Dear Editor

Double standard

All readers understand how a postal strike can threaten the survival of Noseweek, and the expense and waste of time it has caused (nose181). But I am sure Mr Nose will agree there is a very un-noseweeky double-standard between your pages eight and 18.

Pages 18-20 denounce the callousness of Transnet in squeezing and cheating SAR&H, & SAA pensioners until some now get barely R2,500 per month. Page 8 criticises the Postal Workers Union and postal strikers because they want eventually to get a pension.

Keith Gottschalk


What a pity Independent Newspapers has been taken over by so obviously strong a supporter of Jacob Zuma and the present regime.

I feel for the previous editors and staff of our stalwart anti-apartheid newspapers such as the Rand Daily Mail, The Star, The Pretoria News, The Argus and Cape Times among others.

Many like me are crying out for more balance in the news we receive from our daily papers. Perhaps you could use your influence to make it a reality. I’d be the first to change my morning read.

Keith Ingram

Balancing trick

The letter from Jo Maxwell (nose182) refers. One  often reads about people who can’t stop unscrupulous companies from debiting their bank accounts. My advice: tell your bank that if it won’t help you stop the debit order, you will just move to another bank.

If it still won’t help you, move. Your ex-banker is not going to pay out on debit orders when no funds are available, so the debiting company will have to come after you – if it thinks it can prove that you still want their goods or services. Faced with the loss of a good account, your bank will be a little more co-operative, and will deploy a more efficient cadre to help you sort out the problem.

Ron Mcgregor
Cape Town

Withdrawal symptoms

Following on letters from Jan Venter (nose180) and Barbara Fisher (nose181), I too have had my Nedbank account almost cleaned out.

In September my bookkeeper received an SMS saying her phone sim card was defective and she should arrange a sim-swop with Vodacom. Minutes later she had two calls in quick succession to say the SMS was sent in error; ignore it.

The next day, a public holiday, her phone was not working and the day after that, when she arrived at work at 7.30am, she immediately logged in to my bank accounts as usual. She has been doing all my banking and bookkeeping for the past 16 years and is the only person able to access my accounts, which are linked to her phone. As a safety measure, I, myself, don’t even know the usernames and passwords to my accounts. It is her cellphone number that appears on my profile at the bank, and, other than she and I, only the bank knows this.

On logging in, my bookkeeper saw that all my accounts had been depleted – R735,000,00 had been withdrawn – leaving a balance of around R300,000. She immediately phoned Nedbank and was advised that we had to wait 24 hours before anything could be done. (Bizarre, since that would allow the thief extra time to clear out my accounts and cover his or her  tracks!) I knew I’d been scammed and wanted the accounts blocked as soon as possible.

In the course of 27 years of banking with Nedbank, I developed what I thought was a good relationship with one bank employee whom I managed to contact at around 8.20am. She, too, told us to wait 24 hours, suggesting this bit of absurdity is standard Nedbank practice. When I insisted that was unacceptable, she reluctantly agreed to make inquiries. An hour later she phoned to say she had traced two accounts into which my money had been transferred, blocked them, and alerted Nedbank’s fraud prevention unit. She had been unable to salvage the money and was not allowed to reveal where these accounts were held, or to whom they belonged.

Throughout my ordeal, no matter who I asked at the bank, they all said they were not allowed to disclose any information – even though I was their client and it was my money that had been stolen. No protection was offered me. Instead, the scammers were protected and afforded more time.

Later that day I phoned the bank twice more to ask whether I should report the theft and fraud to the police. The bank said they simply did not know whether I should do so.

As it was the end of the month, I needed funds to pay my staff and creditors. The bank requested a balance sheet of my financials in order to arrange an overdraft facility of R650,000 so that I could meet my obligations. For it to be approved, I needed to sign surety, including my personal property to the value of R10m, as well as three life policies. On top of it all, they charged me R3,000. Although the overdraft was urgent – and necessary to be able to run my practice and business – this took five days to arrange.

After nine days, Nedbank’s fraud division advised me they had completed their investigation: my account had been hacked and could retrieve only R137,000. They said the fraud had nothing to do with them; I should take the matter up with Vodacom.

During their nine-day investigation, neither I nor my staff were contacted by Nedbank’s forensic department – even though the only person officially able to access my account, apart from the bank, was my bookkeeper. I phoned the bank for a third time to ask whether I should report the matter to the police and was again told that I could “if I wanted to”. My lawyer advised me to open a case of fraud. Nedbank has refused to cooperate or provide us with any information.

A polygraph test conducted on my bookkeeper took one-and-a-half hours and she passed with flying colours.

My forensic experts say the only conclusion to be drawn is that a criminal cartel, together with someone inside the bank who must have leaked my profile information, and a person in Vodacom who cleared the sim-swop that allowed an unknown fraudster to receive a pinnumber of my bookkeeper’s cellphone number (now on someone else’s phone). They could only have known my bookkeeper’s cell number was linked to my account from someone with access to Nedbank’s client records.  

I am still waiting to hear from Vodacom’s forensic department as to how a sim-swop was done and authorised without my bookkeeper’s ID and in-person signature. This matter is now with my lawyer and forensic expert.

Nedbank says the matter has been “dealt with” and they’ve closed their file. If I am not satisfied, they suggest I go to the banking Ombudsman.

A bigger problem is the leaking of  personal details and profiles, subjecting people to fraud and leaving most victims without the means to fight the banks.

Dr Fanus Lues

Sasol set on spreading toxic compost

In March last year (nose161) you alerted readers to Sasol’s secret plans to solve its serious toxic waste problem literally by “spreading it around” mixed in “organic compost”.

They would ultimately and profitably dispose of the waste by having the citizens of South Africa eat it when they eat the cereal crops or the animals fattened on pastures fertilised with the toxic compost.

At the time they accused Noseweek of sensationalism and claimed it was an unlikely project that had not even undergone the first round of testing. A lie. They already knew that breeding cattle kept on such pastures frequently aborted their unborn young, or gave birth to genetically defective young, making the harmful presence of the toxic materials very obvious.

Their researchers then cynically suggested in a confidential report that animals should only be fattened on these pastures for a few months prior to slaughter – the implication being that consumers of the meat would be none the wiser and unlikely to attribute any long-term health problems they might in due course suffer from, to the meat they had eaten.

A recent press release by Sasol published online by Media24 announced it was going ahead with plans to compost the thousands of tons of toxic biosludge continuously produced by its coal-to-oil plants – and that it was “very excited” about the potential of this “new technology”. There is, however, no mention of any toxicology tests and trials having been run.

The public needs to demand sight of such trials conducted by reputable independent scientists. I have not been able to find any published evidence that these toxins remain harmless and “immobilised” in the environment as a result of bacterial action, as claimed in Sasol’s statement.

There is a further danger here: if Sasol can dilute their hazardous waste in compost, then anyone else can too. We should not allow our food source to become an acceptable destination for the dumping of hazardous wastes – surely?

John W

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Submitted by : Steven Ingham of Jhb on 2014-12-20 07:49:30
Re John W's letter about Sasol's toxic bio-sludge: I know of one construction electrical foreman who worked for a reputable contractor that lost eyesight after working in and around the very same storage ponds. (His loss of eyesight was un-explainable and very sudden). Might the 2 related?


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