Level the playing fields

It is puzzling to see South African league champions and newly crowned BP Top 8 victors operating without a sponsor while the club (Kaizer Chiefs) that finished ninth on the log last season is juggling more than 25 sponsors. Take nothing away from Chiefs, because they have the best administration on the continent, but their performance leaves lot to be desired. The team that is riding the crest of the wave and that should be attracting sponsors and fans alike is Santos.

Teams from outside Gauteng suffer from a lot of discrimination as sponsors turn a blind eye to them and their performances. Instead, the sponsors tend to back the traditional big guns of the league.

Santos coach Boebie Solomons said they had to beat Sundowns in the Top 8 so they could pay their bills. Sundowns could have afforded to give all the prize money to their players as bonuses (as they have done on previous occasions). Luckily, Santos won it and bills will be paid. But what happens a month from now? Sponsors should be jumping on to the Santos bandwagon because it certainly is the fastest and most consistent.

There are firms that have thrived on the African population and this is the very population that consumes their products.

Clubs cannot be expected to perform on an even par while some have more than the rest. Those who have more cannot and should not be blamed, as they are responsible for their own survival. Surely there is something that the league, the South African Football Association or the Department of Sport can do to address these imbalances?

It is also the responsibility of Business South Africa and the clubs themselves. We need to level the playing fields to ensure the league can produce a high-quality product to be marketed internationally.

We should not forget that the quality of our league directly affects the quality of the national team.

A lot of the clubs cannot even start thinking about having a development programme for youngsters because they cannot afford one. As soon as a star player emerges, the bigger and better-resourced teams snatch them away because they can pay them more and look after them better. In the end it is a lose-lose situation: no development programme and no money to keep and look after the players they have.

How many times have African Wanderers been in and out of the league in recent years? Siyabonga Nomvete, Sibusiso Zuma and Phumlani Mkhize were part of that team. Chiefs and Pirates soon snatched them and this explains Wanderers’ demise. The cream of the crop left and down they went.

My argument is that these smaller teams should acquire their own resources instead of handing over their “material and responsibility” to others. — Duma Comrade Pewa, Lamontville, Durban

Israel’s opponents willing to go to extreme lengths

Anna Weekes’s letter of September 13 demonstrates the extent to which radical opponents of Israel are prepared to resort to slander and character assassination in order to further their goal of demonising the state of Israel from every conceivable platform. It further reveals a disturbing trend whereby the radical anti-Israel lobby is progressively going beyond flailing wildly at Israel itself and has begun to target the leadership and institutions of the South African Jewish community as well.

Incredibly, a violent and illegal demonstration by bottle-throwing hoodlums that ultimately had to be broken up by police has been turned so as to be portrayed as a sinister Jewish plot aimed at suppressing freedom of expression.

That this libel has been accomplished through the enthusiastic connivance of the Mail & Guardian, normally a fair and responsible paper, is even more baffling.

More disturbing from my own point of view is that, together with Jewish Board of Deputies national director Yehuda Kay, I have been explicitly accused by Weekes of instructing the police to evict demonstrators from Wits campus. This is not only highly defamatory, but in the over-heated context of debates over the Middle East question, potentially very dangerous to ourselves and to our families. I was not even present on the night. Kay only arrived fairly late in the evening.

Even if we had been present throughout, however, the claim that we would have been in a position to instruct police to “deal with” pro-Palestinian dissenters is as shocking as it is baseless. It reinforces the bigoted perception that Jews are somehow engaged in controlling and manipulating official institutions, and is a deeply racist contention. Coming from someone who is ostensibly so strenuously opposed to racism of any form, it calls into question the real motivations of Weekes, as well as of the organisation she represents. — David Saks, South African Jewish Board of Deputies

We would like to express our deep concern about the events at Wits on September 2. Bona fide members of the Wits education policy unit (EPU) were denied access to the campus, those who were there were not allowed to leave, and harassed and manhandled by the South African police and non-university security agents. Staff of the EPU present all agree that the aggressive attitude was mainly towards people of colour, frighteningly reminiscent of an earlier era.

Academic freedom and the right to a safe and secure environment at Wits are cherished and have been hard fought for. It is the responsibility of the university to protect these rights. — Shireen Motala, director of Wits EPU, and staff of the EPU

Bush has undermined the Bill of Rights

What is happening to the United States under George W Bush Jnr? To begin with, he needed Florida in order to win the presidential election, a Florida under the governorship of his brother. In order to secure the presidency the Florida authorities arbitrarily ordered vote-counting to stop, so ensuring that George W became president not by election but by administrative fiat. No attempt was made to reform the appallingly obsolete electoral system in the state and hold a second and fair election.

So from the very beginning Bush’s assumption of the presidency was a very shady affair. Since then George W has reneged on treaties with impunity (I remember too well the way in which the West regarded Hitler when he did just that, not to mention Saddam Hussein), shown his subservience to the interests of big business, and seriously undermined the Bill of Rights.

The US now has its own Gulag in its base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and at least one US citizen is being held in custody in the US by the Bush administration, allegedly beyond the jurisdiction of the Bill of Rights and the courts of law. In spite of all this, George W still accuses other countries of disregarding human rights! — Terence Beard, Grahamstown

World War III threatens if the US attacks Iraq. But Bush now appears to see that dialogue can solve US differences with Iraq. So let’s let the weapons inspectors do their job, and let nobody jeopardise their work. — Philani Lubanyana, Durban

Health department drives out doctors

Much has been made of the mass exodus of trained professionals, especially doctors, from South Africa. For the most part, why doctors leave rests on factors outside the realm of the Department of Health, and include the high crime rates and uncertain economic prospects in this country.

However, the actions of the Department of Health toward doctors in their first two years out of medical school only compound this problem.

I am working as an intern at a government hospital in KwaZulu-Natal and, although my own circumstances for next year have worked out favourably, the treatment of many of my friends and collegues has prompted this letter.

At the end of medical school one has to complete a year of internship, followed by one year of community service to the state before being allowed to register as a doctor.

The internship year tends to take place at a more central hospital where supervision is guaranteed while the community service year can be at a more peripheral hospital/ clinic. The problem starts with the recent departmental ruling that each internship hospital must have the same number of interns from each medical school. This means that most junior doctors have to “leave home” to a different major centre even though in previous years most were accommodated in the city of their choice.

The administration of the applications for community service has also been ridiculously inefficient. For starters, two days before the final applications had to be submitted in Pretoria, interns in KwaZulu-Natal had not received their application forms. Despite this, most doctors applied on time but this rush does allow less time to research the various hospitals available.

Having received the applications, the Department of Health was supposed to inform those interns who weren’t placed in the first round by July so that they might reapply in the second round. More than two months later and this time with only one day to apply, applications for the second round were delivered.

The manner in which posts are allocated for community service is also frustrating. An intern in Durban who failed to be placed in the first round saw one of her original choices on the second-round list. She was told that demographic quotas prevented her from being placed. In this case, she was Indian and the department feels that Durban is oversubscribed with regard to Indian doctors. In other words, a female member of a previously disadvantaged group was prevented from occupying a place that nobody else wanted — because of her skin colour.

In all, the way which the department conducts its affairs is an avoidable factor in the reasons why doctors seek better options overseas. — Shaun Jackson, Glenmore, Durban

Cost recovery is a cause

I would like to respond to a letter entitled Science-based? (September 13).

The evidence to the claim made by MacDonald and Pape that links cost recovery to the cholera outbreak, is based on research that I and a co- researcher, Edward Cottle, who is the director of the Rural Development Service Network (RDSN), did in an area called Madlebe. Madlebe is a rural area adjacent to Empangeni.

The first reported cases of cholera came from this area, and there are sufficient newspaper articles to confirm this. At the time of the outbreak, the community was receiving a prepaid water service.

According to the uMthlathuze Water Board, the implementing agent for the provision of the service, “the water service was prepaid precisely because of cost recovery”.

In response to the cholera outbreak, the minister of water affairs and forestry, himself refers to cost recovery as a cause.

So, to answer the question quite simply, yes, the claim is scientifically based.

For those interested, the findings of the research have been published in a book on cost recovery available through the Human Sciences Research Council, alternatively a longer report can be obtained from the offices of the RDSN. — Hameda Deedat, researcher/educator at the International Labour Resource and Information Group

No economist

Either Margaret Legum has a sense of humour far too subtle for my taste, or no one at your fine publication knows the first thing about economics. Last Friday she declared, “loans are created by banks out of thin air”. Where? How can I get this recipe?

She also said Americans, with low savings rates, therefore cannot have their current high levels of capital and investment. While American households save a small portion of their incomes, investment in the United States also comes from companies and foreigners.

Please do not call her an “economist”. A more accurate term would be “resident of the planet Zorgam”. — Richard Shumann, Maputo

In brief

I respond to the article on ex- political prisoners (“Comrades clash over funds”, September 13).

Suzanne Weil & Associates is an events company that was employed by Ahmed Kathrada who represented the ex-political prisoners for a fundraising event at which Bill Cosby was the guest of honour. The funds were raised over a five-year period during which I collected the funds as per my instruction and paid out for funerals as per my instruction. I am not now, and have never been, either an ex-political prisoner, a member of the committee, or a trustee for that matter.

I was misquoted by the journalist who phoned me. She had a two-minute conversation with me, never declaring that she was writing a story but claiming instead that she was finding out where things stood. I do not wish to go into the detail of the misquote, save to say that I was unfairly cast in a negative light, thereby damaging my reputation. — Suzanne Weil, Johannesburg

A big thank you for restoring a substantial read and a readable TV guide. — Pat Hill, University of the Witwatersrand

I wish to commend the Mail & Guardian for devoting space to three articles on corruption in South Africa, Lesotho and Ghana. Corruption in Africa is a major social and political ill that must be addressed head-on.

By reporting on corruption , the M&G is providing leadership in the long drawn battle against corruption ravaging the continent of Africa. — Professor Tuntufye S Mwamwenda, University of Natal

Please include your name and address. Letters must be received by 5pm Monday. Be as brief as possible. The editor reserves the right to edit letters and to withhold from publication any letter which he believes contains factual inaccuracies, or is based on misrepresentation.

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