Letters to the Editor: September 7 to 13

Mail & Guardian reader Jairam Reddy writes that Nomaindia Mfeketo, the human settlements minister, needs to take action on the Community Schemes Ombud Service. (Shelley Christians/The Times)

Mail & Guardian reader Jairam Reddy writes that Nomaindia Mfeketo, the human settlements minister, needs to take action on the Community Schemes Ombud Service. (Shelley Christians/The Times)

Take ombud to court

The Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) was established in terms of the Act of 2011 as an alternative dispute resolution body to resolve administrative disputes in community schemes, including sectional title schemes and homeowners’ associations.

The CSOS is financed through levies paid by sectional title schemes, homeowners’ associations, etcetera, and a government grant. In terms of costs, it is a new burden that has been imposed on well-run body corporates that seldom, if ever, require dispute resolution services. In an average-sized body corporate of about 30 flats, the extra burden is about R40 a month per flat or R1 200 a month for the block of flats.

As owners of flats who pay levies through their body corporates, we are gravely concerned about the reported investment of R80-million of CSOS funds into VBS Mutual Bank, which is now under the curatorship of the South African Reserve Bank. It is further reported that R20-million was invested with Absa bank through a third party, Gundo Wealth Solutions, without the knowledge of the board or the minister of human settlements.

It is surprising that within a few years the CSOS has accumulated funds of this magnitude and invested a substantial amount of money without proper authorisation and due diligence. As this scheme falls under the purview of the minister of human settlements, we stakeholders would like to know from the honourable minister, Nomaindia Mfeketo, the following:

  • What is the quantum of funds accumulated by the CSOS since its inception in 2011?
  • What proportion of funds has been provided by levies and government grants respectively?
  • An organogram of the staff structure; how many staff are employed in its branches and the salary levels of the top executives
  • The names of board members; how they were appointed and what benefits they receive in attending board meetings
  • How many disputes CSOS has adjudicated and the outcomes of its adjudications
  • What oversight mechanisms are in place to monitor the quality of dispute resolution and adjudication offered by CSOS?; and
  • What action is to be taken against those who acted without proper authorisation in investing the R80-million with VBS and R20-million with Absa?

It is noted that Mfeketo has appointed an independent investigator to look into the affairs of CSOS. Is this going far enough? Should the minister not suspend the executive officers and board, and appoint an administrator while the investigation proceeds?Such action would signal whether the Cabinet is serious about rooting out the pervasive corruption that has blighted our society in recent years; those responsible for squandering R100-million of public resources should be criminally prosecuted and the monies recovered. — Jairam Reddy, Durban


Don’t loot, root out fraud

Food fraud is on the rise and needs our urgent attention on all levels.

Food categories that are especially vulnerable are seafood, liquids, spices, fruits, vegetables and meat.

Some may believe that food fraud is a victimless crime. This is not so. First, the food economy is at stake. For any food business to grow and offer high-quality food products, it requires consumer trust. If trust is lost, then everything the industry is trying to accomplish will become more difficult. Most food companies are ethically sound,but you need only a few cases of food fraud to damage the reputation of an entire industry.

More importantly, consumers with allergies and food intolerances are likely to feel more vulnerable than other consumers. Consequently, food fraud is as much a socioeconomic issue as it is a public health one.

Consumers should adopt caution when shopping for food and visiting restaurants. They should look for inconsistencies in pricing and quality. If a food product is much cheaper at one outlet, perhaps the deal is too good to be true.

Our government also has an important role to play in preventing food fraud. Regulators should encourage consumers to come forward with tip-offs. Also, the government should establish research centres that could do random testing to detect sectors affected by food fraud.

This is where our focus should be —rather than attacking foreigners and looting their businesses. — Mahmoud Rangila, Isipingo Hills


No more M&G for me

I’ve just bought my last Mail & Guardian for some time. The latest issue (August 31) was so biased and poor.

The paper has gone to the dogs with its change of direction. Cartoons are so stupid now as to be a waste of column inches.

Then there’s the editorial headlined “It’s inequality that breeds violence”. This is not a truism. It’s an excuse to avoid saying some South Africans are violent and lawless for personal gain. Just to put the record straight:If the food was out of date, why did the rioting looters take it home?

The vitriolic nature of Vukani Mde’s article (“Coalition crash leaves DA cornered”) is another reason for abandoning a newspaper that honed its reputation on accuracy. — Tom Morgan

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