Letters

Dear Editor


Contingency needs oversight

I agree with those who castigate lawyers for charging excessive contingency fees. But I must also agree with Jeremy Manton (nose109) when he argues that some people simply wouldn’t be able to get representation were it not for the contingency fee system. Where’s the happy medium?

Manton says that “parties are free to contract”. What he means is that they are free to bargain. Indeed. But when a smart lawyer sits down to bargain with a poor and uneducated litigant, it’s all too easy to bully the hapless client into accepting an unreasonable deal.

I think that contingency fees should be allowed, but they should be acknowledged upfront, and perhaps reviewed by an independent panel. The judge should know how much he is awarding to the victim, and how much to the lawyers. From the tone of his letter, Manton is the kind of lawyer who could work within such a system. Only the sharks need to be nobbled.

Ron McGregor
Mowbray, Cape Town

Jeremy Manton appears not to be familiar with the provisions of the Contingency Fees Act No 66 of 1997. It does not permit an attorney to charge a contingency fee of up to 25% of the amount recovered in successful litigation.

An attorney may enter into a (written) agreement with his client to act on contingency of success and to charge his ordinary fee plus a surcharge of up to 100% of that fee. He may therefore not be paid more than double his normal fee, no matter what sum he recovers for his client. The Act further provides that the fees charged by the attorney may not exceed 25% of the sum recovered. Thus, in a matter resulting in a small recovery, the attorney may be limited to less than twice his normal fee. Clients of attorneys who conclude improper fee deals should note that the Act makes contingency fee agreements subject to review.

D R Mitchell SC
Cape Town

Ireland stew

Now and then I treat myself to a copy of noseweek and find it full of Good Stuff.

This month I was disappointed to find four pages practically salivating at the divorce revelations of a totally unimportant shopaholic, and her titillating trysts with a man who had far too much time on his hands.

Please stick to politics and finance!

Ginny Swart
Cape Town

You stooped to base levels of malicious gutter journalism in your hatchet job on Dr Berard (nose109). In seeking to destroy a professional man’s reputation and dignity, you manifested a gloating, heavy-handed sarcasm which reflects badly on you.

There are proper processes to be followed to test the alleged facts which you would have your readers take as read. The dignified silence of Dr Berard is appropriate.

As they ought to have said in the classics: your plot sickens.

JMJ MacRobert
Newlands

You are clearly the sort who takes care not to notice that the emperor is on parade stark naked – and that it’s not a pretty sight. The extra-ordinary, often vacuous excesses of the wealthy “elite” of our country are now so often so offensive that they cannot be treated as “private”. It’s time we noticed what they are up to, and how relevant they are to the mores of the ANC Youth League – if not the state of the nation. The execution of Marie Antoinette was undoubtedly also not a pretty sight but, be warned, by then millions and millions of Frenchmen were agreed that the bitch had it coming.

As for your friend Dr Berard: we were not describing a mildly indiscreet love affair; we were presenting the evidence of a psychiatrist having screwed his patient. We did not destroy his reputation and dignity. He did, by com-mitting the cardinal sin of psychiatric practice. The facts are just that: read. All we destroyed – and not a minute too soon – was any pretence that remained
. – Ed.

Democracy needs democrats

Perhaps we expect too much of democracy as a system. Speaking of General Charles Lee, who fought in the American War of Independence, his biographer said: “He had not realised that the republican institutions of Rome worked well, not because of their merit but because of the virtues of their citizens who used them. Such virtues did not exist in his time, as he had discovered to his own sorrow.”

Similarly, our problem is not in our constitution, but in the quality of our citizens. Your nose109 editorial notes that “our greatest gifts lie in our people”, but it seems to me we’re fast running out of people who can make a democracy work – just as we are running out of other trained and experienced resources. Those in authority have strangled the efforts of the few who are dedicated to education as a discipline, and not as a laboratory for social science experiments. Consequently, our children’s education is imperilled.

How refreshing it would be if noseweek exposed those in the Education Department who are conspirators in the criminal neglect of the education system. If it shamed just a few into ditching pontificating for a bit of honest hard work, it would have been worthwhile.

B Clayton
Sedgefield

Greater civility from civil war?

Max du Preez wonders why we suffer from violent crime and the Balkans don’t. I often wonder if violence isn’t a finite commodity, something that accumulates up to a point – say a civil war – and once spent leaves a country purged and safer. Having never experienced full scale civil war, perhaps we are gradually leaking our quota of violence through a slow and steady stream of violent crime?

Pam Booth
Sedgefield

No baby bashing, please

As an avid noseweek reader I am disappointed to find that, of late, articles have been appearing which are better suited to those cheap sensational magazines normally found lying around hairdressing salons. I refer to coverage of baby bashing and the like. While the perpetrators of such crimes need to be exposed, I don’t believe noseweek is the place to do so. I would rather buy a noseweek with fewer quality articles than one filled with cheap reporting.

Other than this, I salute you and your staff on a great publication.

Mark A Linley
Hillcrest, KZN

My compliments on “The baby and the prosecutor” (nose108). The story has prompted a positive response in our company and we honour what you have done in highlighting this issue.

Gary Flax
Jeep Baby, Sandton

Clutching at Strachan

There is much about noseweek I don’t greatly care for.

Some of the organ’s obsessions are uninspiring, and indeed there is one “biting” columnist whose pieces I cannot read. But I buy every new number without fail because life would be less without Harold Strachan. 

One of your readers, meaning to be rude, has called his work juvenile. Yes, Strachan is childlike – because, despite all that he’s experienced, he still believes in goodness and truth.

The man is brave and frank. Would that we were all as juvenile as Harold Strachan.

William de Villiers
Simon’s Town

National Library tip of iceberg

Your exposé of the goings-on at our National Library and SETA (nose108) made interesting but unsurprising reading. Are only a handful of government departments or parastatals not riddled with corruption and inefficiency? And all the while the dolts in charge are paying themselves multi millions in bonuses.

It is high time that a team of dedicated investigators started from the top and worked its way down. It would be a never-ending task, but if the culprits are named and shamed and our leaders harassed until the thieves are behind bars it would be a worthwhile exercise.

D Wolpert
Rivonia

Horrifying as it was, thank you for your article on the National Library. Another horror story is the demise of the CSIR Library, once the scientific library in the country. Today only a bit of it remains. The Reference Library is gone. They even went so far as to pulp major chemical reference works such as the Beilstein, for which any university would have given their eye teeth. How about an article on this?

Ria de Vries
By email

That which we call Blue Rose...

In nose107 you mention the devious doings of GDACE and the Eye of Africa estate.

Well, recently Walkerville residents attended a meeting held in Meyerton by Seaton Thomson and Associates, regarding the “vision” and development of “Blue Rose City” (www.bluerosegroup.co.za). This gigantic project includes the Eye of Africa and a number of other large residential estates, two commercial areas that include schools and a Netcare hospital. Heineken is also building a new brewery.

Suddenly the Deep South is lekker to live in, and the Klip river – so polluted that thirsty cattle won’t drink from it – is to become “the playground of Gauteng”!

We asked about EIAs and got guarded answers. It seems that EIAs are simply window dressing: touted as being in the interests of residents and the environment, but without any real relevance – as can be seen if you visit the Ferrero Roche chocolate factory on the Randvaal Road. Promises were made to retain flora and fauna – but what we have is a huge pile of sand. And this is a Catholic Church-backed project (so much for ethics).

Blue Rose City is just another money-making project hell-bent on overloading an already shaky infrastructure.

When the presenters were asked to explain their involvement in the Eye of Africa debacle as detailed in noseweek, they refused to reply as “it would lend credibility to the uninformed allegations by that publication”.

The folks of Walkerville live here to get away from developments such as this, and deserve proper consideration. To be called “stakeholders” is a joke. The only stake is the one being driven into our backs by the developers and the Midvaal municipality.

Lynn Finlay
Walkerville

No Ferrero Roche chocolates this Christmas! Ed

Bloodthirsty Voda-con

Recently a very persistent Vodacom agent pestered me to accept extra charges on my phone bill, for itemizing my monthly account, and for caller line identity.

I refused to have more charges. Besides, when any salesman talks about “only so much per month”, it alerts me to a strategy designed to prevent me realising how much I’ll be paying per year.

Reflecting on why a mega-company like Vodacom would hire a salesman to pester me into paying R318 more a year, I realised that if Vodacom cons its million of SA users to each pay R318 extra, it reaps billions extra annually. No wonder the financial journalists heap praise on Alan Knott-Craig.

Vodacom has tasted blood. It will load customers’ bills with increasing charges until they total more than phone calls.

Will Vodacom’s rivals hold back?

Keith Gottschalk
Claremont

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