Sabc Beware

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

SABC - BEWARE

Date: 27th March 2013

SABC – BEWARE

South African Broadcasting Commission – Television Licence – Harrassment and Hounding.

I was fortunate enough to have a little flat in Cape Town and went there for the winter months for 7 happy years. In 2010, friends of a friend asked to buy the flat and as I needed the money in my Pension fund here in the UK, I reluctantly sold up. Some of the furniture stayed in the flat, many clothes, books etc. and my Television were given to the Hospice Shop. I had paid for my TV licence in January 2010 as I always did when I returned to my little bolthole. I left Cape Town in April 2010 and have not been back since then.  I paid up all my bills, electricity, rates etc. and as the TV licence was paid up till January 2011, I thought no more about it.  At no time was I ever made aware that, if/when one ceased to own a TV one had to get a document stamped by a Commissioner for Oaths (nice little earner as they say).  In fact the slip I received from Kennilworth Post Office was like the slips one gets from a supermarket when you pay for your shopping.  Had I known this, although I think it is over the top, I would have complied.  None of my South African friends alerted me.  To be fair to them I don't think they are aware of the complications and ramifications.

In 2011 I received a demand to pay my licence fee. I phoned SA spoke with several different people (being passed from pillar to post) and at their request send by registered post copy of my Exit stamp and a form telling them that I'd given the Television to the Hospice Shop and had no idea who owned it.

Although I received no acknowledgement I assumed it was all sorted.

In 2012 I received another demand but ignored it thinking it was due to an administrative error.

In February this year - yet another demand. On responding I was again asked for a copy of my Exit stamp from 2010 and also to fill in a form as to the whereabouts of the Television - I sent, by email, again copy of my exit stamp and the form filled in but not witnessed by a Commissioner for Oaths - why should I pay £80 or thereabouts to get a document witnessed when I am not at fault. Again I received no acknowledgement of receipt of same.

This was shortly followed by a notification from a Debtors Agency demanding payment of 3 years licence fee. I explained at length that I am no longer there - etc. They seem incapable of understanding English and I received another lengthy letter telling me that ignorance of the law is no defence. The sum is not large but it is the principal of the matter. I will now have a bad mark against me and even if I were to pay it to get them off my back there is no guarantee that I wouldn't get another demand next year.

I sent all the correspondence to the SA High Commission in London - by Registered post but have not received any acknowledgement yet.

Today I attempted to phone the Debt Agency. On my first attempt I got a Call Centre and sadly, because of his heavy accent, I could not understand or make myself understood by the man on the other end. I then asked for the number of their Complaints Officer and on phoning that number got an answer machine.  (3rd April - Of course no one has got back to me)

Two points I’d like to make apart from the fact that if anyone owes any money the SABC owe me for 7 months of unused licence fee. Firstly, if I hadn’t used a UK email address, these people would not be able to harass me. I would have disappeared into the Ether. Secondly I now know what it must feel like when Agencies and various other institutions harass old people. I feel bad enough and have worked myself into a state – even to the point of sleeping badly because I can see no way to bring this business to a satisfactory conclusion other than to engage a lawyer.

The sum they are demanding is not large – but it is the Principal of the matter. I have never owed a penny in my life and have an excellent Credit Record. I do not want a black mark against my name. And even if I were to pay the money to ‘get them off my back’ I have no guarantee that the same harassment would not be perpetrated on me again next year.

I have just phoned a friend in Cape Town and she tells me that on the Radio there are regularly complaints about this kind of harassment. She also told me the TV had been scrapped – apparently it was too old and useless to anyone.

I have a friend in the UK who was harassed constantly by the TV Licence people here who finally served him with a summons. The property at which the TV was supposed to reside, didn’t even have a TV. What is it about these agencies? Frankly, I believe there is far too much reliance on computers and not enough person to person communication.

I felt bad about contacting the South African High Commissioner about what in the great scheme of things is a relatively unimportant matter, but to me it is important, as is my good name.

Watch this space!

Addendum - I have just been in contact with an absolutely charming man at the South African High Commission with a voice to die for.   Apparently in South Africa your television is attached to you like an appendage and should you scrap it, give it, or sell it, you have to sign a declaration before a Commissioner for Oaths. (It is rather like our Vehicle Licence whereby you have to fill in a form if you change ownership or scrap it - but at least our Governement provide the form and don't ask you to pay to get it stamped by a Commissioner for Oaths!)  The High Commission will do this gratis and as a matter of principal I shall take the train to London to get this done officially - purely to ensure that there are no more nasty consequences.  This part of SA law was never explained to me and it is still a mystery why I was not asked to sign and have witnessed an official document when the SABC first started chasing me in 2011.  I was only asked for copy of my Passport Exit stamp and verbally asked what had happened to the Television.  Quite frankly, in my humble opinion, this is bureaucracy gone mad.  However it is happening everywhere - jobsworths with big rubber stamps doing very little constructive work.

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.