Dear Editor

Poisoned Wells
“Sold down the river” (nose125), which suggests that Transnet may be about to sell off real estate worth R200m or more, for just R3.5m, made interesting reading – but certain points weren’t surprising. Like the fact that the lease for the property, with its option to buy for R3.5m, was signed by Transnet chief financial officer Chris Wells, who is now Transnet CEO and earning some R10m per annum – a “fitting reward”, no doubt. This is the same Chris Wells who presided over then listed retailer, Relyant Retail Ltd in the period that its share price crashed by 90%, with many investors losing fortunes. Instead of honourably falling on his sword, Wells was instrumental in mass retrenchments, and the removal of long-serving executives who challenged his methods.

C Lemkin

Plus ca change...
“The War of the Wall” (nose125) underscores the view that bureaucracies don’t change. The name Bill Carter brought back memories from 1998, when the local residents’ associations challenged the South Peninsula Municipality (then run by your much-mentioned pal, ex the Overstrand municipality, Jan Koekemoer) in a tormented two-year campaign about the doings and screwings of the Building Department. Bill Carter was then chief building inspector.

The only vindication/satisfaction we got, was when the Cape Times published a photo of Carter’s own half-completed house in Marina da Gama, which was going ahead “although the plans have been approved only provisionally by a building inspector”.

Under pressure, Koekemoer appointed a commission chaired by the wimpish John van Niekerk, attorney from Silberbauers Inc., to hear complaints from the public. For weeks we sat through 96 written and 163 oral submissions. I lost count after Van Niekerk refused to hear the umpteenth request to discuss a matter of neglect/malpractice “because it was not in his brief”. Which left us with the question: what was his brief, other than to run up a huge bill for fees?

Eventually the report and findings were discussed by the Exco of the municipality, whose cynical response could briefly be summed up as “take note of the initiatives taken by directorates to improve, and also take note of every other finding of the commission”.

You might wish to take note.

Piet Erasmus
Fish Hoek

Unsafe as Mike
Regarding “Unsafe as Houses” (nose125) – perhaps Durban city manager Mike Sutcliffe should himself undergo a lifestyle audit?

Mike Jacobs

Hardware shop surgery
I read with interest “Spine-chilling screw-up” (nose124), and sympathise with Gerda. If my wife and I had had the resources we would have sued the good doctor, following what happened in July 2004, when my wife, with severe back-pain, was attended to by Dr Miller at the Linksfield clinic emergency department. X-rays were taken and Miller noted that some years earlier she’d had “screws and rods” fitted to her lower spine. He advised that this was “the old-fashioned way” and they no longer did this.
A few days later he operated, and, believe it or not – his team fitted more rods and screws: over R30,000-worth of hardware alone.

During the subsequent five and a half weeks she was in Linksfield clinic, my wife’s condition deteriorated and she was in great pain. She was in and out of ICU several times. Eventually, because Dr Miller could not find the cause of the pain, he said the problem was psychological. Then the sister in charge had a new set of X-rays taken, and Dr Miller phoned to tell me: “Mr Wallis your wife’s back is broken, the top screws holding the steel works have pulled out of the bone.”

I quickly had my wife transferred to the MilPark hospital, where she was put on intravenous feeding for two weeks before she could be operated on again – to have all the steel work removed! On returning home she was confined to a wheel chair for a long time, but no longer uses it.

Mike Wallis
By email

Now you see it...
I read somewhere that the UK Serious Fraud Office have struck a deal with BAE, and are no longer pursuing a possible prosecution against BAE for bribery involving South African politicians and ANC officials, following a multi-billion pound contract to supply fighter aircraft to the SANDF. What’s up? I think we should be told.

Chris Martin
by email

The UK government is as deep in arms-deal moola as ours. They rolled out the royal pomp for Zuma in gratitute for the ANC’s having kept its side of the bargain by killing all inquiry in South Africa. – Ed

Not ponzied, thank you
I have established that the R7.38m paid from my trust account to the Investec account of Suscito Investments (Pty) Ltd  [the ponzi operating account run by Dean Rees in conjunction with Barry Tannenbaum], as reported in nose121] was the purchase price of a property bought for a client.

I cannot for reasons of attorney/client confidentiality reveal the name of this client, or that of the seller.
It would go a long way to restoring my good name if you would publish a retraction of my name as an investor in the ponzi scheme, and a brief statement of how I came to be associated with such funds.

Jack Sherman

We are happy to record your explanation. Ed 

More municipal madness
I've spent years trying to find out what lies behind the endless, outrageous demands for unwarranted payment made by the Joburg city council – the story you tell so well in “Municipal Madness”, in nose123. I believe I have finally got to the bottom of it all.

For many years I’ve been receiving accounts from the Joburg council – either directly, or via lawyers – for properties I no longer own. These comprise: Various properties that were expropriated by the government in 1976; properties that were owned by a company that was liquidated in 1998; and two properties, transferred in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Over a lengthy period I made concerted efforts to stop the flow of wasted paper, and see the end of this bad business practice with its outrageous waste of time and energy. When my queries and complaints were turned away at the ground-floor counters of the council offices, I went upstairs, first to the accounts department, then to the legal section – all to no avail. Then I spoke, or wrote to all kinds of senior people – including the mayor, the local city councillor, the MEC for housing, and the Honourable Minister of Housing, Mr Mathews Phosa – again to no avail.

The standard “ground-floor” responses were “Tear up the accounts” or “Throw them in the bin”. Upstairs I was told: “Give us copies of all the accounts and correspondence and we will deal with this problem.” (That was in July 2008.) When I went back I was waved away, then treated with contempt by a certain Mr Perry Smith, who refused to take the substantial written information I had prepared. I had to force someone in his office to accept the information.

When I went to see Mr Greg Vermaak, a director at attorneys Moody and Robertson, who were sending out accounts and letters of notice on behalf of the council, Vermaak told me they wouldn’t stop sending them as they were only acting on instructions.

Lately the accounts and notices have been coming from the lawyers mentioned in nose123, Van de Venter Mojapelo. All that's new is that now the notices and accounts don’t carry proper references.

So here it is: I believe that what is going on is that the council books are being intentionally “bloated”, or “cooked”, with “ghost” accounts. These lawyers, officials and councillors are involved in articially inflating the value of the council’s “debtors’ book”, in order to hide the fact that it is either insolvent or near insolvent. It’s perfectly obvious that those involved know these are fictitous accounts, and that they won’t, in the main, be paid.

If I am right, this represents a massive fraud on the part of council officials and the attorneys acting for them. It also involves large-scale harassment of the public, in the course of which some victims may be frightened into paying up. 

The lawyers’ reward for their part in the fraud are the fees automatically charged to the council every time an (unwarranted) letter of demand or notice is sent out. All in all a very nice scam, bringing in a good sum every month. One must also assume that the lawyers are sharing the rewards with the officials and councillors. Is it as simple as that? I believe so.

Name withheld

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Submitted by : David Claase of Johannesburg on 2010-03-25 19:43:07
Hi - it would appear many SA taxpayers have had enough and are finally mobilising to try and do something about it. Over the last two weeks or so, a group, provisionally called the South African Taxpayer Association, has formed and has posted comments on numerous news websites. It would appear the group has generated quite a bit of support, to date, but is in a very early stage of formation, and has nothing to do with the National Taxpayer Union.

More details can be obtained by e-mailing SATaxpayer@gmail.com.
Submitted by : Gary Shearer of Cape Town on 2010-03-25 07:06:42
Good Morning Noseweek, and welcome.

As always, the entertainment light in my news life has arrived, and as this is my ONLY news read (no news TV or newspapers for nigh on 20 years now), I always look out for it. I must confess though that I now read it with a growing amount of dismay at what goes on in our beloved country (and around the world) that the average citizen just has to accept!

What say you to Noseweek actually looking for funds to escalate some of your findings into the legal realm, financed by a fund supported by those of us who are tired of being so blatantly ripped off by politicians and their closely linked minions in municipalities. Large conglomerates have a teeny modicum of acceptability as they 'do it legally for shareholders', but perhaps they too need to be audited by a neutral and independent entity (is this a possible dream?).

Seriously, though, what can we do to stop the escalating daily rip off, the intrusive blue light squads, and the express gravy train that has no idea which rail it is on, but continues to take passengers (and more vociferous and greedy drivers) on board at such an alarming rate?

Yours in hope of some real truth one day.
Gary Shearer
Cape Town


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