Do you know your legal rights when shysters masquerading as businessmen lie to you? I am sure you are familiar with the scenario. You receive a text message to tell you that you are due for an eye test (you are indeed) or whatever and guess what, they have wonderful special called (whatever, winter, eye, etc.) and you qualify. There is also a cut-off date to ensure you feel pressurised to accept immediately (your eyes don’t mind a month or two in reality – this is just business as usual). Then you arrive at the eye specialist or whatever, the curse of false advertising is to be found everywhere, and you note two things. Firstly, the front desk staffers have no idea what the specials are and unable to explain to you what you read on the internet or the text you received. In fact, the “special” will not be applicable to you at all. Secondly, the price is never as advertised, it is always more but since you are there now when can you sit down and be abused? They use pretty girls or motherly women they know you will not punch on the nose as you should do and the shyster is hiding in his office.
I do understand the principles of business and what profit is as well as the need for such things. I have been in business for more than twenty years and had my fair share of shysters and others believing I should work for free. You find them everywhere you go, at braais (barbecues), meetings and even in public. You know the type. They ask legal questions expecting a truthful answer but no invoice for the time and knowledge gained over many years of study and experience. I know about many legal men who would deliberately give false advice or others stating with a suitable serious face that “yeah, that is interesting, you are in deep trouble mate, call my secretary and make an appointment Monday!” To be sure the secretary is never called and you are written off as a terrible person serving mammon only – they don’t know the millions you wrote off before they arrived and unless very pretty with a low cut dress, don’t even ask me (just joking). And then you have the reverse, my mom for instance will never accept any legal advice from me unless my elder brother agrees. It is rather funny and I am sure not meant to be insulting to me and in truth, I now refer all questions to him anyway even though in certain areas I am more knowledgeable in my own opinion (obviously, humbleness plays no role in law).
Be that as it may, when I last tested my eyes in 2012 I paid R600 flat rate. Today I was quoted for the same test and not even a frame R1198. That is correct, double the amount in three years and by the way, the special does not apply to me either. I had to laugh rather cynically as I walked away to their opposition. The average inflation rate since 2012 was about 5% according to statistics (which I believe to be false, just note the weak ZAR and fuel price but anyway). Let us double it to 10% just to be fair and you know what, we still are not even close to a 100% increase in price so how is it justified? What the hell? Do they think we are stupid or desperate or both? I also decided my own prices will now double, not that it is needed as I am mostly paid in USD and the weaker the rand the more I make anyway. High prices bring the type of exclusivity (another form of marketing bullsh-t) I like. It is a strange phenomenon in life, the higher the price, the better it is supposed to be. We talk about this in my bankster book, Your Worst Enemy and probably in others also.
We also discuss in that book your legal rights when it comes to false advertising. Traditionally the shysters covered themselves with the following legal argument and backed up in terms & conditions (T&C) no one reads – the font is too small, it is too boring and it is comprehensive crap designed to get you a new pair of reading glasses before your time. The shysters say the advertising is just an invitation to do business, right? And when you arrive and you agree to the price the contract comes into being - a new contract since the invitation is not a contract, no one agreed yet, right? And hence they can get away with murder and since you are here now, just be stupid and let me abuse you. That is how it worked until the relatively new Consumer Act came into law a few years ago. Now the law says if you lie like that you can be held responsible. Does it work like that in practise? Nope, of course not, the law is neutral, you will have to fight for your rights and most don’t. They walk away and the scaly shysters carry on, the racket will not stop by itself.
Now you can make life hard for them by reporting such behaviour on the internet (the consumer council etc.). It will be investigated and white washed most of the time but at least you may feel better. I reported a pizza place once and I was informed I was wrong. They can charge delivery fees even if they say they don’t (the legal reasons why escape me, when I asked for more particulars the emails stopped abruptly). And now I get every Friday a spam text from this very same pizza place about specials they have and still without a delivery charge which they do have. By the grace of God I sometimes see the funny side to it, it is costing them money to text me. I will not buy from them and that my friends are your biggest revenge. Stop buying from such shysters and go to the opposition. You can decide where your money goes to. It is about the only right you control and use it well, it is your money.
Don’t defame them, don’t rage on Facebook and whatever you do, don’t get racial and call them what you know is not correct in these days. Not when in this country or anywhere else for that matter. Just calmly tell all you mates at the next braai how you got done in. That is how you deal with false advertising on the cheap. That is where it hurts them, at the profit margin.
My company, JKLS Africa & Associates deals with worst case scenarios. We are not really interested in much else and flatly refuse to do debt collection. Firstly I am not geared to do so and secondly I dislike it. Rather go to the lads who enjoy that type of thing, I don’t but we are able to structure your company in such a way and tell you what to do not to fall into the debt trap. I even wrote a book I am immensely proud of on what to do when debt collectors come after you and you find out your mates at the local bank is indeed banksters and your contract with them based on sincere and complete distrust. The book is called Your Worst Enemy (a bank) and you can download it for free. Of all my free legal books this is the one I am the most proud off. You will be very surprised how much legal rights you have against the banksters. It is by far not a one way street with them acting as hooligans. Ironically, everything in that book is what a practising attorney would have told you if you had the money to see one. However most people cannot afford a lawyer, you have to be rich or extremely poor.
But we are not talking debt today but risk management which is what I do. I use forensic legal principles to tell you where you stand to get hammered from shysters in suits and shysters with guns. JKLS Africa looks at what to do when the ransom note arrives as happens more and more. Back in 2012 an amount of 500 million US dollars were paid out for ransoms in Africa. This is FBI statistics and even they admit it may be much higher. What most people don’t get unless they read my book on counter terrorism is that all terrorism is a crime and hence a police problem. If a guy gets himself kidnapped, for whatever reason, it varies from money, revenge, blackmail, terrorism and what have you, it is a crime and should be dealt with as a crime. Right? This is logical but now forensic law comes into the fray.
There is also a huge amount of civil law involved. How come you ask? Well, let us look at the scenario. Mr X is an American citizen, he works for Y Oil Company and is captured / snatched / kidnapped in Nigeria (or wherever before my Nigerian colleagues get upset). Now the ransom note is delivered. According to government policy, they don’t negotiate with terrorists. The reason, worldwide, is that if they do so many more citizens will be captured and it will become a bigger mess than usual. This is what is said by them in parrot like fashion all the time and it is political crap like always. They also say, seriously, a terrorist attack has to succeed once and they need to fail only once (the intelligence lads much abused by the media) and so it is. You know what? That is why the NSA (no such agency by God) is wiretapping every phone call in the world. That is why they break the rules and bend the law, because of this utterly stupid idea. It goes back to the 1920s and an Italian general interested in aviation. The saying stated that “the bomber will always get through” and they meant aircraft, bombers, not idiots dying in a flash in a market place. And yet, history will show you despite this, the bombers did get through, Nazi Germany did not break morally and neither did Londoners under the so called “Blitz” or the V1 rocket attacks. It took millions of men and thousands of tanks to break through and get them to surrender. What does this mean from a counter terrorism view? It means at some stage some punk is going to get lucky and get through. Will that be the end of America or London or France or whoever if another 9/11 takes place? Absolutely not and thus my stated view that politicians are placing way too much pressure on the intelligence community with their view of “fail only once.” Wake up, it is going to happen.
So if a government is not negotiating officially (a lie, they do negotiate and they do pay ransom, Italy is well known to do so) what about a company? Are you allowed to negotiate and note JKLS does not negotiate, we train you in what to do and look at the legal aspects which no one else have the knowledge to do. I invented the Forensic Legal system in 1998 whilst trying to protect Mr Mandela’s trademarked face against abuse. The money is supposed to go to the Children’s Fund and I must wonder where the new bank note royalties are going. That is not my problem though, whatever. Nothing prevents a company from negotiating as long as it does not interfere with the police that may see it as a crime. Then there are questions like evidence handling, that ransom note, it is evidence and the best of all, civil suits against you as a company. In law, as I said so many times before, you are presumed to be a caring boss who reduced the risk of injury and death at the work place to the minimum. That means protective gear on a building site, warning signs etc. as you see with the much derided (with reason) SHEQ lads. Now what is the difference in sending a man to Africa knowing he may be in harm’s way and yet, you do nothing to protect or train him to survive? Nor do you have any plans what to do when the worst happens except to call the police (a good idea but not good enough). It is a matter of time before the companies are going to get a wakeup call in the form of millions of dollars in law suits and worse, the bad publicity coming with such things. They cannot even deal with banner ads, how will they deal with such things then?
So I was rather interested yesterday to see President Obama changing the American policy to that of negotiating for the release of their citizens. I noted the immediate frog choir from the Republicans on the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists without giving any other solution.” I have news for you, even President Reagan negotiated, Iran / Contra, we know our history. Being in this world for years now I can tell you, everyone negotiates. Mr Obama was just confirming an open secret. Will it place more people in danger? Probably not more than usual for the Americans also have the military means to do something about it in SEAL Team Six and the Army’s DELTA lads. What does this mean to us? We deal with such things in our course, what to expect when the rescue effort takes place. Do you know when the Israeli Sayaret Matkal is involved, and they will be if there is an Israeli amongst you, they operate completely differently? Do you know the aircraft you are on decides who will rescue you and yes that makes one hell of a difference, I will put my life in the capable hands of the South African Special Forces lads but not in any other African country, but will they be deployed? Nah, don’t think so, so I advise you fly US, UK, France or German airlines. So many tricks of the trade most don’t know, even those copying me these days.
In short, yes I am glad for the news that the governments are taking a more active role and admitting it. Up to now the Embassies failed the hostage and the company he works for every time.
Yesterday I read that Roelf Meyer stated South Africa is not a failed State. He is right, we are not and not even close. I worked in Nigeria for a couple of years and that country too is not a failed State and I have seen genuine failed States. It is a horrible scenario. But I am tempted to say the word “yet” when I look at the excuses being thrown around by the liberals for what happened last week. I believe they suffer from closed eyes and delusions which come with a nice paying job and no idea what the rest are going through.
I also wonder - when you see a train smash coming…if you should then smoke a last cigarette whilst waiting for it because it has not happened yet. Theoretically you are quite safe waiting for the oncoming train. I mean until the time that it actually hits you, you are indeed quite safe. What about that old joke that it is not falling which is the problem when your parachute fails, it is the landing part which is going to hurt. I am sure you get my point. We are not a failed State yet and perhaps we never will be one. I sure pray for that but am sceptical and with reason.
Do you know what is our parachute or the tow vehicle to get us away from the oncoming train? It is the legal system and the Constitution of South Africa. Now back in the early 1990s when we got the new Constitution and the Bill of Human Rights I was a law student. I just left the police after serving honourably for six years – you can read about it in my Mean Streets Series which apparently is considered by many to be as close to the South African Police Force you as a non-member will ever get. That Series, by the way, is not really my autobiography or only about me, I was not that important or even special but it combines many stories from other members and gives a good account of history.
At university we studied tens of thousands of pages of legal doctrines and it came down to two things. (1) Know your client always or almost always lies to you or at least tells his tale to make him look better and (2) do your research and think on your feet, read between the lines and understand what is happening. The rest was just book knowledge which you must have to advise those smart enough to leave the law to people actually interested in it. Such people I am sad to admit is mostly boring in the extreme and we often joke about it in my legal books. I remember my late wife one day earnestly saying to me “she forgives me for studying law and I might be less boring than other lawyers because of my police background.” It was rather endearing. But all jokes aside, what do you do when your parachute fails?
Man, you are in deep trouble (I was tempted to use another word which smells). When falling at terminal velocity you may remember you instructor stating seriously, they have no sense of humour known to mankind, “Now lad, just remember the old virgin position, yes keep your knees together you f twat.” And would you know, some survived by doing this, it is good advice. And when the legal system fails you? As it often does, you only have to listen to the lawyer jokes and tails of horror I am sure you heard about before. Yes the time when you were stupid enough to take his word and not read the contract yourself. Or when you did not ask questions to understand what he was saying (a great way of making money, if people get the law there is no need for lawyers). Or when your marriage fails (it happens more often than not) and you lose half of your possessions if lucky and are sentenced to pay support for life if unlucky. In this case the law did not fail you - you failed yourself by not talking divorce before you got married. And really, you should see the signs (the cross if lucky and the middle finger if not) when you say to an engaged couple you need to talk divorce proceedings before you get married. You can read about that in my book The Circle of Life, it is entertaining.
If you are bored enough to read any of my legal books you will see that I maintain the law is neutral. What this means is it is a piece of paper and of no use to you unless you abuse or use the law to your favour. It cannot help you by just being there, not practically speaking it cannot. Take for instance murder, the law says it is illegal but does that stop murderers? Nope, it does not and this is a very simple explanation as Criminal Law is the most boring of all legal subjects to me. However when you get to Civil Law (something no policeman knows anything about) it get more interesting and when it comes to Human Rights, man then it is absolutely crucial to your survival.
Now I am from a Human Rights Law Firm, probably the most famous one in Africa. I started there as a young attorney at the age of 30 years. It was the last place I saw myself ending at and I left after about two years to try my luck on my own as I started the Forensic Law revolution, see my book, Memories of a Roque Lawyer if interested. When I say to you that what happened last week when the High Court was ignored by the Government and it is the end I mean it. Unless the courts can protect you by being your parachute you are in deep deep trouble. Imagine a failed State where there are no courts, no law and only the barrel of a gun to maintain order. That my friend is what is coming unless the courts get control and respect back. They may be boring people but they are tough and smart and will not take this lying down. There are many fights ahead as I assure you I am not the only one feeling like this and you will see punch ups of note in the coming years. But my question is do you see the train coming? Do you hear the warning whistles and do you see your parachute stringing above you and not deploying. Do you know what to do now?
I have news for people like Roelf Meyer and the rest who sees great things in the Rainbow Nation as if nothing is wrong – there are two groups here in this country of ours. The political and social elite who have a wonderful life in cloud cuckoo land. Keep on dreaming mate, you may wake up or may not, I don’t care. And then there are those who are desperately poor unable to function like normal people. Many hundreds of thousands had lost their jobs and have no way to recover from it. Some say the job losses are millions, the unemployment figures certainly are more than double what happened in the Great Depression. The ones who left are paying taxes to new governments, it is hurting us. I spoke to someone the other day who said to me if those emigrants stayed on we would have had a growing economy in real terms unlike what we have today. So make your excuses, explain your reasons, it is extremely amusing to me and the rest who are not privileged. I am cutting loose and pulling my reserve parachute. I know what happens when you lose your job and income, you wake up to reality.
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 hostage survival training and 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. Koos is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.