Dear Editor

Cartel fed them well
The references in your Siemens corruption story (nose120) to the operations of the European electrical cartel in South Africa in the “old days” were spot-on.

In the early 1970s I was closely associated with Fulmen Africa (Pty) Ltd, local subsidiary of the French electrical and nuclear giant now called Alcatel Alstom Compagnie Générale d’Electricité, The second largest industrial conglomerate in France, it manufactures everything from light bulbs to nuclear plants to high-speed railway systems (your Gauteng readers might wish to note).

As you state, one of their biggest clients at the time was the South African Railways and Harbours. The cartel members (including Siemens and the UK’s General Electric) would meet regularly to decide who would have the next big tender. Once that was done, all that remained was to ensure that the SAR&H’s head of procurement was happy with the arrangement.

When it was Alstom’s turn, Fulmen’s then boss, a charming man called Hugo Wegmuller, would go to lunch with the SAR&H man, taking a fat envelope of money with him. As I recall, what with those envelopes, and sponsored overseas holiday trips, the man lived well.

Cape Town
Plus ça change plus ça reste la même chose.Ed.

Wrong on feral cats 
I have been running an organisation, Cat Trapping & Sterilisation Network, for almost ten years, and spend four days a week trapping feral cats, in response to requests from the public. I have observed feline behavioural patterns and habits which I have not found recorded in any books, papers or theses.
We use the trap, sterilise and return to colony approach as a means of curbing the breeding of feral cats. This works when feral colonies are constantly monitored, newcomers are trapped immediately and kittens are removed, tamed and rehomed.

I wish the writer of your article (“Kitties or serial killers?”, nose120) would accompany me to visit these colonies – maybe he would then be more empathetic.

A number of veterinarians assist with the sterilisation of these cats. They donate two free sterilisations a month and charge a nominal fee for any additional cases. If the cat has an incurable disease or is seriously injured, it will be euthenased;  otherwise it is sterilised and released.

Most of the people I assist tell me that, when they ask the SPCA for help, they are told there is insufficient manpower to deal with the feral cat problem. The SPCA also rent traps to people who don’t have a clue about trapping feral cats and cannot deal with a cat that is going beserk in a trap.

As for the cats on Robben Island: does the sharp-shooter have proof that his shot will kill the cat instantly? And what about kittens the female might be feeding at the time of her death?

Your readers need to be told both sides of the story.

June Bradbury
Kenilworth, Cape
You do your best – and the sharpshooter, hopefully, does his. – Ed.

Cats breed like rabbits
Your article on feral cats raises some emotive points. The fact of the matter is that cats, even domesticated ones, are among the most highly developed “killing machines” on the planet. They breed quickly and kill indiscriminately – often purely for the sake of it.

Feral cat colonies must be halted and exterminated by the most humane methods available. The idea of catching, sterilising and releasing is plain stupid, especially in a country lacking the will or funding to protect its women and children, or deal adequately with crime.

The practice of catching and sterilising is advocated only by the squeamish, who tend to anthropomorphise animals. At the heart of the problem are domestic animal owners who refuse to have their pets sterilised.

Municipalities that have neglected their duties in this regard are the ultimate villains.

Ingrid Luyt

Sanlam’s pension piracy
Your publication has kept me well-informed for well over a year. Now I’m hoping you or your readers can advise me about a Sanlam retirement annuity I’ve invested in.

My contributions to the retirement annuity started about seven years ago when I started working. I only recently discovered that every month 9% of my premium is taken for “policy costs” – over and above other charges that effectively reduce my capital by 10% before I’ve started.

With inflation at 10% my investment would have to achieve 20% return just to break even – i.e. I’d do better by putting my contributions under my mattress.

Surely there should be legislation preventing companies from doing this, or are we all destined to be dependent on government pensions when we stop working? How can these poor investments be legal and the punters (licenced “brokers”) who sell them be honest? It’s certainly not the way to save for old age.

Does the law offer me any protection, and what ought a sensible person to do about providing for one’s retirement, under these circumstances? By raising the matter here, I’m hoping something positive can come from my negative experience with Sanlam.

Up with the best
Harold Strachan’s “Last Word” about Ehud Gribenis (nose120) was a wonder. Up there with the very best.

John Mullins SC
Brooklyn, Pretoria

Count me in, Harold
If Harold Strachan is having a whip-around for a down-at--heel Latvian violinist and philosopher (“Last Word”, nose120) please put me down for a hundred bucks.

Alf Strachan (alas, not related)

Tongue-in-cheek vitriol
As a regular reader I find your articles informative and absolutely relevant to the circumstances in which we South Africans often find ourselves.

Hence my disappointment at the ignorant vitriol Harold Strachan thought fit for your pages in nose118. As tongue-in-cheek as Strachan tries to be, this “Last Word” served no purpose other than to serve up the same drivel regarding the religion of Islam that we are subject to in other Western media.

Whilst I agree with the assessment that the abhorrent behaviour of the Egyptian football team is in stark contrast with the ideas of the predominant religion in their country, I doubt Strachan would have found cause to vilify the Italian, Spanish or any number of South American football teams on the basis of their Catholicism had they committed a similar offence.

The article further implies that a number of things he mentioned are condoned in Islam, for example the dressing of women in “bin-bags” or complete “face-masks”, as well as the 9/11 and other suicide bombings.

Whilst support for these practices has undoubtedly and disturbingly surfaced in a number of cultural and regional groups who claim to follow Islam, there is absolutely no justification for this kind of dress or behaviour in either the “Good Book” (as Strachan so sarcastically puts it) of the Muslims or their original teachings. These are, in fact, condemned by the vast majority, although it seems to suit media interests to indicate otherwise.

It would cause considerably less offense were Strachan to avoid tarring all practitioners, supposed and otherwise, with the same brush.

Christopher McCalister
Newlands, Cape Town

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Submitted by : Philip Smith of QUEENSLAND on 2009-10-31 07:21:23
Odette, you too miss the point –

Muslims are unique in making war on their own woman and treating them like chattel, while your Mullah’s instruct that everybody who does not support Islam should be killed.

Please show me the Muslims speaking out against this.

Now you want to instruct us that we should treat this self defined group as individuals – Really!! – it is interesting to note that Muslims define themselves by their religion not by where they were born.

As I suggested to Christopher, why do you not try to live in a Muslim country before trying to defend insanity.

As for my personal attack and profanity, here you show your intellectual laziness - Christopher stated his case and so did I - as far as I know, that IS free speech - sorry how stupid of me, I forgot, in Muslim countries the Mullah decides what "free speech" people may use and what "free speech" in a hanging offense !!


Editor's Note
Philip, should all white South Africans, including the likes of yourself who have since migrated, be charged with crimes committed under Apartheid? We believe not! We shouldn't paint all Muslims with the same brush. There is no collective responsibility when it comes to improprieties committed by individuals. All you need to do is read widely and travel extensively to appreciate our disparities.
Submitted by : Odette Mohammed of Mill Street on 2009-10-30 14:50:38
Christopher, thank you for presenting a balanced view.

I come from a mixed Christian/Muslim family and have many friends from both sides. The people who blithely demonise all Muslims are, in my opinion, intellectually lazy and lacking in simple human empathy. I say this because Heaven forbid that we should view Muslims as...you know...people, individuals, just like Christians, Jews, Atheists and every other flavour of human being on the planet.

No no, instead of reading critically and doing people the courtesy of treating them as individuals, its so much easier to apply blanket judgements to entire groups of people.

And Philip...disagree with Christopher by all means but why the profanity and the personal attack? Christopher has the right to state his opinion (freedom of speech - remember that?) and you have the right to disagree but, in this case at least, you really don't have the right to tell him to f-off.
Submitted by : Philip Smith of QUEENSLAND on 2009-10-30 01:38:15
Christopher, what are you smoking to cause such delusion

you state "These are, in fact, condemned by the vast majority"
( one has to assume Muslims )

Really! Please give us the name of any Muslim Leader who has spoken out for woman's rights or condemned the treatment of woman during the last 10 years.

Muslims and Christian Zealots are all the same - stark raving mad
and their followers are, more often than not, as crazy.

Now leave Harold alone and fuckoff, or even better move to Iran.

Philip Smith


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