My wife, it is today four years since the small wedding ceremony we had in Kruger National Park and I recall every detail, the flower in your hair, the dress you wore and the love in your eyes when I knelt in front of you to ask for your hand in marriage. As I type here, I can see you smile, like you always did when happy and I am sure, now too. Just the other night I listened to our wedding song and cried silently, life is unfair. “Make peace,” that is your advice, I heard your voice clearly above the song, and I did, I have peace, no need to worry about me. Ironically, some people live longer than what they deserve because of the grace of God, they get more chances to repent, and they mostly waste it. And some don’t, they got taken home earlier, like you. Life can be very cruel to those left behind, we live in an imperfect world, one where satan often claims victory, temporarily so. But we have hope, we know this is not the end and that there is much to live for yet. Since you left, I realised it even more, death has no meaning to me and never will in the future. I have no fear, only desire to be with you.
I will keep this short, after all, I wrote more than two million words the last eighteen months to tell the world the greenness of your eyes, the goodness of your soul and the greatness of your heart. What we had was magic, Melissa, love and affection on a level which few will achieve and most will not believe exists. I was once one of them, you know, the cynics who believe that the poets were under the influence when they wrote about soulmates. And then you came into my life, and the rest, as they say, is history, I was proven wrong. I loved you more than life itself, no doubt, you made it easy for me. We had magic but in this earthly world, magic never lasts, life will always get you in the end. But there is a place… a place where there is no more death, nor sorrow, no more pain and no dividing oceans, a place called “heaven” and a place where you are waiting for me. There I will find you, looking as beautiful as ever and I will tell you, I am today as proud as I was in life to have been your husband and soul. And we will be one again, be us, and death will have no meaning, it a mere background inconvenience. Happy wedding anniversary, my American Patriot. I will see you again when God calls me home, not before, but be assured, I am coming. We will never be cheated again.
It is not that I am enjoying MTN’s legal problems in Nigeria but the idea of bringing in the former US Attorney General Eric Holder to negotiate their punishment (it is legally a fee) is ridiculous. I am tempted to say that this new act of desperation is a betrayal of the Nigerian and South African legal professions and it will help them nothing. It is pitiable for most of us, the local experts, looking in from the side and I wonder why.
To summarise for those who forgot, MTN is a South African Mobile Company, one that makes record profits and by far the largest in Africa. They are in many countries including Iran where they also had bad publicity problems, unrelated to the Nigerian one. I have nothing against them, in my briefings on business in Africa I recommend using their products which are as good as any and I have even less to do with them from a professional viewpoint. I do not act for them, never did and never will in the future, they have wonderful lawyers, I am sure, just look at the mess they find themselves in currently. What happened, as far as we can see from the outside, is that they were given a fair time to register users of their sim cards (probably for counter terrorism reasons, it is standard in many countries, nothing untoward about that) and they failed to do so. Hence they got a fine, I believe X amount of USD for each of their millions of pay-as-you-go unregistered users. They did not, as far as we can see, cancel the sim cards either but they did keep on collecting the money on them in Nigeria, the large West African State. The fine then came in at 3.9 billion USD in a country where Islamic terrorism is a problem. Look at the kidnapping of the hundreds of girls which no one seems to remember today and the defeats the Nigerian Army (a joke) suffered at the hands of Boko Haram. So they have excellent reasons for getting the mobile sim cards sorted, there cannot be any doubts on why this had to be done, really not. South Africa do the same, by the way, you buy a sim card, you must give proof of address and who you are. In law we will say the merits of the case is beyond doubt.
You should not feel sorry for MTN for being slammed with such a large fine, they can afford it and perhaps learn to be less arrogant when operating in other countries. No one in my circles showed any surprise - it was a matter of time before the large multi nationals are brought by extraordinary large fines to the simple comprehension that laws are expected to be followed in Africa. Yes, even here, as I warned in many books, we do have laws and advanced legal systems and they are functioning despite what you read in the popular press. In a place like South Africa, the Bill of Human Rights are working and much more advanced than anything in the USA. And the lawyers just as good and have more academic training and much more experience, especially in things like murder trials (sadly so). We find a UK barrister, writing a book on his “big murder trial” entirely ridiculous, it is not even newsworthy here (sadly so). The advice to multinationals is to get your compliance in order or suffer the logical consequences. Compliance is a simple principle, really, it means if that law says X, then you comply with X. This registering of sim cards is the shining example of compliance, you are expected to register those users, you do so and you have no problems in life. You fail, for whatever reason and I am sure there are many which the MBAs can come up with, all crap in law, then this happens. And now what? There is a lesson here, in what not to do.
MTN has already acted with desperation. When the Nigerian fine came to light, they suspended their stock market trading, their shares dropped like stones in water. That idiocy did not last long, and it recovered somewhat. They also fired a senior director as the public scape goat and now they are again grasping for straws by appointing Eric Holder as chief negotiator. I have to wonder, as I did in other books before, what someone who is not trained in Africa knows about African legal systems and laws? Zero, zilch and as much as I would be lost in New York, and have the guts to admit it, he probably knows nothing and cannot be expected to know anything. So why is he here? I have a feeling this is not about law actually, this is about bringing in the right face and hope it will works out in the end. An insult to the Nigerians! A business strategy designed to fail, again! I really hope that Mr Holder was not approached because he is black, that would be an insult to every African and it is racist to believe you bring a somewhat famous black man to Africa and we will all now listen closely, OMG! In what century do you live?
Let me be clear, the days that you can bring a man like Holder here and we would cave in, is long gone. In fact, it is disturbing to us and I for one would have reacted with much negativity against him simply because he is not an African but an American who happens to be black and I am now expected to be impressed by his presence? Why would I be? It takes more than a skin colour to be African, it is a birth right, something it seems multinational companies don’t get. Americans, I can also tell you, and I speak from years of experience, are not that highly valued in Africa nor liked. They are called “ATMs” in Nigeria. Yep, so it is - they dispense money and it is a word meant to be spoken with contempt. Nigerians are proud people, abused also. If they or even us, as South Africans, try to travel to the USA, we are subjected to many indignities before a visa is very reluctantly issued, you know we are all terrorists and shysters because we are Nigerian or South African. And yes, with some reason, many abuse the system and stay behind, but the failure of the Whitehouse in not deporting such people, now called “undocumented citizens” is not my problem. I say deport, and deport, and deport as we do, we don’t hesitate. Close your borders to anyone wanting to harm you, as we do. That it is not done, because of misguided human rights crap, is not my problem in life and never will be. All I know is that I could not visit my dying wife because I am African and on some “list” having been “seen with unsavoury people.” (Probably lawyers, they are not polite company, I am sure.) It is an insult I am very unlikely to forget and I feel that any American coming to Africa with a superior attitude, should comprehend, you are not welcome or able to “organise” anything here. There is a hatred against the US (which I do not share) on this continent at ground level which you cannot believe. Bringing in Mr Holder, is an affront to every Nigerian I know and I know many, they tell me this in private. It will not work. South Africans and South African Companies are seen as arrogant and haughty as always will, we are all that. We are the Super Power here and we know it. A group like Boko Haram would have been wiped out years ago if they tried their luck here. We are not weak or humble people.
What MTN should have done was to get their compliance in order in the first place. That is, to abide by the local laws, it is expected from a responsible multinational. Then to have paid the fine, taken the losses, learned something because what is happening now? The falling Rand, thank you Nene-Gate, is weakening so much against the USD that whatever Mr Holder gets done (if anything, LOL) will be nullified when it comes to paying and they will, in the end, pay up (a reduced fee). They cannot win this fight, it is stupid to throw good money after bad and think no one sees the shenanigans. I guarantee you, because I am told by mates, that MTN is now going to be hammered, with all the other multinationals, in every African country until their get their act sorted. Africa is not the Wild West anymore; it is starting to lift its head.
There is a saying in law that the more you talk the more you are paid and it may be true. If you study what an advocate’s robe looks like, you will find a funny piece of cloth at the back, in the old days that was where you, as client / abused one, added the money and unless the learned fellow felt the weight of the gold coins, he would stop talking. If he believed, and he always did, that it was not heavily enough loaded, he had a cord (also on the robe today) to pull hard on it, like a church bell, so the coins could be clinking away, making you understand, he is fast running out of words. Anyway, that is the folk lore on advocate (barrister in the UK, same animal) robes. I would have added stones and still get better service as we saw with the recent MNET fiasco & Gareth Cliff, I am sure you followed it with great glee.
I cannot say I am a fan of Mr Cliff, I never listened to his radio commentary and I will not watch rubbish like Idols either, if I want to see people humiliated I will walk to the nearest “job agency” and quietly observe the desperate unemployed waiting for a chance to explain to a snotkoppie (Afrikaans, loathsome youngster) why he or she should be appointed as a salary slave somewhere. That is real humiliation. However, I am glad that common sense is actually still alive and well in the courts even if not in the law offices and board rooms of this country. That case should never have gone to the courts, as with the banner add, you will recall, when Cell C saw their asses so badly in court last year, this could have and should have been dealt with differently. But you often find big companies acting like hooligans because they can, throwing money (their lawyers cost a lot, unnecessarily so) in the hope that the man taking them on, will run away and settle. No one, unless rich or extremely angry, can afford a lawyer and no lawyer wants a poor client either. It is a well-known legal tactic to create expensive legal fees and a disgusting one making the playing field very one sided – you can read about it and other scams in my book “Tricks of Trade – Memories of a Rogue Lawyer” if bored enough. This is by the way, what I wish to talk about today is how to annoy a professional man with time constraints.
Last week I decided to help some people and God knows, learn this lesson in life, whenever you try to help for free, you are always abused. Don’t even bother, I saw this with my books also, you write a book, you give it away free in the earnest desire to help those who cannot afford legal fees, and they say “ah, it is free, it must be crap, no, we will not read it, we will rather suffer!” There are certain things in life which is complicated, law is one of them despite that I say it is not rocket science either, once you get the basics (that will take 5 to 6 years of study) and another few years of listening to lies and whiners (law practise to you), you will be able to say with fair amount of accuracy what the problem is and how to solve it theoretically. And to explain to the client what needs to be done, he has to get it since he is incurring costs, may take some time. This is a requirement, actually, that he gets what you say (most lawyers don’t bother, they gave up explaining the same thing long time ago). Anyone will comprehend this principle in life and yes, lawyers are like authors, boring people unless they talk about something they actually know something about. Then you have to say to them, eh, you have an hour or whatever was agreed.
I agreed and arranged to see these people for an hour and waved my fee, because I am willing to help. And I have helped before, in 2013 I published a short article, about 70 pages, on home security, it saved many lives since then and I get emails from across the world, thanking me. From this I developed a free hour long presentation, to show how the uniquely effective system works, and how to save your family because I can tell you, an alarm and armed response is not, repeat not, effective. So imagine my surprise when I said to the fellows, “welcome and note, this will take an hour, do you wish to have some coffee” and the reply came back “If you cannot explain in ten minutes, you don’t know what you are talking about!”
I am sure I can explain to you how sex works in ten minutes, hell, like most men I would be able to demonstrate too, I am sure (I won’t, just being silly to calm down – regrettably I am also sure many women are now nodding in agreement). I can tell you about the weather outside in ten minutes but I cannot explain a security system designed to take one hour in a presentation in ten minutes to you. Ordinarily, that is the time when I smile and shake hands and ask them to piss off. Listen to me, I speak from experience, if you wish to anger a professional man, tell him he has ten minutes when you agreed to 60 minutes beforehand. Needless to say, I doubt very much if I will hear from these people again and if they die because of the knowledge not gained, so be it, see the worry in my eyes. And that is the lesson in life which every criminal learns in court, his legal representative always goes home to the missus after trial, he may go and sleep with Buba. It is too funny for words. Ten minutes may cost you your life and you don’t even get it?
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.