Dear Editor

Error versus negligence
Your inside source at Regent Insurance (Crash, nose144) says the pilots involved in the Tzaneen air crash “…tried to get clever”. That shows a clear bias against their clients (the insured) and prejudice before the official accident report has been released.

I agree that there appears to have been a breach of the Air Navigation Regulations but that does not equate to “gross negligence”. Would a reasonable person and experienced pilot wilfully navigate an aircraft towards a known but invisible mountain range due to meteorological conditions? No. The reason is “pilot error”.

I have studied the official accident reports of many aviation accidents and not once have the experienced and knowledgeable investigators come to the conclusion the accident was caused by “gross negligence”, yet a “top aviation attorney” has recommended repudiation on this basis without the benefit of a reasoned and detailed report.

Regent are apparently prepared to settle the hull damages claim despite their view that they have a basis for repudiation of the passenger liability claim of the policy. This I do not understand. The insured determines the amount they wish to be indemnified for and if it becomes evident to the insurer that it could be inadequate, the prudent insurer will pay the claim in full and leave the insured to settle the third party claims.

Instead, the insurers in this instance appear to take the confrontational route and are prepared to engage in protracted legal battles “and get the lawyers disgustingly fat”.

Regarding the “breach of Air Navigation Regulations”, if this very much standard clause was included, it was intended to protect the insured from an act such as occurred at Tzaneen but should not invalidate the claim, as the absent insured had no control at the time over actions of a pilot he trusted and who was possibly nominated by the insurer as an approved pilot in respect of the specific aircraft.

A last thought: had the passengers taken out separate passenger risk cover for, say, R1 million each, the claims would have to be settled despite any actions the pilot took or failed to take. My recommendation to all passengers, whether fare-paying or not:  take out separate cover, it is not the air carrier that will screw you in the event of an accident, it’s their insurer’s legal eagles that will do so.

Ken Scriven
Orange Grove, Johannesburg

Science sense
The controversy surrounding Dis-Chem selling hoodia (nose142) and Dr Zeisler’s silly response (nose143) suggests the time has come for your readers to be exposed to Sense About Science’s campaign “Ask for Evidence”. Perhaps Noseweek can support this initiative and direct people like Zeisler to their ongoing work?

Anita Craig
There you are, then. – Ed.
Fine Nedbank
With regard to your excellent article on the ANC land grab (nose142): there are a few more layers to be unpicked on this onion:

♦ Surely all parties, in particular the officials at Nedbank, are criminally liable? This is akin to someone buying a cheap BMW that is obviously hijacked. If so, surely they are Fica obliged to bring this fraud to the attention of the authorities – not finance it? The “business” generated by this fraud is criminal not commercial.
♦ Notwithstanding the fraud there must be a substantial tax bill owing on the excessive profits made by all concerned. (Approximately R20 million owing – none of this can be construed as capital appreciation.)

♦ The layer that you have not picked up on, which must exist, is that this bond has likely been securitised. i.e. Nedbank has in all likelihood sold this one on to a securitiser such as the Government Employees Pension fund.

If Nedbank could be made an example of here, by a massive fine or, worse, threatening their licence, this would go a long way to correcting an imbalance in the market that has made bond finance unviable for main street applicants.

Once you understand the cash flow of deals like this,  it makes lending money to a householder or a small business a joke as an alternative investment.

Philip Copeman
Cape Town

The Registrar of Banks, Rene van Wyk, was Nedbank’s head of risk prior to his appointment as registrar in October, so presumably approved the deal. I wouldn’t hold my breath on this one
. – Ed.

Geared to profit
With reference to “Oil on troubled water” (nose140) – and to add to the troubles of Droomers in Paarl, who are also Renault agents, I have had a similar experience at this workshop with a Renault Scenic gearbox repair, where I was assured the gearbox was “finished”, having a “bent shaft” and that the only remedy was to import a new gearbox from France. A costly solution, and one that I agreed to in the light of the technical advice.

The new gearbox was duly fitted and works as it should, so apart from the cost factor I have no complaints.

However, when I afterwards took the stripped gearbox to Gearbox Exchange in Parow, Cape Town, the experts could find no damage other than normal wear (at 115,000km) and promptly bought the stripped gearbox from me, saying they intend reassembling it for resale.

Makes you think, what?

Izak Rust

Blind dates
Harold, what’s this about James II of Scotland (Last Word, nose143)?

He would have been James VII of Scotland – and James II of Great Britain.

This from a Strachchchan! (Or maybe you’re a Straun?)

And Himmler’s Sonder-kommandos entered Russia in 1941.

Never mind, I’m still one of your fans.

Freddie Guthrie

Who wants to be a bull?
Noseweek’s review of Richard Overy’s The Third Reich: A Chronicle (nose142, “Lessons from history”) and a column that appeared in the Cape Times in June, have prompted some thoughts on the subject of Julius Malema.

Just as Hitler was anti-trade union, so is our local slob. Hitler obscured his fascist intent with national socialist rhetoric. Remember that the big Ger­­man capitalists thought they could use Hitler: what a catastrophic mistake they made for Germany and the world.

Cape Times columnist Khaya Dlanga believes “It’s dumb to call Malema stupid”. But the point is not whether Malema is clever or stupid, but whether he is good or bad.

Like populist demagogues before him, he is clever. Clever like Eugene Terreblanche was clever, or like Mugabe, or Mussolini, or Hitler, or countless post-colonial African populist dictators and others in history all over the world. But clever at what?

They are all clever at arousing crude emotions based on race or ethnicity, nationality, language group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or what we call in South Africa gevaar-politics. They are clever at arousing dark fear and ugly greed in people who are suffering through immediate misfortune and history, and who will grasp at such cunning calls as if they would bring them deliverance.

Why do the clever demagogues arouse these emotions? Should we believe what they say? Do they sincerely seek to serve the interests of the people whose feelings they provoke? History shows us that they are clever at using people to feed their own appetite for power and that, time and again, they have brought great suffering to those who believe them and many others besides.

Khaya Dlanga assumes the political personality of Malema is merely superficial and with “proper grooming” can be turned into respectable leadership, and suggests that the “political skill” he is now “learning” (displaying) will put him ahead in future, as if this is a hopeful prospect.

How would a worthy and believable democratic politician react to a challenge to his position, as Malema has recently faced in the ANCYL? Would he say, “I welcome the challenge, let the members decide” or “there is a plot by my enemies who want to topple me”? Does the way Malema has responded reveal poor grooming or a dangerous personality defect?

I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s appeal for plain language. When some were appeasing Hitler and others explaining him in clever language, he said simply, “Hitler is a bad man”.

What can be done? Perhaps some traditional African humour could help. Have you heard the Zulu – or is it a Xhosa – joke? Who wants to be a bull? The ox from Limpopo.

Jim Phelps
Fish Hoek


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