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<< December 2008  | January 2009 |  February 2009 >>
Helen Suzman - a brave, tough South African
Icon of opposition politics during the apartheid era, Helen Suzman, died at the age of 91. She spent many years alone in Parliament, with no other party members making it to Parliament, during which time she was taunted with cries such as go back to Moscow/Israel. We can all wish to have the courage and bravery that she showed during those dark years and can all be inspired by yet another great South African. As the Nelson Mandela foundation said, South Africa has lost a great patriot and a fearless fighter against apartheid.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 01-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Festive season death toll statistics

At this time of year we get bombarded with news that is essentially press releases that tell us how the accident death toll over the festive season is down. There is a lot less day-to-day travelling during the festive season, with obviously a few longer trips in between. Statistically, this time of year always seems to have less deaths and other times of the year, but it seems that each year we get given the figures over what I guess are slightly different time frames as well. The reality of the matter is that from about 8500 deaths in 1998, we are now looking at approximately 14,500 deaths a year. Strangely enough, while they can tell us all of the December figures on a day-to-day basis, they don't seem to be able to add these onto the first 11 months of the year and give us a total figure for the year! The latest figures I can find are for March 2008. In my opinion, this festive season only focus is little more than a marketing exercise, and we only hear from the Department of Transport and the Minister in this regard twice a year, in Easter and in December as if the other 13,000 deaths a year do not count, or are not his responsibility to discuss. It's about time we started seeing more media coverage of this, when 40 people a day die on our roads, and more questions raised when we get dramatic statements such as” the death toll has halved this festive season”.  It may have, and I guess it depends on what the statistics you are using, but I know that it certainly hasn't for the year, and every life is precious, not just those that pass away during December or the Easter weekend.  So, really, everyday needs to be the focus of an arrive alive campaign.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 06-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Make sure you are insured if you do big cases

I have unfortunately been required to sue a few other attorneys, from time to time, because they have under-settled Road Accident Fund claims that they have been handling.  I think that the biggest problem that arises is a lot of firms, although they don’t openly advertise that they do the work, tend to offer the services of handling Road Accident Fund claims as if it is just a part of general litigation.    It is really not, and it may be one of the reasons why, as with conveyancing, this is actually a reserved field of work for attorneys and it is certainly a specialist field.  Unfortunately, what appears to happen in some firms is that a partner who might be doing criminal law work and a few divorces as well as a few contracts here and there, also does a few Road Accident Fund cases on the side.  Every now and then, when they come across a big case, rather than to refer it out to other colleagues who have more experience in this, they elect to do the case themselves but either do not have the money to finance the case, or do not have enough experience in terms of referring the client to the various medico legal specialists that one needs.  In fact, some firms do not even refer any clients to medico legal specialists, which is a fatal error and quite frankly, if they are not doing so, when even the Fidelity Fund has advised that an attorney must do this in every single case, they really should not be doing the work.  Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that cases that may be worth R1 million or more, get settled for R50 000,00 or R80 000,00 and somewhere along the line, the client hears a result that a friend has obtained and then gets on the phone to another attorney.  What a lot of attorneys do not realise either, and this is where it becomes rather unpleasant, is that your insurance cover generally is limited to R1 million unless you get special top-up cover which would cost you approximately R20 000,00 a year for another R5 million or so.  In other words, if the new attorney discovers that the case may now be worth, for example, R1,5 million, the insurance company will only pay out R1 million and the previous attorney is going to have to pay up R500 000,00 out of his or her own pocket.  The amount can be much more and all attorneys really should make sure that they do have top-up insurance if they want to handle these kinds of cases and to put it frankly, under-settling a person’s claim, while initially ruining their life, will ultimately end up ruining and spelling disaster for the attorney who has taken on a case that is out of his or her depth.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 13-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Accident statistics

There is so little investigative reporting in South Africa that when I see an article like the one written by Louise Flanagan in The Star of 6 January 2009, it astounds me.  I had also taken to accepting the death statistics that come out every year and while she had not slammed them or said anything, she has obviously picked up quite a few things that show how inaccurate they are.  I guess it is quite logical, when you read in the article, that they rely on the police to give them their information, that firstly, no statistics are ever going to be correct, and to realise that, secondly, many people will die in accidents long after the date in which they report the deaths.  It then makes this annual statement that we are getting, I believe this year on 15 January, somewhat of a farce.  Let me explain.  Last year, we were told that the December 2007 death toll was 1 202 people who died.  When the annual report was finalised in March 2008, some three months later, they revised that figure upwards by 28% to 1 535.  In the circumstances, and what this clearly illustrates, is that the figures that we get given on a daily or weekly basis, compare almost nothing in relation to what the final figures can be, and one year can see you believing that you have an improvement when in fact you have no such thing at all, simply because our hospitals may report deaths late to the police, the police may report deaths late to the Department and who knows how accurate the figures are even three months later in March, let alone when they get announced amongst huge fanfare 15 days later.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 14-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Kanonkop wins big

I see that Platter’s annual guide is now out and their wine of the year is the Cabernet Sauvignon from Kanonkop Estate.  Obviously, featuring in a book like this is incredible for sales, and I will save you the phone call to them, because as the book came out, and it is piled up all over Exclusive Books at the moment, they sold out of the winning year, being 2004, but they do have 2005 available.  I am not an expert on wines but I have to say that my favourite wine farm is most definitely the only one still owned by Anglo American, namely Vergelegen and it is well worth a visit when you are next in Stellenbosch.  I notice that I do seem to have collected a lot of fine bottles of whisky in early December thanks to those who come to the office bearing gifts but at the rate I lose them, I should start specifying my favourite brand of golf ball in future!  The problem for me, in any event, with a really great whisky, and I looked up the prices of some of those I was given, is that one struggles to find the occasion to justify drinking some of these truly expensive 30-year aged malts.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Saturday 17-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
HD TV

I guess in some ways High Definition (HD) TV is similar to when CD replaced audio tapes, but I think in fairness to the boxes of audio tapes that I still have, no doubt many of you do, HD TV may not be as much of a step up – but it’s close.  However, once you’ve watched it, it is very hard to go back to ordinary channels and certainly sport is like nothing else on the HD channel.  I think where this is important is that the sports, and here I think for example for the opportunities for horse racing, that make sure that their coverage is available in an HD format which will obviously require big investments in cameras and the like, may seize an initiative over those that upgrade only when they are forced to may years into the future. Right now it looks like they don’t have enough programmes to show on the channel with the result that there are a lot of amateur wildlife documentaries, but whose quality is so startling that one still watches in any event.  One of its faults, if that can be laid at the door of high definition television, is that a poorly shot film, the one that relies extensively on stages or backgrounds, rather than being shot on location, is much more obvious on high definition television than it is on a normal channel.  In short, to put it bluntly, a bad movie looks better on normal TV than it would on high definition because the clarity that it brings to television and images also exposes and magnifies any faults.  I think ultimately it will make production companies, movie directing and producing and the standards of the whole industry have to be increased substantially yet again.  It is really not an industry that I think is going to see any reduction in the number of employees in the years ahead, while we do expect that to happen with so many other industries as a result of the economic crisis.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Sunday 25-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Confederations cup - ticket booking issues part 2

I wrote about my frustrations with the Fifa.com website in my blog of 31 December 2008 and I can tell you that on 16 January 2009, I received an e-mail from the site, some 17 days after I attended to all of their procedures on the website, telling me that if I would like to “initiate payment” I now have to go back to the same website, choose the third option, then log in to my fifa.com club account, then I must select to pay for the tickets and then I have to pay for the tickets.  I will be granted three attempts to process the payment and if I don’t make the payment within 10 days of their e-mail, the ticket order will be cancelled.  This is really not Internet friendly.  What worries me is that they are introducing this sort of procedure for our World Cup, hosted in our country and I hope that it really does not put people off going through the effort.  I guess on the other hand, true fans will basically endure any sort of punishment, which is why they can get away with stuff like this, but it is the worst use of modern technology on the Internet that I have seen in a very long time, and for the number one sporting event in the world, it is quite strange.  If that is not bad enough, once I finally went through the entire procedure, I could not pay for the tickets as, according to the site, “This order cannot be amended at this time as it is being processed, please check back later.”  Which of course is contrary to the e-mail I got sending me back in the first place.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 19-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Poor economy leads to more wanting to be soldiers

The New York Times is reporting that the American Army is getting more sign-ups than it has in a long time.  When times are good, nobody wants to join the safety and security, and that is an interesting expression in itself, of a long-time secure job at lower pay.  Once the economy starts shedding jobs in big numbers, and there is much more to come, all of a sudden signing up for a low paid salary and the chance to fight in one or other war, obviously seems to be a much more attractive option than before.  It is really a sign of how tough things are already becoming overseas.  Apparently a lost of those already applying to join the Army, and normally they have to beg people for the last four or five years, include unemployed construction workers and quite a few people in their 30’s and beyond.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 20-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Magistrates Court rule changes

There are amendments to the Magistrate Court rules in South Africa on their way in due course.  I certainly hope they come faster rather than later, and the draft proposals which I have and which you can obtain from the Johannesburg Attorneys Association – www.jaa.org.za or by calling them at (011) 337-7269 – run to a 178 pages.  Most of the changes really seem to focus around making a lot of the Magistrate Court rules the same as the High Court rules and that is something that I in particular have no problem with as you often find there are frustrating rules in the Magistrate Court when it comes to requesting further particulars.  In the rules with regard to discovery and the rules that have allowed people to serve summonses, pleas, payments into court, summary judgments and a number of others have some substantial proposed amendments, most of which, to my mind are quite good.  I would however like to see that rule 10 is changed as I think it is ridiculous that a summons in the High Court, while it cannot be said to never lapse, does not really for a number of years and obviously depends on the evidence.   A summons in the Magistrate’s Court lapses after 12 months of inactivity and I think any attorney running a busy practice would realise that that is always a real risk due to clients’ unavailability, lack of instructions and with a prescription period of 3 years, a loss of your summons after one year can be potentially fatal.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 20-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  10 Comments  Comments
Inflation to head down

Around about this time of the year, everyone starts talking about what their increases would be and attorneys too, will be looking at the increases on their hourly fee agreements and the like. It is very important to understand that, as very few people do, that the current inflation statistics are in fact incorrect as pointed out (I think it was by Investec last year), much to the horror of the governor of the Reserve Bank who immediately then summoned them to come to a meeting with them, and those will be corrected during the month of February. In short, what happened was that those areas where inflation ran higher were gradually allocated a higher and higher percentage of the overall inflation basket – which is inaccurate, as that ultimate percentage that they had may not reflect the average spending of a household. In short, the faster those items rose, the bigger the percentage of the pie they were allocated and thus this led to inflation increasing even more – and more than it was in reality. When those figures are adjusted, back down to the normal percentage they should have in this assumed basket of items, including transport, food, electricity and the like, the overall inflation will go down. Economists are not aware as yet as to what the precise figure will be, but it does mean that in February we are going to see another steep dip in inflation and that is on top of whatever we see towards the end of January when it is believed inflation will get down to about 9,8%. It may well be that we will be looking at an inflation figure of approximately 7% towards the end of February and in the circumstances employers would be well advised to wait until those revised figures come out before granting increases for the year and to be aware that the current figures are firstly going to be coming down quite substantially because of the recent petrol decreases, interest rate cuts and more so, because the old figure was incorrect in the first place!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 28-Jan-09   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments

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