Dear Editor

Working on the chain gang

Following on your article (nose159) about the unethical behaviour of some health care and service providers: the practice of confidential rebates, discounts and kick-backs is also widespread in the general supermarket and  wholesale industries in South Africa.

In order to become a supplier of goods to the supermarket chains, you are forced to comply with their many demands and jump to attention on command. It’s common for distributors of foodstuffs to retail chains to add upwards of 20% to the factory price to cover the costs of dealing with the chains.

If consumers knew how the demands and operating procedures of these retail chains pushed up their prices, they would not support them.

The requirements of Section 18A of the Medicines and Related Substances Act should apply to all foods as well.

Nick McConnell

Road to ruin

My husband rides BMW motorbikes, and we read your story about the BMW dealership in Nelspruit (nose159) with interest.

It seems they terminated the Willowbridge dealership (Hamman Motorrad) in a similar way.  

Cape Town

Unravelled and in stitches

When it comes to buying belts from Mr Price (Bheki Mashile, nose159), I had the same experience just a year ago: the belt started disintegrating after a month or so.

I do enjoy Bheki’s column!

Keyan Tomaselli
UKZN, Pietermaritzburg

Malpractice melée

Regarding the spiralling cost of health care (nose159): the exit price on pharmaceuticals merely shifted the claiming of profit by pharmaceutical companies from the state to the private sector – payback for withdrawing litigation.

Also, medical insurance companies devise ingenious ways of not paying for what they consider unacceptable risk. Medical insurance annual premium increases outstrip inflation.

Over-servicing by doctors is another ever-more-serious problem.

State services are crumbling, allowing mercenary medical service providers to step in, armed with a Hippocratic Oath to put patient before profit!  


Law-law or jaw-jaw?

The KZN Law Society at last responded to Noseweek’s request for information (made in May 2012, with a reminder in October) regarding the extent of malpractice complaints against lawyers in that province and how speedily they are dealt with. In a letter prefaced by a lengthy explanation of how complicated and time-consuming the procedure is, the writer gets to answer our question:

There are 1,253 complaints being investigated, with 11 pending matters involving suspension and strike-off applications in the High Court.

To deal with matters expeditiously and effectively the Society continues to review its procedures and to this end has migrated to electronic operations insofar as practically possible and has employed additional staff.

Gavin M John
Director, Law Society of Kwa-ZuluNatal

Fishy rhino business

The big picture on the issue of a legal trade in rhino horn is not making sense. Might South Africa’s vacillation on the submission of a proposal to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) not be as innocent as it appears?

Last year over 600 rhino were killed illegally. At an average weight of 4kg and at a price of at least $50,000/kg to the illegal hunter, this horn is worth about R1 billion. With South Africa’s track record of corruption, it is almost inconceivable this sort of wealth would go unnoticed – and a squeaky clean legal trade in rhino horn would leave no opportunities for corruption.

For those with corrupt intentions, perpetuating the current situation is the perfect strategy. You are seen to be taking into account the concerns of the international community, while profiting from the status quo.

I put in a lot of work in 2011 preparing South Africa’s proposal to CITES. I quote from my report: “I was surprised at the overwhelming consensus among people I met that a legal trade in rhino horn offers the best remedy for the escalating illegal hunting of rhino in South Africa. In Namibia there was a similar consensus in favour of a legal trade. (Namibians see it only as a matter of time before they are subjected to the same problems.)”

But I became increasingly puzzled by South Africa’s apparent inability to take a decision on submitting a proposal to CITES. South Africa has an established position on sustainable-use issues and submitted a proposal to CITES for a legal trade in rhino horn back in 1992. Yet when Environmental Affairs reported to CITES in July, they failed to mention the groundswell demanding legal rhino horn trade.

Last year I watched a video interview with a Chinese mafia boss on the illegal trade out of South Africa. He said he was exporting about 5 tonnes annually but strongly favoured a legal trade in horn as he was tired of the risks and costs of illegal exports… including bribes to people in high places. Worth a closer look?

Rowan Martin

Chinese cookies

In his Maverick article critical of your cover story in nose157, Kevin Bloom links the Chinese arrival in Africa with the spurt in African GDP. That about takes the fortune cookie!

There is absolutely nothing to link the two. Then he asserts that the West has turned it’s back on Africa. Also not true. The West still provides the bulk of finance to Africa. Mr Bloom seemed more interested in telling his audience how widely he has travelled, than on bringing facts about the Chinese silent invasion to the table.

Ian Hurst
Cape Town

Give that man a Bells!

As an avid reader of Harold Strachan in Noseweek, I was aware that he had run the Comrades many years ago.

According to the Comrades Marathon website, runner Strachan, no initials given, born 01/01/26 and wearing number 35, completed the 1949 race in 12th position in a time of 8hrs 37mins, and the 1954 Comrades in 6th position in a time of 7hrs 48mins, earning a gold medal.

There’s no record that Strachan ever ran the Comrades again, which is a pity in view of his obvious potential.

His humorous and laid-back “trailblazing” article (nose159) is a true-to-life story of training and running in the “old days” and brought back many happy memories as I was also involved in running the Comrades from 1957 to 2001 – a total of 45 consecutive years – ending up with 42 finisher’s medals, only 40 more than Harold!

Further confirmation of Harold’s Comrades exploits can be found in the 2nd edition of The Comrades Marathon Story, written by fellow runner Morris Alexander, who would be well known to Harold, and also Dart Bousfield, referred to in nose159.

In his description of the 1954 race, Alexander mentions Harold Strachan as a “later to be connected with the famous prisons case involving himself and the Rand Daily Mail”, a reference to Harold’s activist days which he touches on from time to time.

Further on, Alexander states “… while arts lecturer and former South African Air Force Pilot Strachan finishes 6th” and then adds a tribute of sorts:

“Strachan’s performance was surprisingly good. At four o’clock that morning, when his attendants came to his Maritzburg home to collect him for the drive down to Durban for the start, he and his wife were perched on high bar-stools breakfasting on gin and vermouth.

“Once out on the road in the race he showed that he was as rugged as he was a colourful personality.”

Judging from some of his columns, very little appears to have changed. If Harold was indeed born on 1st Jan 1926, it means he was 87 years old on New Year’s Day, which may account for a few minor lapses of memory.

You see Harold, I’m only 81 and don’t drink gin.

For your records Harold, my gin- drinking, shad-catching old Comrades china, the race started not in 1926 but on Empire Day 24th May 1921, with 34 starters and 16 official finishers. Give that man a Bells.

Also due to Adolph H and WW II, only five races were lost, not six. There were no Comrades from 1941 to 1945, with only 10 finishers in 1940 and 8 in 1946.

Clive Crawley
Comrades No:1


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