South Africa has produced some of the world’s best scientists and innovations, including doctor Chris Barnard who performed the first ever heart transplant, and Sasol’s oil-from-coal refinery.
Unfortunately, South Africa is also known for some dubious products and inventions which end up costing people lots of money.
Here are some of the things which South Africans spent a small fortune on without any sound scientific evidence to prove the products worked.
A few years ago hologram bracelets were all the rage, with manufacturers and vendors claiming that the holographic technology “resonated with and responded to the natural energy field of the body”.
These hologram bracelets were also said to improve sporting performance – and some high-profile sports personalities like Springbok Morne Steyn and former springbok Os du Randt promoted their own brand of “holographic technology” bracelets.
The demand for these bracelets plummeted after Power Balance, a big player in the market, admitted that “there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims”.
APS (Action Potential Simulation)
In 1991 South African Gervan Lubbe was credited with inventing the Action Potential Stimulation (APS) device, which Lubbe said “electronically stimulates the body’s natural nerve impulses to relieve pain”.
Lubbe received some accolades for his APS device, and many South Africans spent their hard-earned money to purchase one of these devices.
There was only one problem – no widely accepted scientific evidence that the APS device worked as promised.
On 22 March 2012 Gervan Lubbe was sentenced to an effective 20 years in prison in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.
Matter Orientation System
Danie Krugel invented the Matter Orientation System (aka Krugel Theory Tester), which he said could track down a person’s location by using the DNA of the person (like a strand of hair).
Krugel received lots of media exposure for his invention, with many people reporting that the device worked. The device was even used to try find Madeleine McCann.
There is a lot of scepticism regarding this invention, with many critics arguing that it is simply too good to be true.
Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps
Many people swear by copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps to help with arthritis, pain, gout, and even to detox the body. Unfortunately there is no credible evidence to back up their claims.
According to a scientific study, copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps have “no real effect on pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis”.
The study further found that copper bracelets also “seem to have no effect in preventing the disease from getting worse”.
Adriaan Nieuwoudt’s Kubus scheme took South Africa by storm in the early eighties. Thousands of South Africans paid R500 for dried plants which would produce thick milk.
Nieuwoudt paid R10 per envelope, or R100 per week, to producers who sent him a teaspoon of the culture.
At the time Nieuwoudt claimed that the dried cultures were for a skin cream product, but this product never materialised. Investigators discovered tons of dried milk-culture rotting in a shed, and argued that it was just a cover for a pyramid scheme.
The pyramid scheme ultimately collapsed, and Nieuwoudt was sequestrated. He was later found guilty of diamond theft and illegal diamond dealing and sentenced to eight years in jail.