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Letters to the editor: March 24 to 31 2016

Capitalism is to blame

The most insanely foolish thing a farmer can do when his livestock is being destroyed by wild animals is to go on a full-blown war against hyenas while saving the lions because, in his belief, at least the lions do not kill his animals painfully.

Many people have decided to go to war with the Guptas, and there is obvious justification for this. But we need to remind ourselves that capitalists have an insatiable lust for money and will do anything to bolster such power (More courted cadres to come clean).

Many times it has been shown how capitalists sponsor public officials to secure tenders. The United States is the best example of this. The big companies spend millions of dollars on lawmakers and policymakers to get contracts. The same applies here. So to go on an all-out war against one family, while pretending that all other capitalists do things differently, is wrong-headed.

Zuma needs to take the country and the tripartite alliance into his confidence. The appointment of ministers and their deputies must not only be done by him, it must also be clear that he has applied his mind and has consulted the relevant bodies.

He urgently needs to put daylight between himself and the Guptas, to show he does not drink from any Gupta river – and so should all other public officials with regard to other capitalists. – Thabo Thwala, Bothaville

? So the Guptas wanted then-state enterprises minister Barbara Hogan to arrange deals for their airline, Jet Airways. This was reconfirmed by former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor this past week: she said the Guptas wanted Jet Airways to take over the SAA route to Delhi.

Then there is the former mining minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who declined an invitation to the Gupta family home and got reshuffled soon afterwards. It’s known the Guptas are involved in South Africa’s mining industry. The pattern becomes clear.

How big a treason is it for a clique of political leaders to sell out a nation to a business family? And a foreign one, on top of it all. – Theo Martinez, Johannesburg

The truth about owner-drivers – ABI

In the article Disgruntled drivers round on Coke, several references are made to a civil claim and “class action” of R6.3-billion brought by a number of owner-drivers previously contracted by ABI Bottling, creating the impression that a substantial civil claim against ABI is ongoing. This is not true.

The former owner-drivers instituted a civil claim for payment of R6.3-billion in October 2015, but this was set aside, with a costs order in ABI’s favour, in the Pretoria high court on January 15 this year.

In terms of the Competition Tribunal hearing into the proposed Coca-Cola Beverages Service Africa (CCBSA) merger, the owner-drivers did not file papers with the tribunal as indicated in the article.

They were directed by the tribunal on February 29 to make their submission by 1pm on Friday March 4. They failed to do so and applied for an indulgence.

Their submission was eventually made on March 17, shortly before the tribunal hearing. On March 18, the tribunal found the owner-drivers’ explanation for late submission unsatisfactory and prejudicial to the merger parties.

Also, based on the tribunal’s assessment of their statement of issues and interest, their application to intervene in the proceedings was dismissed.

Regarding the R500-million fund, a Competition Commission media statement of December 17 2015 said the merging parties had already committed to investing R500-million to develop the downstream distribution and retail aspects of CCBSA and the development of additional black-owned retailers of CCBSA’s products. Also, the merging parties committed to establishing a R150-million fund to support and train historically disadvantaged developing farmers and small suppliers of inputs to products of the Coca-Cola Company.

Owner-drivers are contracted suppliers of distribution services, so they cannot be fired, as stated in the article. Contracts have been terminated over the years for a number of lawful reasons, such as failure to pay tax, theft of ABI products during deliveries and withholding of distribution services, all of which are in breach of their contracts.

Some owner-drivers terminate their contracts themselves, often because they have opportunities elsewhere. Currently the programme has more than 340 owner-drivers and has had a retention rate of at least 85% over the past five years, which is a high success rate for small businesses.

Each termination needs to be looked at separately according to the specifics of each case. They cannot simply be grouped together.

Regarding the comment that owner-drivers are working under difficult circumstances and are underpaid, ABI provides allowances to cover all running expenses (such as fuel, maintenance, lubrication and tyres) as well as all fixed expenses (such as rental, insurance, licence, business advice and cellphone).

Finally, in terms of the comment that permanently employed drivers were converted into independent contractors who bought their trucks and undertook deliveries on behalf of ABI, the scheme is open to employees as well as external applicants.

Owner-drivers are not expected to purchase a truck immediately: for the first 18 to 24 months, they drive a truck leased by ABI. Should they wish to stay in the scheme after that, and if their performance is satisfactory, they source their own vehicle, which becomes the asset of their business. – Velaphi Ratshefola, managing director, ABI Bottling

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