Carte Blanche exposes SA Butler Academy Marketing deception, first exposed on WhaleTales Blog in 2013!



Seven years ago I wrote a story about the South African Butler Academy, and its marketing deception, having had the poor experience of employing one of its Butler graduates in my Whale Cottage Camps Bay, which I owned at the time. Yesterday Carte Blanche took up the story, highlighting my story of seven years ago, as well as that of Lin Yang, a Singaporean student, who was expelled from the Academy a year ago for being late one morning, and who is unable to get her money back. Once again, the deceptive marketing of the SA Butler Academy was evident when its management was interviewed by Carte Blanche presenter Derek Watts.

Six weeks ago the Carte Blanche team of producer Michael Duffett, presenter Derek Watts, and a cameraman came to my home, to film my side of the SA Butler Academy story. My interview, plus that of student Lin Yang and an anonymous student, with the SA Butler Academy owner Newton Cross and its Training Manager Braam West, formed the essence of the eleven minute insert. In brief it summarises various misleading and blatantly untruthful claims made by the Butler Academy, which are laughed off by Cross and West in the interview, or deferred to the pending court case, Cross completely misusing the term ‘sub judice’. Classic is Derek Watts’ sarcastic questions and comments to the Butler Academy representatives, and even funnier is their clowning tap dancing to avoid answering the allegations! Comments that I have received about the representatives and the Academy, after seeing the program, include ‘slime balls’, ‘the guy is a bullduster. He came off very badly’,  ’these guys are so fake omg’, and ‘….. but the fool did notice he was on a hot spot! He became increasingly more idiotic and glib in his responses!’ . One commentator went as far as predicting that this is the end of the SA Butler Academy.

In publicizing my participation in the Carte Blanche insert, I noticed yesterday that I could no longer tag the SA Butler Academy on Facebook and on Instagram. I went to the Academy Facebook page, and saw that it has been posting furiously in the past few days, obviously since they received notification of the broadcast date, posting almost every hour, compared to every few days in the past! It makes the Butler Academy look even more guilty.

As I do not have a DStv subscription, I could not see the program. My friend Gary Peterson kindly recorded it for me on his phone.  I have since received a YouTube link of the programme:

An eleven minute insert cannot cover in detail the story behind the Carte Blanche insert, so I have summarised my and Lin Yang’s experiences with the SA Butler Academy below.


My SA Butler Academy story

For my Camps Bay Guest House I appointed Hettie, a graduate of the Academy in 2013, recruited via Gumtree, delighted initially that she was a trained Butler via the Academy, but she left after four days, not following Labour Law protocol, not taking instructions, washing dishes rather than dealing with guests, and secretly recording conversations between myself and my staff and my guests. I called Adriaan Coetzer of Guild Recruiting, the recruitment arm of the Butler Academy, which takes a 25% fee for its student placements for a year, and expressed my disappointment about the calibre of the student. Whilst sympathetic to me about my poor student experience, his tone changed when he emailed a reply to me, making me responsible for everything that she had done wrong. I awarded a Sour Service Award to the Butler Academy, and so started a Social Media war, the Academy finding every negatives mention about myself and my guest houses, in an attempt to discredit me. They were so infuriated that they created a page on their website in ‘honour’ of me, not realising that they were sending more readers to my Blog! They have given the same honour to Lin Yang on their website!

Glasfit Sweet Service and The South African Butler Academy Sour Service Awards!

It pressed my buttons, so I started analyzing the website of the Academy and found a number of misleading as well as exaggerated claims, including awarding itself 5 stars, referring to a former American President as ‘George Snr Bush’, and copy that was riddled with spelling errors. On the basis of the Sour Service Award I started receiving calls from aggrieved past students and concerned prospective parents of students considering doing the Butler course. I wrote a detailed story about the SA Butler Academy, describing it as grossly misleading. It has received 79 comments to date, mainly from students of the SA Butler Academy.

The SA Butler Academy grossly misleads its students and hospitality industry clients!

Four years later, in 2017,  I received a damages claim from the Academy for R500000 compensation for income lost due to my story, as well as a summons for an Urgent Interdict in the High Court to demand the removal of the Blogpost. I awarded them another Sour Service Award. I had the luck to be represented in the Court by Advocate Adam Brink, and we won the case in that I could retain my Blogpost. There was no follow up on the damages claim by the Academy, the judge hearing the case hinting at the low likelihood of success of such a claim due to the lack of substantiation.

Wizardz Sweet Service and SA Butler Academy Sour Service Awards!

SA Butler Academy loses High Court case against WhaleTales Blog: Freedom of Speech reigns!

Lin Yang’s SA Butler Academy story

Over the years I have been contacted by a number of students and their parents, wishing to verify what I had written. Surprising even to me is that my 2013 Blogpost about the SA Butler Academy is still on the first page of Google when one searches ‘SA Butler Academy’. One such student is Lin Yang, a brave warrior, who contacted Carte Blanche about her experience with the SA Butler Academy, and her battle to get her course fees repaid by the Academy. Her SA Butler Academy battle timeline has been summarised by her as follows:

‘1. 8 – 9 May 2019, I had been at SABA for two days’ orientation, and experienced that the shocking training was about SABA’s self-glorification, its using students to promotion itself, about the glorification of Newton Cross and SABA. I seriously started to doubt if SABA and Newton were really what they claimed to be. Since I already paid more than double what other students’ paid (USD5200/R75000), I decided to give it the benefit of doubt and see what training really was going to be.

I noticed on these two days there was no security feature for a group of 17 students and 6 staff members, such as fire extinguisher, fire escape, etc.

2. 11 May 2019 I went to SABA at 7.50 am, 35 minutes before the lecture time and waited for Newton and classmates to return from walking around the neighbourhood. While waiting, SABA butler trainer Jillian Hunter shouted at me “Yang, you are late. Go home!” Later Newton Cross shouted at me and slammed down the phone when he realized he couldn’t succeed in intimidating me. SABA and its so-called “trainers” don’t even know the basic courtesy and manner. If they can be hospitality trainers, all robbers in the world could be entrusted with keys to treasury.
3. 11 May 2019, I started research and found all the claims and credentials SABA posted on its website and in its brochure (presented to me at the initial meeting) were exactly the same pointed out by Ms Chris von Ulmenstein in her blog titled “SA Butler Academy Grossly Misleads Students and Hospitality Industry Clients”, e.g. SABA was the No.1 butler school in the world, Newton Cross was the butler to four national presidents, etc.

Students’ horrible experience with SABA posted under the blog reads familiar to me because I experienced them first hand.

4. On 11 May 2019, Newton Cross’ husband Williem Adriaan Coetzer pressured me to sign a joint contract with SABA and Guild Recruitment, which I refused. The contract is unconscionable first of all, secondly, I have no business with Guild Recruitment. He pressured me again to do so the following day, which I ignored.
5. 12 May 2019 I sought my attorney’s help for refund.
6. On 13 May 2019, Williem Adriaan Coetzer removed me from the class participation list without informing me. When I asked for an explanation, Newton accused me of deserting the course myself, and informed me USD5200 couldn’t be refunded.
7. Consumer has rights to return any faulty goods (from a cheap piece of clothes to expensive appliance such as TV  within a certain period of time), or have product guarantee for an extended period of time. To expel me and blatantly informed me they would pocket my money is a daylight robbery!
8. Since 8 May 2019, SABA and Guild Recruitment have been using my photo images (taken without my consent) to advertise on their social media for commercial gain. They used my Asian face to project the false international presence and diversity in order to recruit other students.

They use my image for false advertisement. The words superimposed on my image is a lie: “we choose the No. 1 butler school in the world”. The fact is I left on the third day and am suing them now.

Till this day, they refuse to remove my images despite my repeated written and verbal demands.

Ironically, on one hand, they accused me of “being unable to meet their standards etc etc on SABA website , on the other hand, they have been using me as their poster woman and blatantly violating my constitutional rights.

9. 1 July 2019 my attorney demanded refund, SABA refused.
10. 21 July 2019 I instituted a complaint at the Equality Court.
11. In August 2019, it became clear Equality Court was not the right forum.
12. In the meantime, more and more students contacted my attorney and me to share similar harrowing experience with SABA, Guild Recruitment, Newton Cross and Adriaan Coetzer, Braam West and Jillian Hunter.
13. Many of these poor students are heavily indebted after paying R35 000 school fee and R15 000 accommodation, and the promised good-paid jobs never materials after “graduation”. When they enquired about the jobs, SABA and GR either ignored them or blocked them.
14. A few students got jobs through GR and lost a big chuck of their salary to GR.
15. During the course, they learned no real employable skills, and worked without pay and indemnity to earn money for SABA and GR at events. They even had to perform menial servitude for Newton and Adriaan’s home, washing their house, mowing their lawn.
16. They were forced to sign unconscionable contracts because they did not want to risk being expelled without refund.
17. Some graduates learned through job seeking experience in South Africa and overseas that the SABA certificate is worthless, contrary to their claim that “it was internationally recognised”.

Lin Yang says: “SABA, its principal Newton Cross and its trainers are unaccredited and unqualified by any internationally or national education and hospitality trade accreditors/regulators. To self proclaim ‘it is the No. 1 butler school in the world” and “7-star butler school’ is same as making a toilet paper crown and self-proclaim king of the world”.)

18. My research linked me with other international butler schools who said SABA/GR students’ complaints have reached them nonstop. The black sheep has done great damage to the butler/hospitality profession.
19. These international schools said SABA plagiarised some of their training materials.
20. My research also connected me with some employers of SABA “graduates” (hired via Guild Recruitment), who complained about their incompetency.
21. My research also connected me with other professional butlers who shared bad experience with SABA, Cross, Coetzer and Guild Recruitment.
22. On 21 October 2019, Parow Municipality informed me SABA’s school 34 Suikerbos Crescent (ERF20231 Plattekloof) was fined in 2017 for breaching residential zoning. Its application in 2018 for using it as a butler school was rejected. It was shocking that the so-called the No.1 Butler School has been operated in the premise illegally from 2018 till then.
23. Some neighbours have been complaining about the excessive noise and limited space of the butler school against ERF20231 in City of Cape Town.
24. February 2020, City of Cape Town ordered ERF20231 to close down operation within 60 days to avoid criminal charges. It could apply for using it as a business again, but during application, the business should remain closed.However, SABA violated this rule and it was business as usual.
25. During lockdown, SABA conducted online virtual butler training for two three weeks and issued certificates.
26. On 4 August 2020, after some delayed due to lockdown, I summoned the following in Cape Town High Court (for refund and damages): Newton Cross, Adriaan Coetzer, SABA, Butler Training Pty Ltd, Butler Holdings Pty Ltd and Guild Recruitment, who are alter ego of each other, with Cross and Coetzer being the controlling mind. The first hearing will be end of February 2021.
27. On 14 September 2020, a group of 10 students from 6 countries instituted a Joint Class Action against Newton Cross, Adriaan Coetzer, SABA, Butler Training Pty Ltd, Butler Holdings Pty Ltd and Guild Recruitment at the National Consumer Commission seeking refund of fees and closing down of their all operations.
28. In September, a professional butler AJ Snyman with extensive international work experience applied for a job advertised by Guild Recruitment, and was told by SABA that he had to pay SABA to get trained for 8-weeks again, in order to quality for the jobs, as only SABA certificates are recognised by the employer.
29. AJ’s further investigation revealed that the Cape Town Constantia job position, Property Manager, advertised by SABA and GR used fake property image. The property is not in Constantia, but in Los Angeles in the USA.
30. AJ now supports the Joint Class Action and Lin Yang’s summons.
31. In October 2020, the investigative journalism Carte Blanche probed into the defendants’ business: Carte blanche on Youtube:  
32. The trailer and programme garnered huge interest among students and hospitality industry professionals in South Africa and overseas. They are shared and commented widely.
33. In the meantime, another group of SABA “graduates” who lost huge school fees and did not get any of the promised jobs are starting another Joint Class Action.
34. Students warn potential students not to be fooled by beautiful images and marketing gimmicks such as high-paid job guarantees by the defendants.
35. In October 2020, after the Joint Class Action was instituted at the National Consumer Commission, defendants and its employees Braam West and Jillian Hunter posted 5-star ratings for SABA themselves at Google Review. They also attacked everyone who gave bad reviews, such as ridiculing a graduate that he couldn’t find a butler job years after graduation and has to work as detergent salesman.
36. Despite their desperate effort to push up the rating, the Google review rating currently stands at 3.8.
37. At the same time, SABA desperately asked students to give testimonies in videos. SABA posted several “testimony”videos on Youtube, yet turned off the comment below the videos to block comments from public view.
38. In these testimony videos, students DO NOT appear in front of the camera. Their photos are accompanied by voice-over. I believe these are again lies, in the fashion of my image being abused. I fear many students’ images will be abused this way and these students unwittingly (like me) false advertise for the defendants.
39. Litigants encourage students to post reviews on Google, which is the only place the defendants could not delete or block comments.
40. City of Cape Town Appeal Committee ruled that ERF20231(34 Suikerbos) should not be used as business. Interestingly, Cape Town Mayor overturned the Appeal Committee’s decision. Neighbours are making enquiry to Mayoral office for the reasons behind this decision. Neighbours may take the matter to High Court.
41. Some students urged City of Cape Town the pernicious social impact of allowing fraudulent business operating in a good neighbourhood. (Chris, please refer to my email to City of Cape Town on this point. I’m tired.) ‘


POSTSCRIPT 29/12/20 Student M has sent me this description of her experience at the SA Butler Academy:

Good afternoon 

I hope this email finds you well..Thank you so much for doing this brave gesture .Well i attended the school last year and graduated in November ,however during the course i was very much unhappy with almost everything there..Having sacrificed all the money i had that time and realising that all the money i spent there i can’t take it back breaks my heart.If only i had opened my business rather than to spend my fortune on an ill school .
On my first day there I was even shocked with the so-called mansion ,just a basic home .They promised us the world and that we had done such a beautiful thing to have come there. I noticed also racist tone and behaviour and every person in that class noticed it too.As if this was not enough ,we really did not learn that much other than the alphabet and hospitality terminology .My day at the mansion was as follows 
1.Line up at the mansion
2.Given a test on terminology 
3. Learn 1 or 2 things but mostly terminology lunch for students and them dishes 
6.tidy the eating area 
7clean the mansion 
8.go home 
So many things that they had promised to teach us during the course we really didn’t do them.These people are a scam to be honest .Flower arrangements would be done by Newton because he loved doing it.He would mainly arrange flowers if they were hosting people ,the funny thing is we did almost everything ,specifically serving the people during their dinner but we would not even get a tip for working long hours with them.There was a dinner i served and the client handed me some money just too thank me for the service ,i did not take that money because it’s not allowed .After the dinner you would arrange your transport back home ,this is very dangerous especially here in cape town,having to travel at 11 or 12 pm .This is already a sign to tell you that this school is a scam,I mean if you are paying that much money why can’t the school arrange for transport?
Cigar training was not even done .We took pictures of the cigar and we were told to put them in our files .Mixologists ,they call it, were only taught how to make mojito and strawberry duchery ..Even when it comes to cooking ,they taught us how to make eggs and egg benedicts .The majority of the things that we cooked is just basic stuff that a 5year old can make .Right now so many people don’t even know how to open wine bottles .
I just want know i can never get my time back that i wasted at the academy for 2 months ,but i would appreciate if this school gives people refunds atleast.Talk about honesty.,they are the most dishonest people i have ever met in my life .They tell you stories that dont even exist for their own selfish interests.They are also the most rude people i have ever met ,Newton would yell at 40 year olds ,he would belittle people.Mr West is such an incredible guy but also a puppet for this school..Its time  these people get a fair share of the hurt they inflict on other people .We need change and this school should just shut down .
All the contracts they make students sign is all in their personal goals .They know that what they are doing is very wrong and they do all they can to protect themselves .They buy the finest houses with the sweat of other people .They promise a pie in heaven ,employment   that doesn’t even exist .They will post attractive jobs and when you apply they never respond even to their own students WHAT IS THAT….. A SCAM .THEY JUST USE YOU AND WHEN YOU ARE DONE WITH THE COURSE THEY DUMP YOU LIKE A CONDOM…‘
POSTSCRIPT 29/12/20: My Facebook friend Leslie Back wrote this complimentary as well as insightful comment to my post about the SA Butler Academy on Carte Blanche:
I have just caught up with the Carte Blanche programme in question. I found it on ‘Catch Up’. Chris you really are to be congratulated for taking on that set up and standing up for what you believe to be right. I hesitate to call it a David and Goliath confrontation, because that would understate your skills and achievements and totally overstate who and what they are. I prefer to call it a fearless one woman battle on your part against an unprincipled, male dominant, arrogant, second rate establishment. And they harrassed you for so long. You persevered and tolerated all the unpleasantness that stupid, mindless people throw out. Now you have won and you have won well. Your army of admirers are giving 3 cheers. I believe that you have gotten under that man’s skin because suddenly he is everywhere on Social Media even prominent on my Linkedin page. What a doos. By the way, your voice is very charming on the programme. Now that is a compliment. So many women sound so ghastly when recorded.
POSTSCRIPT 7 January 2021:  Trisha Mudenda sent me this email today, about her experience with the SA Butler Academy:

Good day

I am not sure if I am emailing the right person, however I was a student at the butler academy in 2016  and I had a very disturbing experience. Having been recently married and starting a new life I emailed Newton Cross to tell him of an experience I had on a training trip with Mr West. I was afraid in 2016 as a black Zimbabwean woman as to who would believe me if I told them of his unprofessional  and scary behavior.Having also gone through the training and paid upwards of R50, 000 for training, they don’t teach you what is listed on the curriculum and what they do teach, they spend so little time on each subject. I am happy to forward the email I sent about my experience on a trip to Mauritius with Mr West. I left before the training was comp  because of Mr West’s behavior.

I went online as my husband suggested to look for students who had issues with the school and I found this article about the Cart Blanche interview. I just wanted an apology from them. However they ignored my email.

They just need to take some accountability and I’m not afraid of them anymore.

Thank you
Trisha Mudenda


POSTSCRIPT 18/1/21 Jean has provided the following feedback about the SA Butler Academy!


Thank you for writing this and being part of the Carte Blanche insert.

I, myself was a student of SABA, five years ago and wish I came across your review before becoming a student of SABA. At the time I was looking into SABA and a school in the Netherlands but SABA won out as they were cheaper. I guess you get what you pay for. I had worked my butt of for 3 years to save the money I needed for the course.

A couple of days in, I started suspecting something wasn’t right but with no other options, I closed my mind to these suspicions and decided to push through.

I had no backups, no family or friends who would be able to support me if this failed so I had no choice but to make a success of the course. One thing that kept nagging me was the fact that SABA did not encourage you to speak to previous students. In the years since I have realised that if they did this, they would have closed their doors long ago.

Like I said, I had no choice but to make a success of this course. I am very happy to say that I did. Make no mistake, this was not due to SABA. This was due to my hard work. I got a temporary job after the course and then through the temporary job, managed to line up a permanent one.

In my class of about 23 students, only 4 got jobs. I am sure that you would agree this is a ridiculously low rate. Two of whom had previous hospitality experience and the other two coming from highly demanding financial backgrounds (myself included in the latter category). Though all of us continued to work in the highly exclusive world of private butlers for years afterward, it was not due to SABA that we made a success of this career choice but rather our own dedication, strong work ethic and absolute drive to be a success. However, I did find it odd when the lady I was working for did once mention that it was my strong financial background credentials that lead to her considering me as a potential candidate rather than me having completed the course. Once again, I was at the point where I had no choice but to silence the doubts I had over the Academy as I was just starting to build a new career path.

Unfortunately due to worsening health, I had to step back and fall back to finance which although certainly not less demanding or stressful, does provide more predictable hours.

I am also happy to say that several potential students have contacted in regards to SABA since I was a student there and I have always told them to save up more and attend the accredited schools in Europe.

The final nail in the coffin for me came when I applied to cruise companies that Cross worked for and “provides training” for telling me that my training credentials were not sufficient. How is this remotely possible?

Actually, it doesn’t matter since we already know the answer to that question.

Thank you for work in this matter. I will most certainly carry on from my side to do what I can in my country to make sure others do not become victims.

Wishing you all the best for 2021.


POSTSCRIPT 16/2/21: Last week I wrote a follow up article about the reaction of the SA Butler Academy to being exposed about its misleading Marketing :

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulme

Please follow and like us:
Tweet 27k

WhaleTales Blog


We don’t spam!

Read our privacy policy for more info.

10 replies on “Carte Blanche exposes SA Butler Academy Marketing deception, first exposed on WhaleTales Blog in 2013!”

  1. What a tragedy….. I was a student in 2015 at SABA, they accused me of drinking alcohol and made many false allegations and eventually kicked me out of their college. Am glad I moved on. I have no interest in the hospitality industry whatsoever. I am so surprised that many complaints are still happening at the same college and business.

  2. I met with Henry and heard his harrowing account of abuse by Newton Cross, Braam West. Henry is brave to lend his supporting affidavit to the Joint Class Action.

    More students are taking legal actions after the airing of Carte Blanche’s programme. The same experience of mistreatment.

    • Well done Jasmine and Henry, and to all of you taking on the SA Butler Academy.


  3. Viewers may laugh at the hilarious moments in the interview, e.g. The General Manager of South Africa Butler Academy Mr Braam West said: “Butler is the nanny, butler is the au pairy (mispronounced “au pair”), the chef, the PA, or a she.” – A note of Warning to male butlers: you may need to change your sex! 🙂

    SABA email sent to me showed they over-quoted me 3 times more (USD3300) for accommodation for a bed in a twin/triple-sharing room. What a greedy bunch of opportunist. Singaporeans must be rich, so rip them off.

    Newton Cross lied through his teeth in front of the camera: the Chinese webpage of the so-called “academy” website is translated by a diplomat at Chinese consulate in Cape Town and endorsed by High Court sworn translator. Newton lied that I translated it. When confronted that “academy” English brochure carries the same claim, he said: “maybe something has gone between the lines”. We look forward to Newton Cross proving in court that he is an alumni of the so “prestigious Royal Butler/Valet School at Buckingham Place”.

    • Thank you LY

      The ‘Buckingham Palace Butler School’ was the biggest joke of the interview. Cross has no idea what ‘sub judice’ means!


  4. I was a student in 2013 with similar experiences but was fortunate enough to have professional training and practical skills with experiences to direct me in a great opportunity. After winning a court case with some of our International clients, we eventually could move on. What a nasty experience!! Well done for your perseverance!!

    • Thank you for your feedback Rika. Well done to you and your fellow students.

      Please can you contact Yang Lin at, so that you can exchange notes? She is coordinating the current joint student class action.


Comments are closed.