was second way back in 1995.
In cricket South Africa has never even reached the final of the World Cup in this sport. At this year’s event its Proteas faded so badly that they were lucky not to come last. Meanwhile the Black Caps added to their sterling performance when their captain Kane Williamson, who scored more than 30% of his team’s runs with 578, was named Man of the Tournament.
Another Kiwi batsman Martin Crowe got this accolade in 1992. The best that South Africa could do was when Lance Klusener picked up the trophy in 1999 for his top notch all round 281 runs and 17 wickets.
Lance Klusener
         In rugby South Africa was getting the best of the All Blacks at the World Cup up to 2007 with a win in that year as well as in 1995 when they narrowly beat New Zealand at Ellis Park. At that stage the All Blacks had only won once in 1987 when the tournament started. The Springboks were excluded from that because of apartheid.
More recently the Springboks haven’t featured at all at the centre of the podium with New Zealand taking the title in 2011 and 2015. In 2015 the All Blacks became the first team to defend their title and the first team to win it twice. The Springboks snatched a miserable third place.
It’s hardly surprising then, that the All Blacks are odds on favourites to win again later this year.
In 2011 the Boks, the defending champions, were eliminated in the quarter finals by Australia, another country with a very much smaller population than ours at 24 million. Their rugby not only has to compete for players with the country’s most popular sport Australian Rules football (Footy) as well as Rugby League and soccer.
South Africa’s men have had some good results in sevens rugby but again our team has been very much overshadowed by the All Blacks. The All Blacks kicked off the World Rugby Sevens Series in 1999 by leading the series for six successive years. So far they have accumulated 12 wins to South Africa’s three. 
New Zealand has won the women’s version, which began in 2012, five times out of seven, with Australia taking the title on the other two occasions. South Africa doesn’t seem to feature in this at all.
Evidently with its small population New Zealand can’t be expected to win everything so thankfully it has given soccer a miss.
In South Africa football is the most popular sport, but after the national team Bafana Bafana won the African Cup of Nations at home 23 years ago it has had one poor showing after another.
Karla Pretorius the World's
best netball player
It set what is possibly the worst record in this sport when it became the first host nation in FIFA World Cup history to exit in the group stage. It was when the tournament was held in South Africa in 2010. This was the first time it had been staged on the African continent.
Things got so bad that in 2014 the then Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula described the team as a “bunch of losers” after it could not even make it to the group stage in the African Cup.
So it seems that South African coaches in many of our sports should be sent to New Zealand to learn how to produce winners. But we first have to get rid of our ridiculous quota system that is hampering our rugby and cricket sides in particular, and forcing white stars to continue their careers elsewhere in the world. There can’t be another country that insists on picking players based more on their colour than their ability.
This takes the cake
      This is being done in South Africa by government decree to ensure that blacks, disadvantaged under the previous whites only apartheid government, get places in the teams. The tragedy is that when they get picked they can’t be sure if it is because they are good enough or because they happen to be the right colour.
It’s hard to think of a better way of hobbling a nation’s sports performances.
Jon, an avid sports watcher who, like our previous Minister of Sport, is getting sick of rooting for losers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Dear Readers,

          Calls for the Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane to be fired are getting louder and louder after a second court hearing found against one of her investigations.
          In his column in the Sunday Times headed “Mkhwebane is a public menace, not a public protector, and she must go" Barney Mthombothi wrote that Ramamphosa must make sure that parliament takes the necessary steps to remove her. A subsequent editorial in the same paper was headed: “This rogue investigator is what the public most need to be protected from.”
          If she must go so should Sune` Griessel who is in charge of the Western Cape Protector’s office in Cape Town, together with some of her useless staff.
          As far back as June 2017 I received an acknowledgement that my complaint to the Public Protector office in Pretoria had been received. I was trying to initiate an investigation into the way the Cape Town City Council had been wasting millions.
          For nearly four years I had personally documented, with my own pictures and posts on my blog, the way Council had been spending huge amounts on ineffective ways to try and keep the sand dunes in place above a municipal rubbish dump, next to the kite surfing beach at Witsands not far from Cape Point. The dump was closed more than 30 years ago, but there is still tons of plastic and other non-biodegradable material under the sand. The Council has been spending all this money to try and prevent this from getting washed into the sea.
          What I discover was that the Council’s net fences erected to ensure that the remains of the rubbish was always covered were getting blown away by the strong winds that are endemic to the area. Sometimes they were flattened as fast as they were put up. From time to time costly earth moving equipment was brought in to shift dunes around only to have the sand blown back to its original position.
This is how the ratepayer's money is being wasted
          At the end of last year Greg Oelofse, Cape Town’s Head of Environmental Policy told me that this maintenance work on the dunes would have to continue ad infinitum. What they had been doing had been successful because since 2006 none of the buried rubbish had been washed into the sea.
          What he neglected to mention was that in the last few years we have not had enough rain to wash anything into the sea.
          He was not in favour of vegetating the area with alien Port Jackson willow because in the unlikely event that they would be given permission to do this by the appropriate government department they would still have to spend money on an ongoing basis to make sure it did not spread to other areas.
          Meanwhile on the other side of the mountains above Witsands the lower slopes are covered in a forest of Port Jackson. They have been like this for more than 10 years and nobody has done anything about it.

          So what would be better – go on spending millions to try and keep the constant shifting sand in place at Witsands or plant Port Jackson? This would be self perpetuating and cost not a cent extra once planted. It already grows naturally in patches around the 19ha rubbish dump site and what’s more important is that it does not need any watering to get it going.
          My complaint to the Public Protector contained details from six of my posts about what has been going on at the dump site as well as links to the posts. Many of these included the replies I got from the councillors concerned as well City officials.
           But this was not good enough to even get the ace sleuths at the Public Protector’s Cape Town office started. A year after my complaint was received they were still trying to work out whether the “law allows your complaint to be investigated.”
           After I was told that my complaint had been shelved because I had not supplied enough information I came across a quote from the Public Protector herself that made nonsense of what the Cape Town office had been telling me. She said that even if her office is not provided with the evidence to support an allegation this did not stop it from being investigated.

          When I pointed this out to Griessel she phoned me and asked me to come to her office in the centre of Cape Town. I told her that I was not prepared to do this as it was quite a trek from where I live near Kommetjie. So she asked for my exact address as she said she had been visiting the township of Masiphumelele (Masi), which is in the same area, almost every week. When I gave it to her she undertook to come and see me at my home and made an appointment for the following week. About an hour before she was due to arrive somebody from her office phoned to say she would not be able to make it because the authorisation for the trip had not yet come through.
          Hers is such a humpty dumpty department that the office manager apparently needs an authorisation to travel from the centre of Cape Town to a place in the Southern suburbs. I told the caller to tell Griessel to tell me in an email what she wants me to give her. I never heard from her again.
Most of these claims didn't feature in my experience
          My response was to send her an email in which I told her that as head of the Western Cape office she sets an appalling example. “You told me among other things that your officer doesn’t deal with blogs. So you are evidently behind the times in that area of technology as well. Who does one complaint to about rotten service from your office?”
          While the City Council continues to blow money on a grand scale at an old rubbish dump site 40 000 Blacks live in Masi not far away, in what the Public Protector herself described as: “The most disgusting conditions I have seen in my life,” after she visited the township a couple of years ago.
P.S. Thanks Sune`Griessel and your staff for doing your bit to tarnish the already besmirched name of the Public Protector.