Three cheers for a consumer superhero
I’ve been so thrilled by the feedback I’ve received in response to last week’s column on Simon Mathale of Mamelodi, who has taken it upon himself to visit the shops in his area in order to check the date stamps on their food products.
His passion for ensuring that his community doesn’t pay good money for dusty goods way beyond their prime began late last year when he discovered that his mother routinely bought “expired” products from shops in her area in Limpopo.
Mathale, a self-employed business consultant, gains nothing material from his food-monitoring project, travelling to the shops by taxi in his spare time.
Some shop owners don’t take kindly to being told by Mathale that their goods are “expired”, or to being advised on better stock rotation, but many have taken his intervention to heart and cleaned up their act.
Many readers wrote to say how his story had touched and inspired them, some with heart-warming offers.
“Through our coaching and mentoring programme, we can help him in the process of setting up monitoring systems, get accreditation and, where appropriate, galvanise additional resources,” wrote Meshack Khosa. “Our support will be pro bono.”
Rowland Cunningham, who has been in the retail industry for more than 20 years and is setting up a company which does retail audits, said he wanted to meet Mathale, and Thuso Huma of Soweto said he’d like to get involved in Mathale’s project.
“In Soweto we have hundreds of spaza shops that don’t even allow customers entry, forcing them to buy from the burglar-guarded window. These spaza shops look filthy from the outside. This has been a concern for me. Products such as bread are sold after their shelf-life dates (expired), which is disturbing.
“Please assist me in getting hold of this extraordinary young man, so we can unite and make it bigger.”
And then, came an offer from three top dieticians for Mathale to be trained on the food-labelling regulations which came into force last March.
Jane Badham, Nigel Sunley and Moira Byer have for many years advised the food industry on regulatory compliance and food law issues.
“Although we all run our own businesses,” Badham said, “we work very closely together and, since the publication of the new regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs, we’ve been running courses on the regulations for individual companies as well as interested parties such as advertising agencies.
“The course is very user-friendly and takes them through the law using examples to show how it should be applied, or contraventions. We would love to spend a morning with Simon at our offices in Johannesburg, and take him through the regulations free of charge.
“There is so much more to monitor than just expiry dates. This would empower him with more information and answer any other questions that he might have.”
They’ll also pay for Mathale’s taxi fare and take him for lunch afterwards.
“We believe that it is only through consumers speaking up that the new regulations will be enforced, and Simon is a shining example of a caring consumer who is prepared to stand up and speak out,” she said.
I’ve forwarded all the e-mails to Mathale, and he’s blown away, as am I.
Thanks to all those who responded, and I look forward to reporting back on the progress of Mathale’s project in the coming months.