Farewell to a founder
It is with sadness that we record that Maureen Barnes, co-founder of this magazine in 1993 and author of many of its early investigations, died at Halesworth, Suffolk, England on 24 June, weeks following a stroke.
A buouyant, straight-talking personality who loved cooking for friends – many of whom will picture her with a dog on her lap and a green parrot perched on her shoulder, lovingly nibbling her ear.
After her retirement in 1998, Barnes moved to England where she was born and grew up. She is survived by her son, Andrew, daughter Nicola and a grandson.
Post Office strikes again
Most South Africans and media appear not to have noticed that the Post Office management and many of its thousands of workers are determined to do their bit to finally sink the postal service – and in the process cause further damage to the national economy. Unannounced, they have been on some form of strike since May. Is their ambition to join the social grants queues now forming outside what once were post offices?
In 2009 PO workers launched flash strikes that crippled the entire postal system for months (Christmas cards and gifts were delivered the following June, if at all, remember?). In the process, the Post Office lost a significant percentage of its already diminished client base. Noseweek lost many of its subscribers. The remainder were asked to provide PO box addresses as the easier and speedier route and things stabilised.
In recent months, with the financial help of many friends, we made important steps towards implementing plans to update and upgrade both our content and presentation. While much of this is planned to enhance our online presence, Noseweek remains predominantly a print magazine: most of our readers prefer our long-form, plotted-out, fact-based sort of journalism in print.
We had hardly taken the first step when the Post Office once again sabotaged everything. Early in May, unannounced, postal workers at the country’s two biggest sorting hubs, Witspos, which serves the greater Johannesburg region and overseas mail, and Tshwane, which covers Pretoria and surrounds as well as all towns to the north, went on a go-slow. By the end of May, there was a five-week pileup of unsorted mail. Because there was no more storage space, Cape Town stopped shunting mail up north.
When Noseweek went to investigate, acres of pallets of unsorted Gauteng-bound mail covered the entire sorting hall floor, including mass mailings from Sanlam and Old Mutual as well as tons of magazines from Media 24 and EE Publishers. Nose’s Gauteng subscribers could count themselves lucky to receive theirs five weeks late.
Two-and-a-half months on, and still no change. Hundreds of expired Noseweek subscribers have yet to renew. We have dropped everything to cope with the crisis. If you haven’t received your June and July issues, call us and we will try to arrange an alternative method of delivery.
Covering for overpriced briefs
In March, (nose223) we reported that the fee bills of three senior Johannesburg advocates who represented Investec in opposing a court action against the bank by various Randgold minority shareholders, had been found by the court’s Taxing Master to have charged eight times more than was reasonable. He reduced their total fee bills from R2.4 million to just R305,550.
Noseweek named the three as A P “Tony” Rubens SC, Shanee Stein SC and Jonathan Blou SC. All were briefed by Werksmans Attorneys (who had charged only R69,000).
Subsequently, in March, Korbers Inc acting for the Randgold shareholders who had stood to pay these fees, lodged a complaint of excessive charging against the three advocates with the disciplinary officer of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates (the Johannesburg Bar). On 1 June the chairman of the Professional and Fees committee, P F Rossouw SC, advised the complainants that on 30 May the committee had resolved that “the complaint does not sustain a case of unprofessional conduct” and “accordingly, the committee has closed its inquiry”.
The complainants, who plan an appeal to the General Bar Council of South Africa, asked for the reasons for the Johannesburg Bar’s decision. The answer, on 5 June, came in one sentence: “The Committee does not furnish reasons for its decisions.” So much for those nationally treasured values of transparency and accountability.
One thing the Johannesburg Bar Council can be relied upon to do is look after its own.
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