Dear Editor

Brown but not out
Based on your account of Arthur Brown’s latest application to court, it looks very much like the endemic, worldwide virus called “Lack of Ethics” has infected many more segments of our society than I had thought. (Yes, I am still somewhat naive.)It certainly doesn’t give one a warm feeling about our mainstream media’s objectivity.

I sincerely hope that The Truth manages to get its head above these murky journalistic waters. Your report will, I hope, prompt editors and sub-editors to do their job properly.

Looking back at your report on Fidentia at the time – “Shades of Brown”, nose89 – I see that [as usual! Ed.] you came off a great deal better than most, when it comes to balanced reporting.

Marina da Gama

Your latest piece on Arthur Brown is quite an eye-opener! In my book Brown was the lowest form of swine; but then my view was based on the Mail & Guardian stories and the hysteria on the nightly news channels.

If what you say proves to be true, what recourse does he have?

Can Brown sue someone for loss of his business empire and massive slander and, if so, would he have the funds to embark on such a protracted court case?

Kempton Park

Medical-aid abuse
THE article “Blood Money” in nose138 surprised me because it so lacked the common sense you normally apply to such issues. Medical aids are a necessary fact of life but they are also often abused. The private hospital business is backed by an army of medical specialists with similar priorities: their primary concern is to make money – and the best way to achieve this is to perform more and more hi-tech tests (often unnecessary) and more and more “surgical procedures”, which in many cases merely prolong the patient’s suffering.

As illustrated in your article, the amounts charged are often astronomical and impossible for the average person to pay, so medical aid is their only hope. The medical aid funds, on the other hand, have to evaluate these high claims, keeping in mind that they cannot allow a select few to use up precious funds to the detriment of the average member.

In your article you state that the Council for Medical Schemes found  for Compcare. This should have been sufficient for you to accept that Compcare had been more than fair in the case you feature.

J M Carey

If the argument had been that the extremely high cost of bone marrow transplants cannot be justified as a charge to the community (all the less so, in view of their extremely low success rate), you would have a point. But that was not the argument. In the case we reported, the fund professed its willingness to pay for the procedure if the donor was a local relative, but refused to pay the same amount if the donor was not related, no matter that the medical prognosis was more favourable. The lack of logic suggests an injustice. – Ed.

Give us a brake!
I absolutely love Noseweek! Have you considered publishing bi-weekly? This month (nose138) it was “Driven round the Benz” that really hit the spot. I, too, have learned a thing or two about Mercedes Benz dealerships.

We recently moved to Cape Town. Before we left Johannesburg, I wanted to make sure both our Mercs were safe for the drive. Both vehicles have always been serviced, on time, by Mercedes Benz Bryanston.
I sent my husband’s car in first. Mercedes Bryanston quoted me R18,000 for repairs which they said were necessary. Part of the quote included items that had previously been repaired by Mercedes Benz. When I pointed this out, I was told that their parts only have a two-year warranty. When I said I’d like to take the car elsewhere for a second opinion, Mercedes Bryanston said if I did so, I’d have to pay them a fee equivalent to one hour’s labour for the quote.

I ended up taking the car to my father’s mechanic who previously worked for a Merc dealership. When he saw the quote I got from MB, he laughed and said “I’m in the business of making money, not stealing money”.

He fixed the car for R8,000.

Next I took my car – which was not due for a service – to Mercedes Bryanston. I told them there was a problem with the air conditioner and windscreen wipers. It took them two full days just to quote. The quote, which included new rear brake pads and repair of an oil leak, came to R9,000. I reminded them that my car had had its previous service there and the next wasn’t due for another 8,000km, so why new brake pads? (I’d only asked them to check wipers and air conditioner.)

Same story: I had to pay a fee for them to look at my car even though I did not ask them to  check anything besides the wipers and aircon. And they refused to give me a copy of the quote!

My Dad’s mechanic did all that was necessary for R4,000. (And there was no oil leak!)

Kelly Picken
Cape Town

When my beloved Mercedes Vito recently refused to start up, it was towed to Mercedes Benz Culemborg, who took a day-and-a-half to get back to me with the news: faulty ignition switch, a new one to come from Germany, up to 15 working days. Which was when I recalled a posting I’d seen on the BMW Motorcycle Club website by Geoff Russell about his perfectly good Merc that was taken to a Merc dealer for a service, and between his handing them the keys, and their vehicle inspection, it developed +R20,000-worth of problems. Ignoring their advice, he took back his keys, and – a  few Hail Marys and a drop of water from Lourdes later – he drove out in what was, by all accounts, a perfectly restored Merc.
So when a friend suggested I take the car to Russell Ormerod of Car Electric in Montague Gardens, rather than Mercedes Culemborg, I took his advice.

A few days later I drove out with a new battery, and a possible R15,000 in change to spend on Sushi.  (An ignition replacement at a dealer could run up to R18,000 – and I’d have had no vehicle for up to two weeks.)

Meanwhile, I bought the latest Noseweek with J Arthur Brown on the cover (his associate Graham Maddock was a client of mine). Lo and behold, you feature Mercedes Culemborg… where Geoff saved his car’s soul and his wallet, and where my uneasy feelings caused me to take mine elsewhere!

Neil Terry

The use of the eff-word in court proceedings might present judges with a problem – but clearly not an insurmountable one for a judge as well-versed in linguistics as was the renowned Judge Toon van den Heever. I quote his judgment in Marrucchi  v. Harris  (1943 OPD on p18):  “Harris called Marrucchi a sanguinary Dago and told him to get out in language in which a word signifying the sexual act was substituted for a verb of motion.”

The reading of this old judgment still prompts a smile.

Hennie Vermaak

This article is fucking brilliant!

I was not too fokken “sensitive” to enjoy it.

Yvonne V
By email

From the horse’s mouth
Thank you for exposing the cruel end that some race horses experience (“From Star to Starvation,” nose137).

To be fair, I have worked with Stan Elley over the years, and, while I have met some uncaring trainers in that time, he is not one of them.

It is common practice to sell horses for a token price (no matter what they were originally bought for). When you buy a race horse on an auction, you are frequently just buying the potential of either blood lines or physical attributes. Most are unproven, and what Noseweek discovered is typical of what happens. I honestly don’t believe there was any ulterior motive on Stan’s part – it’s simply standard practice.

And I guess that is where the problem lies – the racing world is filled to capacity with horses who have a racing shelf-life of about  five years. So what happens to all those thousands of horses when their racing career ends? Thoroughbreds require expensive care: they cannot live “on the land” and are always the first to need a vet. Is it the trainer’s responsibility or the owner’s?

I feel strongly that the racing authorities and the industry as a whole should take some of the responsibility (along with the owner and the trainer).

The racing industry should set more money aside for the policing and maintenance of ex-race horses.
Perhaps the media have the power to make it happen; certainly the silent and gracious horse is not in that position.

Karen Macaskill
By email

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