Dear Editor

Spanner in the organworks

In your excellent exposé on the Pretoria City Hall (nose207) you mention that it has protection under Section 30 of the National Heritage Resources Act but none of the heritage guidelines were followed and approval for the renovations was never obtained. Further on you state that “It is doubtful if a heritage assessment or study of the building’s history was ever done… Pieter de Necker says they had no experts involved…”

Before former Tshwane mayor Sputla Ramakgopa took over the reins, our Tshwane Building Heritage Association led numerous tours through the building and had eminent organists demonstrating the organ and carillon. Two previous mayors and councillors – whom we took on tours to bring the deterioration to their attention – promised millions, to no avail.

Could the council at least attend to the organ and its 7,000 pipes? Their response was to advertise a tender for plumbing!

The only person who really cared was the facility officer, Kwena Daniel Masego, who received a Certificate of Merit from the Association. But since then Ramakgopa refused us access to the building under the pretext that it was being restored.

When a security fence was erected on Pretorius Square, an open public space in front of the city hall, neither the SA Heritage Resources Agency nor the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority-Gauteng (PHRA-G) would say whether an application had been made in accordance with the Heritage Act.

On June 27, 2016 we noticed that workmen were painting the historic Italian-pattern clay roof tiles and requested Gauteng Heritage to issue a Compulsory Repair Order. Painting clay rooftiles is unheard of in restoration circles as it causes irreversible damage to the tiles. Instead of a repair order Gauteng Heritage issued a permit dated the next day to allow “repairs” to be done.

The permit application was done by private consultant Leonie Marais Botes, who is also a member of PHRA-G’s Built Environment and Plans Committee. Applicant, expert witness, judge and jury in her own case?

The chairperson of the Built Environment and Plans Committee is Prof Susan Bouillon who is a board member of Delacon Group, a private company doing inter alia Heritage Impact Assessments; she is also chairperson of the PHRA-G and a board member of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). When Gauteng Heritage has a site meeting and Bouillon has to be present, she arrives in her company car which loudly advertises her business.

Back to the City Hall. Noseweek  was right to finger former mayor Ramakgopa, along with the project manager, the supply chain management, etc. But then again, what knowledge do they have about conservation and restoration of heritage buildings? It is SAHRA, the PHRA-G and Heritage Consultants who are the first to be investigated. South Africans rely on these bodies to have our heritage conserved – and they let us down.

Anton Jansen
Tshwane Building Heritage Association

Sanral pushes old apartheid plan

Sanral claimed in a letter in nose207 that Outa (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) and Noseweek had deliberately misled the public. But then Sanral knows all about how to mislead. It compares its route via De Beer’s Pass with the present route over Van Reenen’s Pass. This is deliberately misleading. The first environmental authorisation in 1999 did not give Sanral carte blanche. It required an analysis of alternatives, and stipulated that wetlands were not to be damaged.

The analysis we undertook in the second EIA – I was the wetland expert on the team – was of several routing options, including De Beer’s Pass, Alternative A (a new route up Van Reenen), Alternative C (upgrading the present route over Van Reenen’s Pass), and the no-go option: leaving the existing route over Van Reenen’s Pass as is. No sane person sees the last option as a proposition; its inclusion was part of the standard EIA process. The inadequacies of the present route are the reason for looking for alternatives or an upgrade.

Sanral does not want the public to know there are other alternatives to its pet De Beer’s Pass route. To keep people ignorant, it does not talk about them. Sanral would mention them only if they were not serious competitors to the De Beer’s Pass route.

Alternatives A and C, or a combination of them, have less of an environmental impact than the De Beer’s route – and they don’t bypass Harrismith, so there is no threat to the local economy and jobs. They are valid alternatives and deserve serious consideration. Among other things, Sanral’s De Beer’s Pass route will destroy 4km2 of prime wetland. Alternative A will destroy 1km2 of mostly degraded wetland.

Why does Sanral stick with its De Beer’s Pass route? There is no convincing environmental, socio-economic or pragmatic reason. Certainly, the stakeholders, especially the local poor people whose jobs are threatened, are unconvinced. One would have hoped that, from such debacles as the Gauteng e-toll saga, Sanral would have learnt to get the stakeholders on board. Yet Sanral continues to punt an obsolete road design, dreamed up more than 40 years ago under an apartheid regime that didn’t care about poor people, their jobs and/or the environment.

Dr Mike Mentis

Environmental consultant

• In Letters (nose207) Sanral had the following to say about the Vaal River system: “It is also well known that the Vaal River system is under threat from the drought, unlawful irrigation practices and from different pollution sources, such as sewage from inadequate municipal waste water treatment works, industrial effluents, acid mine drainage and other activities taking place within the Vaal River System.”

It is a sad situation that Sanral has to use such negative justification to achieve their objective of creating a De Beer’s Pass route that is not required when there are less environmentally destructive alternatives.

The Vaal system is polluted as described. That is a fact. One sustainable solution to this pollution is increased clean water production which will dilute the Vaal water. This will come from the catchment of the Wilger River system and it is here that Sanral proposes to destroy the precious wetlands.

Basic economics – inter alia the cost of dilution from expensive sources like [Lesotho’s] Katse Dam have galvanised the Department of the Environment to launch extensive “Working for Wetlands” programmes. They are now working – spending resources – on rehabilitating the very wetland that the De Beer’s Pass road so desired by Sanral will destroy! Strange that this is allowed to happen.

There is also a new initiative from the local farming community in the Wilger River catchment who have banded together to form a conservancy, with one of its objectives being to increase water production.

We see the value in water production for our future. These efforts, combined with the Ingula Wetland project and hopefully the success of the Department’s Wetlands and Alien vegetation projects will all soon bear fruit and we will have the production of more water in the catchment.

 The Wilger River flowed in the catchment all year last year, for the first time in about 10 years – this despite the worst drought in 100 years.

We just have to give nature a chance to rectify some mistakes that were made in the past. Lucky for us nature is forgiving. But a road through this wetland… unforgivable!

Rick Dillon
Chairman, Nelsons Kop Conservancy
Van Reenen

Floored by TopOption

I can confirm from experience that your account of the binary options scam (nose206) is entirely accurate. In signing up with TopOption many promises were made about being able to withdraw at any time. Also they would match your deposit to help your trading success. This is a trick because once you accept, you can no longer withdraw your funds until you have grown twenty-fold. Their trading advisor then helps you to trade small amounts and the first six give about 75% profit.

Every day he tries to bully you into depositing more – because this determines his commission. Then he tells you to make three trades which use nearly all your funds. One of them luckily just made enough to cover the other two trades which were a loss.

Then more pressure until you end up with a single trade, using all the funds, which is a loss.

When you look back you can see the manipulation. TopOption is not subject to any regulatory body. South Africans be warned.

Badly Bitten
By email

P.S. I do not want my family and friends to know that I tried this!

Now see Update in this issue. – Ed.

Governed by political madness

The profound article by Sue Barkly titled “ABZ is not The Way” (nose207) warrants comment. The ANC is in utter political turmoil, frittering away its gains in a maze of corruption scandals. The dominance of certain factions hobbles nimble decision-making, perpetuates a feudal political culture, encourages sycophancy, stifles inner party democracy and smothers talent.

Our national politics has moved beyond the bounds of extreme partisanship into the realm of political madness. We have become a traumatised nation. Are we heading for a cataclysmic showdown?

Farouk Araie

A more demanding electorate

South Africans should start preparing themselves for the next general election instead of listening to the barrage of mud-slinging from politicians – which is simply a substitute for dealing with the country’s real issues. The electorate must flood the media with what they would like to see achieved, so that before the general election all parties are forced to tell us where they stand on the following:

a) the patenting of food sources, including plants used for medicinal purposes. At the rate that genetically engineered food products are going, farmers and gardeners of the future will have to pay patenting fees on all plants which, for all of human history, they have propagated themselves without having to pay a third party. This is a form of theft. Patents on potatoes and bananas, where one minor component of the DNA has been changed, becomes a money-making racket.

b) The same applies to the patenting of animal DNA.

c) Do they support the clear and labelling of food products on our store shelves. The herbicides used on genetically modified products are carcinogenic, cause organ failure and an increased rate of infertility.

Farmers in Hungary burnt all their GMO crops in order to free themselves from GMO monopolies.

Russia regards all GMO as a terrorist threat and has invested heavily in organic farming. In the past two years Russians have transformed the country’s economic landscape from a food importer to a food exporter.

d) Fracking of the Karoo, since internationally fracking has been proved to destroy the groundwater of a region: an ecological disaster.

e) The privatisation of our rivers, dams and other water resources.

f) Toll roads and the privatisation of freeways, where profits are not paid to the roads department but into the coffers of private investors.

g) Free-trade agreements as proposed between the US and the Pacific Rim, known as the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) agreements and between the US and Europe – the TTIP.

[Both the TPP and TTIP are expected to be scrapped by Donald Trump. Neither agreement has yet been ratified. – Ed.]

The little that the media has been able to find out about these very secret trade agreements (thanks to WikiLeaks) is that they override the national sovereignty, the constitutions and the laws of any country that signs them, including health regulations, minimum-wage regulations or environmental requirements, in the interests of a handful of international corporate monopolies.

This comes about when politicians do not act for the benefit of their electorate but to the advantage of the multi-national corporations. Resources, mining rights and corporate GMO farming have been handed over in a frenzy of privatisation. The so-called “trickle-down effect” only goes one way – into offshore bank accounts, so they can avoid paying any tax.

In South Africa, taxpayers pay almost half of their salaries in taxes: income tax, rates and taxes on property, VAT on everything they buy, toll fees on every freeway… yet few see a return on their investment. What taxes should be funding is a high standard of affordable education, health care and policing.

Teachers, health-care workers and police should be highly trained, and paid decent salaries.

After 22 years the ANC has had the opportunity to redress the inequalities of a racist system. If they have not done so by now, they never will.

Gail Evans

Nickname was off colour

The South African foreign affairs official you refer to (on page 11 in nose207) as “Sandy” Evans who fronted for a German spy boss’s bribe loot in France, was actually Rusty Evans.


The record has been corrected. Thank you. – Ed.

Forgotten but not yet buried

This ridiculous happening may be of interest to you and your readers.

In April, I turn 90. Since childhood, I have been a member of the Bethlehem (Free State) Hebrew Congregation. My wife Noreen converted to Judaism about 30 years ago in the Progressive Reform Synagogue, Overport, Durban and she and I became members of that shul.

In the town of Roermond, Netherlands, two lovers manage to hold hands across eternity despite the bigotry of their respective religions. A Protestant Col J W C van Gorcum was married to a Roman Catholic, Lady J C P H van Aefferden, for 42 years. The colonel died in 1880 and was buried in the town’s Protestant cemetery, separated by a wall from the catholic burial ground. When his wife passed away eight years later in 1888, she was laid to rest as close to her husband as possible. Both graves face each other and are joined by hands above the wall. Today the graves are known in Dutch as the “Grave with the little hands”.

The Bethlehem shul closed approximately 14 years ago as the community was so reduced that we could no longer afford a rabbi.

Through the Rabbi, we donated our sacred scrolls (torah) and other silverware which he, in turn, distributed to other communities. He has not responded to my inquiries as to who received these items – which have a value of up to a million rand. We have  never even had a letter of appreciation. The affairs of our shul are now conducted by the community rabbi, Rabbi Silberhaft, who has his rabbinate in Johannesburg.

As my wife is now 80 years old, I thought it expedient to arrange for burial plots. I wrote to the rabbi, who said the cemetery is only for orthodox Jews and there was no way that we, as Progressive Reform Jews, could be buried in Bethlehem cemetery.

I also wrote to the local chevra kadisha committee (the body that oversees burials). They said I should make other arrangements timeously!

I have  also suggested changing the constitution to allow all denominations of Jews to be buried in  the cemetery. This is also my right according to the constitution – that a special general meeting be called to vote on the change. No response.

It is crazy that, although we have been in this community for years, we are excluded from being buried here. (I know this has no bearing, but I served in the Israeli Air Force, in the 1948 War of Independence.)

Zan  Swartzberg
Bethlehem, Free State


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