Dear Editor

Giving it to the Big Shots

Thanks for a great mag. Your investigative journalism has put fear into many a Big Shot. At my age your exposés are better than sex.
J Katz
What age is that? Ed

The altar which alters not

The world at large has been subjected to a torrent of bad news affecting the global economy as a consequence of the so-called sub prime loan debacle created by errant banks and mortgage institutions in the US – who seem able to operate beyond regulatory control.

Everyone has been affected by the machinations of these “whizz kids”. What incredible insight could possibly be required to realise that lending to someone who is without adequate means of repayment can have only one outcome? What is especially sickening is the scale on which these frauds have been perpetrated, and the audacity of the perpetrators in parcelling up their waste product and passing it on to other institutions – no doubt of similarly low moral standing – to ultimately impact on financial institutions around the world, destroying the lifetime investments of anyone with the misfortune to be within range.

Performance rewards for executives have their place, but not to the extent where business quality is sacrificed on the altar of greed and power. The most depressing part is the sterile response by the authorities and the impotence with which the victims must endure their fate.

These miscreants will probably walk away with hefty financial packages and re-emerge someplace else. In the longer term their institutions will likely benefit greatly when the tide eventually turns and the potential profit value of properties repossessed are later realised. You can be sure that the market cannot absorb the many properties that will come on line and these institutions will pick them up for a song.

One would be naive to believe that similar conditions and behaviour did not exist in South Africa. The content of material from your readers is testimony to banking and insurance institutions in South Africa displaying similar disdain for their clients, and I commend your activities in calling to task those who create such misery for others. Thanks for the many long and tedious hours of research and argument which undoubtedly precedes every outcome.

Discovery Stealth

I am a member of Discovery Health – as required by my previous employer. In the past I never doubted their integrity, but I believe the moment of truth has now arrived. One is told that the tariff and benefit rate is set at the beginning of the calendar year. When you visit a health practitioner, you then claim the fee and a percentage credit is granted according to tariff. Now it seems you simply have to accept that it is according to tariff – there is no way of checking: Discovery’s rates are not published to members. It so happens that my wife receives physiotherapy every month. The therapist’s fee has remained at R370 for the past year at least. I have it on good authority that Discovery’s contribution should be R291. But when I plotted the benefits we actually received from Discovery over 2007, I found that the amount we have received for this particular service has been declining steadily over the period. In January and February we received R290; the March payment dropped to R277.80; in May it dropped to R225.70 and lately it has dropped again to just R219.50. My enquiries have been met with a stony silence from Discovery.

Only when pressed, the medical call centre, which is supposed to be “independent”, came up with a story that we had originally been overpaid and that over the year “adjustments” had been made. Without telling the affected members? It seems more likely to me that members are being fleeced by stealth.
Cyril Flint

O, but we did!

I’m surprised that when investigating the practices of our official town developer (“Unhappy in Hermanus”, nose97), you did not discover a few more scandals involving the same people: e.g. the sale of the station, a prime CBD site, for a ridiculously low amount (R3m instead of R30m) to Checkers for a new shopping mall that will attract still more cars to the town centre which is already gridlocked with traffic.

Widespread public opposition is simply ignored by the council.
Willy van der Hoeven
You underestimate us. See "Tiananmen Square? No, Checkers" in this issue.Ed.

Unhappier in Hermanus

Hermanus is fast becoming a corrupt and unhappy town.
Guy Winchester-Gould
And it’s run by the DA!Ed.

Lies and Damelin lies

Still enraged by your exposé of how hard-pressed parents seeking the best education for their children are unscrupulously exploited by Educor, I then learn that my son’s government school still promotes Educor’s Damelin colleges to pupils as a prospect for further education – in terms of a directive from the Western Cape Education Department! Thanks for being the beavers that you are.
Cape Town

Greenpoint hits rock bottom

Your coverage of the Greenpoint stadium was spot on (nose94). Word has it that bedrock has now been found which may see the building rise a further four storeys. Too bad for the City’s fallback plan of an underground parking facility. Anyone for golf?

SAA detains passengers

Another SAA tale, this one about flight SA272, scheduled to take off from OR Tambo at 19h45 on Friday 26 October for Paris.

At 21h15, my Parisian brother, who had boarded the flight on time, phoned to say he was still in Joburg, still on board.

The plane had a computer problem. Could we fetch him if the flight was cancelled? We heard nothing more and assumed they had finally left – until the next phone call at about 8am on Saturday, saying they were still there, that they had disembarked at 12h15, were put in the Business Class lounge (where only some of the passengers got a seat). They were served non-alcoholic drinks, chips and peanuts as a form of a dinner. They were not allowed to leave because of luggage on board.

At 06h00, it was announced they would leave at 10h00. They only left at 11h00 because they were waiting for transfer passengers! A breakfast was served at midday and dinner only at 20h00, shortly before arriving in Paris at 21h00. The last time passengers had a proper meal was presumably lunch time on Friday the 26th.

How legal is it to detain clients against their will? What would SAA have done if a passenger had simply got on another flight – or left the airport?

It’s time that maltreated passengers sue airlines and airports for millions to stop the greed.
Marie-France Ralfe

Watch that Beemer

What to do about the driver of a big dark BMW who drives like a doos? Chances are that he/she will wipe out, taking an innocent family along with him. Readers beware if they see ND 366-477 on the road, or they may become a statistic.
Len Palmer
By email

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