Attorney Michael de Broglio on: South Africa, Law, Politics, Attorneys, Sport, Photography, Technology, Gadgets, Media, Crime, Road Accidents Fund,
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The recent arrest of Paul O’Sullivan was allegedly on the basis of travelling on the wrong passport. I am sure there is a lot more to the story, although he does not have the most flawless reputation, given that he recently fell for a scam about the SAA Board chairwoman, Dudu Myeni. Apparently, he also refuses to talk to a number of newspapers saying that they are writing false reports about him. In any event, the blog is not about his arrest, but just that there are many people in South Africa who have foreign passports, typically those with British links, who use those passports from time to time so that they can travel to other countries without visas.
Nothing really tends to happen to them, as I understand it, but the South African Citizenship Act of 1995 does provide that this is an offense. If you are a South African citizen you are not allowed to enter or depart South Africa on a foreign passport and if you do you are guilty of an offense and the sentence will either be a fine or 12 months imprisonment. It is a reminder to frequent travellers that it is not merely a question of travelling on whatever passport is most convenient to you – if you are a South African citizen, as long as you remain a South African citizen, you are obliged to travel on our passport.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 26-May-16
I have read recently about the looming problems that are coming when it comes to the number of pilots. There are already airlines in the USA which are having to give up flights or stop flights at certain times, due to a lack of pilots and there are a considerable number of pilots due to retire by 2022. Apparently, flight schools have very few people showing interest and there are a number of problems. Once you reached 1,500 hours of commercial flying you can become a commercial airline pilot earning approximately $139,000 a year, but that is the problem. Apparently, getting those 1,500 hours requires an investment firstly of close to $100,000 and becoming a pilot and the 1,500 hours of flying involve late nights, unpopular routes and unpopular tasks – such as flying corpses, etc.
The airline industry is growing at a rate of about 5% a year in mature economies and in those like China, even faster and more and more people are flying more often than they did before. Somewhere along the line, which is a little bit dangerous, they will probably have to reduce the number of hours’ flying experience that you have before you can become a pilot for a commercial airliner, then they have to try and encourage some of the pilots to keep working past retirement and somehow encourage more people into the industry. Of course, the market will normally solve this problem – to a certain extent in a few years’ time pilots will hold all the aces and their salaries will go through the roof. I guess there is a small catch to that and that is if people, in the not too distant future, are keen to save a bit of money and fly in a computerised plane with no pilot at all! To a large extent I understand the job of a pilot now on these modern airlines to be punching a lot of buttons so maybe some people won’t mind if they are flown remotely a bit like drones. I’d personally prefer to pay extra and have a human oversee it all though!
It is a problem that will affect everybody in the world, because obviously it will be fairly easy for countries with a powerful currency to lure away pilots from South African airlines like SAA and other smaller country airlines. The reality is that around the world this is going to become a growing problem, and it does mean that the salaries of pilots in coming years are going to increase far ahead of most occupations on a percentage basis. Sadly, I don’t think you can make the argument that the world has too few lawyers, but I do think that being a pilot is going to be a career option which more and more people will start talking about in 4 or 5 years’ time and perhaps later in countries that are slow to react to the looming shortage that will leave many planes around the world grounded.
The breakthrough I am waiting for with cell phones
People always talk about the latest features on cell phones, but it seems that one thing does not keep up with those features and that is battery life. The more features they add, the faster the battery drains.
The way to judge how well your battery lasts is not to consider how it does at a day when you sit at home or at the office. Go out there and be a mobile warrior – rely on your phone for a whole day to try and do your e-mails, make your phone calls, research things, etc. If you use your phone in that way and you have a feature rich phone with lots of applications, you have basically little chance of getting past 2pm without your battery dying on you. I would really like to see the next advance in cell phones to be that you can use your phone, use your e-mail, use your maps and use everything for a full 12 hours. I am not asking for 24 hours, but even if they cannot get to 12 hours, if they could at least make a phone last a working day on a full battery from 8.30am to surviving until 5pm. I understand that they can if you just make phone calls, but in this day and age it is not enough and they need to take phone batteries to a new level.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 19-May-16
I recently bought a book with the above title by Amy McCready and I am really looking forward to reading it. It is really to do with children today, but it is something that has been going on for about a generation or so now with the result that many of the young people entering the work force and many of those graduating from University now have been brought up, but not always, differently to previous generations. Their parents have not hesitated to try and do whatever they can for them at every single instance and are very much more entitled than previous generations.
In other words, they think they are entitled to everything, they should not have to work for it, but if they don’t have it, it is because mom or dad has not done well enough in life and that mom and dad should give it to them anyway. It is a recipe for disaster in the real world and it is going to be very interesting to see what happens to the me, me, me generation when they start culminating politics in the world in 20 or 30 years’ time. You can see part of the problem at schools – every child wins an award – at my daughter’s school where she at least won an award for English, there were awards for most improved behaviour, biggest smile, most friendly person, happiest child, sweetest person, etc, etc. I know some people are happy that their children have received that little acknowledgement, but they are forgetting that it is meaningless in a world where every single child is given an award – and even the children feel that way themselves – the intelligent ones anyway – as with my daughter, when we praised her on her award saying, “It is nothing special – they gave everyone in the class an award”. It does not mean that a parent should not try to give their children as many advantages as they can in life, but children also need to learn that they have to do some things they don’t want to, and that they cannot have anything that they see and would like. Parents cannot run around, all day and all night, just trying to make their child happy while giving them more and more.
The book quotes a Dr Seltzer who says that over-entitled people miss out on some of the best that life has to offer. Because they are not use to persevering through multiple frustrations, they will not know the pride that you get when you achieve a hard won goal. They expect raises and other awards simply because they want them and not because they have earned them and as a result they set themselves up for frequent disappointment. The book says, “And when all of these combine, we have created a person who will have trouble holding down a steady job, cultivating long-term relationships and completing any task worth completing. Because over-entitled people feel as though the world owes them the best it has to offer, they will completely miss out on just that.” Remember that the next time you see somebody over-indulging a brat, it leads to precisely those types of adults who march out of a firm in a fit when they have to face a disciplinary enquiry which they totally brought on themselves and up and go from one job to the next. They never had adversity as a child, they never had any challenges and they are used to getting their own way without doing anything. They cannot understand why, now that they are in the workforce and still doing nothing special, people are not showering gifts on them, promotions and raises and they will always blame the environment – the company is poorly run, the other staff members are terrible, the weather is bad, etc, etc. I think that this is less of a problem in South Africa than it is in many other countries, but I have still seen evidence of it being a growing trend, particularly in some of the young 20 somethings that I have employed in recent years.
I recently had my staff analyse some of our staff statistics. It turned out that for 2015 we had a 9% turnover. Essentially what that would mean, if you want to see all new faces at the firm, is that you probably have to wait approximately 11 years! Our median employee has been with us over 2 years. I use a median figure quite often, even with silly things like a spreadsheet I keep of my weight for about 10 years now. An average sometimes can be misleading, although I can say that my average weight and my median weight are pretty much the same. I think everyone is familiar with the concept of an average - if there are 5 numbers you add them together, you divide by 5 and you get your average. An average can be misleading sometimes, because it means that you are affected by a very low figure as well as by a very high figure. Sometimes a median would give you a different result because what the median is in that 5 number scenario is the value of the number in the middle – number 3. So it is not the average but the middle figure, or person in this case, in this example who has been at the firm longer than half the staff and shorter than half the other staff.
That being said, I was stunned to see that at Amazon that median employer is there for a little bit less than a year and then Google for one year. I would have thought, because we always hear about the share options, but that probably only goes to the top employees who have been there for 10 or 15 years, that it would have been 5, 6 or 7 years. I cannot imagine for two such major successful firms that their staff turnover would be so high. I was quite happy with our 9% turnover rate – in other words, during the calendar year 2015, 9% of the staff members who were with us at the beginning of the year were no longer with us at the end of the year. I think from my recollection my time at the Law Society, where we have similar figures, that that figure was about 10% to 15%, but it would not be unheard of, particularly in the call centre industry or other industries for that to be much closer to 30% if not higher. In short, we have a relatively low turnover and that is good for a business, not only in terms of what it says about the happiness of your staff but also in terms of the cost of having to retrain people on the procedures as well as the company culture.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 12-May-16
I have been inspired over the years by the writings of a marketing guru, Seth Godin. He is highly sought after as a speaker, very seldom gives speeches and is the author of 17 books. Many people have the approach that the customer is king and Seth says that that is true except for difficult clients. He says that successful organisations fire the 1% of the problem people that cause 95% of the pain. He does say that we should try and avoid dealing with those people in the first place and find some or other polite way to decline taking on their work, but although the column I am going to refer you to is headed “The customer is always right”, he goes on to make it clear that if they are not right then they should not be your customer! You can read the blog entry here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/04/the_customer_is.html.
In another blog article he says that businesses get to choose their clients, and not the other way around. He says you choose them with your pricing, your content, your promotion, your outreach and your product line. He says that when you choose your clients you should consider a number of factors including how demanding that client is. He finishes his blog by saying, “It is not a matter of who can benefit from what you sell. It is about choosing the customers you’d like to have.” I learnt many years ago that there are some people that you simply cannot satisfy, whether they cause trouble from the point of view of trying to barter or negotiate your fees, which is something I refuse to do, or they are just genuinely miserable, or they complain to everybody about everything and prevent you from spending as much time on the 99% of clients who have decent cases and are completely honest, reasonable and polite. I have never been so desperate for business that I have been prepared to put up with dishonesty, abuse or absolutely impossible people and I have generally referred those types of clients to my competitors. I think some smaller businesses and competitors with much less experience often make the mistake, in a desperate quest to earn a little bit more money, of ignoring this very sensible advice.
The former CEO of Vodacom has claimed, in a book, and in Court, that he came up with the “Please call Me” mobile phone text concept in South Africa. He is currently a director of Murray and Roberts.
The Constitutional Court recently endorsed a decision that effectively found the former CEO lied when he made this claim and found in favour of Nkosana Makate. He has had to endure a 16 year battle to finally win and the conduct of Vodacom was described by the Court like this “In not compensating the applicant [Makate]… Vodacom associated itself with the dishonourable conduct of its former CEO, Mr Knott-Craig and his colleague, Mr Geissler. This leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is not the kind of conduct to be expected from an ethical corporate entity.”
It’s a reminder again that for money, some people will tell lies, others will claim credit and fame for things they have had nothing to do with and companies will use their financial clout and lawyers to stop paying someone their dues. Vodacom have been humiliated, Alan Knott-Craig found to be a liar and one wonders whether Murray & Roberts really need a man, so described by the top Court in South Africa, on their board?
On the plus side Nokosana Makate fought the whole way and is soon to become, if not a billionaire, a multi-millionaire.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 05-May-16
I have noticed in the last year or two that there are a lot more people who go to gym in a decidedly anti-social way. They are fully equipped with headphones or other audio devices and in some cases spend their time dancing around gym! It is quite interesting to see the division between those using the latest headphones that are popular, namely the Beats versus the more in-ear type of headphones which are less visible such as the Jaybirds. The Beats headphones by Dr Dre seem to be extremely popular and certainly for me, although they are hotter to wear over your ears, easier. The Jaybird invariably tends to fall out of my ears. I know many people can run, ride and jump off mountains wearing them, but I really struggle and it does not matter how much I change the ear fins, or the ear tips, whether it is silicon or foam, they still work some days for me and fall out other days!
What I also do enjoy about them is that I find it so much easier to get some of my lengthier cell phone conversations with staff for advocates completed, particularly while training. I think sometimes I talk a little bit too much, but when I am on a treadmill or climbing stairs, I seem to have much less breath and far more time to be a good, patient listener. When I have the headphones on I also don’t have any distractions of the outside world, and can listen far more carefully to someone. If I am not having calls, while I understand that most people while listening to music I invariably listen to radio, catching up on news shows and business news. Of course, when all else fails and the devices need to be recharged, the simple corded ear device that comes with most phones is all that you need.
I am someone who is known by banks as a “freeloader”. That is somebody who has a credit card who pays off the full balance each month before they have to pay any interest. Banks don’t enjoy that because then they don’t get the chance to make much money off you. I don’t believe, as I am sure some people will reply to this blog article, in not having credit facilities at all. If you don’t have credit facilities at all you cannot build a credit record and be given credit when you need it.
I do like however what I have seen on bank statements in some overseas countries and that is how they are obligated to give you information on your statement as to how much interest you will pay if you only ever pay off the minimum amount. So, for example, on an account of R3 321,06 you would get a warning that if you only pay the minimum amount on that account each month, with interest continually being added to it, it would take an unbelievable 16 years to pay it off and you would pay R8 308,00 in total over 16 years. If you paid R119,00 a month it would take you three years to pay off R3 321,06 and you pay interest of R4 296,00. I would like to see those types of warnings on credit card statements and revolving credit in South Africa because it will bring home to people the reality of what happens to you if you don’t use the card wisely. Exact amounts and time frames on an account will spell out the true costs of unpaid credit.
Wise use of credit is paying off the entire balance each month or if you cannot afford it, at least paying more than the minimum payment. As you can see, if you only ever pay the minimum payment, even on a small balance, it will take you 16 years to pay it off! I honestly think that legislation like that in South Africa would be of far more benefit to the average man in the street than the CCMA legislation and it would create far bigger savings for the public at large, in a country which already does not have a very good savings record.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 28-Apr-16
When I go through clients’ files it always leaves me with a sense of horror of driving on the roads in South Africa. So many of my clients have had accidents in the most bizarre circumstances. Driving along a road and another car, travelling in the opposite direction, separated by then from an island takes off, goes through the air upside down, crashes into their car before killing everyone in the car, but for my client.
Another example is clients who are driving along a road where a trailer disconnects from a vehicle and suddenly comes veering towards them. Hearing all these stories ends up making one very nervous when driving on the roads in South Africa and as I say in my one TV advert, we all focus too much on crime when you have just as much of a chance of dying in a motor accident in South Africa as you do from crime. In fact, depending on the area where you live, you probably have a higher chance of dying from a motor accident, given that there are a higher number of deaths from crimes happening in townships, so if you are not living in a township dying in a motor accident is probably your biggest risk other the diseases of older age- heat disease, cancer etc.
It also reminds me of the situation my family and I have been in. My wife told me how my niece delayed her at gym just outside Broadacres and when she was running behind time, a trailer disconnected from a vehicle and had been spinning around. She always wonders what would have happened to her if my niece had not been delaying her in gym. There are so many near escapes – my own brother who was in an accident where some of the passengers sitting alongside him were put in homes for the rest of their lives due to the catastrophic brain damage they suffered. As a young University student I was a passenger in a vehicle on Sixth Street, Parkhurst where I think the driver must have skidded the car for 50 metres as he went round an intersection with 4th Avenue and probably drove through a red robot as well, but I cannot remember now. As you get older and depending on how much you went out when you were young, there are so many situations and scenarios that you can think back on which might well have ended very differently and tragically. Sometimes it is your friends – or my brother David’s friend that drove off with his car, drove through a wall and was also been institutionalised for the rest of his life.
Game of Thrones fans will be excited to see that the 6th season begins this Sunday, 24 April. It is going to consist of 10 episodes and who knows what shocks are in store this time. Probably one of the biggest shocks is to know that, although this is subject to change, they claim they only have about 13 episodes left, 7 of which will be produced and shown in 2017 and 6 in 2018.
HBO will no doubt try and put pressure on the writers and producers to keep, what is an incredibly successful show, going. It is without doubt their number one product and to quote Wikipedia, “It has received widespread acclaim by critics, particularly for its acting, complex characters, story, scope, and production values, although its frequent use of nudity, violence and sexual violence has attracted criticism.” The trailers certainly hint more violence, and one never knows whether the characters one has seen being killed off are indeed finished or set to return in this season or later. It is amazing to see, even on YouTube that not only have the trailers been watched millions of times, but that there are a variety of videos that even analyse the trailers and what people believe this means the show has in store. I cannot say that I am that devoted, but the show certainly is worthy of the 26 Emmy awards it has already won.
I don’t think that there is any one trait that defines whether one is successful or not, but there are certainly things that I look at, because I know that they worked for me. I have always been a keeper of statistics.
For example, when my practice first opened I used to keep statistics every week as to how much post I received. I used to average about 35 items of post a week and by that I mean all incoming correspondence, so it would be almost impossible to track now because you would have to include e-mails to all staff. It does give one a good sense though as to how one’s business is growing. I now use a sophisticated computer system in our offices which we refer to as E-file to track a lot of statistics for me, but I also have staff members who keep statistics for me such as what the absentee rate is at our firm, staff turnover and the like. Statistics have always interested me and while that can certainly be designed and interpreted to often twist reality, I find it very useful. I love to see which of my staff members keep statistics and which do not and we even keep statistics on the advocates that we use – such as what their average settlement rate is and how much the average case they handle is settled for. Overseas, for example, in the UK, there is a lot of attention given to those statistics when it comes to doctors. That obviously helps, for those who like to do research, to discover which doctor has had the lowest death rate from a certain procedure – so one must not just dismiss statistics, despite the fact that used incorrectly they can be manipulated.
Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!