Eighteen years into South Africa’s democracy, the Bill of Rights, which was to have heralded a new era of accountability and justification for the country, has yet to have any impact on how our public institutions conduct themselves. Our story "Pillage in the fine print" in this issue about how the affairs of a company in liquidation were handled by the Master’s office in Cape Town – and the legal and other professions whose work is inextricably linked to it, demonstrates the point. They appear to have remained impervious to the demands of justice and public opinion.
There is no reason to believe that matters are any better in similar institutions in other parts of the country.
Perhaps the liquidators and trustees, the judicial managers, executors, attorneys, accountants, trust companies and, yes, auctioneers – all those entrusted with looking after the financial affairs and interests of folk less capable – ask themselves: Why comply with the requirements of the Bill of Rights when, in the face of public opinion and clear evidence of outrageous greed and dishonesty, Masters of the High Court continue year after year to appoint the likes of Enver Motala as trustees and liquidators of insolvent estates under the guise of transformation?
But this year, it seems, the growing outrage of a gatvol public has reached a level where it can no longer be ignored. A brave Pretoria Master has finally got Motala thrown off the roll of liquidators. The professional career of attorney-curator Dines Gihwala hangs by a thread. Auction Alliance is a shadow of its former self. Many big time lawyers are no longer sleeping that well at night.
Similar developments are taking place on other fronts: decent citizens have gone to court to get the Arms Deal investigation reopened and now, also to get a corrupt police chief fired – because a corrupt government won’t do what an honest one would.
For too long we’ve swallowed the argument that our president was probably no more on the take from arms dealers than were the British, French and German presidents at the time. True. But “we are no worse” is not an argument.
The whole point of our struggle was that we wanted to be able to herald a new era for our country – and for the world.
The real struggle for the dignity of all our people has only just begun. And Noseweek intends being amongst the troops on the frontline.
But getting to the front, recent experience has shown, is not always that easy. Our April edition failed to reach most of Gauteng, those who live there may have noticed. The entire consignment for the region was loaded on a truck in Cape Town but, mysteriously, did not arrive in Joburg – and has yet to be traced or accounted for. Noseweek’s distributors, Media24 subsidiary On The Dot, only discovered a week later that Noseweek was missing, when regular readers started complaining – too late to reprint and redistribute. As a gesture of goodwill, we reprinted the April issue and packaged them with those copies of the May issue destined for Johannesburg. We hope you enjoyed the read, even if it was late.
STOP PRESS: Ominous news for shareholders of JSE-listed Resilient has just been received from the Limpopo Municipality of Burgersfort: in a letter from the council’s attorneys, dated 7 May, the company was informed of the final decision by the municipality to reject the company’s plans for its much-promoted R1-billion-plus shopping mall development on the outskirts of the town.
The extent of the omissions and malpractice unearthed in the course of an expert investigation commissioned by the municipality was such that the town council could not possibly approve the plans submitted by Resilient Properties (Pty) Ltd.
Just in summary, they fill an eight-page letter which we might have described as unbelievably shocking, were it not that Noseweek readers will find it easy to believe, already knowing as they do about the dirty secret history of the company and some of its directors and shareholders (see noses136; 137; 138; 143; 145).
Several of the grounds for the municipality’s refusal are so fundamental that it is unlikely that such a development will ever be approved on the site – or, in any event, be financially viable.
Noseweek will have a much closer look at all that went wrong there, in our next issue. In the meantime, we thought investors would appreciate an early cautionary warning.
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