Letters

Dear Editor


Makgoba talks shirt

Having put the world right on the subject of Mandela art, maybe you’d like to clear up another Mandela misconception: a misconception that has reached as far as the office of Professor Makgoba, the vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Recently Makgoba wrote in the Mail & Guardian exhorting white males to be more African. One of the good professor’s ingredients to make one more African is to wear the famous Madiba shirts.
Well, I’ve got news for him: the shirts are not African! They’re Asian. Indonesian to be precise.
Nelson Mandela was introduced to them by the Indonesian dictator Suharto (see Anthony Sampson’s Mandela – The Authorised Biography; page 477) and wears them not out of some profound sense of African identity but because “You must remember I was in jail for 27 years. I want to feel freedom” (Sampson’s biography again). In other words he wears them out of personal preference. As Freud said: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.
So if any jaded art collector needs to buy something to reaffirm his African identity, may I suggest that he rather buy a gift subscription to noseweek! (That way you can learn about these things!)
David P Kramer
Killarney


Paraffin solution

The South African Bureau of Standards seems to be another SA organisation that does not regard itself as accountable to the public.
George Long, inventor of the leak-proof paraffin stove (“The R21 solution....”, nose68), should be on the President’s Honour Roll, not neutralised by the SABS’s low standards.
Pam Herr
Fish Hoek


Wits Business School

The goings-on at the Wits Business School (noses66&68) with regard to the secret Section 21 company InCo, established by its academics, and the SARS audit of the company raises a number of further questions:
Arguably the SARS audit will extend beyond the audit of individual academic taxpayers (nose68) to an audit of the whole company. One wonders who will be liable for outstanding payments to SARS if this is found to be the case. The academics, as individual taxpayers? The university? The directors of this Section 21 company? Or all three?
Why has there been no comment about the failure of the directors to carry out their fiduciary duties in terms of the Company’s Act?
Why has the university allowed Prof John Ford, the previous director of executive education at WBS, to continue to teach? Surely this makes a mockery of the disciplinary inquiry that was held and its outcome (nose66).
Finally, what could the implications be for Pretoria University that is now home to two of the errant InCo directors, who head up their two business schools (Prof Mike Ward at Pretoria Business School and Prof Nick Binedell at GIBS)?
Perhaps these questions could be set in an examination on corporate governance at Wits!
Shawn Belluigi
Shared Services Chief Engineer
Sun International Management Ltd


Cavalier plantings

Your article “Frankenflora” (nose68) makes for interesting reading. I expect that the biggest villain with the largest selection of potentially dangerous “indigenous aliens” with hybridisation potential is the National Botanic Garden at Kirstenbosch.
In addition, it can hardly be closer to the Table Mountain National Park, which the article suggests is under threat from such cavalier plantings. Perhaps Kortbroek and his merry men in the department could mount a dawn raid with WMD-class flame throwers and annihilate this threat to our common heritage before it is too late.
Eric Wellor
Cape Town


White magic

I have read with great interest your article on Glenrand’s sale of Protector Health in a supposed black empowerment deal (“White mischief”, nose68). It looks like it was difficult to trace all the money movements, but it would be very interesting to know whether any of that money ever found its way back into any IDC personnel bank accounts. Also, what value did D&T Trust get for selling off those assets?
Tired of games
Sandton

Indeed! Meanwhile, see Notes & Updates in this issue. – Ed.


Woodbridge Island

In the late 1970s the Milnerton Town Council and the Provincial authorities daftly gave developer Harry Fuchs permission to build houses on Woodbridge Island. Everybody knew the island’s shoreline was being steadily eroded. I was a reporter on the Cape Times at the time. We ran many stories on the subject and the informed consensus was that development should not be permitted, for a host of sound environmental reasons. Just why it was approved would have made a good subject for a noseweek investigation.
Anyway, it didn’t do Harry much good; his development company went into liquidation. He moved on to build a health club at Green Point – which was (guess what) also liquidated.
One can understand why the Woodbridgers’ reading of the latest environmental impact assessment [commissioned by the National Ports Authority from the CSIR] has been informed by sheer panic. The situation now is that Woodbridge Island is doomed to be the first South African victim of global warming, unless a tsunami gets it first. Whether or not the container terminal is extended will not make a jot of difference.
Tony Robinson
Cape Town
PS: Harry Fuchs did one thing that is certain to meet with noseweek approval: he bought the Huguenot Chambers which accommodated most of the city’s advocates and sold it back to them on a sectional title basis, making him one of the few to have made a lot of money out of the legal fraternity.


Wrong Rundle

As a regular noseweek reader – precisely because it is one of the few fearless media outlets left in South Africa – may I point out a potential pitfall?
Recently you have started publishing material from Africa Confidential. You are making a grave error by accepting anything they say as Gospel! I know.
In the Africa Confidential issue of 5 February 1999, the following appeared under the tantalising headline “Frequent flyers”:
The frequent visits of convicted fraudster Nico Shefer and Fred Rundle, former Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging spokesman, to President Charles Taylor in Monrovia have attracted the attention of officials monitoring the UN arms embargo against the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone. American, Ghanaian and Nigerian officials have all accused Taylor of training and supplying arms to the RUF. Particular interest is focused on Rundle, a former colonel in the South African Defence Force who worked as a liaison officer for the rebel Unita movement in Angola, and was responsible for coordinating SADF special forces support for Unita in the late 1980s. Rundle is an accomplished commander of guerrilla operations and stayed on with Unita on a freelance basis (he was paid with diamonds) after the SADF withdrew from Angola.
Rundle also became the most public face – after its leader Eugene Terre’Blanche – of the far-right AWB. Rundle also knows Taylor and Liberia well. He was a leading shareholder in the South African-based Amalia mining companv that went into liquidation in April 1998, after it was revealed that its offshore branch, Commonwealth Gold, had come to grief in Liberia.
A director of Amalia, Nico Shefer was blamed for its problems and those of Commonwealth Gold. Before that he had been sentenced to 14 years gaol in 1990 for stealing R47m from South Africa’s Trust bank. On parole since 1995 (having been described as a “model prisoner”) Shefer now faces charges that he defrauded another bank of R116m in foreign exchange. However, he played a key role in Taylor’s campaign in Liberia’s 1997 elections.
Shefer coordinated the despatch of thousands of T-shirts with Charles Gankay Taylor’s image on them to be handed out to voters; similarly thousands of bags of rice with Taylor’s picture were also sent to Monrovia in mid-1997, bankrolled by Shefer and Rundle. Once Taylor was elected they were to be rewarded with mineral concessions. Shefer has opened up a branch of the Florida-based and controversial Greater Ministry Africa Foundation in Liberia. They have operations near the border with Sierra Leone.
Ecuador-born Shefer’s commercial style is highly effective. A one-time business partner with Columbia’s Pablo Escobar, Shefer has an extensive network of contacts in the banking and diamond trading sectors. Currently, Shefer says he is concentrating his interests under the Tandon group of companies in Rosebank in Johannesburg. Yet we hear, he has made several trips, with Col. Rundle, to see Taylor in Monrovia in recent weeks.
Am I the “Fred Rundle” referred to in this article? Well, yes and no: firstly it is true that I helped Eugene Terre’Blanche with some of his press releases – although I stress I was never a member of the AWB. As for the rest, the answer is no!
I have never been in any army, anywhere; never been a colonel, never been a mercenary, never been a guerrilla leader, never been in Angola, never been in Liberia, never been a liaison officer for Unita etc! Africa Confidential simply confused two people with the same surname and, without bothering to check on their facts, went ahead and published!
There was just an embarrassed silence from them when I pointed out their cock-up – no apology or correction.
So you have been warned: they do get their facts wrong, although they like to pretend otherwise. Although I left it at that, you just might want to double check everything they say before they land you in court.
Fred Rundle
By email

Africa Confidential was wrong. We are happy to publish the correction. We don’t expect anyone to accept anything we publish as Gospel, but Africa Confidential is still rated the best available source of information about Africa. Whatever has become of Nico Shefer? – Ed.


Insane ideas

We’ve gone from the proper HIV/Aids treatment being olive oil, garlic, beetroot and other nutrients – mostly unaffordable to the poor – to it not being necessary to learn English in schools to secure a good position in the market place internationally.
Perhaps we should be putting hormone replacement therapy in the drinking water at parliament before any more insane ideas come out of it.
Cilla Webster (Mrs)
Umkomaas

Is your own state of sanity attributable to HRT? – Ed.


Son shines out of...

Thanks for a great magazine and for not being scared to tackle even the “untouchables”. I have a problem with the “untouchable” media giant, Media24 (formerly Nasionale Pers and Naspers), where I was a loyal employee for 16 long years. Lately they have disappointed me (and many of my friends and colleagues) in their choice of publications. For a century they have taken pride in building Afrikaans into a language that today is acknowledged as one of our country’s official languages. And then came Die Son! What utterly disgusting and sensational smut! I am offended not only by the newspaper, but even more by the posters on every second lamppost, advertising moral decay and bad taste in language to innocent passers by. How does this media giant expect me to explain their “teasers” to my teenage children?
As a supporter of freedom of expression, I wrote a letter expressing my dismay to Die Burger on two occasions. They chose not to publish either of them. If you own the monopoly of the printed and electronic media in the country, you can probably do whatever you like, even suppress the views of your critics.
Keep up the good work.
Detlev Meyer
Welgedacht


DA’s blood lust

I note that James Selfe MP believes that the DA’s pro-death penalty stance is in some way justified by the fact that John Stuart Mill and Bill Clinton both supported state murder (Editorial, nose68). Mill, of course, was knocking on about liberty more than 150 years ago, whereas Clinton like any Democrat governor would have been unelectable unless he had ordered people’s deaths. [Michael Dukakis was knocked out of the 1988 presidential race when he was rated “soft on crime” for commuting a death sentence. - Ed] With that in mind, Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, allowed the execution to proceed of Rickey Ray Rector, a brain-damaged murderer who, when given his final meal, chose to leave a portion of apple pie for later. Hardly reliable precedents – but then perhaps the DA is not interested in rational argument, preferring a visceral blood lust.
James Sanders
Birmingham, England

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