Dear Editor

Paul’s pile

As a business leader I appreciate we are game for the media – that’s part of the price of accepting the challenge of leading large South African organisations.
Your article “Some choice cuts for Johnnic” (nose41) surprised me, though, for the following reasons:
1. Your reference to “R1.2m lavished on improvements to the old colonialist’s Zim bolthole” is wrong. I don’t own property in Zim. Your source is confused as I know nothing about any Bunker Hill.
2. I was employed in 1999 as CEO of Johnnic Holdings. Having largely completed the restructuring of the Johnnic group, I spent the last year as CEO of MTN.
3. My salary was paid out of Johnnic Group Services, as Johnnic Holdings ceased to employ staff and became a pure holdings company. My salary was paid out of Johnnic Group Services until Nov 2001, even though I had moved to M-Cell/MTN in July 2001, and was recovered from MTN. Hence my salary, which related to my work as CEO of Johnnic Holdings and then CEO of M-Cell/MTN, was recorded in the JohnCom annual report. Although I was chairman of JohnCom, I resigned in June 2001 and thereafter had little day-to-day involvement in JohnCom.
4. On the housing issue, the annual report high-lighted that I was the beneficiary of an executive housing scheme approved by the board of JohnHold. This is not unusual for an expatriate coming to SA. After my transfer to M-Cell/MTN, I settled it in full.
I hope this clarifies the matter. I would appreciate your running a correction to put the record straight.
Paul Edwards

From the first paragraph, your letter makes clear you are a Pasha, a Lynchpin of the Economy, a Hero of the Struggle – and a pompous arse. But what all the flummery is about concerning who paid your salary in which month, we still don’t know. Was MTN short of cash to meet your salary demands in those first few months? Or was there some more interesting and lucrative reason for this bothersome bit of bookkeeping? You say the annual report “highlighted” your executive housing scheme. If so, it must have been done in invisible ink. We’ve been unable to find any reference to an “executive housing scheme” in our copy. Apropos your description of your housing loan as “not unusual for an expatriate coming to SA”: we disagree, but if true, what does this say about the similar loans to your three co-directors who are native South Africans?
On the subject of your non-ownership of property in Zimbabwe, we are duly corrected. Our sincere apologies to Mrs Mugabe for falsely raising her hopes – Ed.

Following on your article on the Johnnic directors’ perks, I wish to quote from a certain publication:
Denel turned a marginal profit into a R363m net loss last year. The state-appointed board of directors celebrated with an average 89% pay rise and a performance bonus of nearly R1m.
The publication? Johnnic’s Financial Mail of August 23! Is the journalist who wrote that report perhaps due for retrenchment?
David P Kramer


I wrote to the FM, Finance Week and Business Day in February, raising questions about Saambou. None published my letter.
In it I pointed out various inconsistencies in the explanations given by the Reserve Bank and the curator for the collapse. Perhaps the most glaring remains the one about the alleged “run” on the bank on the Thursday and Friday prior to its collapse, in the course of which investors supposedly withdrew R1bn from Saambou. But nobody saw long queues at branches on those days. Most observers conclude it must have been a few very large investors (who had access to inside information) who withdrew their funds. My question: isn’t it extraordinary Saambou had R1bn (or R5bn – we still don’t have an official figure) ready on call on that day? I don’t believe it.
It is especially incredible now that we’re told that on the Thursday – before the “run” – the Reserve Bank turned down a request to bail out Saambou.
Everything suggests the bank was in trouble long before that – possibly when several directors, including the MD, Johan Myburgh, sold large numbers of shares.
So what did cause the collapse of the bank? The suggestion put out that Saambou’s micro-lending division, Thuthukani, had been “a bit of a problem” appears to have been a red herring. Senior bank officials confirm that adequate provision was made for this.
While the curatorship hurriedly secured by the Reserve Bank has taken Saambou’s top executives out of the public eye, one hopes the Scorpions are keeping an eye on ports. The investing public should not expect their money back. So many lies suggest there is nothing left to hand out – certainly not once the KPMG curator has been paid. His assignment was to have culminated very quickly – in February – in an announcement about what had actually happened. A mere 36 hours later it was slipped into the press that it would take a further six to eight weeks for him to make sense of the mess.
After nine months’ “curating” at Saambou, KPMG’s John Louw emerges, miraculously transformed into Saambou’s “receiver” – without one of my questions having been answered!
Justine Nofal

Sea Point saga

I am officially appointed as a marriage officer of South Africa. In your article on the dispute between the Beth Din and the Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation (nose41) you quoted Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris describing me as someone who “officiates at reform same-sex marriages”. If correctly quoted, Rabbi Harris’s statement is wrong, defamatory of me and libelous.
Firstly, I am not an ordained Reform rabbi, so cannot, and have never officiated at a Reform Jewish marriage ceremony.
As an appointed marriage officer of South Africa, where same-sex marriages are not legal, I have never violated my mandate.
I demand an immediate retraction of both statements. That you publish statements as fact without verification is a poor reflection on your journalists.
Dr Azila Reisenberger
Camps Bay

We accurately quoted an official letter from the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of South Africa to the management committee of the Sea Point congregation. It transpires even chief rabbis can be misinformed and misguided. We’re happy to correct the record and tender our sincere apologies. We gather Rabbi Harris has done the same. – Ed.

In post-1994 SA who cares about tensions in the Sea Point Jewish community?
N J Coetzee

We do. – Ed.

nose41 was great – bestselling mag in Sea Point this week! The comments on bias and balance are generally favourable. And the rest of the mag is interesting too!
Barbara Fisher
Sea Point

Your article about issues in the Orthodox Jewish community was good. Now you’ve have done such a brilliant job of the Jewish Orthodox community, let’s see you delve, as only you can, into the goings on in the Catholic and Muslim worlds!
Cape Town

Come on! This is a family newspaper, remember! – Ed.

Jet twin-set

I’d like to congratulate President Mbeki for his thrift in buying only one presidential Boeing. He could have splurged on two. By not doing so there has been a massive saving in maintenance costs of about R13.6m a year.
To put this sacrifice into perspective: at about R2 300 a ton, he could have bought over 2.6-million kg of maize for R600m. In addition the annual running costs of the Fish Eagle are equivalent to another 5.5-million kg of maize – enough to feed a lot of hungry people. Makes you think!
Whenever the poor and hungry see the Inkwazi in the sky, they will be eternally grateful that there is only one.
Peter Sutton
Apostrophe cop

I’m the “apostrophe police”! May I refer you to nose41, page 9, middle column, line 7? (And may the late Miss Tyfield know that I actually did listen during her English lessons!).
Rhona Wolpert
Camps Bay

We know what you’ve been reading! Anyway, we confessed to being habitual offenders – not members – of the Society. – Ed.

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