Dear Editor

If truth be told

Re your article on children growing up without parental supervision and your debunking of the Sunday Times’s Cato Manor exposé (both in nose184):

The large number of children in South Africa is a huge problem and challenge. But these children per se are not the problem, the problem lies with the irresponsible parents (some as young as 15 years; most, unemployed) who produce these children and then turn to the state to receive a monthly grant for each child born. Somebody in government should have the guts to deal with the problem. The sooner the grant policy is reviewed, the better it will be – for the children and for the country as a whole.

I suggest the government increases the monthly grant to R1,000 per child for a maximum of two children per mother, and zero grant for any additional child.

A responsible government cannot afford to encourage people via the existing grant scheme to have children and then not have the resources to care for them.

In your article about the Sunday Times and Cato Manor, you ask: Does anybody tell the truth anymore? and Who is telling the truth? My simple advice: trust  nobody!

Marius Kritzinger
Somerset West

Media Independence

As our sources of information such as the SABC, Independent Newspapers (what a misnomer) and e-Tv rapidly become more politicised, Noseweek becomes that much more valuable as a credible news source and slayer of dragons!

Tony Lavine
Craighall, Johannesburg

♦ Iqbal Survé’s new Editor of the Cape Times wouldn’t publish this letter, so please will you?
“The wonderful family of Drum” was heralded on the front page of the Cape Times; and on an inside page, the article referred to the heady days of the “Drum family” and its island of freedom in apartheid South Africa.

As a member of the family that owned Drum (and before that the Cape Times), I take offence. I find it hypocritical, because very sadly the Cape Times is no longer an independent free voice and bastion of fine journalism. 

My father Jim Bailey spent his lifetime and personal fortune realising a free press across post-colonial Africa, educating, bringing enlightenment, debate and above all exposing injustices. The Cape Times, along with the Rand Daily Mail, played its very important role against so many odds, exposing the murder of Steve Biko and other atrocities of apartheid.   

When he was forced by financial pressure to sell Drum to Naspers, they honoured the agreement not to interfere in editorial content. 

Sadly that no longer applies to the Cape Times, now purged of great, educated free-thinking journalists.
The resignation of columnist Max du Preez over the newspaper’s defence of our corrupt president is the last straw.

I will no longer renew my [Cape Times] subscription and this will be the last of many letters of mine that you have been so kind as to publish.

Goodbye ANC Times.

Beezy Bailey
Cape Town
Swearing by Pauw

May I thank Jacques Pauw for all he went though to get us the news. We were able to participate in events well beyond our ken because of the skill and bravery of Pauw and others like him.

Personally, I’m not surprised he needs a complete break. I wish him well with his new adventure in Riebeek Kasteel.

Pam Herr
Sun Valley

♦ Reading your profile of Jacques Pauw, I could not help feeling he could express himself better without all the swearing; otherwise the article was very good and we will be going to his restaurant soon.

Les Lategan

Pay back that prize money
Jacob Zuma is not the only one who should pay back money. The Sunday Times “investigative unit” is a disgrace to South African journalism. In December 2011, their headline screamed: “Shoot to kill: inside a SA police death squad”. It became known as the so-called Cato Manor death squad story. They exposed a bunch of gun-toting cops that mowed down whatever came in their sights. A very respected policeman, Gen Johan Booysen, was arrested, charged and suspended.

The journalist trio of Rob Rose, Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika won the Taco Kuiper Award and R200,000 for this story. It has emerged that they not just got the story wrong, but acted maliciously in fingering Booysen and his men.

Sunday Times legal editor Susan Smuts recently said that if the newspaper was “played”, they were not the only ones. As though that’s an excuse.

Noseweek has for months [years] written about the Times’s bungling in reporting the story. What are the respected Taco Kuiper judges going to do about the reward they (wrongly) bestowed on the Sunday Times?

Don’t expect the three journalists to admit wrongdoing. They have shown over the past two years (Cato Manor, Zimbabwe renditions, SARS spy story) that they are being politically manipulated and have little integrity.

Jacques Pauw
Via FaceBook

♦ Infuriating to see how Sunday Times investigative journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika resorted to name-calling and basically running away when asked to explain himself (at the book launch hosted by Charles King). The Sunday Times must pay back the prize money.

Hazel Woodward
Cape Town

♦ I am staying out of this muckraking affair between the Sunday Times and Noseweek – the reason I declined to comment or get involved in studying court papers that Noseweek offered to share. I suggest those interested in the Bongani Mkhize case check on the outcome of the civil case and why Judge Gregory Kruger ordered the police to pay damages to his family. My reading of it all is that the man was executed.

Fred Kockott
Via FaceBook

If you’d read our documents you might not have been so glib in your reply. The State strategically withdrew its defence against the widow Mkhize’s damages claim, as it amounted to an admission that the State’s criminal charges against Booysen were unfounded, exposing the new police leadership to more ridicule and opening the way to a much, much larger damages claim from Booysen and other defamed policemen. Editor.

Perhaps civil society should rule

At what point does this institutional corruption involving police, politicians and prosecutors reach a critical mass leading to the absolute failure of the state? Should civil society prepare to take over management of South Africa?

Chris Corns
Winsford, UK

Joint effort to push pipe dream

Regarding Bheki Mashile’s wish to grow marijuana on his farm, a brave bunch of citizens have summonsed various government departments either to explain and justify current legislation or bin it.

The matter is being heard in the Western Cape High Court in March. If Bheki is quick he can probably join the action. Costs would be minimal since Jeremy Acton of the Dagga Party is providing free admin and legal support.

Steve Pain

Fuel from styrofoam

Re the Styrofoam article (nose184) and the enduring threat it poses to the environment.

A possible solution: in Ireland a company is turning plastic waste, including styrofoam into high grade diesel. See: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/plastic-waste-as-fuel.html

D P Kramer

Nedbank clients to sue

Thank you for publishing my letter about the theft of funds from my Nedbank account (nose181) and the similar one from Dr Frans Lues (nose183). As a result of the publicity, we have heard from a number of others who have had similar experiences. We are now jointly going to take action against the bank.

Barbara Fisher
Cape Town

What of SIU’s Khasu probe?

In 2010 the Special Investigating Unit had begun focusing on a building contractor, Khotso Frank Khasu, over a contract with the Naledi Municipality in the North West for the building of 3,000 low-cost houses in Vryburg. The SIU found that only four houses were built and that Khasu Engineering Services, which Khasu owns, had billed the council for millions of rands for earthworks, roads, stormwater structures, streetlights etc that were never built.

There was no tender process, and, between 2008 and 2009, the council paid R27m to Khasu Engineering and another R58m to Khasu’s personal accounts – a total of R85m.

Khasu was subsequently appointed Chief Director of Traditional Affairs and Cooperative Governanc on a minimum salary of R930,000. Until recently there was no prosecution or asset freeze and no money paid back, to my knowledge.

Is there any update on this matter?

Edward Dale

Children without parents

Nice that you profiled children (nose184). But I must draw your attention to a couple of factual inaccuracies, and a slightly misplaced emphasis.

• “Of South Africa’s 18.5 million children under the age of 18, 21% are orphans, 25% do not live with their parents and 60% live in poverty.” I presume these figures are taken from “Children Count”, which has selected indicators published at the back of the SA Child Gauge.

• “21% are orphans”: this figure (it should be 19%) could easily be misleading, as in popular discourse an orphan is a child whose parents have both died, whereas our definition of “orphanhood” includes children who have lost one parent. The figure for “double orphans” is 3.3%. The main form of orphaning is paternal orphaning (11%). 92% of children have living mothers. This is not to say that orphaning is not a problem.

• “25% do not live with their parents”: Unqualified, this statement might lead the ignorant reader to imagine abandoned and delinquent children roaming the streets, etc. Our recent analyses of household survey data show that children who are not living with their biological parents are overwhelmingly in the care of other kin – grandmothers, aunts, etc. These care arrangements are rooted in historic patterns of migrant labour and urban housing shortages: not something that poor households can easily resolve. This does not preclude the important conclusions reached by the two experts your reporter interviewed.

• “80% of South Africa’s children live in informal settlements.” According to the General Household Survey, the estimated figure is 8%.”

Katharine Hall
Children’s Institute, UCT

Thank you for pointing out the errors of fact and perception in our report. As you point out, in common usage “orphan” describes a child, whose parents have both died. The survey’s use of the rare wider definition to include children who have lost one parent is what served to possibly “sensationalise” the total figure arrived at. And, despite all the mitigating factors you mention, the loss of parents remains a serious factor that places children at a disadvantage and at risk.

The same can be said of the huge number of children not living with a parent. The latter figure remains an indicator of serious social dislocation that needs to be addressed as a national priority, no matter its causes.

The 80% instead of 8% for children growing up in informal settlements was an undetected typing error, but then 8% is itself suspect, given the proliferation of shack neighbourhoods. In any event it did not affect the main focus of the story: the vast number of children growing up without parental supervision.

These errors have been corrected in our online archive. – Ed.

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