Dear Editor

SA a little behind
Judge President Hlophe and others – Alexander Hamilton had this to say (in the Federalist in 1788):

“The standard of good behaviour for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government.”

It seems we are two centuries behind the times in setting standards of behaviour for our judges.
Carol Goodwin

Drunk as a judge
The controversy about Pretoria’s drunk judge brings to mind the eminent English senior silk, FE Smith, who delighted in winding up judges during a trial – as in the case where he told the Court: “I submit that this witness was as drunk as a judge.”

The judge naturally immediately corrected him: “I believe the expression is ‘as drunk as a lord’.”

“Thank you m’lord,” said Smith.
Rob Stampe

Trickle-up economics
The Eastern Cape Government’s dereliction of duty with regard to the schools feeding scheme (nose88) is deplorable. It is worth noting that they have as miserable a record in the courts.

In S vs Z and 23 similar cases heard in 2004, Judge Plasket pondered the Eastern Cape government’s failure to deal with the placement of juvenile offenders – more evidence of their indifference to the needs of the children of their province. Section 28 of our Constitution reminds us that children’s rights are “paramount”.

Dealing with the repeated failure of Eastern Cape organs of the state to obey court orders, the judge remarked:
“Obedience to court orders is fundamental to any constitutional democracy of the kind to which we aspire. Those in government who disregard court orders are destroying the constitutional democracy that enables them to govern. They then bear the responsibility for betraying the ideals of those who struggled to enable them to be where they are.”

He goes on to direct “that the displeasure of the court” should be brought to the attention of the “Department of Social Welfare”. 

It appears not to have concerned them too much.
Paul Preston

Kandyland: another victim
I was thrilled to read the article in nose87 about the biggest franchise scamster, Pieter van der Watt. I was caught by him in November last year when I sold my property to buy into his scheme for distributing sweets to various retailers and wholesalers on the West Rand.

I have been in the sales business for the past seven years and have enough contacts in the right places to have made the depo work even better than Pieter van der Watt had told me it could; too bad he had already sold it to somebody else before me, who had stuffed up with each and every retailer and wholesaler it was possible to do business with in the area.

I now have nothing apart from a few judgments and blacklistings on ITC. My wife was on maternity leave and we really suffered. I cannot even open a bank account or get a home loan due to Kandyland. I was promised everything and received nothing.

I sold depo franchises for Pieter not knowing what was up. I do apologise to those that I sold them to, and hope that I will be forgiven.

I was told by Pieter to buy a plane ticket to Cape Town, he would refund me when I got there. I’m still waiting for my refund. It took me six months to get back onto my feet again. I now have my own business and will be franchising soon. Luckily I now know how to get ahead in the franchise business.

Pieter Terblanche
Total Investment Solutions, Johannesburg

Standard practice
When a colleague opened an account with Standard Bank many years ago, he was asked if he wanted an overdraft facility. He replied “No”. The bank assistant who was opening the account then told him: “Well, the system gives you one anyway,” and he was given an overdraft. This facility was free.

Now, in a letter received on 15 January 2007 (even though dated December), Standard Bank has advised him that from now on a charge of R17.50 per month will apply to overdrafts with limits greater than R250 “whether or not you use this facility”.

So there we have it: a free facility option that was not asked for, now being charged for, whether it is used or not. And the client is informed as though this was a “fait accompli”.
Naturally, my colleague got on the phone to the bank’s call centre to a) take his overdraft limit down to zero, and b) to ensure that he is not charged the fee. The call-centre person’s reaction was “Why don’t you want to pay the fee?”. Eventually, my colleague had to make it very clear that he would take this matter to the Ombudsman should he not get satisfaction, before the call-centre person grudgingly said that they would do something about getting the charge reversed.

One wonders how much Standard Bank managed to make out of that sneaky bit of computer programming.

Dave Robbins
IT Department, MHG, Cape Town

An actuarial assessment
I’m an actuary. But boy am I underpaid! I wanna become an electrician. Why? you ask. Well, my power went out and the first electrician I got through to was AAB Plumbing and Electrical, cunningly advertising “Best Service, Best Prices and No Call Out Fee”. I was told a R300 call out fee for Sundays applied. They arrived promptly and commenced work, but, silly me, I didn’t request a quote first. The work was done adequately, with the electrician remarking amid amicable chatter that the earth leakage unit that needed replacement would cost me R5500. After the work was done, I paid R6126 to AAB (COD). I later found out it retails for R863 (Samite 60Amp Earth Leakage – I checked). I queried the bill several times and got, roughly translated, a Popeye answer: “We charge what we charge.” Being an actuary, I’m obsessed with numbers, so I’ve calculated the earning potential of an electrician at AAB: Given 1¼ hour’s work and assuming a markup of, say, 50% on parts, they charged me R3625 per hour. As I said: “Who wants to study for 10 years to be an actuary?” Rather become an electrician and get R7.6m per year.
Douglas Lorimer

AAB don’t employ actuaries, they only employ brain surgeons. Anyway, now that you’ve sorted out the electrical problem, what’s your actuarial opinion of the state of play at Transnet’s pension funds? That would really interest our readers! – Ed.

Wake up Rian!
Rian Malan is on his Aids denialist hobby horse again. Yawn. Now he wants us to believe that StatsSA and UNAids are part of a conspiracy to over-inflate Aids deaths so that they match estimates from “computer generated” demographic models. Huh? He has now added paranoid fantasies to his continued colossal ignorance about demographic modeling. Rob Dorrington and the team that created the ASSA model of the South African Aids epidemic addressed the issues he raises years ago, and include many different sources of hard information when projecting HIV prevalence and Aids deaths. It is simply absurd to claim that the rise in death rates among young South Africans is the product of improved data collection and mathematical assumptions. The truth is, South Africa has a major Aids epidemic which is killing hundreds of young people every day. Time to wake up and face it, Rian. And go find some other publicity-seeking topic to make a living out of.
Professor Nicoli Nattrass
Aids and Society Research Unit
University of Cape Town

Scientific truth or Biblical truth? Or the truth in Prof Nattrass’s estimation? We are all in agreement that Aids is a serious problem in South Africa. All that’s at issue is those stats. Since when has an estimate been “the truth” and not just a more (or less) educated guess? Rian Malan most certainly does not make a living out of the topic – but you do. All of which seems to me good enough reason to be just a little paranoid. – Ed.

Sustained Impact
Thank you for the editorial on lawyers, and the superb coverage of our road accident case. It has genuinely helped our recovery.
Tricia and Rory Nottingham
Port Elizabeth

You wreckin’?
The references to me in your article “Wreckers rule in Joburg” (nose88), suggest that I acted without regard to the law relating to Heritage properties. This is incorrect. I wish to place the true facts on record.

I am the MD of Wavelength Properties. During 2003 Wavelength purchased three properties on Glenhove Road and one on 17th Avenue, Houghton. The properties adjoin each other and were acquired for the purpose of developing a residential complex.
In order to undertake the development, the houses on the properties had to be demolished. Three of the four houses fell within the scope of the Heritage Act and could not be demolished without the consent of the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority: Gauteng (PHRAG). The fourth house did not fall within the ambit of the Act.

Wavelength submitted applications to PHRAG for demolition of the effected properties and duly advertised the applications. Only two people responded: Mr Des Smith, chairman of the Planning and Development Committee of the Lower Houghton Residents Association said he had no objection to the demolition, while Robyn Heathfield representing the Houghton Heritage Trust objected. PHRAG eventually granted permission for the demolition of two of the protected houses. It should be noted that this permission was dated 7 July 2004, four months after date of application and not one week before expiry as stated in your article.

By that time Steirer Bruch Demolitions, who were contracted to attend to the demolition, had secured the property with their staff and, after the vagrants left, they secured the buildings to avoid any further vandalisation and theft as they now had an interest in the salvage. Steirer Bruch only commenced demolition after the PHRAG had granted consent to demolish.

When permission to demolish the third house was refused, we submitted a restoration plan to PHRAG in terms of the Heritage Act. The plan was approved and the house was restored accordingly.

Wavelength and I have followed the law throughout. Your disparaging remarks in relation to me were unwarranted.
Mohammed Seedat

We have documentation showing that the advertisement calling for objections appeared on 3 March 2004 (with the objection term expiring 2 April), the demolition started on 17 March, PHRAG approval for demolition was granted on 26 March and the objection was filed on 27 March 2004. Readers can judge for themselves. – Ed. 

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