Name Trouble

What do you do when someone with the same name as you has a criminal record?

The Being Group’s CEO, Siebert Neethling, shares his experiences with such a dilemma.

A client recently told me that she’d had an interesting experience concerning me. One of her team members had told her that the consultant they had hired (that’s me) had a criminal record. It took my client only a few minutes of internet research to realise that it was a different Siebert Neethling. Unfortunately not everyone is that diligent.

A few years ago a woman was denied a visa to travel to the US because her first and last name corresponded with that of a suspected terrorist. It took high level intervention to resolve the confusion. It’s not unusual: John Howard the actor must have resented the rise of John Howard the politician; I’ve been trying to track down an old friend and keep finding pages of soccer articles because he has the same name as a famous player.

Unusual as the name Siebert Neethling is in some countries, it is not unique. In South Africa it is not exactly common, but it is a well-used combination over generations. There are four Siebert Neethlings on facebook alone, none of them me. There are several photos of gravestones with the name Siebert Neethling on the web.

I’ve identified at least seven other Siebert Neethlings.

1. There is a Siebert Neethling who is a project coordinator at Eskom, a power utility company in South Africa — not me.

2. There’s a cool looking young guy with lots of dark hair — not me.

3. There is the Siebert Neethling who is a director of the Windmeul Group in South Africa — not me.

4. Another Siebert Neethling is an academic and well-published expert in Xhosa oral language tradition — not me.

5. There’s one who posted a video of himself crushing a Nokia phone in a vice grip?! — not me.

6. I’m not even unique in Australia any more: there’s a Siebert Neethling born in 1987 living in Victoria — not me.

7. And then there is the problem one: the former Rector of the Wingfield College in Cape Town, South Africa, who was convicted of fraud, had his assets seized and auctioned off in 2001 and (according to one article) developed a drinking problem at the time — MOST DEFINITELY NOT ME! When he was Rector of the college, defrauding the education department in the mid-90s, I was working as a young manager (early-30s) for The South African Breweries in Johannesburg.

As far as I know I am the only Siebert Neethling in Sydney.

I was born in Oberholzer, Carletonville in South Africa and have been living in Australia since 2003.

My main web presence is on the websites for The Being Group and its former iterations. I also appear on the websites for Celebrity Speakers, Bendelta, and ARN’s Sound Business Plan. I am associated with some papers including one written for the I.L.O. I am the author of short stories published in The Common Thread Anthologies of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and my name appears on websites for Discover Hunter’s Hill, Hunter’s Hill Rugby, St Joseph’s College and Kochie’s Business Builders.

I came to Australia on the points system as part of the skilled migration policy — so certainly no criminal record here! My police clearance to immigrate to Australia was received as my infamous namesake was into the first year of his prison sentence. You don’t get a permanent residence skilled migration visa to come to Australia if you have a criminal record! I became an Australian Citizen in 2006.

My father was also Siebert Neethling. Because of that my family called me Bert. Some friends still call me that, but usually spell it Burt — in Afrikaans “Bert” and “Burt” are pronounced very differently. You might find me as Burt Neethling or Bert Neethling on some sites. But there are several people with those names as well!

So, if you’ve Googled me for whatever reason and have ended up reading this I’m very relieved. Whatever skeletons there might be in this cupboard, they’re not of the criminal kind.

Siebert Neethling is the CEO of The Being Group. Siebert is an insightful strategist and consultant of the highest calibre, and a masterful facilitator and educator.

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