Thursday, October 29, 2020

 Dear Readers,

Gert-Johan Coetzee

          They evidently have short memories at the Johannesburg based Sunday Times. Eight years ago its ‘fashion’ fundi Lin Sampson slammed just about every aspect of the dress South African fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee created for a seventeen-year-old girl’s matric dance.

          Now in a huge about turn in the lead story in its Insight section recently, it described him as ‘one of the country’s most sought-after dressmakers.’

          Talk about eating Sampson’s words, which were very unpalatable, this article was, fortunately for Coetzee, not one of Sampson. It was written by Leonie Wagner.

          The one Sampson regurgitated was about Melanie Olhaus, who showed commendable ingenuity and daring to get Olympic swimming gold medallist Chad le Clos to agree to partner her at her matric dance. She did this by holding up an invitation placard in the crowd that gathered at Johannesburg airport to welcome athletes returning from the Games.

          But instead of concentrating on this aspect of what was a very unusual story, Sampson did her best to ruin the girl’s special occasion by letting her poisonous pen  run wild about the girl’s matric dress and Coetzee himself.

          She began: “Okay, so the dress was wrong. Anyone could see that. It was a bit like a Swiss cheese,” she went on, “a hole where you expect cheese, or a bit like a bathing suite that Ester Williams, a 50s swimming star might have worn – in the pool – and it was little more than an animated rag.”

          And if her own bitchy remarks were not enough she quoted an anonymous colleague, who I do not believe existed, as saying, “It didn’t fit.”

          After having a field day knocking Melanie’s dress Sampson turned her attention to the designer. One of his greatest crimes, apart from Melanie’s dress, was having designed one for one of the Kardashian sisters. That made him “a warrior of the junk genre de jour, of reality TV, of people who are famous for being famous (whatever that means), people who are not famous at all but think they are.”

          As if that was not enough of an insult she added: “With his platinum curls and sweet lips, he has a terminal case of celebriphilia.”

          In Sampson’s opinion Melanie didn’t even get her hair style right as it was “augmented with extensions that gave the appearance of boiling over.”

          The latest article in the Sunday Times told us that Coetzee has designed dresses for the likes of Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Oprah Winfrey US singer Kelly Rowland and various other stars.

          Not bad for a curly haired farm boy.

          By coincidence Sampson’s byline that I have not seen all that often in the paper recently, appeared in the same edition as the one about Coetzee pictured on his family’s farm. Sampson was the author of The Drag Trade, about the queens of the Cape that appeared in the LifeStyle section.


          Jon, the Poorman’s Press Ombudsman and defender of curly haired designers.

          See also:lin-sampson-out-bitching-herself.html



 Dear Readers,


         For nearly two decades The Butcher of Rosebank was allowed to go on operating while the Health Professions Council that is supposed to police doctors failed dismally to prevent him maiming patient after patient.

         His serious criminal activities were completely ignored even though they were so wide ranging that they should have stopped him from practising medicine entirely. Other people have been jailed for less.

         I am a former Sunday Times investigative journalist turned Private Eye, now retired.  And it was while working as a self-employed PI specialising in life insurance that I was asked to investigate the dread disease scams perpetrated by Dr Wynne Lieberthal, his doctor friends and a bent broker. The 600 page report I compiled for the various life companies involved formed the basis for this 300 page book.

         It contains the names of perhaps 60 or more doctors and other people in the medical professions as well as the particularly tragic stories of people who came under the Butcher’s scalpel.

         Mariskca du Plessis, the girl on the cover was just 14 when the Butcher put her into a wheel chair for life.

         The Book’s Chapter headings tell a story of their own: Sensational photograph; Bad addiction; Spreading cancer; Another doctor catches it; Media frenzy; Doctors eat Doctor; After his blood; Ailing advocate’s secret; Missing surgeon and so on.

        To get a copy contact me at

Sunday, October 18, 2020


 Dear Readers,

         The Johannesburg based Sunday Times has introduced a new and very odd version of the BBC quiz show Pointless that is screened on our DStv.

         And what’s more it is the brain child of the relatively new Editor S’Thembiso Msomi, who writes a column in the paper every week. He took the very courageous and unusual step of giving his personal email address in his column. Did he think this through before revealing it? Had he lined up the necessary members of staff to help him deal with a possible avalanche of emails?

         Well if my experience it anything to go by it turned out to be completely POINTLESS.

I sent my first email on 21/9/2020 suggesting he included a certain story in his paper. And when I got no reply I repeated it on 30/9/2020 adding: “I wonder if you ever got this?” Again I got no reply. So last week I phoned the paper in an effort to speak to the Editor.

         It turned out that the Virus is so bad there that it’s a nightmare to find somebody to answer a phone. How you expect a newspaper with declining advertising sales to survive these days Mr Editor when you make it so difficult for anybody to speak to any member of your staff, is beyond me. Great news stories that could boost your paper’s circulation considerably could be passing you by daily. But that’s another story.

         Eventually I got hold of a reporter. I told him briefly what my problem was and he said he would pass it on to the Editor, who was expected to come in shortly. I gave him my telephone number. Well I’m still waiting to hear from the Editor. If he didn’t get my emails the least he could have done was to phone me to say so.

         In keeping with the theme of the Sunday Times’ version of the game my emails and telephone calls all turned out to be POINTLESS.

         Perhaps S’Thembiso your courage will extend to including this post in your column next week, if you ever see the email I am sending you with the link to it.


         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman and former Sunday Times investigative journalist in the days before COVID-19, when they didn’t play POINTLESS GAMES.


Sunday, October 4, 2020



 Dear Readers,

          After Glocky, an 8 year old Pit Bull, with a reputation for attacking other animals, savaged a much smaller dog on a Cape Town estate, its owner Jaric Tolken has been doing his best to convince everyone there that it is not dangerous.  

          The attack has split the residents on the estate’s WhatsApp group with some saying Glocky should be hounded out, while others believe it should stay. People are worried that a child could be its next victim as on any day unaccompanied little children can be seen skateboarding or just milling around the quiet streets of the estate.

          While collecting information for this post I sent Jaric an email telling him that I proposed to write about what happened and I wanted to get both sides of the story.

          I told him I believed his wife was due to have a baby shortly and “in view of this do you think it will be safe to still have this dog around. Only last week a toddler got killed by a pit bull in Pietermaritzburg. Isn’t there a strong chance that your pit bull will get jealous of the attention being given to your new baby?”

          He replied: “Thanks for being reasonable and hearing both sides.” He described his dog as “very friendly and loving towards humans.”

          “I’m not concerned about Glocky,” he went on. “What kind of person would I be if I kept a dog I was concerned about near my child!!!”


Glocky look-alike
laughing it off

          Apart from a couple of pictures of Glocky - a black dog with a white patch on its chest - he attached a lot of other pit bulls that looked very similar and they were all being cuddled or lying next to small children. He was clearly trying to convince me that this was what his dog was like with children.

          But when I asked him to give me the names and ages of the children I got no reply. So I Googled ‘Pit Bull pictures with children’ and there I found some of the ones he had sent me.

           I emailed him saying: “Jaric am I correct in assuming that your dog is in none of these pictures of pits hulls with kids, because you took them off the internet?”

          That set him off. He turned out to be just as unpredictable as his dog.

          “Fuck off and have a nice day.” he replied. “Kind Regards, Jaric.”

          It seems that Suzi Schalk hit the nail on the head on the WhatsApp when she had this to say about Jaric: “The dog frankly, is the way it is because of the owner, Pity he doesn’t see it that way.”

          What she said after that about pit bulls being great dogs and other comments in favour of Jaric that made him thank her for her support was extremely odd. You see Suzi and he husband Willi, not only live on the state, but they are also estate agents who sell houses there. A vicious pit bull that is a danger is hardly a great selling point for anybody who might want to buy a house there.

Glocky's handiwork but fortunately his owner says
he is "very friendly to humans"

          Not for the first time Glocky attacked another dog last month after a painter left the property’s gate to the street open. He mauled Bobby, a six year old Smoodle (Schnauzer/Poodle cross) and his owner Lesley Lilley also got bitten trying to separate the two dogs. The vet’s bill to stitch up Bobby’s wounds came to R5 608.

          On WhatsApp Jaric undertook to cover the vet’s bill “no matter what the cost”, but he has been a bit slow in coming up with the money. At the time of posting this he had only paid R1 000, although the attack took place a month ago.

Isn't that sweet. Another
Glocky look-alike

          Bradley Parsons maintained this was not an isolate incident as Gloky had twice attacked his boxers a couple of years ago. At the time Jaric initially agreed to pay the vet’s bill, but soon recanted. He told Bradley that he got Glocky from a farm where it was being trained for dog fighting and he was rehabilitating it. 

          Bradley believes the law should take its course. Unfortunately there seems to be very little likelihood of that. Apparently the attack was reported to the Police and all they did was to give Jarec a warning. This is in spite of Glocky having bitten various dogs and being credited with having killed several cats and even a porcupine, as the estate adjoins a wetland area where there is a variety of small wild animals.

          After another member of the WhatsApp group complained that he was paying for security when children could not play freely because of a dog, Suzi Schalk retorted: “That’s not the point and FYI children should not be roaming around freely in any estate, definitely not in these times, in my opinion.”

Another Glocky look-alike showing he is not only 
good with kids but with other dogs as well

          She then made out that she was a pit bull expert and that Bobby’s owner Lesley was actually to blame for what happened. “I know pit bulls believe me - they are to be handled carefully,” she maintained. “A stranger bear hugging a strange dog is idiotic. What on earth was this person thinking?”

          If it had actually happened it was not half as idiotic as what Suzi had to say. What did she expect Bobb’s owner to do when her dog was attacked unexpected in the street while she was taking it for a walk. There was nothing at all idiotic about her reaction. Most people would have done exactly the same.

          Lesley feels that Glocky needs to be re-homed far away or put down as it is probably going to continue being a problem on the estate.

          What do the rest of you think?


          Jon, another type of dog, one of the good ones – a Consumer Watchdog and a ‘Keep Housing Estates Safe’ advocate.







Sunday, September 20, 2020


Dear Readers,
         In spite of the fact that it is well known that hair is quite a sensitive subject for Black women, Volkswagen has chosen to screen an advert on DStv that shows a Black woman being belittled about her hair by her hairdresser, in front of an audience of several concerned women in the salon. 
         This has been done to promote the totally unrelated subject of Volkswagen’s service plan.
         It made its debut digitally in April and started airing on TV in August this year. It is still appearing. Unlike the TRESemme` hair care one that caused such a storm, this ad does not come across as obviously racist, although some might argue that they would not have filmed a white women being treated in the same way.
         It consists of a Black woman sitting in a chair in a salon while her Black hairdresser is doing her hair. The conversation goes like this:
Hair Dresser (HD): What’s news, what’s news girl? I want to hear everything.
Client (C): So I started a new job and ….
HD: And then…
C: Hmm?
HD: Did you do your hair recently?
C: Um,well. It was my sister’s wedding and you were busy, I had to make a plan.
At about this point the hairdresser, clearly angry because the woman had her hair done elsewhere, starts pulling the woman’s head around and combing her hair roughly.
HD: Okay.
C: It was just one time.
The woman continues to be roughed up by the hair dresser as a row of women sitting on chairs opposite her look on with concerned looks on their faces.
HD: It’s fine.
C: I didn’t mean anything.
HD: I said it’s fine.
Man standing at a dryer: No it’s not fine.
C: Yno…..
Man: It’s not fine.
C: If only maintaining my hair was as easy as maintaining the value of my Volkswagen. With EasyDrive vehicle plans you get service per schedule from qualified Volkswagen experts. It ends with the hairdresser pulling her head as roughly as ever to one side and the client saying Hay!!

The Client started off looking relaxed and happy, but her expression changed as she became increasingly alarmed at the way her head was being pulled around and her hair was being was being very forcibly combed.

*   *   *

         When I saw the ad on DStv I put three questions to Dr Robert Cisek head of Volkswagen in South Africa. For such a large, international company this vehicle manufacturer’s public relation leaves much to be desired.


Dr Robert Cisek

I phoned its head office in Uitenhage; said I was a journalist and asked to speak to Dr Cisek or his PA; or to be given their email addresses. I was told I could not have these and that I should send my inquiries to this email address: .This turned out to be no support at all, although my emails were addressed to Dr Cisek.
         After getting four “we’ll be in touch” emails with Andrew Shaw’s name on them, when I asked when I could expect a reply, I finally received the answers to my questions. I only got them after I threatened to write that Dr Cisek had no comment to make, unless he or some other senior person at Volkswagen responded by noon the following day.
         They came from Andile Dlamini, Head of Group Communications, Volkswagen, SA. My first question was: “In view of the fact that it is well known that hair is quite a sensitive subject for Black women; what was the thinking that justified belittling a Black woman in a salon to advertise Volkswagen’s Service Plan?” The other two have been answered elsewhere in this post so it’s not necessary for me to repeat the actual questions.
         Dlamini replied: “Volkswagen is aware of the public dialogues, debates and cultural sensitivities around the topic of hair. We believe, together with our creative partners, that our ‘EasyDrive’ advert depicts a universal insight around the relationship between hairdressers and their clients that has no attachment to any specific race, culture, gender or political view. The intended message behind the ad is not to claim that any particular hair type is difficult - or easy - to maintain, but rather what the relationship one has with their hairdresser can be. The ad draws a parallel between this relatable relationship and the one between our customers and service teams. It’s a story about ‘relationships’ and pride in one’s workmanship and the importance of ‘loyalty’ to people who care about their service.’
         “With close to 300 000 views on YouTube alone,” he said, “the EasyDrive ad has been well received by our consumers with the majority of responses finding the analogy highly relatable. We understand that opinions may vary and we are always open to engaging with our customers and audiences on their feedback, positive or negative, to understand all the possible ways our ads are perceived.”
           He added that they had had “No’ complaints about the ad.“As the People’s Car, Volkswagen believes in always putting people first and so we do not support or disseminate advertising messages that are derogatory to any culture, race, gender or group.”


Jon, a Consumer Watchdog.

P.S. If Volkswagen is not more careful that freedom of speech advocate Julius Malema, and his EFFing followers, could be DEMANDING free cars for every female member of their Party.
P.P.S. The TRESemme`ad row resulted in 400 Clicks stores that stocked it having to close briefly, because of widespread protests by the EFF. 

P.P.P.S. This is what Mark Rayner the CEO of MultiChoice the owner of DStv had to say about this ad.






Monday, September 14, 2020


 Dear Readers,

          Having governed South Africa for the last 26 years our African National Congress headed by President Mr ‘I’m shocked’ Cyril Ramaphosa has just realised that they haven't got the morals of an alley cat.  Sorry it is worse; my cat has asked me for Cyril’s address so he can complain.

      Like all good presidents, he has compiled a code of ethics for his ANC members. Here they are in order of importance.

1.    Thou shalt not play cards unless you have at least two Aces up your sleeve.

2.    Thou shalt not build more than 20 houses for yourself and your relatives with Government money, without first getting my permission in triplicate.

3.    Once suspended, thou shalt remind me at least every three years that you are still on full pay so that my government can keep track of who is working and who isn’t.

4.    As Ministers thou shalt not wear sinister, black mafia style hats, especially if you don’t take them off when you come inside, as they frighten the little children of our followers.

5.    If you head the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs thou shalt not be allowed to have affairs with the tobacco mafia, as it upsets non smokers and gives our Government a bad name.

6.    Thou shalt not think that if you get suspended from a top government job you will automatically be sent to one of our embassies in some exotic location to spend the rest of you life on the cocktail circuit. Unfortunate, we just haven’t got enough embassies.

7.    Thou shalt not receive monetary presents without making sure that you get enough for our most senior comrades to receive their usual Christmas presents, in keeping with their status.

8.    Thou shalt not run a municipality as if it is your own, private fiefdom unless the ratepayers can be made to contribute to our party.

9.    Thou shalt not be granted a banking licence unless you can prove you have the right  .FF…friends to run it.

10. Thou shalt not go off the accepted electricity grid without telling me, because I can’t stand another ‘shock.’ This is particularly relevant as I thought I had fixed Eskom when I headed that special team appointed to do just that, several years ago

11. Thou shalt not be allowed as a Minister of Transport, or in fact as head of any other ministry, to be on Twitter because it has come to my notice that a certain party has spent so much time adding up the number of followers that he claims to have, that most of our stations have disappeared, and I’m ‘shocked’ to have to tell you that the lines seem to be going as well. No doubt our DA will be crying out, “Hard lines for the country but not those fat cats in the ANC,” which would be a completely unjustified dig at me, as usual, when I am only trying to do my best for our country. I know one thing for certain, and that is that in my next life I’m coming back as a ‘scrap dealer,’ or better still a ‘card-sharp.’

12. Thou shalt not complain if you haven’t received your social grant. It’s not my fault that there are so many of you, and in any case my government has done such a good job in the past to make sure you got what you deserved that if we missed one or two of you now you know who to blame - apar…., sorry this COVID-19 thing. You can thank me for getting rid of the previous minister in charge of this because she could have easily said you had got your grants when you hadn’t.

Yours the Honourable Cyril, the Great Reformer.

P.S. I’m sure the DA and that other effing party will have a job improving on this code of conduct, which is bounded to be adopted by other governments around the world.

*    *   *   *

Well dear readers, as he usually does, Cyril gave me the first chance to break this to our nation knowing how I have always been such an ardent supporter of his party, what’s it called again, that owes so much to apartheid. It hasn’t yet been able to come up with a better excuse for buggering up, almost completely, a perfectly functional country in less that quarter of a century.

Have fun,



Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Dear DStv Subscribers,
          As one myself I thought I would find out what Mark Rayner had to say about various aspects of what we have been watching that have been bugging me for some time. He is the CEO of MultiChoice the owners of DStv that has a total of some 18-million subscribers, not only in South Africa but in other parts of our continent.
          Here’s what I put to him on Monday 6 July followed by his answers. My additional comments are in italics.
Content & Repeats
Me: As there are so many repeats of shows why is it not possible to ensure that they do not appear at about the same time night after night? This sort of thing happens often. The Graham Norton show on 120 was an example in the last few days.
Mark: Regarding content, as Africa’s most loved storyteller we invest significantly into both local and international content – partnering with both local talent and the world’s best production studios to ensure our customers have an unrivalled selection to choose from.  DStv has one of the lower repeat rates globally, but the amount of TV watched per day in Africa – amongst the highest globally - means repeats are sometimes inevitable. We actively push our channel suppliers for fresher content and have started flagging which content is “new” to promote customer awareness. Channels also have strict performance criteria to ensure fresh hours and ratings remain at acceptable levels. He missed my point which was: It is surely possible, or should be, to schedule shows so that the same repeat does not appear night after night virtually at the same time. I don’t accept that repeats are “inevitable.” They are clearly there because they are cheaper than buying new shows. The “new” labels are very often not true anyway. If DStv was in the shoe business how long would it last if customers heard that the “new” shoes they had bought had already been worn for several days by somebody else?
Me: The promos appear to be increasingly over done. The way they interrupt the shows that you are watching without warning sometimes makes you think you have flipped channels by mistake. Talk about Pointless. The one for this even interrupts the actual Pointless show while you are watching it. (I’m not talking about when the promo is connected to the bed that is being advertised). How inane is that? And this sort of thing is not uncommon with other promos. In general they are very often pointless because what they tell you makes nonsense of what you can actually see. As
an example the film MacDonald & Dodd appeared at around 6.00 pm last Saturday with a promo telling us it would be on at 8.00 pm on Monday. The film was repeated again last night (Sunday) at the about the same time while the promo continued to tell us to expect it tonight (Monday) at 8.00 pm. When it was screened on the Monday we were told in the top left hand corner it was NEW.
Mark: On the issue of promotions, it’s important we ensure our customers are aware of what is available to watch so that they get the most of their subscription. That said, a promotion that advertises something in the past is clearly not acceptable. Some promos are scheduled by us as DStv and some by the channel themselves, in this case the BBC. The scheduling of DStv promos has been a manual one which can be prone to human error from time to time. Since we are committed to providing customers with a quality viewing experience, we have introduced a new technology for DStv promo scheduling that will significantly reduce the occurrence of over exposure to a particular promotion by applying more accurate targeting of promos to the relevant viewing segments and limiting the number of runs of any particular promo to avoid overkill.  Regarding the BBC specific promos, we have shared your concerns – and you are not the first customer to raise this – with the BBC to address directly on the channels under their control. Please let us know if you experience any improvement over the coming weeks and months. To clarify with regards to the series, McDonald & Dodds, it premieres on Mondays with repeats on a Wednesday at 21:00, Saturday at 18:50 and Sunday at 20:30 – to give viewers other opportunities to see the show.
Timing of Shows
Me: When it comes to deciding when to put on shows there doesn’t seem to be any planning at all. How sensible is it to have a Christmas episode of QI in June? And to have a Paul O’Grady dog one at 10.00 at night?
Mark: According to our research, and viewership patterns, we find most viewers prefer watching QI in sequence and channels typically do not skip over these for that reason. Unless I can’t see for looking QI has stand alone episodes. They don’t follow one another in any kind of sequence and you don’t have to have watched one episode to enable you to follow the one that comes after that.
Me: Regarding competitions like the Great British Bake Off surely it would be better to finish showing the various episodes before starting the repeats otherwise viewers don’t know where they are.

Mark: Third-party channels, for example BBC BRIT which broadcasts among others, the Great British Bake-Off, are responsible for their own broadcasts and content inventory. Although they often broadcast episodes of the same season before the full season ends, we have made them aware that it is confusing to some customers.  Confusing is an understatement. It’s a competition that has quite a number of episodes before the winner is chosen. So if the BBC repeats episodes along the way viewers can be left wondering whether they will ever see the final.
Me: When it comes to the shortened form of any type of cricket, who came up with the idea of making them more boring than even the dullest part of a normal test match with every shot being repeated two or three times and even more often if somebody goes out. We are being taken for complete dumb dumbs. Surely people would be more interested in seeing more of the match than all these unrealistic repeats.
Mark: SuperSport remains of the leading sports broadcasters in the world. The team is continuously striving to improve its offering, and with the growth of short format viewing we understand how important this is to satisfy and keep sports fans stimulated. Our production team is constantly improving the quality of highlight packages. At the same time our technology division is exploring a growing global trend to utilise machine learning to improve these highlights.  As a cricket fan and former player myself, I do sometimes share your frustration that a short highlights reel doesn’t capture all the key moments in a game. For that reason we schedule longer highlights versions too for key games. We’ve shared your comments with the SuperSport cricket production team.
My First Question
Me: How about conducting a survey among DStv subscribers to see what they think about all the promos we have to contend with to get some entertainment and various other aspects of what we are given?
Mark: He steered well clear of this question. Would this be too risky in case what the majority of viewers actually think would involve too much of an overhaul of what is currently being screened?
                                               *    *    *    *
Mark finished his reply to me by saying: “We strive at all times to provide an uninterrupted video entertainment service with the best available content for our valued customers.” Do you subscribers agree that this is what you get?

Thanks Mark for your prompt and comprehensive answers.

Jon, a Consumer Watchdog who hopes he got his fellow subscribers the answers to some of the concerns they might have had about what we pay for when we sign up for DStv.

Thursday, July 2, 2020


Dear Readers,
Daily Mail flight attendants
   When I heard that bottom pinching had been outlawed in Italy it filled me with nostalgia. Italy’s highest court decreed that this is a dirty deed punishable by the full force of the law. It’s just as well the spoil-sports who are now breeding faster than rabbits never got around to dealing with this heinous crime a long time ago otherwise I might still be in jail. It was depressing to read they had added this to the long list of harmless things we are not allowed to do these days, while murderers get away with murder. It won’t be long before the ‘no bottom pinching’ law is extended to the bedroom world-wide.
    Some time ago I flew to Rome on a freebie with a group of Financial Planners – life assurance salesmen who called themselves anything but foot-in-the-door, hard sell merchants. They were going to Rome and London as a prize for out selling everybody else and as a journalist I was invited to tag along as a sweetener to ensure that I never wrote anything detrimental about the firm that was behind it all. These Planners had an unwritten understanding that they would never let on that, as pillars of financial rectitude, they ever sold anything. They merely put the best financial options on the table for their clients to choose from and if they happened to buy, sorry I meant invest in, the odd life policy here and there nobody was going to stop them.
    Now that I no longer feel gagged by that no expense spared, overseas junket I can reveal that whatever name they tried to hide behind their only objective was to sell life assurance by the policy load. Why else would their firm have got a million pound, hall of fame, or whatever they called them, London broker to divulge his secrets of success that had worked so well in Britain? He came up with some gems. His best one was worth noting for all you life assurance peddlers out there, masquerading as friends of the family, or a financial adviser on such a high plain that you would never stoop to something as vulgar as selling.
     “Look through the death columns in the newspapers,” he said. “Get the address of someone who has just died. If he lived at say 10 Church Street, call at every house in the street except number 10 and you’ll sell life assurance like hot cakes.”
      Don’t be appalled by this idea. It comes under the very respectable guise of Financial Planning. “Didn’t your neighbour, who died last week, leave a penniless widow? We wouldn’t want that to happen to your wife do we? So just sign here.” I could hear them say.
     What’s all this got to do with bottom pinching in Italy?  Everything really. It had a vital bearing on the outcome of what happened on the Alitalia flight that took the all male, joke cracking, crowd to Rome. Before we left my wife warned me, light heartedly, not to pinch any bottoms while I was away. The warning was possibly more pertinent because I had some Italian blood, having had ancestors from Turin, although this was my first visit to Italy. Anyway we settled into our seats without incident at Jan Smuts airport, in the days before all the airports had been renamed.
    We were somewhere between Johannesburg and Nairobi when the shock hit us. Drinks were going to be in very short supply. The cabin crew were on a go-slow and generally being as offhand as possible. Suddenly there was a frightening commotion on our side of the plane.An airhostess ran screaming down the isle as though Jack the Ripper was after her.
    I had been sitting on the isle trying to make the best of our parched situation and as she walked past my hand involuntarily wandered to that wiggling behind of hers. It would never have happened if my wife hadn’t given me the idea. I mean what man thinks of these things unaided. In any case I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. You would have thought I had raped the girl the way she was carrying on. I was only doing what millions of Italian men had been doing for years. But what I didn’t know was that as part of this peculiar strike a whole sub-culture was being subverted - bottom pinching was out. Perhaps this was the start of the movement that has now banned it forever.
    The next minute the First Officer appeared at my side trying to extract a confession out of me, without warning me of my rights, not that I probably had any in mid-air over Africa. Sternly he pointed out the Captain had the authority to have me thrown off the plane at Nairobi, where in those apartheid days a polecat would have been given a better reception than a White South African. Looking on the bright side I was thankful they were at least going to wait until we got there.
    Fortunately for me a whole row of salesmen came to my rescue. Calling something that it wasn’t was their speciality. I couldn’t have asked for better eye-witnesses. I never pinched her they all said. I only touched her to get her attention because we all needed a drink, badly. That’s how Financial Planning saved me from a spell in a Kenyan prison.
    An Alitalia public relations officer, who was there to look after us because we were such a big group, took me up front to the almost empty first class section. There he sat me down and apologised. He did his best to fill seats, he told me, while the cabin crews were now trying to empty them. I was very relieved I was not going to end my trip in some hellhole of a jail. After that I only saw the lady who had made all the fuss in the distance, on the other side of the cabin. She was keeping well away from the serial rapist that was me.
    Months later I was at Jan Smuts seeing somebody off when I saw her. I thought it was her. I wasn’t sure. She was with other crew members of an Alitalia flight that had just come in. She was much prettier than I remembered. The way she had screwed up her face in rage had put me off her completely the last time I had seen, what I now believed was the same girl. I was determined to find out if I was right. I had always wanted to know whether she had been genuinely upset or whether she had been putting it on to drive home the aims of the strike. 
    I located the hotel where the Alitalia crews spent their Johannesburg stop-overs. On some pretext or other I got chatting to her. Fortunately she did not connect me to that groping incident. She agreed to have a drink with me. Her English was impeccable. Well, for an airhostess it would have to be wouldn’t it? So I did not need to battle with my non-existent Italian. The next time her flight arrived in Johannesburg she called me at my office and after I had told my wife I would be working late we went out clubbing. This went on for months until one night I finally got up the courage to ask her. The wine had loosened my inhibitions and the red mini she was wearing prompted me. I was thinking only an Italian would be able to get a grip of her because her skirt was so tight. I could just see her sylph-like figure strutting down the Via del Corso in Rome with an octopus of outstretched male arms trying to lay a hand on that soft, tantalising behind of hers.
    I was wondering whether I would spoil everything if I mentioned it. I skated around the subject to begin with, a little fearful. “Leonie,” I said, “Is it right that in Italy men pinch girls’ bottoms all the time? In the street, in lifts and anywhere else where they can get an opportunity?”
    “That’s a compliment Peter,” she replied. She was positively glowing “I just love it. In Italy we know when our beauty is appreciated.”
    I took the opportunity to confess. Tentatively I said, “If it was you, then I was the bottom pincher who sent you screaming down the isle when your cabin crew were on some kind of strike a little while ago.”
    She burst out laughing. Stretching her sensual legs and flicking a blonde lock away from her face she said, “Was my acting that good.  I’ll be a film star soon. You English are so reserved a girl does not know where she is,” she added snuggling up to me and putting her head on my shoulder.
    We were married in Rome. But if it hadn’t been for my wife’s, or should I say my ex-wife’s, idea I would never have got involved with this airhostess, who is now the mother of my two sons. I’m sure my ex now wishes I had been put off that plane in Nairobi. “It would have served him damned well right,” I can hear her saying. May be you’ll understand now why I think prohibiting bum pinching is a bum idea. And if you ask my Italian wife she’ll tell you, “How else would I have got a husband.”
Jon, a former Sunday Times journalist, unchanged busybody, Consumer Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.
P.S. This is 80% fact with fiction added for a bit more spice.
P.P.S. In 2003 Italy’s High Court overturned a ruling made in 2001 that pinching a woman’s bottom was not a crime provided it was not premeditated. Under this new decision it became a sexual offence.

Monday, June 29, 2020


Dear Readers,
Adv. Daniel Berger SC
          In 2018 Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that Dr Kurt Wolff’s (Wolff) family business that makes Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo must cease advertising that this can reduce hair loss. This was initiated by a complaint from somebody who knew what they were talking about – a consultant trichologist or hair expert.
          Unfazed by this ruling the German manufacturer made a similar claim in its ads that appeared on South Africa’s DStv last year.
          Alerted by the British ruling I contacted Dana Lebowitz the marketing manager of ADOCO, the South African distributor. I asked her what independent evidence they had that showed this shampoo could reduced hair loss and penetrate the hair follicle, as claimed in the ads. She gave me the run around so I wrote a damning article on my blog in November 2019 saying that these claims were not true. (How true are adverts)
          To this day nobody from either the distributor or the maker has challenged the accuracy of what I wrote.
          Soon after my post appeared I lodged a complaint with our South African Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) because I could not believe that advertising banned in the UK was appearing here in much the same form, unchallenged.
          In the ad a male voice tells viewers: “German engineering for your hair. If hair growth is waning, more and more men choose the caffeine shampoo by Alpecin. During hair washing the highly dosed Alpecin penetrates the hair follicle.”
          The gist of my complaint was that Wolff could not substantiate that the shampoo reduced hair loss and penetrates the hair follicle.
          The ARB Directorate concluded that Wolff had provided sufficient evidence to prove that caffeine does penetrate the hair follicle. So that part of my complaint was dismissed.
          Wolff countered the second more important aspect of my submission by saying its ad did not contain the claim that the shampoo “will reduce hair loss.” 
          Talk about splitting hairs. The Directorate however accepted that this was “implied” by the words “will have a positive effect on ‘waning hair’ or ‘hair loss.’”
          Significantly the ARB sent Wolff an email in January 2020 asking it to substantiate the claim that its shampoo would reduce hair loss. And when this was not forthcoming it upheld my complaint because according to its Code of Conduct advertisers must have documentary evidence to support all claims that are capable of objective substantiation, before ads are published.
          Not satisfied with this Wolff appealed to the Advertising Appeals Committee (Committee) headed by Advocated Daniel Berger SC.
          A new twist was added to the saga when Wolff now produced evidence to validate the “implied claim” that it had previously maintained the Directorate had been wrong to accept. The ARB does however allow new evidence to be submitted at the appeal stage.
          To make Wolff's argument even more ridiculous it continued to maintain that the advertisement "does not impliedly or expressly claim that the product will reduce hair loss."
          Why then did it submit evidence to proved that this is what it's shampoo did?
          Of the various studies Wolff presented, only one was considered relevant by the Committee as, unlike the others, it did mention Alpecin shampoo. Labelled Attachment I it was entitled: Use of Caffeine Shampoo for the treatment of Male Androgenetic Alopecia. In this an unnamed dermatologist confirmed that there had been a reduction of premature hair loss in the 30 men aged 18 to 55, who had been specially chosen to use this shampoo, with a reduction in balding in a significant percentage of them.
          The product,” it stated, “showed a good cosmetic efficacy in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia. The results in the pull test showed a decrease of 7.17% after 3 months and 13.15% after 6 months of treatment, of the number of hairs pulled out with pull test to indicate an increase of the resistance to the traction strain of the hair and a decrease of hair loss. These results improved going on with the product use.” The underlining appears to have been done by the Committee to emphasise what it considered important.   
          My inquiries indicated that this was one of the eight studies submitted to the British regulator when it decided to ban Alpecin’s ‘misleading’ advertising. Its comment on the pull test mentioned in this was: “We understood there were more robust methods of measuring hair loss available.” 
          “We can confirm that we did assess a study entitled Use of Caffeine Shampoo for the treatment of Male Androgenetic Alopecia in our Dr Kurt Wolff and Co march 2018 ruling,” Freddie Alcock at the ASA’s Media and Public Relations office told me.
          It was Attachment I that appears to have clinched the Committee’s decision that the shampoo did indeed reduce hair loss. It contained the only reference to hair pull tests in the 11 page report of the Appeals Committee Decision sent to me by the ARB. The second phase of my complaint thus went to the way of the first part, it was dismissed.
         So did a study that failed to convince the British regulator that Wolff’s advertising was kosher prove enough to do the opposite when it was submitted half a world away to South Africa’s ARB?
This was according to Business Insider SA in 2018
          Wolff had argued that the UK’s ASA decision was based on a strict standard of substantiation similar to that required for pharmaceutical products that was not common in Europe. In any event, as the Directorate did not consider the decision relevant to this South African case, the Committee did much the same thing.
          In banning the ad that appeared in Britain because of insufficient substantiation the ASA said: “Consumers would understand the claim to mean that using the product would result in a reduced rate and quantity of hair loss. Taking into account the body of evidence as a whole, we considered that we had not seen any studies of the actual product as used by consumers on their scalp using an accurate and objective analysis of hair growth, in a well-designed and well conducted trial.”

          Gail Schimmel the exceptionally efficient CEO of the ARB told me that the UK claim was slightly different to the South African one. The evidence Wolff submitted met the requirement of the Code of her regulator.
          “I am of the opinion that you got a well-considered, in depth decision that should leave you in no doubt as to the quality of our *self-regulatory process,” she added.
         Who is right, Britain’s advertising standards authority or South Africa’s? The consumer has been left to find out the hard way by first paying for the shampoo.
To answer the question raise in the headline to this post, the answer is: Yes, the ARB does require less proof than the UK’s ASA as this case showed.  
Jon, a Consumer Watchdog, who can’t win them all.
P.S. The Wolff Company can only blame its poor public relations for my first report and some equally poor management for not submitting its full back-up story when the ARB initially considered my complaint.
P.P.S. In this case the ARB increased its inquiry costs unnecessarily by allowing the defendant to submit additional evidence to the Appeal Committee, when it had amply opportunity to do so at the initial hearing and was actually asked to do this, but chose not to.
*Note: the ARB is appointed and paid for by the South African advertising industry.