Whistleblowers

The first time I heard about the term ‘whistleblower’ was the case of Wendy Orr, the medical doctor who as an examiner of political prisoners during the most repressive years of Apartheid, blew the whistle on torture by police. She did not have an easy time of it afterwards, but her integrity carried her forward to being one of the TRC commissioners during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.

I recently wrote about Bradley Manning who exposed atrocities being committed in Iraq by his superiors and his peers. Far from being lauded for it, he’s been treated like a political prisoner ever since, by his own people. Latest on him here. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the treatment of Bradley Manning ‘counterproductive, ridiculous and stupid,’ and was fired for his pains. I think this is going to turn very nasty and I do find it odd that Pres. Obama is reassured by the Pentagon’s soothing noises. He doesn’t strike me as being either naive or stupid.

The third whistle-blower I want to mention tonight is Wendy Addison. She exposed the nefarious dealings of the Leisurenet partnership who owned the Health and Raquet gyms all over the country. More on this here.

If you click on that link you will find that after Richard Branson (He Who Can Do No Wrong) had hired her he found out that she’d been a whistleblower ‘at a listed company’, so he summarily fired her, with the result that she ended up begging on the streets of London with a twelve-year old son to support. Nobody wanted to  hire her. Too much integrity there, can’t have that. I guess we all have our dirty little secrets and who knows what she may have exposed. These things can become a little habit-forming, can’t they.

Finally the last word on Peter Gardener and Rod Mitchell, earstwhile joint CEOs who ran Leisurenet into the ground in 2000, and who were eventually found guilty of fraud three years ago totalling R12 000 000, incurring a suspended sentence. I know… I could just say ‘twelve million Ronts’ and how lightly it trips off the tongue but those zeroes tend to bring it home a bit more vividly. When you go bad, go large. It’s like tattoos. Or mass-murderers.*

You have to really mean it. Little crime, you do the time. Big crime, you earn respect. Ask the politicians who enriched themselves via the arms deal which is much, much bigger than this case. That respect makes life so much easier in so many ways. I can’t help thinking of some poor dude in Simonstown a couple of years ago who was jailed for around a year for stealing some rolls of toilet paper. And how, when Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) were chasing some renowned drug lords down a street (in Woodstock here in Cape Town, I believe), and the drug lords dashed into a police station for protection.

What amused me about these two the other day was the fact that for some obscure admin reason (or lack of admin), the Leisurenet Lads are still sitting around a week later after the sentence was passed, literally waiting for the invitation to present themselves at the police station so that they can begin their prison terms of seven years each. Some or other spokesman deplored the fact that standards were dropping, regarding the behaviour of white-collar criminals. They should behave better he thinks, and present themselves at the police station in a reasonable space of time as befits people of their background and standing. It doesn’t appear in Emily Post’s Book of Manners, so these poor – no, let me rephrase that. These wealthy but unfortunate delinquents have to busk it. One can forgive them for not knowing the procedure. After all, it isn’t every day that one is clapped in irons, what! Therefore one can be forgiven for not knowing how to deport oneself. Even if one is having a white collar and a very large crime.

I find this hilarious. These two were accused of this crime ten years or so ago – they’ve been in and out of the courts for ten years and have finally run out of options. Even with all the money they made so naughtily. Just not cricket, is it. But there it is. Justice can be such a hard-nosed little bitch, can’t she.

Perhaps, gentle reader, you detect a note of bitterness here. That could be because some of that disappeared money was my money. Like around R800 worth – I know, a most paltry sum. But one minute I had a gym contract, the next minute I didn’t. That smarted, especially since I was quite the keen gym-bunny back then along with thousands of others who all suffered the same fate. Then the take-over by Virgin Active happened, and on a certain evening I listened for an hour to a chat-show on Cape Talk, to the Virgin Active spokesperson taking calls and explaining to anxious ex-Health and Racquet members that there’d been a takeover, and no, existing contracts did not mean that they were valid with the new regime. New contracts had to be signed, sorry about your money, we feel your burn, but it’s down the toilet, let it go, we’re not the enemy. Some people really took it hard, and feelings got rather heated. Signing up for gym-contracts has always been difficult for me since then. Now I prefer to work my arms with two little dumbbells while I wait for files to save, or the computer to boot up. I can tell how fast my new machine is because I do so few reps now before it’s ready to roar. When the computer winds down, my legs go for walks to stay somewhat functional.

But – I digest. Did the authorities really think that after ten years of fighting tooth and nail to stay out of jail, these guys are going to go there even one minute before they absolutely have to? Why? And why hasn’t anybody arrived at their homes to smack handcuffs on them, place a heavy hand on top of their immaculately styled heads as they get in the back of the police-car and haul their asses off to where they belong? What?- Oh please, of course it’s a police car… you think it’s going to be a police van? Nononono…. I know of another very high-profile dude who got violated in the back of a police van with a deodorant can on the way to or from court and you know… that kind of thing creates quite a stink. No, they’ll get the five-star treatment. No bruising as the van hurtles around corners and the occupants in the back are roundly trounced by a flying spare tyre that just happens to have been left in there. They are as they said, awaiting the invitation to present themselves for imprisonment. You get the idea.

Because they’re a better class of criminal? Seven years for R12m. When they come out they’ll be multi-millionaires still. Just older multi-millionaires. Nothing wrong with that. So you have to wonder -why are any of us obeying the rules or making decisions which land on the side of integrity… morality… the law?

Weigh it up. Whistleblower or fraudster? Which would you rather be, when you compare these track records and outcomes? No, be a lazy thinker like most of the public, don’t go into it too deeply. Just look at the surface of things like someone who is worn down by the complexities of morality with too many mouths to feed, school-fees, car repairs. Too easy… and then we wonder at the crime level here.

*On a lighter note – More on mass-murderers and why they get away with it. Yeah let’s lighten up, hey? Moroseness does nothing for the complexion. And nobody sheds light like Eddie Izzard – a most enlightening being.

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