Dear Editor

Independent no longer

I agree with Beezy Bailey (Letters, nose185) when he suggests that the Cape Times has undergone a paradigm shift in bias in favour of the ANC and its surrogates.

This shift can best be seen in the content of the letters page. Letters flow in from a clutch of writers who write like reporters on events that are of little value or interest to readers in general. An example is the bombardment of half-baked writings from Yagyah Adams of the Cape Muslim Society. There is a similar trend to be seen in its sister newspaper, the Cape Argus, that also indulges the twice-weekly egotistical writings of Nashuad Omar.

Journalistic independence and freedom of expression are dead and buried under the new ownership of Independent Newspapers.

Colin Bosman
Newlands, Cape Town

♦ As a disillusioned former Cape Times subscriber looking for alternative publications, I was thrilled to find Noseweek while standing in a supermarket queue. I was especially delighted to find your article on Iqbal Survé and the Cape Times. It confirmed all my suspicions.

Like Beezy Bailey, I recently cancelled my subscription when it became clear that the purge of columnists which started with the disgraceful firing of Alide Dasnois, was a flimsy excuse to instal a new editorial team that would promote the ANC.

The empty spaces left behind have been filled with self-congratulatory pieces by editors, or articles praising the presidency. And much space has been given to Iqbal Survé himself.

Transformation is necessary, given our country’s history, but it should not be about a settling of scores, and redress should not come to mean revenge, or racism in reverse. Certainly media transformation should not happen at the expense of fair coverage and journalistic excellence.

Sandra Hewitson


Flipside of Britain’s largesse

Dr Bernie Fanaroff’s delight at the British government’s donation of £1m to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project (nose185) is understandable.

But it’s a mere one-tenth of the money denied each year to the South African economy by the UK’s frozen pensions policy. That is, the freezing of the pensions of people who retire to South Africa and other Commonwealth (and some other) countries, while selectively paying annual inflation increases to British pensioners in the USA, Israel, Turkey and the Philippines.

The policy fails to comply with the Commonwealth Charter, which is quietly overlooked. So, Dr Fanaroff might want to thank British ex-pat pensioners for the donation: it’s really coming from them.

Brian Brown
Somerset West

Bitter taste from Steinman

In your report on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning of adverts for Herbex (nose185), the complainant, Dr Harris Steinman, seems to assume that the general public is weak and easily taken for a ride where health matters are concerned – but only by snake oil salesmen and not by Dr Steinman and his ilk, who of course are beyond reproach.

Steinman has appointed himself as the policeman of the pharmaceutical industry (whose properly prescribed and rigorously tested wares just happen to kill any number of those who ingest them – or would Steinman call this collateral damage?) He sniffs around like a bloodhound for anybody advertising any remedy he disapproves of, then accuses that person of being a snake oil salesman and whines to the ASA.

The legally unskilled advertiser gets a fright when receiving a letter from an organisation which holds itself out as having authority that it does not have – not even over its members, as Saul Shoot correctly points out. Still more amazing is that an ex-judge becomes chairlady of an organisation whose constitution disregards a basic rule of law: that the “accused” is innocent until found guilty and that the burden of proof rests on the accuser. It is no surprise that this is to be challenged as unconstitutional.

Scientific medicine is only approximately 100 years old whereas natural medicine has served humanity since time immemorial. Why does it suddenly get up Steinman’s nose when mankind has benefited from it for so long? It may be that the ingredients and their effects are unknown to the medical profession, which is trained to despise anything but chemicals manufactured in their laboratories. These egotists wish to persuade members of the public that they are not only weak but also too stupid to make informed decisions about their own health. These scientific geniuses consider themselves cleverer than nature.

My advice to anybody who receives a letter from the ASA is to ignore it. 

As the ASA possesses no powers to enforce its “rulings” – which are merely opinions of a directorate with questionable qualification on the subject matter. Its only weapon is an “Ad alert”.

An increasingly disillusioned public which doubts the value of chemicals in restoring health is looking to the opposition, namely natural health, for a more effective solution.

Dr Barbara Zeisler
Glenferness, Midrand

For the record, Steinman has been as critical of pharmaceutical products that have not been adequately tested, or where negative trial results have been obscured. Steinman won at the ASA on a balance of probabilities, based on the evidence (or rather lack of it) from the marketers of Herbex – making any assumptions by either party irrelevant. Now see Quack remedies aren't always quite what they seem in this issue Ed.

Put Cato Manor to bed

Sorry, but you go on and on and on about the Cato Manor crowd. Yes, we got it, they were framed… and Noseweek got it right. Please let it rest and find something else to write about!

Irene Wiegand
Pinetown, KZN

We go on and on, because the story goes on and on. The danger is that decent people should, in the face of repeated shocking disclosures and gross perversions of justice, get “bored” and decide to just “let it rest”. We are determined not to do so, until the crooks that have subverted our government, our public institutions and our law enforcement agencies are removed from office, and those agencies are again free to investigate and prosecute crime professionally, free of corrupt political interference. At least they should know that increasing numbers of us will not “let it rest”.Ed.

Transparency at last

Please accept our sincere thanks for the balanced and insightful article in nose185, titled “Hot water” and “Not all gloom and doom”. Your courageous reporting on the systemic failure of organs of state to enforce environmental protection laws and prosecute environmental infractions has resulted in paradigm shifts, notably at the National Nuclear Regulator.

An example: I have recently submitted 15 Paia (Promotion of Access to Information Act) applications to Nersa. In the past, they would have been refused or ignored. But yesterday, after your articles appeared, I received all the documents I requested in terms of the Paia applications!

Mariette Liefferink
CEO:  Federation for a Sustainable Environment, Johannesburg

Road safety lessons for Mashile

The expectation that a slower vehicle must move over to the left (be it over a yellow line or extended verge) to allow a faster vehicle freedom to pass, is indeed both annoying and, more important, illegal in most circumstances (Bheki Mashile’s Letter from Umjindi”, nose185).

However, driver behaviour needs to be examined. Mashile is in the stubborn group and smugly states: “It gives me a real kick to hold my ground, drive at the speed limit and refuse to be intimidated...” This attitude merely supports the stereotype that his column is so critical of: the “how dare you” approach to driving. “Get out of my space you ignorant fool. You are holding me up. Don’t you know how to drive?” So the person holding their line “by right” is just as bad. Each is as likely to be the cause of an accident ranging from a simple bump to a massive catastrophe and multiple loss of life. By far the majority of accidents are the result of appalling driver behaviour.

The major onus on every driver is to ensure that the way they handle their vehicle will not result in any risk to themselves or others, be they cyclists, pedestrians or other motorists and their passengers. The law allows a motorist to move over to the left to allow another to pass… only when safe to do so. This is a judgement call that needs to be understood by both the slower and the faster-moving vehicles.

The more people get to understand that highway driving is not a competitive sport, the better. If the faster following driver demands that I get out of the way, defensive driving demands that I get out of the way, legally or not, but assuredly in the safest way possible. This will at least ensure my and my passengers’ safety.

Nigel Lees
Hout Bay

♦ Bheki Mashile chooses a public forum to confess he is an even more dangerous and inconsiderate road user than those he presumes to deride (nose185).

When encountering a speeder, it is the reasonable driver’s imperative to act in the best interests of other “innocent” road users and not, like Mashile, to make a dangerous situation worse.

Daniel Theeman
Cape Town

Vodacom/Nedbank fraud

Having read your editorial note (Class action”, nose185), I realise that I, too, have been a victim of the  Nedbank/Vodacom fraud.

At midday on Tuesday, 3 February my cell phone showed “no service” without apparent reason. I immediately called Vodacom customer care. They said that only a Vodacom shop could determine whether the phone or the sim card was at fault. They did not warn me it might mean that a sim-swop and bank-account raid was in progress and that I should alert my bank.

The following morning, staff at the Vodacom shop called up my account and saw straight away that there had been a sim swop. So far, Vodacom has refused to divulge at what branch or by which employee the swop was carried out.  All that Vodacom Customer Care did was to cheerfully give me a new sim card and cancel the fraudulently obtained one – a day too late.

My cell phone worked again in the late afternoon of 4 February. Early on 5 February, someone called Brandon phoned my offices to say he was from Nedbank Forensics and that there appeared to be fraudulent transactions on my account. This is the first I had heard of such a possibility.

I tried to log in to my account with my Nedbank profile but was blocked, so I rushed to the Nedbank branch in Lynnwood Road. The person at reception phoned for Brandon. In the meantime she told me that on her computer it showed that a cell phone sim-swop had been done and asked if I knew about it. That means Nedbank had the sim-swop recorded on their system before I could give them the information! Brandon never emerged and all my attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.

When, later that day, I got access to my account, I found that there had been four withdrawals or payments on 3 February totalling exactly R20,000, the daily limit I had set. My bank statement gives no indication of how or where these withdrawals were made, or to whom the money was paid or transferred. Nedbank refuses to tell me.

Over the past month I have regularly called both Nedbank and Vodacom for more information, only to be told they are “working on it.” Vodacom and Nedbank refuse to say if or when they will refund the money.

They did send someone around to check over my computers – “to see if I had been visiting ‘funny websites’ or doing ‘strange’ transactions”.  They left conceding that I hadn’t.

More than a month after the event my “private” banker confided that my money had been tracked to an account operated by “a black person” – but that it had subsequently left the account and could not be recovered.

Nedbank call centre people keep assuring me they will refer my questions to their supervisor and get back to me. They never do.

I am moving my accounts to another bank and joining Barbara Fisher and Dr Lues in their proposed court action against Nedbank (see nose185). Thank you Noseweek for keeping me informed.

Dr Philip Jacobs

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