Dear Editor

Letters to the editor should be sent by email to editor@noseweek.co.za

Judge Anton Steenkamp 1962-2019

Many of the practising labour lawyers who are also loyal readers of Noseweek want to express our condolences to Judge Steenkamp’s family and friends on his untimely passing. Labour Court Judge Steenkamp is celebrated as not only a solid and fair jurist but a great friend to all of us.
Michael Bagraim
Cape Town


Evangelical preyers

Re: Noseweek’s exposé of Vacation Hub International’s “evangelical” marketing style (nose236). The National Consumer Council (NCC) has received 219 complaints about VHI over the past two years and now plans to prosecute VHI at the National Consumer Tribunal.
A prayer answered
Port Elizabeth

Sounds exactly like those arch scamsters The Holiday Club!
Micky T


Optimist on twitter

I honestly think some South Africans are smugly satisfied when our nation fails. It reinforces their belief that our country could never have succeeded under a democratically elected majority government. It’s almost as if they will be disappointed when South Africa rises again. And it will.
Simon Grindrod
via Twitter

Pessimist‘s response

Nigel Lees
via Twitter


Iqbal’s chinas

Very shortly after Iqbal Survé sacked Alide Dasnois and others, it finally became clear to me that Survé was also a promoter and apologist for the ANC.

Even the readers’ letters were selected to reflect this. The rebuttal letter from Helen Zille that wasn’t published is a case in point.

I cancelled my subscription to the newspaper and am very happy to be a subscriber to Noseweek instead.

Keep attacking this conceited blowhard.
P Gecko
Cape Town


Cannabis an economic cure

Contrary to the myth that cannabis is responsible for causing mental health issues, there are many studies on the benefits of cannabis in management of anxieties and depressions. There is quite a bit on how helpful it can be in managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for instance.

I have been thinking about our conversation, the questions you asked, and the points that you made. I took away a feeling that you have a deep scepticism, and you seem persuaded by very painful, close experiences that cannabis can be causal in severe mental illness. I feel this pain, but evidentially, there is no found causal link between mental illness and cannabis consumption, despite there being a correlation, usually in teens predisposed to schizophrenia genetically. [“No causal link” but there is “a correlation”? Surely the correlation suggests a causal link? Ed.]

You asked me if I thought weed is a miracle cure. I don’t. Nothing cures cancer, otherwise we’d have it in capsules by now. Nothing fixes schizophrenia other than psychiatry. You can’t rub weed oil into an open wound and expect a cure.

I like it. It balances me; levels me. I’m in my fifties and for the first time in my life, I can be comfortable and rock the dope smoking. There are myriad pundits extolling the virtues and the properties of the weed.

There is enough evidence to suggest that an enabling policy environment could facilitate broad scale local economic development. What I want to achieve here, is to buy more time for policy making, to accommodate research on the socio-economic impact that a less regulated set of licensing laws, and legalisation for adult use of cannabis and cannabis products. Keep it semi-scheduled until science has had time to do some proper research, but make it legal for people over 18/21 whatever the number, to use at their own discretion, grow, trade and distribute.

This also opens up the medical market as small businesses begin to grow the herb for private consumption. Run the tests on how it affects driving ability and ability to operate heavy machinery etc, but allow the people of this country to have an economic stake.

I want to make a point on licensing. I think there should be a system for licensing at different entry points, with the home grower allowed to do their own thing, and for micro-enterprises to get an entry level licence, that sort of thing.

I have launched a social-media campaign and judging from the enthusiastic response, the idea of economic opportunities from cannabis cultivation, production and distribution for entrepreneurs and growers is a popular one. It is sensitive because of privacy and confidentiality issues, but it is rapidly gaining a following and people are engaging constructively on this very issue.

I have posted a promo video on YouTube too, and it is getting a few views. [Links can be found here]

I am a member of an online group at 420Magazine.com, and confidentiality is a big deal with that. You can peruse their resources too. There are a number of South Africans who share info there.

I do not have a commercial interest in cannabis. I grow my own window weed. My interest in the Local Economic Development angle comes from decades of work in that field. What an opportunity for the man in the street to learn a new skill, improve household income and invest capital and general spend in his/her locality.

Thank you for taking the time to grapple with some of the big issues.
Carmen Anderson


Beached condoms

Clearly condoms are not being used (nose236). We need to find another way to prevent the spread of HIV and STDs, reduce unwanted births and promote responsible sexual behaviour.
Noelene Palmer
Newlands, Cape Town

Talking about small, there are 195 countries in the world and in about 195 of them the governments have had to order specially big condoms for their citizens. Like our MAX condoms. Normal would never fit, no way.


SARS Rogue Unit

As a late entrant to your Twitter war regarding the supposed rogue tax unit, as far as I’m concerned, it does not matter how the tax authorities go about catching the many crooks and scumbags who seem to have proliferated in our lawless society, so long as they are caught and brought to book. I’m sick and tired of seeing our hard-earned rands being wasted and pissed down the drain by crooked politicians and so-called businessmen.
Nick McConnell

Two wrongs don’t make a right. See "Was SARS right to establish that 'Rogue Unit'?" in this issue.Ed.

You seem to be awfully concerned about SARS’s rogue unit (I will leave it to others to decide whether that should have been within inverted commas) – see, eg “Sikhakhane pressured to withdraw report” in nose236.

I obviously know less about the facts than you do (or than your reporter does). I know only what I have read and heard in the press (including in Noseweek). Nevertheless, I have to wonder at your concern. Do you really think that the illicit tobacco trade and tax dodgers need your protection from rogue units? Again, your (or your reporter’s) knowledge is better than mine.

So can you answer these questions for me, please? Are the members of the illicit tobacco trade better, or worse off for the closing of the unit? Are tax dodgers better or worse off for the closing of the unit? Are honest taxpayers better or worse off for the closing of the unit? And then the clincher: Justice Nugent, in his letter to Adv Sikhakhane SC, asked “on what grounds… [were the unit’s activities] unlawful?”

There is mention in the [Sikhakhane] report of the National Strategic Intelligence Act but I am not sure what section you referred to as prohibiting the “conducting of covert intelligence gathering” so far as it relates to, for example, “gathering evidence on the activities of the illicit tobacco trade”.

Can you answer these questions for me and other readers? I have to admit that against the background of all your reports about incompetent and corrupt police and prosecution services I wouldn’t be all that concerned about technical contraventions that might prevent eavesdropping other than by the apparently corrupt, but still I would really like to hear your answers because I am always open to persuasion.
John Mullins SC

Do thieves and murderers really need defence lawyers? See
Editorial and  "Was SARS right to establish that 'Rogue Unit'?" in this issue – Ed.


Van Loggerenberg ‘misconstrued’

I am not on bail as stated by you [“Notes & Updates”, nose236] and you have deliberately misconstrued and misrepresented that charge I (and others) currently face. I deny the charge emphatically.
Johann van Loggerenberg
By email

The above is a single sentence extract from former senior SARS official Johann van Loggerenberg’s 3,000-word letter of protest; a more extensive extract appears in this issue, and the full text too.

We did incorrectly report that the accused were “out on bail”: the prosecutors had asked for bail of R5,000 to be demanded of each of them, but the court decided to release the accused on a warning. We apologise for the error. With regard to the charges they face, we believe our description was a fair summary. We once more note Van Loggerenberg’s denial of the charges.  – Ed.


A liar exposed

Thanks to Martin Welz and Noseweek’s responses on Twitter to Jacques Pauw’s lies and in “Breaking News”, Noseweek Online we now know more than we bargained for!
Transformer Naga

See "Was SARS right to establish that 'Rogue Unit'?" in this issue. – Ed.


Desalination and sewage

I read the article on the failing of desalination plants (“Raw deal: desalinator’s job is to remove salt, not sewage”, nose236) with equal amounts of resignation and schadenfreude. I have been warning municipalities of their failing systems since 1998 and so have a few brave colleagues.

Poor decision-making and general unwillingness to take note of any caution or warning from experts outside the municipal system regarding such expensive undertakings as desalination plants led to this mess. At the centre of the problem of the failing desalination plants lies the failure to manage sanitation systems – and the inability to provide valid and reasonable specifications for such tenders. If a municipality cannot even understand the nature, limitations or specifications of a job it requires outside experts to do for them, how can they manage their own operations?

The World Health Organization recently stated they are concerned that sanitation is not receiving the attention it deserves when the issue of climate change is being considered. The Noseweek article refers to a situation where these two concerns (drought due to climate change and desalination failure due to polluted water) collided on our doorstep.

Unfortunately most municipalities treat persons with expert knowledge who are outside their organisation with suspicion or even aggression. They do their utmost to keep information about the real situation they face under wraps. Obfuscation, delayed disclosure of test data until it is too late to identify the source of problems and even demeaning attacks on people who are trying to help or warn have become the norm in many cases. Municipalities react with some version of spin that they reckon sounds convincing. I can’t help but think of the old adage “You can’t talk your way out of problems you behaved yourself into”.

This country is facing a slow disaster of failing municipal sanitation services. We cannot afford to write off rivers. Leaking or overflowing sewage is contaminating rivers and even groundwater sources and reducing our ability to withstand drought. It sickens and even kills people and it seriously undermines our already shaky economy.

As an epidemiologist I am really concerned about the risk of outbreaks of waterborne disease, but there are many other risks in this terrible situation.

But that does not seem to move municipal officials to do their jobs. Transparency and accountability of municipalities have become a sham. How can this alarming state of affairs be addressed? Maybe some powerful people reading Noseweek have constructive ideas on this?
Dr Jo Barnes
Somerset West

Your water desalination plant story (Noseweek June 2019) speaks to the problems that arise when the fox guards the henhouse.

The seawater quality data that I and my colleagues published in the South African Journal of Science in late 2017 under the leadership of Leslie Petrik, showed that chemical and microbial contamination of seawater in Table Bay was clearly linked to sewage disposal in the sea.

Our investigation began in response to the aerial photographs of the Granger Bay sewer outfall provided by Jean Tresfon, and the on-the-water photographs provided by kayakers. Because the City continued to argue that the marine sewage outfalls had no demonstrable impact on seawater quality, and that E.coli counts were from surface run-off, we specifically looked for – and found – pharmaceuticals that could only have passed through the human gut. And we argued that putting up a desalination plant close to a marine sewage outfall was inappropriate. That research made front page news in many national newspapers.

Rather than addressing findings published by the leading science journal in South Africa, however, the City of Cape Town Water and Sanitation leaders attacked the researchers in a meeting in early 2018. They have also served a legal letter on Jean Tresfon; taken Carte Blanche to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, and published a libellous article about Leslie Petrik and me in Daily Maverick after our research extended to the pollution in False Bay seawater where the city’s two other desalination plants were unable to function for much of the summer.

The untruths, distortions and half-truths in their attack on us, lead-authored by MayCo member for Water and Sanitation Xanthea Limberg along with four other leaders of CoCT Water and Sanitation, are ample evidence that CoCT Water and Sanitation officials approach seawater quality management as a matter of reputational warfare, rather than a question of evidence. The only evidence that has been allowed to count, is theirs. Everything else is “fake”, requiring reputational attack.

But if CoCT water managers were so sure that their ocean water quality data in Table Bay was so reliable, why did they make it the tenderer’s responsibility to source their own seawater quality data?
In what sense is it reasonable or rational to argue, as Limberg has done subsequent to the breakdown of QFS-CoCT Mediation, that the tenderer was to supply their own water quality data across the seasons, when the plant was required to be up and running within a matter of months?

When the fox has guarded the henhouse for so long, the chicken numbers will eventually demonstrate the problem. The City of Cape Town has demonstrated that water management data must be independently managed, independently paid for, and contractors subject to regular independent review.

The stakes are too high to do otherwise.
Lesley Green
Deputy Director: Environmental Humanities South

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