Dear Editor

The advert on the inside front cover of nose121 talks about Bain’s Whisky. Whisky is the spelling for genuine Scotch. All others are spelt whiskey. I thought you ought to be told.

Peter Garrett
Cape Town
There I was thinking it was spelt wishky! – Ed.

Reinvention of Hromnik
I’m not an historian or archaeologist, but this much I know: any serious archaeological investigation of a substantial site (such as Hoy’s Koppie in Hermanus) could not be done by one man, however well paid. Ergo, Dr Hromnik has done a shoddy job for the Hermanus municipality [as reported in nose120]. Those who believe that stone circles have astronomical significance (which may be false in many instances) refer to their role in pointing out the rising and setting of certain stars. One cannot use a stone circle to do the same with the moon, because it orbits the Earth. Hence it appears that Dr. Hromnik, who has no astronomical credentials, is talking tosh when he claims that Hermanus is the site of an ancient lunar observatory.

As a student of South African political discourse, however, I am amused by Dr Hromnik’s attempts to re-invent himself as an anti-apartheid activist. The notion that Africans are too stupid to construct lasting monuments, and that any such in southern Africa were created by racially superior outsiders, was manufactured to legitimate expanding white settlement in southern Africa early in the Scramble for Africa. This propaganda appears in Rider Haggard’s colonial texts, King Solomon’s Mines and She. It was enthusiastically adopted by white supremacists in late colonial southern Africa; the Rhodesian government officially proclaimed that Great Zimbabwe was built by foreigners (a belief which no Rhodesian archaeologist supported), and similar racist claptrap appears in Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird (1972).

If the Hermanus municipality is as reactionary as your magazine suggests, it is unsurprisingly encouraging the belief that everything achieved by the First People in South Africa was actually done by Indian immigrants.

The evidence which Dr Hromnik presents to buttress his racist propaganda, is equivalent to deciding that since some of the ancient jewellery found in Britain contains lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, the Afghans colonised Britain and built Stonehenge.

Mathew Blatchford
University of Fort Hare

That koppie
In your article on that Hermanus koppie (nose120) I am incorrectly referred to as “Professor Johan Nel of the University of Pretoria”. I am not a professor at UP or any other university. I am a freelance, contract archaeologist and co-owner of Archaic Heritage Project Management that manages the Archaeological Contracts Office of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at UP.

This correction made, I hesitate to engage with Dr. Hromnik because doing so legitimises his “research” in the public eye. I feel no need to defend myself against his quoted statements – his manner speaks for itself.

I make four final points:

  • I have not been to or studied Hoy’s Koppie; neither did I make any reference to the site in the digging stick article.
  • My views on Hromnik and other dissident or fringe researchers are similar to
  • those held by most, if not all, professional, academic archaeologists in Southern Africa. I am glad thatmy article was read by the public and acted on to expose Hromnik’s poor scholarship.
  • I leave professors Parkington and Van der Merwe, distinguished academics with international reputations, to respond in their own good time. It is, however, worthwhile noting that they are happy to conduct the Hoy’s Koppie work at no cost to the ratepayers.
  • As a consultant archaeologist myself, I know that “the little money” paid for Hromnik’s “research” is not little. His reported expectation that his report is “worth at least R500,000” is outrageous.

To conclude, I reiterate a statement I have made in the digging stick article: “Belief – and it is belief rather than reason – in these theories is disempowering because it distances the majority of South Africans from their real heritage, which is every bit as fascinating as the fabrications. Support is given to neo-colonial ideas that simply retread tired old tropes, instead of building on the exciting discoveries made by archaeologists.”

Johan Nel

Our Mutual Friends – again
According to Old Mutual we now have a new form of asset management: management by website. How this works is you have to keep your eyes constantly glued to the OM website for announcements regarding the closure of funds you may be invested in. If you happen to miss these announcements, they simply make brilliant decisions themselves – like moving you out of a gold fund they decide to close into a dollar-deposit fund. What happens? Gold goes through the roof and the dollar goes through the toilet.

OM advises there is no chance of compensation.There is not even an apology for not contacting you prior to this switch to get your input. After all it’s only your money. Old Mutual seem to have lost their grip – if they ever had one.

“No Mutual feelings”

Cat’s out of the bag
While your article on feral cats (nose120) raises important and topical issues, it does so in the usual sensationalist way that portrays cats in a negative light, creates friction between animal welfare groups and misinforms the public. You have also quoted me out of context in such a way that I end up denying TUFCAT’s successes.

You clearly have no understanding of how “organisations” involved in trap-neuter-release (TNR) programmes operate – if you did you would realise that most are run by one or two (mostly female) volunteers who subsidise most of the costs themselves. Sometimes the institutions where the cats reside contribute to veterinary costs. How this takes donor funds away from the SPCA is unclear, since the latter would have a lot more work to do if individual cat trappers did not take it upon themselves to trap, sterilise and euthanase colonies.

You base your argument on a US organisation, Alley Cat Allies, who are indeed well funded and supported, yet have not bothered to find out that the South African situation is quite different. And it does not cost hundreds of rands to sterilise feral cats, as you claim.

You do not discuss what the alternatives are, let alone evaluate their “success rate”. The complete eradication of entire feral colonies is virtually impossible and even in places like Marion Island (new cats can’t swim there), it took more than 20 years of all sorts of brutal methods to finally exterminate the cats. You do not even mention the considerable and ongoing “hidden costs” associated with exterminating entire cat colonies.

Many of the local so-called “no-kill” groups have managed to sterilise entire colonies, which then steadily die off. Even at UWC, where more than 20 cat colonies live on 160 hectares of land, surrounded by industrial and residential areas with huge unsterilised cat populations who can easily migrate onto campus, numbers are declining steadily. You should not assume that all feral cat groups are “no-kill”. Have you ever considered that one of the reasons feral cats are tolerated in certain places has little to do with sentimentalism and anthropomorphism but is purely utilitarian: they are cost effective and environmentally-friendly rodent controllers.

Feral cats have been in the news lately due to the Robben Island culling fiasco, and ideas about which animals belong and which do not, result in feral cats being regarded as trangressive and ambiguous. This issue needs to be debated. In some spaces, feral cats are considered part of the landscape and are not thought to be “out of place”. Similarly, the use and abuse of donor funds within the charity/NPO sector in general, and animal welfare in particular, could have been addressed. Your article does nothing except further demonise cats and their caretakers.

Sharyn Spicer
TUFCAT (The UWC Feral Cat Project)

Country Light
My compliments and thanks to Bheki Mashile for his enlightening new column on the local political and social scene.

H Liedberg

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