Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Dear Royalists everywhere,
King Jon I
          The wedding of the year at the end of this week could have been very different had my mother played her cards right. So different in fact that neither Prince Harry nor Meghan Markle would be there and if it was to take place it would be between another couple with no connection to them at all.
          You see if my mother, Cape Town socialite Leonie Chiappini had not been so fussy and had been seriously mesmerised by being chosen to date a prince I might have been King of England right now.
          Prince of Wales was the title granted to the heir apparent to the British crown since the 14th century. Prince Charles, the eldest son of the current Queen is the longest serving Prince of Wales.
          But in 1925 when he visited South Africa the Prince of Wales was the first born of George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and  Emperor of India. On the trip he spent four days in Cape Town being wined and dined. This was when my 18 year old mother had her first introduction to Royalty.
Mum and the Prince of Wales
          She was the talk of the Cape when she was summoned by Royal decree to accompany him on several of these posh occasions. At the time this good looking 30 year old bachelor was a catch every girl and their mothers of course, would have dreamt of.
          If royal blood was a necessary credential to marry into the British Royal Family my mother had the right background. According to a remarkable book by Sir Ralph-Payne Gallwey one of her Italian ancestors Louis Philippe was King of France from 1830 to 1848 when he was forced to abdicate after an uprising.
          The Cape Times described her as a “member of a very well known peninsular family who takes a leading part in its social life. Her beautiful fair colouring and clean cut features marks her as one of the most attractive looking of the younger members of society.”
          So she was a pretty good catch in her own right.                              
          Had my mother married the Prince of Wales he would not have been forced to abdicate within months of becoming King Edward VIII in 1936 on the death of his father. Not one to comply with accepted convention he caused a constitutional crisis only a few months into his reign when he announced his intention to marry a divorcee and an American to boot.
          The Brits were not going to have that old boy. The Government threatened to resign. Wallis Simpson had not only divorced her first husband but was in the throws of getting rid of a second one.
          Inevitably the complications were compounded by a religious side issue. Marrying her would have clashed with the King’s token role as head of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, would have had a cadenza.
          But whatever the British might have said about His Majesty at the time they could not fault the length he was prepared to go for the woman he loved. He abdicated in December 1936 and married her in France the following year after her divorce from her second husband had come through.
Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor
          In spite of the fact that he had so badly tarnished the Royal image he was given the title of Duke of Windsor. He and Wallis then remained inseparable until he died aged 77 in 1972, the same year as she did, making it an incredibly successful union.
          So if he had married my mother he would still have been King in 1972 and I, as her first born, would have ascended to the throne at the age of 39 having, like him, held the title of Prince of Wales from the age of 16.
          As it turned out Mum told me that he was the “rudest man” she had ever met. And being a headstrong woman she was certainly not prepared to make an exception to ensure she lived a life of absolute luxury being almost worshipped wherever she went as the Queen of England.
          In 1933 she married my father Cecil Willoughby Abbott whose English father was the owner of Markhams the men’s clothing business in the centre of Cape Town. It was founded in 1873 by H.W Markham. My grandfather cleverly married the boss’ daughter, which enabled him to become the owner.
After completing his studies at Oxford University where he had been a Diocesan College (Bishops) Rhodes Scholar my Dad joined the firm and followed his father as its head. Eventually he sold out to the Foschini Group. It now has 330 of these men’s clothing stores. Long after it took over from my Dad the powers that be there inexplicably decided on the costly exercise of taking the S off Markhams.
          While on a visit to England with my father in 1936 my mother was invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace on 22 July just a few months after that very rude Prince had become King Edward VIII. Of course she went.

          The odd thing about the snooty invitation was that the only person who the Lord Chamberlain had been “commanded by the King to summon” was “Mrs Willoughby Abbott.” Whether there was a separate invitation for my father or whether he was deliberately left out I will never know.
          Anyway as I was not born with Royal blood I have just had to battle along through life with that inferior blue stuff.
          Jon, who always blamed his mother for not giving him a crack at being King because he was convinced that his natural diplomacy and sense of duty would have made him perfectly suited for the job.
Prince Harry and Meghan 
P.S. It looks as though Harry is marrying into a family from hell. Meghan’s half sister Samantha hasn’t spoken to her for three years. To rub it in she has been making money out of her book The Diary of Princess Pushy Sister. And when Samantha 53 appeared on Piers Morgan’s TV talk show Good Morning Britain to complain about how their father Thomas had been harassed by “media vultures” Morgan sailed into her. She was there to back her dad who was caught out by London’s Daily Mail for staging paparazzi photos of himself that the paper claimed were fakes. Morgan accused Samantha of trashing Meghan for years and asked how she could have “the gall to come here to talk about media vultures.” Megan’s half brother Thomas also showed how deep the rifts run in the family when he wrote an open letter to Prince Harry asking him to call off the wedding to avoid “the biggest mistake in Royal wedding history.” While the ex-actress might make a good life partner for Harry her family baggage is more like what the Americans would describe as trailer trash. One newspaper described her extended family as a “motley collection of individuals who, between them, have a long record of boozing, bust-ups and bankruptcies.” Hardly what anybody would want as an addition to their family particularly if they happen to be the Queen of England and Prince Philip in an age where celebrities are under a brutal media spotlight from every angle 24/7.
          This has some similarity to the Duke of Windsor/Wallis Simpson affair in that Meghan has also been divorced, although this is no longer regarded in the same dim light as it was in 1936. She too is an American with the added complication of being of mixed race – her father is Dutch-Irish and her mother is an African-American. But unlike the Duke, Harry is too far down the line of succession ever to become King so that must come as some relief to his critics in the Royal Family.
          Will it be as successful a marriage as the Duke and Wallis’ was or will Harry be making the terrible mistake that Meghan’s half brother predicted?   

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Dear DStv subscribers,
Jodi Arias the show off  killer
          It seems that DStv, the pay television arm of Multichoice that has tarnished its reputation with so many repeats is not at all bothered about damaging it still further by continuing to make out that programmes are new when they are not.
This is in spite the fact that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told it to stop fabricating promotional material on more than one occasion.         
          It again shows how toothless the ASA is. It was established by the adverting industry as its internal policeman and had to be placed under business rescue two years ago. Now it doesn’t appear to be able to ensure that transgressions it has ruled against do not go on being repeated in similar forms by the same firm.  
          In the last few weeks DStv has been extensively promoting “Jodi Arias from Lust to Murder. All new Tuesday 10 April” on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel. And when I complained that this was not new as I had seen it on DStv before I got this reply from Alet Bensch, MultiChoice’s Content Bouquet Manager.
Alet Bensch

          “I can confirm this is a brand new series, although the subject matter has been dealt with in other programmes previously, and a film called ‘Lust to Murder - Jodi Arias’ was aired on another channel last month. But no promos for the film were aired.”
          In my email reply to her I stated: “I don’t accept your explanation that this is a ‘brand new series.’ It can hardly be ‘all new’ (my underlining) when by your own admission it is not.
          “This is the kind of dishonesty that the Advertising Standards Authority told DStv to stop doing, isn’t it?
          “If I tell you a marginally different version of a story you have already heard does that make my story ‘all new’?
          “DStv’s ‘all new’ promotions have now been totally discredited because once one of them is found to be a lie how can your company expect anybody to believe anything else it claims?”

          She justified it still further by replying: “The series is indeed 100% new. None of theses episodes have aired, therefore they are ‘new’ if they have not aired before even though the subject matter was covered on other channels.”
          Significantly she was now referring to it as ‘new’ rather than ‘all new.’ And she ended her email with this most telling remark: “We are not promoting the topic as new - only the programming.”
          I then told her: “Sorry Alet that’s just splitting hairs to say ‘We are not promoting the topic as new - only the programming.’ How is the average person supposed to know that? Surely they are only interested in the topic not your programming. I bet if you took a survey among viewers and asked them what they thought the description ‘all new’ means they would say it means that it was something that was completely new that had not been shown on DStv before or some people might even go as far as believing that this meant it had never been aired anywhere else before.
“Whichever way you look at it this kind of thing has a touch of dishonesty about it. This is what con men do – they make something out to be far better than it actually is and I can’t understand why DStv has to resort to this sort of promotion when it virtually has a monopoly of paid TV in South Africa.”
I wonder how many people at DStv watch their own shows because late on the night of Thursday April 12 the promo for the Jodi series kept stating it would begin on Tuesday which was the10th of April, when it did actually start. This was shown repeatedly throughout the evening. Then shortly before midnight what I assume was a repeat of the first episode of the series was shown to add to the confusion of viewers.
Jodi murdered her boyfriend in 2008 by stabbing him 20 times while he was in the shower. Described as one of the most bizarre and salacious trials in American history it did not end until 2013 when she was convicted of first degree murder. She is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
DStv evidently believes that promoting just about everything as ‘all new,’ ‘brand new” or ‘new’ is the way to get people watching. Here’s a sample from the ID channel in addition to the Jodi Arias one – All new Bride Killa; All new Home Alone; New series Murder Chose me and The 1980s the Deadly Decade The new Series.
And then there is the Brand New Shifting Gears on the Discovery channel.
          I don’t know how true these statements are, but isn’t it shooting itself in the foot if this way of promoting shows is not believable?
          Just a couple of months ago the ASA slammed it in a ruling that reflected badly on MultiChoice.
          “One would not expect the label ‘brand new’ to be applied to a show that has been available in South Africa since 2013,” it stated.
          MultiChoice can hardly be “enriching lives” as it claims if its morality sinks to this level.
          The ASA found that the claim that “Mom 3 brand new season. Tuesday on Comedy Central” was misleading. This was the ASA’s wishy, washy way of saying it was not true. MultiChoice was ordered to withdraw the claim that this was new.
          Its pathetic defence was that even though Mom had previously been on DStv’s 101 channel it was new to Comedy Central (122).
          MultiChoice also got into hot water with the ASA for claiming there were 1800 movies a month available on DStv. It was told to provide the ASA with substantiation for its claim from an independent auditor.
DStv got so mixed up trying to justify that 1800 films
 a month story that it couldn't even count properly.
This is from the Business Report
          It’s not easy to find somebody else to vouch for your lies, so the ASA never received anything further from this entertainment company.
          The consumer’s complaint was upheld and MultiChoice was ordered to withdraw the claim.
          Jon, a Consumer Watchdog, who doesn’t appreciate paying higher and higher DStv subscriptions if he can’t be sure that what he is being told about the shows, is true.

P.S. This may not be an ‘all new’ post of mine but I doubt that you will have read anything like it before - on my blog.

Note: Before I posted this I sent a copy to Calvo Mawelo DStv’s CEO, who I originally contacted. I invited him to comment or to make factual corrections if necessary. He merely suggested we have a meeting to discuss this, a suggestion I felt would not take the matter any further.

Sunday, April 8, 2018


Dear Cape Town Ratepayers,

          Here we go again. Having proved conclusively that a web of nets erected to keep the sand in place over an old rubbish dump has been a hopeless failure the Council is putting up even more of them. The dump, closed more than 30 years ago, is in the middle of a 19 ha site that consists of mainly sand dunes.
          The Council is repeating what it has done at the beginning of every year since 2016. Only this time an even larger section of the dunes next to the Witsands surfing beach not far from Cape Point is being covered with these rows of nets.
          Officials seem unconcerned that they’ll soon get flattened or buried in the sand by the gale force winds that are endemic to the area.
          In its efforts to ensure that none of the remaining rubbish (plastic and other non biodegradable material) gets washed into the sea during the winter rainy season, which happened many years ago, the Council has spent something like R7-million in the last 12 years.

          Even though we are in the midst of the worse drought anybody can remember the Council upped its wasteful spending on the site from 2016 onwards, blowing about double the R500 000 average that had been splurged in previous years.
The waste of money gets worse and worse. It just goes on and on. My efforts over a period of more than two years to get the Mayor Patricia de Lille to put a stop to this have proved fruitless.
          On 26 June 2017 I lodge a complaint about this with the office of the Public Protector and I got an acknowledgement a few days later. It said that my complaint would be “assessed to establish whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint. As soon as the process is complete we shall revert to you and advise you accordingly.”
          I have yet to be “advised accordingly” although I was asked to provide further proof of my allegations in addition to what I gave in my original evidence. I then sent links to my various posts on the subject as well as photographs etc.
          But if Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane the Public Protector keeps complaining that she hasn’t got enough money to investigate the big crooks properly what is the chance of my complaint ever being finalised?   
          This never ending waste is particularly galling at a time when the Council has drastically increased the price of water as it badly needs money because of the crippling draught. In addition it is proposing massive hikes, some as high as 26%, on all services charges for ratepayers. These are way above the inflation rate.
On the other side of the mountain from Witsands there are 40 000 people living in the Black township of Masiphumelele who are crying out for improved living conditions while this waste goes on and on.
          When the netting began all over again in 2018 I tried to find out what the Council intended to spend on the site this year. At the start of my investigating in 2016 I dealt with Councillor Johan van der Merwe, who had the Environment portfolio.
My questions to him evidently became too hot when I asked how the tenders for the work had been allocated. That was when I was told I would not be given any further information.
          It is ironic that the Councillor in charge of Environment when the waste of money at Witsands really escalated is now the Mayoral Committee Member for Finance who recently made a speech introducing the The Greater Cape Town Water Fund Pilot Project.
          This year Van der Merwe told me that Councillor Brett Herron the Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development was now in charge of Environment. He in turn passed me onto Gregg Oelofse the Manager: Coastal Management.
          He wanted me to meet him on the site but he had to cancel our appointment because his elderly mother in Durban broke a leg.
          Obviously he could not have anticipated this but I was mystified as to what he could have told me on the site that he could not have put in an email. How much the Council plans to spend at Witsands this year is surely not a secret.
          A couple of days ago workmen were busy digging out buried nets along the sea front where virtually all the original ones had disappeared. They were rolling them up and carrying them away. And when I asked if they would be re-erected I was told that they had rotted.
          This makes nonsense of the assurance that I was given in 2016 that buried nets would be dug out and put up again. So that’s another aspect of how wasteful this netting scheme is.
          The pictures below are glaring examples of what a wasteful failure the netting has been ........  

Nets being re-erected on 2018.01.17 with what's left of the
previous ones in the foreground
Five days later on 2018.01.22 what's left of of the nets at the
same place as the above scene after a gale
Diary of Cape Town City Council’s huge waste of money in a futile attempt to keep the sand in place at the Witsands rubbish dump site which was closed more than 30 years ago.
(This is a sample of the wasteful expenditure on parts of the 19 ha site that has been repeated all over it in the last two years)
Section of dunes next to the beach at the car park end where the mountain stream washed rubbish into the sea some years ago.
Feb 2016: Heavy earth moving equipment and dumper trucks used to cover exposed rubbish
May 2016: In the same place sand blew away exposing rubbish once again.
June 2016: More sand brought in with dumper trucks.
Feb 2017: Back to square one. Rubbish exposed again as the sand had all blown away as nets proved hopelessly inadequate in keeping it in place.
April 2017: New nets erected right on top of the rubbish without first covering it with sand as had been done twice before.
Nov 2017: Nets trashed by the wind.
Beginning of 2016 & Feb 2018 showing rubbish once again
exposed in the same place
Money wasted deepening the stream from the mountain.
August 2016: While the stream was running an excavator was used to deepen it but because of the fine sand it just went back to its original depth within hours of it being “deepened”.
Jan 2017: There was no sign that there had ever been a stream there because the wind had blow so much sand across it.
May 2017: A bulldozer was used to dig out another river bed for the stream even though there was absolutely no sign of any water running down from the mountain as there was a serious drought.
Nov 2017: The river bed had once again completely disappeared under tons of wind blown sand. 
The new river bed and now
For years sand blew onto the road to the Soetwater recreational area and the Council brought in a front end loader from time to time to clear it. All the nets on the dunes nearby did nothing to prevent sand getting blown onto the road and even when bulldozers and other earth moving equipment was being used nobody thought to substantially reduced the height of the dunes next to the road. Now suddenly in February 2018 nets have been erected for the first time next to the road in an effort to stop the sand blowing onto it. But they had hardly been put up when the wind had blown some over and almost buried others in the sand. And as most of them are on high ground the chances of them all being flatted or buried very quickly is huge, as this has happened all over the site in much more sheltered places.
What's happening here is described immediately below
 Sand being removed from the road in January 2017:
It was then dumped in the nearby Witsands carpark making double work because it had to be removed from there. The ironical part of the second picture is that some of the newly erect nets next to the road (February 2018) are beside naturally grown Port Jackson, which the council has so far flatly refused to plant to stabilize the Witsands dunes at a fraction of the cost of nets and earth moving equipment.

Surely this is the most sensible way of dealing with the Witsands site especially as the City Council badly needs money for drought relief and numerous other projects to uplift the poor. And it makes more sense that ever because
everything the Council has tried up to now to stabilize the dunes has been such a very expensive failure.

March 29 2016: In a Cape Argus article base on my post City of Cape Town’s never ending money dump Gregg Oelofse  was quoted as say: “We haven’t had litter exposed for nearly 10 years.” He added that the netting was cost effective as it was easy to pick up and move around.
Both statements were questionable. As the pictures above show the litter is constantly being exposed because the nets do not do the job they are supposed to do. In addition they are hardly easy to pick up and move around when they get complete buried and trashed by the wind. It also turned out that they rot. This results in new ones having to be erected in places where others had been put up previously.
Cape Argus story - not one of the nets shown still exist
                                              *    *    *    *
          Why does a local authority go on splurging money for years on something that clearly does not work? It surely can’t be that none of its experts haven't got the brains to realise this.
          So I can only assume there must be a reason that is not immediately apparent which nobody is prepared to reveal.   
          a Consumer Watchdog who is 
          also a Cape Town ratepayer.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Dear Bongani Siqoko Editor of the SundayTimes,
Anton Harber, journalism
            You began you tenure in the hot seat in 2016 with a whole page apology for the lies your paper had been telling about the so called “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Alright I accept that this did not happen under your watch, but that did not excuse it.(lotto journalism)
            It clearly caused the downfall of your predecessor Phylicia Oppelt, who suddenly disappeared never to be heard of again?
            Subsequently I revealed that your Johannesburg based paper was once again employing Jim Jones, a known thief, as a freelance writer for your business section (Business Times). And when I asked you to undertake that this would never happen again you didn’t even have the courtesy to reply. (love affair with a crook)
            The latest serious indictment of your paper’s integrity has just appeared in your 28 January edition.
            A whole page (you never do these things by halves) on Cape Town’s drought problems headed Special Feature gave no hint to your readers that it was in fact a Department of Water Affairs advertisement paid for with the taxes of many of your readers. You hoodwinked them completely.
            The way it was written could not have given anyone the impression that it was anything else other than a genuine Sunday Times report by one of your journalists.
            What else would they have thought when they read “Another document given to the Sunday Times” etc?
            It was a huge puff for the African National Congress (ANC) government’s Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane.  As you know the national government is mandated to supply bulk water to the provinces which then have to distribute it.
            The issue is complicated because both the Western Cape Province and Cape Town are led by the Democratic Alliance (DA), much to the annoyance of the ANC.
            This advertisement in editorial clothing blamed the DA for “typically being at loggerheads with the ANC-led national Department of Water and Sanitation.” Above this the headline had another dig at the DA with “Water Minister tells DA finger-pointers to dry up.”
            While your paper was deceiving its readers with this no doubt very expensive (a couple of million at a guess) addition to your coffers, the worried people of Cape Town were holding thumbs that the projected April Day Zero, when the taps are scheduled to run dry, will not materialise.
            In the Daily Maverick Anton Harber slammed the paper you head for its deceit with some very strong language. And if anybody should know about newspaper ethics he should as the Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University.
            He wrote that your paper contravened “every principle of journalism, every code of conduct.” It could not get much worse than that yet he added that by not saying the page was sponsored it was a “dangerously misleading, politically-laden, one-sided, unfiltered opinion.”
Bongani Siqoko

            Asked for an explanation you did what so many of our political heads have been doing lately when grilled at various inquiries. Somebody else did it. The page was changed without your knowledge, you told Harber.
            You’ve got no excuse now. Unlike the “rogue unit” series this one happened when you were well and truly established in the editor’s chair
            Getting back to the edition of your paper that started this latest controversy it would seem that you are completely oblivious to threats to newspapers from social media and the internet. Finding something new for readers must be a nightmare for daily papers and even harder for ones like yours that only appear once a week.
            Surely that must make it even more imperative that your staff make a much greater effort to come up with something off beat so that as much as possible of your paper is not old hat when people get it on Sunday.
            There were 28 pages in the main part of the edition I am referring to and of these three were devoted to the Cape Town water crisis that had already been done to death for weeks. To compound this overkill the page that followed that controversial advertisement was broadly speaking an echo of the advertisement, this time as an actual report by your staff member Bobby Jordan. He presumably did not know about the skulduggery behind the “Urgent plans to avoid Day Zero” spread opposite his contribution.
            Then you also totally over did it with tributes to jazz great Hugh Masekela that took up the whole of pages 3, 15 and 16. He died on the Tuesday in the week that your paper was published so by the time the Sunday Times came out there must have been very little that had not yet been said about him in all forms of the media.
            Even your front page lead about how the Gupta brothers milked R220-million of government money earmarked to upgrade poor farmers in a dairy project had a touch of “Oh not that again”.
Mzilikazi wa Africa

            That too highlighted your paper’s dubious morality. Among the three names in the byline (using more than one journo to write so many of your stories shows a lack of confidence in their abilities and is tailor made for mistakes with one blaming the other) was that of Mzilikazi wa Africa, who was so discredited in Jacques Pauw’s  book The President’s Keepers.
            He was one of your three ace investigative reporters responsible for that SARS “rogue unit” fiasco that Pauw blamed for “helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” (sources dilemma)
            In spite of this he is still on your investigative team apparently. He is the only one of the three still working for you. Like continuing to employ Jim Jones this shows your paper’s total lack of any acceptable standard which can only lead to more apologies and more people wondering if your paper is worth buying.
            As the old saying goes: You get judged by the company you keep.
            Your sister paper The Times that kept your group’s flag flying during the week was recently dumped in the rubbish bin as rising costs forced it to go digital. Do you know how well that’s doing now because I can not afford a lawyer to go on reading it? (online shocker)
            Could your paper be going the same way? Do you think that repeating stories that most people have already heard with hardly any new angle is the best recipe for selling newspapers in this digital age, when virtually everybody can be a reporter or a photographer and have their work sent around the world in seconds.
            Also if people lose faith in your paper’s ability to tell the truth what’s left? Fake news might keep you going, but not for long unless you happen to be Donald Trump.
            Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who once worked for the Sunday Times in the days when the editor had this old fashioned idea: You got fired if you spiced up an expose` with fiction.

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Dear George,

         Did we do the right thing? 
         Was this the best possible way to repay your years of unconditional love? 
         We were told there were numerous other things we could have done.

         But George did we do the right thing?

         We had no way of knowing what you were going through when your body was racked by some unknown demon. 
         We were helpless when you lost all control while kicking and struggling lying on the lounge floor.
Having been inseparable for years Pudi (right) is going
to miss George terribly
          It passed though didn’t it and we could not have expected you to be exactly your old self again in view of your age.

         But did we do the right thing George?

         Had you been a son or daughter, who might have given us endless strife, we would never have treated any of them like this. 
         With all man’s brilliant technological advances he has yet to come up with anything remotely close to something that tells such a complete story as a wagging tail.
George in his hey-day
         With your endless capacity to forgive and forget I know this won’t be any consolation to you George, but playing God takes its own revenge – a life time of “What ifs?”

         Bye George and thanks so much for all you did to enrich our lives.
         Lots of Love,         
         Jon and Gayle

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Dear Jacques,

          Congratulations on your brilliant coup. There can’t be many expose` stories that have got into book form based on the words of so many people who readers will never be able to identify.
          I was surprised that after South Africa’s biggest newspaper “sources” scandal you were still able to find a publisher to take you on because your book is absolutely littered with them.
          Hardly a page goes by in your 328 page The President’s Keepers without one of your anonymous “sources"popping up with some startling revelation or other. Alright, not all of them are that startling because they have already appeared in print elsewhere. But for those who don’t know, it makes for a riveting read.
          Your co-author Google must have been a great help because I see that slotted in between your firsthand interviews with your “sources” you have lifted the work of numerous other scribes. They evidently beat you to it by digging up the dirt on many of the characters in your book while you were sidetracked cooking for your restaurant and looking after guests at your guesthouse in Riebeek-Kasteel, wherever that is.
          You even listed them and told us “I have relied heavily on the published works of some of the country’s most distinguished journalists.” Not a bad way to start.
          Three not so distinguished ones got a terribly tongue lashing. They were involved in those disgraceful Sunday Times South African Revenue Service(SARS) “rogue unit” lies, which resulted in a whole page retraction that must have been some kind of record. You accused Piet Rampedi, Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Africa of “helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” I gather you were referring to SARS, which up to that stage had been doing a first class job.
Pauw's three unwise men - Hofstatter, Rampedi & Wa Africa
You added that they “contributing greatly to ending the careers of dedicated civil servants,” which enabled the much maligned current SARS boss Tom Moyane to “break the tax collector.” And it was “a burden they will carry for a long time.”
In that Sunday Times apology the new Editor Bongani Siqoko wrote that one of the reasons why they got their stories so wrong was that “we overly relied on our sources.” Evidently this was too close to the bone for you because your version left out the reference to “sources.”
Your book told us merely that he told his readers that “today we admit to you that we got some things wrong.”
If the sins you credited those journos with were correct I would have expected their newspaper careers to be over, at the very least on the Sunday Times or any of the publications in the same group. 
Rampedi joined a rival paper the Sunday Independent as its senior investigative reporter. Wa Africa is still doing investigations on the Sunday Times and Hofstatter is playing a similar role on the Business Day and the Financial Mail, which like the Sunday Times are owned by the Tiso Blackstar Group (formerly Times Media).
Is it that you were not believed or that a very weak line was taken by the employers of these reporters, who were kept on or taken on in much the same way as our Government departments do with their bad eggs? Ironically these publications would no doubt be quick to castigate our rulers for the same sort of thing.
I see that when you joined Eusebius McKaiser on Radio 702 to discuss your book Hofstatter was also there and the controversial subject of “sources” came up again. You attacked him for his poor reporting on the “rogue unit” story. He retorted with the lame excuses that he was not the lead reporter on the expose` and he did not have time to check his “sources.”
In case anybody thought that the investigations of all those writers you listed were all you relied upon, you assured us that the “vast bulk of my information” came from officials and the like who spoke to you “on condition of anonymity.” Like all good journalists you told us that they will forever “remain anonymous.” You said you “honour their courage for putting their jobs on the line by divulging the dirty secrets of Jacobs Zuma’s keepers to me.”
          What’s courageous about hiding behind a “sources” shield?  How could they possibly have put their jobs on the line if nobody knew who they were?
          It wasn’t by any chance a member of your “sources” team in the State Security Agency who started that huge promotion ball rolling by announcing that they would have your guts for garters, as they used to say when I was at school, if you and your publisher Tafelberg didn’t withdraw the book immediately?
          Let’s face it you can’t buy that kind of publicity.
          They seem to have been a bit slow in following through with their threats. I suppose it takes time to trace all those “sources” of yours.
          It would be great if you could let us into the secret as to what you plan to do if the Government or one of the many rogues you have maligned eventually decides to go to court.
          By relying on so many “sources,” whose identity you say you will never reveal, aren’t you inviting a defamation action against you and your publisher? The enemies you made will surely be saying to themselves: “He can’t have any other more substantial evidence against us if he is relying on so many anonymous people, otherwise he would have produced it without resorting to them.”
          Another problem you have is that hearsay evidence is not allowed in our courts.
          If the worst comes to the worst will you be telling a judge that your “sources” that you need to prove the truth of your allegations have either died, emigrated or are too ill to attending the hearing.          
          Whatever you do they are going to take some explaining unless you can persuade them to come into the open. Nobody, as far as I know, has yet managed to win a court case with faceless witnesses.         
          While you are waiting to see what happens how about this for an idea.
          As you have clearly made a fortune out of Zuma why not reward all those loyal “sources” of yours by inviting them to a really posh New Year’s Eve shindig where they won’t have to worry about being recognised because it will be - a masked ball.
          Best of luck,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman

P.S. Jacques I’m sorry I can’t reveal what my “sources” have told me.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Dear Newspaper readers, 
Jacques Pauw
          The Times editorial describes the Sunday Independent Editor Steven Motale’s attempts to expose Jacques Pauw’s "sources" for his book The President’s Keepers as a “disgrace to journalism.”
          Journalists have increasingly based stories on anonymous “sources,” which may or may not be real. A glaring example of how dicey this can be was the Sunday Times’ expose` about the so called rogue unit in the South African Revenue Service which was followed by a whole page apology (lotto journalism). As part of this possible, eating humble pie newspaper record, the Editor Bongani Siqoko admitted that one of the reasons they got things wrong was that they "overly relied on our sources." And that paper is in the same stable as The Times
            Let’s face it by attributing disclosures to so called “sources” a story can be made far more sensational than it actually is. So it’s hardly a disgrace to question their validity in Pauw’s book which has a very liberal sprinkling of them.
          The big problem arises when the words of these ghost contacts have to be substantiated in court. Will a person, who was not prepared to have his name publicly associated with an expose` of this kind, change his mind when it comes to a sensational court case, where he can be cross-examined and possibly be caught out in a lie?
          And if in defence of a story you have to make all kinds of excuses as to why your “sources” cannot come to give evidence that speaks for itself.
          Relying on “sources” to attack the reputation of the well healed can be a very risky business unless you have other much more concrete evidence to back them up.  Then it can be argued that if this other evidence it so good, why do you need to fortify it with quotes that can as likely as not be made up?
          Another problem is that journalists are never supposed to reveal the identity of their “sources” for their protection and some have actually gone to prison for this.
         Cynics might say that noble gestures of this kind are not to shield any helpful contact, but the reputation of the journalist himself, who could hardly confess to having no source at all.
          Newspaper journalism is very much going for the big one; the glory of having the splash that leads the front page, so the temptation is always there to sensationalise without the necessary facts. And that’s where untraceable “sources” can be very handy.
          It’s one of those situations where in theory nobody but the journalist himself will ever know the truth, because it can’t be proved one way or the other.     
          It’s clear that the "disgraceful" aspect of what Motale’s paper did was that it questioned the work of a journalist. Heaven forbid that journalists eat journalists; it’s just not done old boy, certainly not in very parochial South Africa.
          If that book had been written by a non-journalist it would have been fair game.
          The Time’s editor Andrew Trench and all the other critical journalists in South Africa have been silent for years while the The Citizen, a Johannesburg based daily tabloid distributed nationally, has been aiding and abetting shysters to rip off poor and uneducated blacks with advertisements that even its editor agreed were not believable.
          They are all about "doctors" who can enlarge penises in five minute; win you the lottos and so on.
          Surely this silence is a much bigger “disgrace to journalism” than questioning Pauw’s book which only directly affects wealthy politicians and their associates.

          By coincidence Steven Motale had just become editor of The Citizen, before moving on to the Sunday Independent, when I wrote my first post about these money spinners that bring in an estimated R40 000 a day in the smalls section of that paper. Although he conceded they were not believable he said he thought the paper should still carry them with a “caution”.
          I would not have expected him to be able to dictate advertising policy to the Caxton Group, the owners of this paper. Money evidently overrode morality when it came to these advertisements.

          My first post The Citizen Aladdin’s cave of unbelievable adverts (unbelieveable) appeared early in 2013. After that I tried to get the South African Editor’s Forum, the Advertising Standards Authority and the since disbanded Print and Digital Media organisation of which both Caxton and Times Media were members to put pressure on The Citizen to get it to stop carrying these ads, but I got no joy from any of these pillars of rectitude.
          I had obviously hit the bullseye dead centre because after promoting this post on Twitter I was blocked by The Citizen. It has a circulation of 70 000 mostly black readers many of whom believe in this mumbo jumbo that is punted in theses ads.
          It has a checkered history having been founded in 1976 by the National Party apartheid government with money from a secret government slush fund to promote the party among English speakers. In 1998 it was bought by the Caxton Group, publishers of newspapers and magazines as well as being the country’s largest commercial printers.
          Terry Moolman its co-founder is the Group’s CEO.
          So Andrew Trench how about dealing with this real disgrace to South Africa’s newspapers in the next editorial in The Times. That might just achieve something far more beneficial than attacking another editor for legitimately questioning the validity
of the “sources” in Jacques Pauw’s sensational book The President’s Keepers.
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who has always believed that if an informant is not prepared to stand up and be counted, he or she should not be given the protection of a “sources” label in any newspaper story. He must also emphasise that he hasn’t a clue whether or not Pauw’s “sources” are genuine. For that we have to rely on his impeccable reputation as an investigative journalist of long standing. What Jon has written here about “sources” are his general observations about this kind of reporting and don’t refer to any particular person.

P.S. My sources tell me that there is not a chance in hell that any South African newspaper journalist will criticise The Citizen for what it is doing. It could just affect their future job prospects in a very small market.