Dear Editor

Noseweek’s back on the money

I am quite sure that the late Manfred Shevel of Newlands would be grinning from ear to ear were he able to have read the February edition of Noseweek.  I agree with Shevel’s letter (Letters, nose196), published posthumously, that Noseweek had lost a bit of focus in the last few publications with too much emphasis on Corporate, Government and Banking shenanigans and that Noseweek aficionados would rather read about the “Doings of the Ewings” as opposed to the heavier complicated Corporate stuff. 

Well Manfred, wherever on the other side you might be, I’m pleased to report that Noseweek has bounced back to its original form and is back on the money!  The February edition was chocablock full of juicy skandaal about people we all know as well as some new rogues on the block to keep a beady eye on.

Accolades to a fearless Editor who sails into the wind in search of the truth!

Colin Bosman
Newlands, Cape Town

Same name, shared regrets

I’m so glad you published that extract from the book, Letters of Stone (The Photograph, nose196). It is a story that needs telling constantly. My biggest shock came when reading the name “Robins” because that was my “pseudo” maiden name.

My father came out from England at the start of the war and set up a life. His brothers were all in the war and changed their name to Robins because “an English name” was preferable to a German-sounding one.

His brothers and parents eventually came out to South Africa – with their changed name. My father tried to get his changed too, but apparently the magistrate said “there is nothing wrong with the name of Rubinstein and you should keep it”. Thus we all had a surname that we only used for officialdom.

Even today when asked, my maiden name is Robins.

I haven’t thought of all of this in a very long time so thanks for letting  me remember. I also have a photograph and names… of my mother’s family. And I, too, regret not getting more historical info from my folks.

Name withheld

By email

Pocket for profits

Followers of the Froneman/Sibanye saga in Noseweek (Scamming for gold, nose196) might like to note the following quote from an article published in the Rustenburg Herald on 29 January 2016: “Neal Froneman made it clear that the foundation of sustainable business is profit! At the same time the Sibanye executive is confident that it can prolong the ‘Life of Mine Plan’ of Rustenburg Platinum Mines (RPM(R)) with up to 25 years!”

And this one: “Deon Farmer, Chairperson of the Rustenburg Chamber of Commerce, responded by pledging
on behalf of the RCC to support Sibanye’s application with the Competition Commission of SA to approve the acquisition of RPM(R).”

Note that in the accompanying photograph of Mr Froneman, CEO of Sibanye Gold, he is the only one with his hands in his pockets! How much is he holding on to this time?

Marinda Valentin

Maybe he’s just got his fingers crossed.Ed.

Cameron’s ‘values’ are privileged

Len Ashton’s review of the Ashcroft/Oakeshott biography of British Prime Minister David Cameron appears to me to be rather positively biased. I am sure Cameron is motivated by old-fashioned family values but evidence suggests that they are his privileged (Tory) family values (“promote people ‘like us’ and keep the serfs working for low pay”) and not those of the majority of ordinary citizens of the UK.

He is also a master of cliché, such as the one quoted: “It’s the right thing to do”. Others include “I’ve a passionate belief in equality for all; Britain is a moral nation; We will fulfil our moral responsibilities; Britain
should be proud of its Christian values...  we honour these values through helping those in need at home and around the world;” and “People who have worked hard all their lives should have security in their old age”.

All good stirring stuff, yet there are 40,000 British pensioners in South Africa who have had their state pensions frozen from the day they left the UK! Had they retired to a government-preferred country such as Israel, Turkey or Philippines they would have received the annual pension inflation increase like other British pensioners, but retiring to South Africa (and other Commonwealth countries) introduces the unjust, discriminatory system which is contrary to the UN Social Protocol and the Commonwealth Charter signed by the British Government.

Around the world, half-a-million British pensioners are so treated, yet many of them fought in WW2 and then returned to help rebuild a shattered Britain, paying into the contributory pension scheme all their working lives. Ultimately, the pensions they should receive are denied to the South African economy – which loses around R2 billion a year (at present currency rates) as a result of this scandalous policy, and Mr Cameron and his government do nothing about it.

So much for “doing the right thing”!

Brian Brown
Cape Town

Bliksems funny, Strachan

I can’t allow another day to pass without saying thank you to Harold Strachan.  I laugh until I cry when
I read his Last Word. Bliksems funny is the word. I do hope all his stories are heading into a book. If so, I will be standing in the queue to buy the first copy!

Mo McCann
By email

Sigh... not another one

We act on behalf of St Albans College that wishes to deny some factual inaccuracies in your report, “School of scandal” and “Attempt to hush up shock resignation of well-connected teacher” (nose195).

(1) Contrary to your report, the identity of the teacher was shared with the relevant staff, parents and governors from the outset, and (2) Mr David Brown has not served on the College Council since 2013.

Our client has, moreover, given its full support to the investigative and judicial process underway.

Our client is considering possible action against you for defamation of its character and reputation, and for any ancillary damages that it might suffer as a result of your factually inaccurate publication, and reserves the right to do so at a later stage.

Latham Dixon
Macintosh Cross & Farquharson Attorneys

We are satisfied that the school and in particular its headmaster went to considerable lengths to keep secret from the outside world, including parents, the identity of the teacher concerned.

On 2 December, at our request to the headmaster’s office, a media release dated 25 November 2015 was emailed to our writer. Signed by Tom Hamilton, headmaster, this stated that allegations of inappropriate behaviour by one of its staff members had been reported to the police, and no further comment would be offered as this might jeopardise the investigation. The staff member had resigned. The teacher was not identified.

Our inquiries revealed that the teacher’s identity had also not been revealed in a communication to parents from the headmaster. We were told that in this communication Mr Hamilton requested parents not to discuss the matter.

In two conversations on December 2 the Bishop of Pretoria, the Right Rev. Jo Seoka, Chairman of the College Foundation, initially told us: “All I know is that the boy reported the incident to the head of school, and the police then were brought in and the teacher was asked to leave.”

We asked the Bishop if it was correct that the headmaster had sent a circular to parents asking them not to talk about this. His reply: “Well, he just cautioned that the matter is under investigation, it’s in the hands of the police and therefore we should refrain from talking carelessly about it.”

We asked if he knew the teacher’s name. His reply: “No, his name has not been revealed.”

We said: “Has he got a well-known father? Bishop: “Well, that’s what was said actually. And for that reason I avoided it. Tom (headmaster Tom Hamilton) said he’s a well-known person.”

Keith Viljoen, housemaster of MacRobert House, was courteous but evasive. He would not confirm that the suspended teacher was one of his tutors, and indeed challenged our information. “How do you know the teacher was in my house?” he demanded.

Could he tell us the teacher’s identity? “No, I can’t. I’m sorry I’m not allowed to.”

It proved very difficult to speak to the headmaster. Finally we told his office on December 2 that we wished to speak to him about two matters: the suspended teacher and a still ongoing Noseweek investigation into an allegation that [name withheld] had been awarded two years’ salary after being dismissed for having an affair with a senior member of staff [name withheld].

When Mr Hamilton phoned back that afternoon he said his PA had told him we wanted comment on “another issue”.  He said there was definitely no truth in this story and asked who our source might be. We declined to tell him.

On the subject of the suspended teacher, Mr Hamilton was reluctant to discuss the matter at all, saying: “When something’s been reported to the police we really cannot risk compromising anything by offering additional comment.”

Our conclusion was that the school’s administrators, in particular the headmaster, were most anxious to conceal the identity of its suspended teacher, not only to outsiders and the media, but also to parents. Our conversations with the Bishop suggested that the fact that the teacher’s father was well-known was a factor in the headmaster’s preoccupation with secrecy over the teacher’s identity.

The school’s promotional literature on the internet still includes David Brown’s name among members of the College Council. If this is incorrect, perhaps the school could update its public literature.

Small business gets short straw

Does anyone know how much money the SARS is sitting on from small businesses waiting on VAT refunds?

Our small exporting business regularly has to wait months for SARS refunds. Currently we are waiting on about R4 million from November and December. The stock answer to our query is “it takes 30 working days”, but goalposts keep shifting.

How many other businesses are in the same boat? How much money is sitting at SARS that should be in small businesses?

Sean Walker
Bantry Bay

Is MTN untouchable?

MTN believe they are untouchable and are not bothered when delivering poor customer service to the consumer.

This is their culture and ethos.

I noted that in November the Freedom Front Plus called on all those having issues with MTN to send complaints to them so that they could address them to Parliament. Hello Peter is drowning in complaints, but they seem to drop into an abyss.  MTN simply does not bother to respond.

This happens when business is monopolised by just two major players, MTN and Vodacom. Once they have your money, they couldn’t care less about the poor consumer, who becomes the victim with no choice or options.

In addition it does not seem that the Consumer Protection Act or the Complaints Commission is actually acting on or protecting the consumers from MTN’s blatant disregard for good business practice. Try to get hold of someone within this organisation to assist or help you, especially when you have been defrauded either through fraudulent upgrades, data theft, an unexplained increase in billings!

If you call their Head Office number, 011 912 3000, it is never answered; if you phone their local regional offices you are rerouted and calls and emails (if you are lucky enough to get an email address) are not returned. Meanwhile you have to pay to avoid a poor credit rating – if you are fortunate enough to have the means to pay.

When you query with their Customer Services they either pretend not to be able to hear your call and drop it, or you are told that you are in a queue and that their Fraud Division is inundated and back-logged – no surprise, if true. No timeline is given. Be sure, here too your complaint will fall into the abyss. They do not even care that
you – in your time and at your expense – have had to initiate a SAPS case to prove you are not the one that somehow facilitated the fraud (which they are quick to suggest).

When you go into the MTN branch (at your cost) begging for someone to help, you are told to “phone Head Office”. When you play them the continuous ringing and show them you cannot get any help there, they are not phased and simply leave you standing there. Ask to see the manager and you’ll be told he is in a meeting and cannot be disturbed. In any event it is not his job to sort out consumer problems.

There are hundreds of people with immeasurable frustration, logging the same complaints with Hello Peter, but that too is simply ignored as just another dead-end queue.

Perhaps Noseweek can awaken them in this complacent abyss from which they operate?

Five weeks on and I’m still burning!

Jeanette Charlton
Pinetown, KZN

An unfair dose of SARS flak

I protest at the one-sided reference to myself in your article, “SARS Spies, damned spies and more lies” in nose191. There Noseweek reported that I, Kenneth Fitoyi, had confessed to acts of misconduct while in the employ of SARS.

Had you asked for my comment, you would have learnt that the confession was extracted from me under duress. And that the sanction imposed was a final written warning, but that Ivan Pillay overruled the then commissioner, Oupa Magashule, and ordered my dismissal.

I did not personally raise the disputed tax assessment. A colleague, Churchill Masindi (still in the employ of SARS) inadvertently submitted incorrect information about my travel claims. Churchill owned up to his mistake and correctly pointed out I did not receive any financial gain from his mistake. Ivan Pillay decided to ignore Churchill’s pleas.

My manager at the time, Nathaniel Mabetwa, expressly instructed the investigating officer to treat the case as a tax matter, which it always has been. The Income Tax Act directs that a revised assessment should have been raised when an anomaly was identified. Mabetwa’s instruction was overturned by Ivan Pillay.

Had you asked me, I would have told you that my fall-out with Ivan Pillay started when I relayed to then SARS Commissioner, Pravin Gordhan, intelligence regarding a diesel rebate scam operated by Afgri, in collusion with identified individuals at Sasol. Gordhan relayed the information to Pillay, who curtly told me to back off from the case.

The case, sensitive and of national importance as it was, was never followed up to its logical conclusion. Your guess is as good as mine regarding the reasons why SARS chose to ignore such a case.

You would also have learnt from me that SARS at the time was grossly selective in administering their disciplinary code. For example, a branch manager at Durban, who happens to be of Indian origin, was reinstated by Ivan Pillay, without any process followed, after she had pleaded guilty to awarding a huge tender to her brother.

Another glaring example involves a Roodepoort branch manager who engaged in a scheme of creating false VAT accounts and fraudulently claiming refunds. That individual was found guilty, but a SARS senior manager, Frank Stark, persuaded Ivan Pillay not to fire her as she once saved SARS from a robbery.

Having said all that, I still maintain my innocence and claim that the charges levelled against me were prejudicially and mischievously handled by individuals who had their own narrow self-interests to serve.

I call on you to remove your reference to Kenneth Fitoyi from the said article.

Kenneth K. Fitoyi
By email

The fact is: you signed a confession and were dismissed. That remains relevant to our story. We are happy to record your qualifying comments and note with interest the additional information you have tendered. We also look forward to receiving SARS’s response.Ed.

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Submitted by : Clive Varejes of GALLO MANOR on 2016-03-09 15:48:03
It would seem that MTN has decided that their customers in the SA market must be milked as much as possible in order that MTN be able to pay their fine to the Nigeria authorities.
Their customer service has become deplorable.
They seem to be having major problems with their network ( could this be as a result of them diverting every spare cent to their Nigeria operation?).
I was charged the despicable rate of R3.60 per minute for "out of contract calls" which has to be the most expensive rate I have ever experienced in this or any other country.
They now, despite the fact that you have, say 300 free sms's, charge additional amounts for MMS.
They seem to have decided that their customers are simply a hinderance to their business operations rather than clients who should be looked after.
Their so called "retentions department"now refuse to take calls.
After 2 decades of MTN I now will vote with my feet, as I have no doubt will tens of thousands of others and port my number as soon as my contact ends.
Oh, and MTN it will not be totsiens, it will be Goodbye.


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