Myrle Vanderstraeten joined Gleason Publications in October 1998. Assistant editor to David Gleason on without prejudice from October 2001 until March 2011, Myrle took over the reins as editor in April 2011.
Passionate about the publication, she has revelled in the challenges to maintain the magazine’s reputation as “a rare source of valuable information” and views the entry into the digital world as an exciting step that will expand without prejudice’s footprint into other jurisdictions.
It is strange that, as is frequently commented, gloom and doom sells. Perhaps in South Africa we are so tired of endless litanies of tales of the darker side to people that news of positive events are what we crave. In this issue we carry an article by Douglas Ainslie on the "silicosis class action". Not only was this the first class action settlement of its kind in South Africa, but it also represents a commitment on the part of all parties to reach an agreement that was fair to all in a particularly complex matter. Suspensive conditions are still to be signed and the matter has not been finalised, but it is hoped that the ongoing work involved, including finding techniques to improve underground dust and the consequential health risks, will be tackled with the same dedication.
May has been an interesting month – the first 100 days in the hot seat for President Ramaphosa, S&P Global Ratings affirmed South Africa's sub-investment grade credit rating but kept its stable outlook, and decidedly less positive – the release of the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking and the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index 2017-2018.
Getting the April issue of without prejudice "to bed" remains a challenge. The Easter weekend is a little like the Christmas break and deadlines seem to have less impact than in other months. I apologise for this issue arriving late but I hope you will enjoy reading the content and will also find it useful.
The headlines of South Africa's newspapers emphasise why the mood in the country is so gloomy. Those who respond by saying everyone should look to the positive rather than concentrating on the negative are, of course, right; but until such time as those who are in positions of leadership are demonstrably ethical, the permeable feeling of pushing against an overwhelming tide will remain.
In a break from tradition, without prejudice features the Top Students of 2016 in this May issue instead of April. The #Feesmustfall movement last year, the consequent disruption of both classes and exams meant that the universities were unable to guarantee being able to let me know the names of their top students in time to contact them and for the graduates to respond.
If one were to judge the country by newspaper headlines over the past month it would be for the three Cs – Crime, Corruption and Cowardice. I think that another C can now be added – Conniving. As we were about to go to print news broke of President Zuma's cabinet reshuffle, by 7h00 the rand has dropped 5% in value. Yet again "cry the beloved country".
March is the without prejudice edition in which we traditionally carry the annual rankings of the legal advisers in M&A and general corporate finance for the previous year. We are delighted with the synergy that exists between the legal award sponsor, JUTA, and sister publication DealMakers under whose banner the DealMakers Gala Awards takes place.
According to the Chinese, 2017 is the year of the Rooster. Unfortunately, according to those who predict what is on the menu, while there may be positives to the year of the Rooster, it will also provide "conflicts, controversy and plenty of debate". Does that sound a little like "same old, same old" to South Africans?
Well, here we are at the end of 2016. It has been an interesting year punctuated by surprise political change globally. In Britain, the High Court ruled that parliamentary approval and a vote from the MPs is required in order for Article 50 to be triggered. Lord Chief Justice Thomas ruled that the government's arguments are "contrary to fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament".
There are a few things that have taken place in the past month that will probably stay indelibly printed on my mind. The first is the ongoing student protests. This issue will no doubt be added to some social event conversation lists in the "do not" column – "Do not discuss politics, religion or student protests".
without prejudice turns 15
October marks the 15th anniversary of the first issue of without prejudice. A comment by Dr Christel Marshall of Spoor & Fisher made me realise that many attorneys will have no idea how many years the magazine has been published or, for that matter, anything about its provenance. It was also her observation that lawyers would find this interesting, that has resulted in this potted history of without prejudice.
This month's feature on Business Rescue is interesting and could prove particularly valuable to many people in this uncertain economic climate. I am always very grateful to the many practitioners who find time to write articles that will benefit others considerably. It is no mean feat for the attorneys, their support staff and my contacts to provide these articles. Work hours are long and full and there is seldom time left over for articles. I do recognise the encroachment into private time, without prejudice and the magazine's readers are ultimately the winners.
June has been a month of unusual events.
It was going to be close but I doubt many people thought Britain would vote to leave the EU. Close to home, in response to my question what the view was at a large international corporate in London, my daughter answered – "shock and disbelief". Not everyone feels it's doom and gloom, and friends whose opinion I value, who are astute and successful, believe it is the right move.
The last of the Top Student features for 2016 appears in this issue of without prejudice. Many of them have in common with the Class of 2006 the desire to set off on the road less travelled by LLB graduates. What they do not have in common is jobs abroad – perhaps a sign of the global economy.
This month, I was personally challenged with the very topical issue of where one draws the line between expressing a genuinely held opinion and offending people. without prejudice received an interesting and well written article for inclusion in this issue of the magazine.
It was inevitable that the Public Protector's powers would be tested before the Constitutional Court – though few could quite imagine the ensuing crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Demands for the President's resignation have been multitudinous, and an impeachment process played out unsuccessfully in parliament.
Is without prejudice goes to print we are a world at war. One quite as deadly, but much more silent and insidious than the First and Second World Wars. The perpetrators sit in safety while others carry-out their dreadful plans, aimed at inflicting misery on innocents. It has been said that this is something the world must get used to.
This month we include not only the Awards made to legal advisers in both M&A and general corporate finance on 16 February at the annual DealMakers Gala Awards by sister publication DealMakers, but also a feature on the topic of Mergers and Acquisitions. The aspects covered are just a few of those essential to a successful deal.
The year ahead is likely to be challenging but there are already a couple of interesting events to chew over, including the anticipated departure of Barclays from ABSA and Bidvest's plan to bring its Foodservice business onto the JSE.
Efficient productivity, a strong currency (and no, not so strong that exports suffer), a lack of corruption, enthusiastic foreign investment, a confident business sentiment and sensible planning all mean increased job creation and low crime levels. Do we have this – no.
August 10 in South Africa is National Women's Day. It is wonderful to have a day dedicated to the celebration of role of women in society: celebrating what we have achieved globally regardless of diverse cultures or religious background and acknowledging what many women have endured and continue to endure. We are very grateful to the many brave women who, frequently against great odds, have stood-up for equality, universal suffrage and a better life for all women, particularly those who still, in this 21st century, continue to be considered "lesser beings".
There was a time when I was suddenly really proud to be South African. I remember the queue in which we gladly stood for the referendum that sounded a resounding "yes" to change. I remember the defining moment when Nelson Mandela took office as the first president of a democratic South Africa. The queues that snaked round the suburbs for the first election.
Each year without prejudice carries three Top Student features: those who graduated the previous year, five year's on and 10 year's on, although not in that order. This year NWU Potchefstroom is included and so the reach of the magazine grows. We were disappointed not to be able to accommodate UNISA which expressed an interest in being included but the audit of their results takes place at the end of March and so precluded those top students from participating in the feature.
The DealMakers Gala Awards is a must-attend event for the M&A and general corporate finance industry. The date is diarised 12 months in advance and the competition is fierce in a very tough environment. Deals are hard fought, the work is complex, the hours are long and those working on the deals need to have a special "something" in order to see what others may not, to be innovative while being meticulous and to be able to persuade all the parties that the vision is worth striving for. Lawyers are very much a part of this "sexy" industry.