Letters

Dear Editor



Tip of the Koeberg

Thank you for your article, which shows up how Eskom looks after employees at Koeberg. What surprises me is that it has only just come to light. Ten years ago I met an atomic engineer from the UK (he was in Cape Town to do a survey) who told me, “There will be big problems at Koeberg before long – they have no idea about good housekeeping”.
Thomas Potter
Constantia

I was, as no doubt were many of your readers, shocked at the revelations in your story “Koeberg’s Secret Medical Files” (nose53). I know and worked with Ron Lockwood at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station for many years and I can vouch that our “rad worker” medical records were not disclosed to us.
I look forward to the full disclosure of this sordid and disgraceful mess.
R J Middleton
Melkbosstrand

Your article on the withholding of Ron Lockwood’s medical records at Koeberg makes for chilling reading. It makes you think.
If Eskom cannot look after the health of its own (supposedly closely monitored) employees, how can it possibly guarantee the safety of people living next to its nuclear installations whose health is not monitored in any way?
According to research in other countries (there is no South African research) populations around nuclear installations show increased rates of leukemia and other radiation-linked diseases – exactly like Mr Lockwood.
How reliable will the health information be when we have 20 or more pebble bed modular reactors operating in different parts of the country, and trucks with nuclear fuel and waste on all our major roads?
What will the proposed smelter of radio-active waste at Pelindaba really put into the air – and people’s lungs?
South Africans will be paying a high price even without counting the R12bn of public money that will pay for the experiment of the pebble bed pilot model – and will drive up the price of electricity.
I’m sure the public, given a choice in the matter, would prefer to see this money being invested in clean, modern forms of energy like wind, solar, wave and tidal energy.
For more on the local struggle against new nukes, look at our website:www.earthlife-ct.org.za.
noseweek, thanks for having the pebbles to report this.
Victor Munnik
Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg.






Just a Spectator?

ThisDay (22 January) claims that the Rian Malan article on HIV/Aids in nose52 is just a republication of his earlier article in the UK magazine The Spectator.
Is that true? If so, surely you should have told your readers, as the mainstream media do when they reprint syndicated articles?
Keith Gottschalk
Claremont

ThisDay is mistaken. The article that caused all the trouble was first published in noseweek, then – in an adapted form, and with noseweek’s permission – in The Spectator.
ThisDay’s error says something about the colonial mentality of the “mainstream media”. Many important stories are completely ignored by SA media until they are published in the great big Overseas, whereupon local hacks suddenly think, a-ha, this is sanctified.
It was true under apartheid, remains true today. What a pity. – Rian Malan

PS: It’s worth noting that after denouncing us as notorious “denialists”, ThisDay’s Aids reporter Cullinan turned around and confirmed one of our most important claims – that the Medical Research Council is about to revise Aids mortality estimates downwards again, the fourth such revision since 2001. Remember you first read it in noseweek: “news you’re not supposed to know.”



Gagging with disgust

I had to swallow really hard not to gag with disgust at Rian Malan’s article on Aids statistics in nose52. This was made worse by your ludicrous editorial in nose53.
It’s a tragedy that South Africa’s premier investigative magazine is run by an Aids denialist. If there is any one story that needs in-depth investigative journalism, it is the government’s woeful inability to come to grips with the Aids crisis in SA.
To dredge up has-beens like Rian Malan and to completely ignore all the well-researched facts on Aids statistics, is unacceptable.
I write as a medical specialist about to be confronted by several Aids patients during the course of a working day.
Dr AH Bruning
Gatesville

We have never denied the existence of Aids, or the seriousness of the condition. It is because of the seriousness of the problem that I find myself dismayed by the level of irrationality surrounding it. Surely a serious problem is best approached factually, coolly – and rationally. It is precisely because we did not ignore all the well-researched statistics related to Aids – as opposed to the less well-researched ones – that we now, once again, find ourselves slandered as “Aids denialists”. You owe it to your patients to do some serious reading on the subject, doctor! – Ed


Dr Dolittle

While I acknowledge that noseweek may not be interested in balanced reporting and that this letter might never see the light of day in your journal, the slanderous attack on my ex-husband, Dr Peter Whitfield in nose53 begs response.
During the year prior to the events of the 30 August, Mrs Hubbard is reported to have had five operations to rectify complication from her initial surgery. In your own words “they’d had a hideous year”. I believe this must be taken into consideration when reporting the events of this case. Anger toward the medical profession, it may almost safely be presupposed [really?], is an integral component in this vitriolic attack on Dr Whitfield. [We researched and wrote the article. Our reporter had not had a “hideous year” at the hands of the medical profession. She simply got tired of waiting for Dr Whitfield to respond to our calls for his comment.]
The unfortunate incident, when Mrs Hubbard’s husband suffered a stroke, would have left anyone devastated. It is understood that anger at events that unfold is often a component in the coping mechanism of individuals during a crisis and this anger is often directed at those who were involved, particularly in the care of the loved one. It is one of the many downsides of the health care profession.
While one can accept this, one cannot accept that under any circumstances an individual has the right to a one-sided libellous attack on the integrity of another.
There are measures in place that allow for a dignified yet rigorous examination of the truth in which both parties are represented equally and fairly. The principle of hearing both sides is one to which any honest examination of events must adhere.
Had this type of examination of events taken place, and had Dr Whitfield been found guilty of an act of misconduct then one would have no qualms about the findings being made public.
Your slanderous article cannot be given any credibility by anyone who is interested in the truth and the reporting thereof.
Linda Whitfield
BA Hons (US), Dip Labour Law (UCT)
Kenilworth

The moral blackmail in paragraph 1 – is that Psychology I or Landmark II? Have we managed to tap into your secret reserve of sentiment for your ex or are you worried your alimony might dry up if his practice does?
Who is the “one” you keep referring to who is endowed with so much wisdom and understanding? Is it yourself, or is it some mythical third party to whom you prefer to attribute your own less-well-founded views? Surely you are not suggesting we should have deferred to one of the Medical Association’s cosy internal hearings? – Ed.


Your courageous article about the medical case of Chippy Hubbard (nose53) was well researched, succinctly written and capped with a brilliant heading – “Dr Dolittle”. That title summed up the doctor perfectly.
As a close friend, I’ve watched with dismay and sadness the decline of the once crisp and lively Chippy since his stroke in August 2003.
There is no way of knowing if speedy treatment would have changed his future, but the fact that he had to wait so long for any treatment creates the uncertainty for his wife that keeps her awake at night.
Your article should be a short, sharp wake-up call to all on-call doctors. “On call” means being on call, not just responding at your earliest convenience.
Fiona Chisholm
Tokai


Landmark

Your article on Landmark and other Large Group Awareness Training courses sent shivers down my spine.
Not long ago, the Kairos Foundation invited me to an “introductory talk” about Life Training. I was assured I could leave during the halfway break if I wished, but the break never materialised; for three hours we exchanged names, hopes and dreams, and took turns writing negative emotions on a chalk board on the left-hand side of the room, and positive emotions on the chalk board on the right hand side of the room. While never actually said, it was suggested that we would all experience more of the right hand side’s emotions after having coughed up the R1,800 or so for the weekend course. After the talk, I was engaged by “team” members who did their best to get me to sign up for the weekend. When I resisted I was asked what was wrong with me that I didn’t want to take this next big step in my development.
When I said I couldn’t afford it, I was told I could pay for it on my budget account – it was crazy.
M Lestat
by e-mail


Lazerson: another dig

Your article on the affairs of the late Ivor Lazerson [nose46], which I have only just read, provided me with at least an hour of amusement. But you missed three other chapters in his life: soccer, road running and road accident insurance claims.
I came across this bombastic, arrogant man when he became chairman of the Transvaal Road Running Association – which he immediately turned into another moneymaking opportunity. I bumped heads with him when he demanded to be paid to be the race organiser of the Nashua Johannesburg Marathon – and then bypassed the running association and negotiated to get paid directly by Nashua – while the association paid his expenses. He also arranged sponsorship and up-front appearance fees for the likes of Bernhard Rose and Johnny Halberstadt – for a cut, of course.
The classic: he got a paid trip to the New York Marathon, ostensibly to meet Arthur Lydiard to invite him to SA. Once again it was on the basis that he got the fees, we got the expenses. On his return he gave a great oral report on the trip, the marathon which he ran and his meeting with Lydiard; how, sadly, Lydiard was not available that year but maybe the next …
Unfortunately for Ivor, I’d been tipped off by a very prominent and concerned ex-SA runner that Lydiard had not been in New York. In fact he hadn’t left New Zealand at all. When I challenged Ivor on this, he threatened me with all sorts of things. Where he got it wrong is that road running relies on thousands of unpaid volunteers to function; the Road Running Association believed he was feathering his nest and threw him out.
I was subsequently told that he was thrown out of Soccer for similar behaviour.
I was also told that there was another very lucrative side to his legal practice – motor insurance claims, where he acted for the victims, very often black pedestrians with little knowledge of their rights. Here he was known for quick settlements and high fees i.e. the poor victims received very little of the settlement amounts.
I wonder how he and Uncle Nick are getting on. Between them it’s a toss-up who’ll get to steal whose wallet.
Godfrey Franz
Sydney, Australia


Old Mutual explains the harsh realities

Michael Naidoo’s letter (in nose52) regarding the allegedly dismal performance of a colleague’s Old Mutual “flexidowment” policy taken out in 1995, was based on incorrect figures. Old Mutual has assured us – and we are pleased to report – that his colleague’s investment had, in fact, shown modest growth by November – and has enjoyed substantially accelerated growth – in line with the stock market – since we published his letter in December! - Ed.

Here’s Old Mutual’s explanation:

“The harsh reality is that many South Africans have watched their investments plummet under the combined impact of falling international equity prices and a concurrent strengthening of the rand. An investment in the average foreign equity unit trust at the start of 2002, for example, would have lost about 44% of its value by the time Michael Naidoo wrote his letter,” said OM general manager Dave Hudson.

“But his colleague’s situation is quite different. With a limited exposure to offshore investments, and in spite of a weak local equity market, his investment (as at November last year) was not down by R11,000 as claimed; it was up by R4,568.” (And in the three months since November, the “current value” has risen to R34,460.94 – R7,016 more than the total of R27,444.55 paid in premiums since 1995.)

The spark that started the controversy was a simple typo on a spreadsheet put together by brokers PSG Consult for Mr Naidoo’s friend, Mr P N Zozi, which incorrectly described the “surrender value” of the policy as the “current value”.

But Old Mutual has admitted it missed at least two opportunities to correct the misunderstanding long before the spark became a wild fire:

The day after Mr Zozi was given the incorrect information – 5 November 2003 – he phoned OM’s call centre to ask how it was possible that his investment had fallen by so much. The young call centre consultant launched into an explanation about the markets on the assumption that Mr Zozi’s figures were correct.

“If he had simply started by checking Mr Zozi’s figures, he would immediately have seen that they were wrong and been able to put the record straight, saving Mr Zozi a great deal of angst, and Old Mutual some unearned, but damaging publicity,” said Mr Hudson.

A few days later Michael Naidoo asked one of OMs financial advisors in PE to explain the apparent drop in value of this endowment. He, too, assumed that the figures were correct and explained the apparent loss in terms of international equity markets and rand strength.

“Once again, if only he had started by checking the actual value of Mr Zozi’s investment, instead of assuming that the broker’s figures were correct, this whole saga would have been averted,” says Hudson. n

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