Stranger than fiction
With reference to “Robert Smit’s deadly bombshell” (Editorial nose133), years ago the late Hans Strydom (who, with Ivor Wilkins, wrote the definitive book on the Broederbond), while news editor at the Sunday Times, had a small publishing house and I used to help edit manuscripts.
One day Hans gave me a large carton containing a manuscript that, judging by the notes on many of the pages and its dog-eared state, had been read by a number of other people.
It had been written by Secretary for Information Eschel Rhoodie, and though it was a work of fiction it dealt with the murder of Dr Smit, and you could quite easily identify the characters. Among them were finance minister Nico Diederichs, head of the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) General Hendrik van den Bergh, and others whom Rhoodie hinted were responsible for Dr Smit’s death.
I recall that it was a well-written “thriller”, but sadly it was never published. I believe that Hans Strydom’s son now has it and from time to time stories about the book and its explosive contents appear in the press.
Barfly by night
Johan Swart, the man behind the KZN ponzi scheme (“Too good to be true”, nose133) is definitely not in hiding.
Tell the Hawks to do a bit of low flying at Luyt Breweries in Ballito where they are bound to find him at the bar, especially on Fridays around 17h00. (His wife has apparently left for Australia.)
PS: He took my mate for R400,000.
Spammers in the works
You complain about companies – such as Leisure Books, a Media24 subsidiary – that sell their clients’ telephone numbers and email address lists to spammers (nose133), but what about friends or clubs that carelessly disclose all email addresses on their lists when sending jokes, club letters, chain letter rubbish and special offers? The spammers get hold of these and one is bombarded with spam mail purporting to come from banks, marketers and companies.
Which brings a related issue to mind: Spam mail purportedly from one or other of the Big Four banks, keeps pouring in, requesting one to update one’s banking details. Nobody seems able to nail them, but surely these criminals can be caught?
Soft soap or hard sell?
It could be that I am getting paranoid about calls that claim to emanate from charitable institutions, but it’s rather strange.
The caller, always a lady, tells my receptionist that the call is of a personal nature. The call is put through to me. When I pick up, a confident voice tells me it is Veronica or Mary or whoever – the subtle insinuation is that I should already know the caller.
After a concerned enquiry about my well-being, it’s down to business: Do I remember that on a date (say) six months ago, I promised to pay her organisation R200 for street children or Down’s syndrome persons of the Romanian, Chilian or Venda group, or chronic incontinence patients with leprosy? And will I do so again?
I have no recollection whatsoever of an earlier promise or giving previous assistance as alleged, and I inform the caller accordingly. The caller expresses amazement at my forgetfulness, but I am promised instant forgiveness if I would just agree to help them out this time.
Experience has taught that it is a waste of time to ask pertinent questions, such as: How I can be assured that the caller is genuine? or Are you registered as a welfare entity? What works best is a firm “No!”. Three repetitions of this usually does the trick.
What’s really disquieting about these calls is their identical structure, and that they come in batches: If I receive one, I can be sure there will be four or five similar ones within a span of weeks. The inference is irresistible that this is a well-organised scam.
Or a commercial fundraising company with a team of hard-sell telemarketers using the same address list to market for various clients. – Ed.
Use less stuff
Hilary Venables is to be congratulated for the most dispassionate article that I’ve read about what we humans are doing to destroy our own species (nose133). This letter is written on the day that Americans go to the polls. Thanks to huge backing from the likes of the Koch brothers, it seems likely that the Tea Party and its agenda is set to be a formative force in US environmental politics. I tremble to think of the consequences for my grandchildren.
What to do about all this? Robert Lilienfeld, author of the book Use Less Stuff says it all in that title. Recycling is not an adequate answer: a promise to clean up afterwards is too easily treated as a licence to generate still more of a mess.
Finally, to expect politicians to solve the problem is just wishful thinking. “Poli” is a Greek word meaning “many” and “tics” – well, they’re parasites. So what we all have to do is use less – and continue to speak out until politicians are shamed into real action.
Harold Strachan’s diatribe against the use of the atom bomb in Japan would, I think, have been less one-sided if he’d actually fought against, been imprisoned by, or even been a citizen of one of the many countries which were overrun and devastated by the Japanese army.
Does he really believe the Americans should have prolonged the war and condemned thousands of their soldiers to unnecessary death or disablement when, after years of development, they finally had a weapon which could end it within days?
One thing is for sure – if he had been one of the American GIs waiting for the order to invade Japan he would not have the jaundiced view he expressed in his article.
How can South Africa spend billions of rands on the research of a pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR), then scrap the work and go for a nuclear reactor contract with a Korean company costing about R450 billion rand instead? Someone who I believe is in the know, claims that they needed only about 5% of the R450bn to complete the work on the PBMR.
Alan van Bergen
Noseweek approached, Prof Stephen Thomas, professor of Energy Policy at the Business School of the University of Greenwich, who is an expert on the subject, for comment: After the abandonment of the PBMR and the collapse of the call for tenders for nuclear capacity in 2008 – when the lowest bid (for the French Areva EPR reactor) was so high it was unfinanceable – the government and Eskom have been looking around for “affordable” reactors. They seem to have an unshakeable faith that there are cheap reactors to be had and just need to find them. One option is the Korean design, the APR1400. This won a tender in UAE last December when it bid US$20bn for four reactors against the US$36bn bid by Areva. Problem is, the APR1400 has a single skin which would not stop a civil airliner, a requirement in Europe and USA and it does not have a “core-catcher” so that if the reactor vessel fails, the core will be held and won’t burn down into the earth and contaminate everywhere. (Core-catchers are the subject of huge dispute: the Americans don’t ask for them, Europeans do and Areva’s EPR has both a double skin and a core catcher.) Anyway, if SA were to buy two reactors from Korea, it would cost something like R450bn – but SA is miles away from placing an order.
It is true that 5% of R450bn is about the expected cost of building the demo PBMR, but that would get you only a dodgy 165MW reactor – 2.6% of the Korean reactor’s 6400MW capacity.
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