Hard lesson for the prof
On the face of it, the story about Matthew Lester’s house is a simple one. He broke the rules, and the court has ordered that he comply with the law by demolishing what he built. Noseweek applauded the verdict as “good news” (nose168). I agree. However, the situation bears further analysis.
Lester is not your average moegoe. He is one of those most advantaged of human beings, born into a highly educated family, and himself highly educated. He’d probably be a member of Mensa if he had the time to indulge in such things. So what on earth possessed him to spend so much money on building a dwelling that was clearly in contravention of the laws?
He had every reason to believe, from numerous precedents, that the laws could be flouted. Countless people before him have built what they wanted, broken every rule in the book, and got away with it. It comes as a shock that the court has stood firm in this instance. I almost feel sorry for him.
There must be numerous non-compliant buildings under construction or on the drawing board, and a lot of lawyers who are preparing to argue for the exceptions that the courts must grant to allow these buildings to stand. Can we believe that from now on the law will be consistently applied, and the lawyers – and builders – will fail in their pleas? Or is the Lester case an exception?
On the advice of E M Forster, I offer only two cheers for the judges. The third is reserved for the day – if it ever comes – that we have consistency.
See "Down time" in this issue for case no. 2 – Ed.
Rub His Lordship’s nose in it!
Members of ratepayers’ associations in seaside dorpies find few irritations worse than an idiot playing Lord of the Manor on a 1,500m2 plot.
My congratulations to the residents rubbing His Lordship’s nose in it. Perhaps SARS should be on the look-out for an attempt by the Taxation Studies Professor to claim a rebate for demolition expenses.
In your report on Dr Percy Miller (“The unkindest cut”, nose168), he is referred to as a neurologist. A neurologist is a physician who does not do surgery. Miller is a neurosurgeon.
Drilling down derivatives
I have been following your articles on GT247.com and Purple Capital with interest. I, too, [like Brendon Johns, Letters, nose168] am in this industry and have spent two years drilling down on how these derivatives and futures-trading platforms operate. The results are astounding.
There are not many regulated brokers who can provide true STP (Straight Through Processing) deal tickets and the South African public must ask the right questions before taking on a provider with the odds geared at 95% against them.
May I respectfully then ask: why is Noseweek promoting iForex in their online banner-advert space, as they are also not regulated in SA?
Thanks for drawing this to our attention. The ad was placed by Google. We have put a block on that and a host of other forex trading sites, whose ads will no longer appear on our site. – Ed.
Sweet deal with bitter aftertaste
I would like to compliment you on your latest edition, particularly regarding the skulduggery going on in Pietermaritzburg [Paris is a sweetheart, nose168]. Quite unbelievable! I don’t know what we’d do without you.
Hook and line hard to swallow
Surely we are missing the point in the debate about whether GM foods are good for us or not. If they were good, the producers/manufacturers would be shouting it from the rooftops and there would be special sections in supermarkets proudly promoting GM foods. As it is, they deny it and hide it. I’ve bought items from Woolworths that warn: “This may contain a GM component”. If manufacturers are ashamed and afraid to declare openly what they are hiding in our food, then there must be something wrong with it.
See "Seeds of a food crisis” in this issue. – Ed.
Long march to every dorp
The flood of Chinese immigrants is phenomenal, with more young families arriving all the time, opening new shops, and all with newborn babies. In a small run-down dorp like Springfontein, a young Chinese man has bought the local supermarket plus the block of buildings in which it is housed. Now there are at least three new families. None speak English.
The same has happened in St Francis Bay. In Humansdorp, Chinese businessmen are buying up blocks of buildings. This has to be happening, as Noseweek was first to report, in every city, town and dorp throughout South Africa and in neighbouring countries. How about a follow-up story?
Leave our guns alone
Your gun control article in nose167 was spot on. We have a hideously complex and expensive Firearms Control Act (FCA) which has tied gun owners in knots but serves no good purpose in terms of crime control.
The FCA is, like all gun laws, politically inspired. The clearest example can be seen in the UK where the inexorable progress to prohibition can be tracked from 1920. It is instructive that the cabinet deliberations that led to the British 1920 Act were not released into the public domain until the 1980s. The ostensible rationale was crime control – at a time when crime in general was low and armed crime all but non-existent. The cabinet discussions were about the possibility of the Bolshevik Revolution spreading to the UK, and the recently established labour union movement flexing its muscles. But that couldn’t be admitted.
Each tightening of the screw thereafter was on some pretext that didn’t hold water. The 1968 amendments were a savage increase, pushed through in a wave of public revulsion at the murder of three police officers in London. A green paper tabled in 1973 proposing a ban on semi-automatic rifles was rejected as fundamentally undemocratic, but was revived virtually unchanged in 1987 after the Hungerford massacre, and passed easily.
The common thread is that each step to prohibition was not, as the government claimed, the response to a demonstrable need; it was the opportunistic use of these crimes to push through undemocratic legislation that could not have passed otherwise.
At a conference in Johannesburg in 1998 I personally extracted the admission from Pat Mayhew, representing the British Home Office, that the UK controls have nothing to do with crime.
So what are they for? I got no answer. Indeed I was not allowed to press her for one by the gun-hostile Institute for Security Studies moderators.
The FCA is politically inspired. The ANC wanted a complete ban, Azhar Cachalia told the Goldstone Commission. But, he said, it would be politically impossible to impose it at a single stroke; it would have to be incremental. That was pretty much confirmed by the then chairman of the Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, Mluleki George, who declared: “This bill is not about crime. You can’t control criminals. This bill is about making it as difficult as possible to own licensed firearms, and to drastically reduce those legally owned.
Thus, the sheer complexity that has made life so difficult for SAPS was deliberate. It was based on the Canadian model, then the most complex law of its kind. It has since been repealed because of its horrific cost for no benefit. There is no sign of our government doing likewise.
The anti-gun lobby – then represented by the late Sheena Duncan – claimed that the FCA was needed because the 1969 Arms and Ammunition Act “needed simplifying”. But now that we have something far more complex, Gun Free SA has not called for it to be simplified. Adele Kirsten declares it a mess, but you’ll find that she will not support any simplification because that would make firearm owners’ lives easier.
The SAPS has a thirst for absolute control – of honest citizens, that is, not criminals. If compulsory training and competency certificates are such a good idea, why does no other country impose them? GFSA “sold” them to the government as another useful barrier to firearm ownership. We were told the idea was to licence the individual, and took that to mean licence the individual not each gun. We got both. We have told SAPS its administrative burden and our lives could be considerably eased by licensing the individual then simply registering the guns. (That’s how everything else works, from a driver’s licence to a licence to practise medicine.) But that would put the right of decision in the hands of the citizen, while SAPS wants to decide what firearms we own, if any.
Bottom line: we have a costly, complex and undemocratic system, against which all attempts at something better have hit a brick wall. But thanks for your article, it has at least shed some light on the matter. The key point is that it’s not so much about firearms as the nature of governance and the relationship between citizen and state.
GOSA Executive Member
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