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

Having had the misfortune to connect with The South African Butler Academy, and its Recruitment Head Adriaan Coetzer last week in respect of their graduate Hettie Novacovic, we have done more homework on this dishonourable and unprofessional butler training and recruitment body based in Cape Town.

A phone call to Coetzer, to chat to him about Mrs Novacovic’s short-lived employment with us, was professional and honest, Coetzer agreeing that Mrs Novacovic had acted unprofessionally by not arriving for work without giving notice, was late for work twice in four days, did not follow instructions about the breakfast serving time or any other instructions for that matter, did not own up to damages she caused to our property which cost us a call-out fee for the pool company, did not want to interact with our guests over breakfast (one couple asked her to leave the table, something we have not experienced in our 17 years of operation!), she refused to shake hands to welcome our new guests, was unable to manage the housekeepers, left to go home midway during guest check-in training, prepared a dreadfully kitsch table for our wedding anniversary guests we wanted to spoil (contrary to my request of how I wanted it to be made special for them), was closed off to any communication with guests and ourselves, documented (unbeknown to us at the time) everything she had seen and learnt with us in the four days on her iPad, and generously took a coffee and a breakfast break herself while the rest of the staff were focused on getting the rooms ready for the new arriving guests.  Coetzer agreed that appointing her was a liability for most potential employers, as she has a husband on pension, who has to be ’employed’ too, but may not earn any income so as to not lose his pension!   He accepted that Mrs Novacovic’s poor work ethic was a very negative reflection on the SA Academy of Butlers and its training standards!  She was dishonest about the rate she quoted for her daily fee, quoting the most qualified butler fee of R800 per 12 hour day, and therefore we reduced her hours to 8h00 – 14h00.  While Mrs Novacovic was not appointed via Guild Recruitment, the placement arm of the SA Butlers’ Academy, Coetzer welcomed the feedback telephonically.

Coetzer promised to have a chat with the butler graduate, having a meeting with her later in the day.  The e-mail response was one of a changed person, making wild unproven allegations, and disputing any weaknesses of Mrs Novacovic, to which he had agreed earlier in the day, which earned him a Sour Service Award! Mrs Novacovic had replied to our Gumtree advertisement for a half day assistant for Whale Cottage Camps Bay, sharing that she was annoyed by Guild Recruitment taking so much of her fee for their placement fee of 20% on the advertised butler rates.  She was therefore applying for jobs directly, and not via the SA Butler Academy recruitment service, an important part of the Academy’s misleading marketing to attract students.

The SA Butler Academy website (and its Facebook page) is riddled with typing errors, and is over-written with extravagant exaggerated claims:

*  It is a ‘non-profit’ training establishment – yet they charge R19500 for local students, and €5000 for international students inclusive of accommodation!

*   It is aimed at ‘hospitality candidates‘, who have a ‘desire to step into a lavish world of Wealth and Fortune‘ – yet Mrs Novacovic has no clue of the hospitality industry!

*   Its Principal is ‘world renowned’ Newton Cross, but a Google search only provides links to his Academy’s website!  Cross has trained as a butler in the UK, worked on some cruise liners, at Fancourt in George, and at Clarendon House in ‘Fresnay’ (sic)! It is claimed that he has worked for Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, and ‘George Senior Bush (sic)’.

*   Butler student applicants should be fluent in English, but neither the Academy’s website, its Facebook page, nor Mrs Novacovic’s writing reflects this fluency!

*   The ‘Academy is the finest in the world’, and ‘the finest Private Sector training institute in the world and most certainly in South Africa’, but these claims are not substantiated on the website!

*   The Academy is World renowned for our modern approach to Butler Service in private households, resorts, exclusive yachts and passenger liners‘.  Again, no substantiation is offered.

*   The Mission Statement is the ultimate in exaggeration by the Academy, no substantiation reflected in its website or via Google: “The Academy is tantamount with professional Butler training which prides itself on the highest form of dedicated Butler Training. At The South African Butler Academy you will be taught how to run an effective modern private estate or household with grace and professionalism not just and estate but also a Yacht, Hotel Butler department and Boutique Resorts. The Academy course is 8 weeks of intense Butler training governed by experienced celebrity Butlers who are qualified as professional Butlers. The Academy will provide you with all the skills and certification to perform Butler duties. Our Training standards are exceptionally high and admired by International press and media. We are the world’s number one leading Butler Academy and the apex of all estates and households. Become part of SABA and celebrate service”  (our underlining).

*   The logo (provided cheekily by the Academy yesterday) reflects five stars – however the Academy is not graded by the Tourism Grading Council, and its use of the stars is therefore unlawful, SA Tourism having decreed that the star quality denotion is exclusive to the Tourism Grading Council!

It is the claim We are proud to have a legacy in the market as our clients are kept confidential and above all “disclosure” is our highest priority” (our underlining).  Clearly they may have meant ‘discretion’ or ‘non-disclosure’, which ironically is the most dishonest of all the SA Butler Academy claims, with it publishing the slanderous feedback of Mrs Novacovic on its website, reflecting the unprofessional nature of the Academy and its graduates. Any potential employer of a SA Butler Academy graduate should fear that ‘discretion’ is not guaranteed by The SA Butler Academy or its graduates, and in particular by Mrs Novacovic.

Discretion is the most direct association one would have with a butler, and it is reflected in the Florida-based Institute of Modern Butlers’ Professional Butler Code of Ethics, which highlights Integrity, Confidentiality, Service, Lawful Behaviour, Dedication, Personal Development, Respect, Professional Relationship, and Promotion.  The SA Butler Academy and its graduate Mrs Novacovic have breached this international Code of Conduct in a number of respects.  Interesting is that the SA Butler Academy does not have a Code of Conduct!

At a cost of R19500 for an 8 week course, it would appear that The SA Butler Academy students themselves are being taken for a ride, as this time period is not long enough to teach any student the full theoretical spectrum of hospitality, customer service, staff management, table service, silver service, etiquette and protocol, security, home automation, interpersonal management skills, culinary training, household management, and executive housekeeping, all elements of The SA Butler Academy curriculum, and certainly not at a practical level!

Mrs Novacovic made no effort to learn my job, which she was meant to take over, lurking in the kitchen and washing the dishes most of the time, the most expensive dishwasher we have ever employed!  Our staff are served breakfast during the course of our very busy mornings, prepared by our chef, a different egg type daily, which Mrs Novacovic enjoyed too, and they are provided with lunch too.   I love writing this blog, and do so mainly at night, as there is no way that I could do it justice in writing it while sitting in a busy Reception dealing with the guests that we accommodate daily, e-mail enquiries and correspondence having priority during the day.  We deny Mrs Novacovic’s false and libellous allegations, deplore her attempts to discredit ourselves, our staff, and our guests, and reserve our rights to take action against Mrs Novacovic and the SA Academy of Butlers for defamation.

Needless to say, we would warn any potential butler student, and any potential employer of a butler via The SA Butler Academy’s Guild Recruitment, against any dealings with The SA Butler Academy!

POSTSCRIPT 27/2: We have received feedback from a number of our blog readers and past guests that their comments in support of ourselves have not been allowed on the SA Butler Academy blog, another proof of its unprofessionalism and one-sided presentation of information!

POSTSCRIPT 4/3: The SA Butler Academy has taken note of our comments about its exaggerated claims and spelling errors, having removed all the quotes we featured in the above blogpost.  Profiles of the owner Newton Cross and his partner Adriaan Coetzee have been removed.  An attempt has been made to remove the illegal use of the five stars in its logo!

POSTSCRIPT 4/7/17:  We were summonsed early this year by the SA Butler Academy with an intermediate interdict, demanding the removal of this Blogpost, four years after I wrote it. This came after a written request by the Butler Academy that I remove the Blogpost, which I was not prepared to do. Last week the judge hearing the case rejected the Butler Academy demand. I am extremely grateful to my superb advocate, for this outcome. The Butler Academy is threatening a further legal case, to claim compensation for alleged defamation, a case which is likely to be heard in 2018. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage


70 replies on “The SA Butler Academy grossly misleads its students and hospitality industry clients!”

  1. TJ says:

    Any future employers for Mrs Novacovic will I’m sure read the semi illiterate diatribe will I’m sure run a mile from her and her husband on pension !!

    For what its worth I have never heard of the SA Butler Academy, I would be interested to know what butler experience the trainers have ??

    • John says:

      Terrible terrible experience with SABA!!!!! Newton Cross, Adriaan Coetze and Braam West are liars. They dominates and subjugates clients. Newton Cross is extremely rude and has a big ego. What he claimed himself to be are all lies, he didn’t have the professional training himself, and never worked for the celebrities and politicians. SABA certificate is a piece of waste paper unrecognised by the hospitality industry in South Africa and overseas.
      Together clients can get help from
      Your action matters – it will stop more clients from falling into the SABA trap!! Please spread the words to other clients who had the same experience.

    • Joseph says:

      TERRIBLE TERRIBLE experience! They are not registered as training academy.
      Some ex-clients are in the process of suing the company collectively, if you want to part of the action to stop more people falling into its SABA’s trap, please contact:

      • Terrible to see so much negative feedback about the SA Butler Academy! I do hope the former students will take action.

        • Mila says:

          I wish I read this blog and comments before I paid for and attended the course…. I’d like to get in contact! There are a bunch of us that feel mislead, and are currently still unemployed and we lost a lot of money.

          • Abi says:

            Newton Cross’ husband Adriaan Coetzer’s company Guild Recruitment placed “dummy ads” in its website advertising high-paid jobs. when unsuspecting candidates applied for the “jobs”, Coetzer said they were not qualified unless they had a butler certificate. And he sold Newton’s butler training to them. After the worse-than-circus training, no one got the jobs, of course. Coetzer and Cross then blamed candidates that they lacked of work experience. Coetzer and Cross did get several candidates low-paid housekeeping jobs, and they took as big as 25% commission from students.

          • They have always taken 25% commission.

            How shocking is that they continue their unprofessionalism.

      • Joseph says:

        Newton Cross was born in 1982, he must have started working as a butler while he was still in diapers. Or else, how could he be the butler for George Sr Bush, Mandela, Mbeki, Tiger Wood, Michael Shumacher, Shanna Twain …? Hahahaha, how hilarious!

        • Paul R says:


          This company has build their foundations since the beginning with the clear intend on cheating and misleading all the students that come in good faith and believe in those 5 fake stars and all the lies that come along.
          Newton Cross should try to change his job and compete against David Copperfield would have a better success and appreciation, the illusion it’s his speciality.
          Braai West – I believe he is just a submissive slave to his master.
          Newton Cross has no hospitality education, to not talk about Butler background specially at his age.
          He is younger than an bottle of fine wine, but is talking laud about being Butler to Nelson Mandela and so many others UHNWI….I was wondering if he still meet face to face one in his life !? Really
          He feel he is a very street smart with a HUGE ego. The so-called Butler course training is a complete Circus, run by someone who has basic knowledge in hospitality and can be spotted from a Mile away. The paper of the certificate they release is not recognize locally, it’s a waste of time to mention INTERNATIONALLY.
          The quality is bad as the Butler course they promote, you cannot polish a Crystal glass with it.
          For all the future Butlers : do not make the same mistake I did, do a better research and spend 3k more but choose wisely your Butler course, and run as fast as you can once you came across those above names.
          If you really like to learn something and have good understanding, knowledge and a job in your hands choose another school unless you would like to waste your money and your time !!
          I support anyone who take any action against them, they must stop.

          • Standwell says:

            SABA is worst than any circus. In circus we laugh and we are entertained. At SABA, we get abused, intimidated and threatened, and reduced to slave labours.

        • Paul R says:

          Or maybe he was born in another body !!! Never say never :)))
          As I said his younger than a bottle of fine wine …. so by saying this I believe I said everything you need to know, and make you run before choosing to enroll in such a “school” !!

    • YL says:

      My legal case against Newton Hilton Cross and Willem Andriaan Coetzer was submitted in July 2019 at the Equality Court, Case no. EC21/2019. The previous case no. with SABA was at high court 2488/2017.
      How to present your legal case by yourself at the Equality Court:
      If you have any questions, please seek advise from Equality Court clerk, whose contacts can be found in the link.
      Please you are also a client whose rights have been abused by these two persons, and want me to be your witness, or if you want to be my witness, please contact me at

    • YL says:

      Heilbron Hospitality won the court case against SABA, Newton Hilton Cross, Willem Adriaan Coetzer and Guild Recruitment in 2016 at Cape Town High Court (Case no.: 7819/2016). Newton wrote malicious, defamatory email about Heilbron to Kempinski Hotel in China, in order to grab Heilbron’s client. Newton also infringed Heilbron’s copyright by posting Heilbron’s photos at SABA website, passing off as theirs in order to create a false impression that SABA has international clients. The two leopards do not change their spots. They had to pay R22,500 to Heilbron for its lawsuit.

      34 Suikerbos Crescent, the house owned by Butler Holding Pty Ltd with Newton and Adriaan, have been used illegally as a training venue in a residential zoning. Their application to use it as a place of instruction was REJECTED by Parow Municipality. (City of Cape Town, reference: ERF20231, Regarding Application No.: 703. Rejection record can be obtained from the Deputy Information Officer in City of Cape Town:

    • Justice says:

      if you would like to be part of the joint legal action against SABA, please email lawyer or call her at 021 4223 020.
      You can also approach National Consumer Commissions You can represent yourself without a lawyer.
      SABA graduates, do not be afraid of the intimidation by SABA and Guild Recruitment. The contracts they forced you to sign has no legal binding, as they violates the basic human rights and consumer rights. In the free and equal South Africa, Guild Recruit has NO right to monopolise job market. You are free to look for jobs on your own without paying Guild Recruitment. Read Consumer Protection Act, and Unfair Business Practices Act

  2. Absolutely TJ – one wonders if they are registered as a training academy.

    Unbelievable puffery and self-congratulation!


    • YL says:

      Newton and Adriaan are married to each other. Although they and their companies are separate legal personas, they are for all intents and purposes alter egos of each other, E.g. SABA’s trainees are obliged to sign employment contract with GR

  3. David says:

    What kind of fool thinks they are a butler after 8 weeks and 20.000R ?

  4. Dave Snoek says:

    Tell me Jim. What kind of head would you like to be? A dickhead I’m sure. And the stain I presume is toothpaste!

  5. Dave Snoek says:

    Sorry Chris. I just had to come to your defense with this comment by Jim.

  6. lolla says:

    Chris, rise above this. I realize it is easier said than done, but try.

  7. Thanks for the advice Lolla.

    The kwaaaa is such a Sonia Cabernet Cabano give away!


  8. Thanks a whale for your support Dave – Jim’s comment has been sent to the ‘rubbish’ bin, where it belongs!


  9. Good question David, but clearly the Butler Academy students are fooled by the false marketing promises of Wealth and Fortune (note the capitals!).


  10. Nigel says:

    Hi Chris

    The shortest course for a recognised International Hotel and Hospitality Management diploma is a two year City & Guilds and that normaly works in tandem with an internship with most others being three years of very hard work.

    Disney Land strikes again with yet another “Mickey Mouse”course that people buy into… or as the song says “Sad so sad it’s a sad, sad situation.

  11. Thank you for your feedback Nigel.

    I am shocked to have confirmation that The SA Butler Academy is not even registered as an accredited training establishment by the Department of Education!


  12. Maria says:

    Stay strong Chris. I overheard two of your archenemies last weekend, calling that bully of a Table Mountain account Ian.

    Do you know an Ian?

    Who could this possibly be? You have my support. Always!

  13. Thanks Maria.

    Ian Little would not shout that he is running the abusive account – it’s Sonia Cabano’s way of trying to hide that she is the abusive writer on the Twitter account – the funniest is when she uses the wrong account to Tweet her abuse, and it shows on her @LusciousCT or @SoniaCabano2 accounts by mistake! A dead give-away!


  14. Dear Stuart

    Thank you for your compliment, and for your concern about our Whale Cottage Portfolio.

    I am unable to find any locally-based Stuart Davison via Google. Once you send me your questions again with your real name, we can answer your questions.

    In the mean time, please do read this blogpost again, as you do not appear to have comprehended much of it. Any details you want to know about myself and the establishment of the Whale Cottage Portfolio you can read here:

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  15. Phil says:

    Please contact me about this school, i will share some things.

  16. Christian Nowotny says:

    Dear Mrs. von Ulmenstein,
    it was very interesting to read your blog entry on SABA. I wrote a request to them about a month ago but never got an answer. Luckily as it seems. I hope you don’t consider it cheeky but can I ask you for your advice? I googled around but have not found a satisfying solution to my challenge: We are a family of four and will spend the second week of July this year in Capetown. We have rented a lovely villa at Misty Cliffs and we are looking for a nice woman or couple to take care of the house, make breakfast, maybe an occasional dinner and take good care of us for this one week. How can I find trustworthy, able and willing people for this task? Any advice would be highly appreciated.
    Warm regards from a freezing Vienna
    Christian & Family

    • Dorothy says:

      SABA NEWTON CROSS HAS NO SHAME! The company is run cheaters Newton Cross, Adriann Coetze and the sad-faced conspirator Braam West. Newton Cross has no proper education, he is very street smart with a super ego. The so-called training is A JOKE!!

      • I am soooo sad to see so many new complaints about SABA. Thank you for speaking out.

        Please do contact me on Whats App 0825511323 for a recommendation for a lawyer and an Advocate, who dealt with my SABA court case.

  17. Hallo Christian, vielen Dank für Dein Feedback. I will make some enquiries and will get back to you.

  18. Eunice says:

    The owner of this Academy is a lier and he minipulates the girls and boys. My son was there and he had to do private stuff for him, and then missed the poorly presented classes. This is a disgrace

  19. Unicorn says:

    I have trained with a academy just a few years ago, colleagues and friends of mine were determined to go as well.

    I took what I could out of the course, but its not all its made out to be, with my experience.They are pompous and self serving. yes student do many private tasks for them including their own personal tasks at home. Now while I agree their is a certain amount of practical training that is required, they are very forceful and at times extremely disrespectful towards student who challenges them or voices their opinion.

    they state they their to help students, however its just to help themselves. they use students after training for volunteer purposes. students do events during training which is great, however its like slave labour and extremely long hours.

    yes their are the fun part that you get enticed with, the glamour they make it out to be, but its not all they make it out.

    They have a trainer who is amazing, but even this person who is supposedly a friend of theirs is mistreated and underpaid as well. Without Braam (Mr West as most students would know him) is the Essance of the Butler Academy. Without him and his passion and compassion and eagerness to truly help the students they would not be anything. They have chased away students who did not fit or fall into their way, they were never given a chance and this includes international students. Unfortunetly most of these students wil

    l realise only later they have not really learned much.

    They very eager to sue and pursue those who upsets them even unnecessarily so.

    I wont even talk about my own experience cause I would not know where to begin.

    I’d rather go the Butler Academy in Germany if I really have to go that route again, although their methods are stringent, they are much more worth it.

  20. spicey says:

    i also studied at SABA. I want to advise people not be fooled by those people .My experience was horrible the whole thing is scam .They are very racists.The training was not worth at all i never learnt anything that i could say has helped in the hospitality industry .

    I stayed in the house with Mr West who is a heavy drinker i guese its due to the way he is being treated by his so called best friends thats Mr Cotzee and Mr Cross .It was hell living with an alcoholic he used to threaten us about how staying in the house would affect our results because we were under scrutiny .We lived in fear after paying R20 000 nobody wants to fail .We were belittled made to feel like shit all the time .

    When ever they went to the radio station every Thursday all those call of people commenting on how amazing they were was basically us students made to call the station .We used to go and work in functions and the money went to their pockets everything from Facebook is controlled by the them all the nasty comments are deleted and only the good comments are posted .

    I wish somebody out there can expose them for what they really are .

    • You are sadly one of many students providing this feedback. I would love to hear more. Can we meet? Cell 0825511323.

    • Brian says:

      SABA should be closed down! Your experience is not alone. How can we get in touch with you Spicey? Don’t leave the action to ‘somebody out there’. Together, we can achieve something, would you like to be part of the force?

      There are social media, and print media like Atlantic Sun’s consumer page “Off My Trolley” run by journalist Brian Joss,

      • A good call Brian. A student should report SABA for its unprofessional operation. My 2013 Blogpost about their unprofessionalism towards their students and exorbitant fees took me to court, but fortunately the judge allowed my Blogpost to remain on the Blog.

        It saddens me that there are continuous stories that are presented to me, after parents and students have found my Blog on Google.

  21. Grant says:

    Thank you for this very informative piece.

    I have had the pleasure of serving you “German Herring Salad” .
    I was informed at the time, that the recipe, given to me was your Grandmother’s . Served in Llandudno for Christmas lunch.

    At the time I was unaware of your status as a blogger.

    Would you be able to recommend a reputable recruitment company?
    Who source staff, for Private House Holds.

    Myself, I have over 20yrs professional hospitality experience as a chef and almost 3yrs working privately.

  22. It was my mother’s recipe Grant. What a small world.

    Unfortunately I have no experience with recruitment companies.

  23. Craig says:

    Dear Chris von Ulmenstein

    Thank you for your blog and your professional journalism. I pray there is no more consumer who would fall into the scam of SABA.

    Sincerely yours

  24. Maria says:

    Don’t you ever get tired of spreading negative comments Chris. I find your reviews quite petty. At your age you should rather focus on being less toxic

    • Haha ‘Maria’. At my youthful age of 18 years I am learning that what others say mirrors them…. how toxic and ageist this comment is from you! This post dates back to 2013!

    • Joseph says:

      the so-called ‘Maria’, you are one of the SABA guys. Comments posted here by clients valid, because I was one of SABA clients and my experience mirrored theirs.

  25. Maria says:

    Oh please. I have no business or history with SABA. You on the other hand have, but you can’t seem to get over it. Have you run out of victims ‘chris’

  26. Yael Daleyot says:

    Wow! I’m glad I searched you online before making an a opinion about SABA. You’re despicable!

  27. Sabelo says:

    Former SABA student here.
    Our experiences are identical with regards to SABA.
    False claims, disrespect and unpaid servitude.
    I’m in support of any action to that is being taken to bring these people to task.
    I worked very hard to save up for that course, only to find out it was all BS. I wish I had found this blog post when I was researching the academy.

  28. LB says:

    I am also a former servant (…I mean student…) of the ‘academy’. It is, honestly, a joke. It is highly expensive, and although there is some training, it is not nearly sufficient to qualify a person for gainful employment. From my class, I think 2 people found employment in the hospitality industry.
    I also lived in the house with Mr. West, which is horrendous. The male students were allowed to pick their chores for the week, and when they didn’t do them, it’s a matter of ‘boys will be boys’. The female students were held responsible for the cleanliness of the house, as well as doing the laundry from the academy (such as napkins, tablecloths, etc). The house was always filthy, and there was always fighting. People would eat other people’s food, not clean up after themselves, and generally act like a bunch of fools. Mr. West didn’t intervene much.
    At the academy, you are made to feel like a proper servant, and making mistakes is not an option. (I vividly remember a hot cup of coffee being thrown at a student, tray and all, because a certain person was not satisfied with the service.)
    The emotional and verbal abuse is rather constant while attending the academy.
    They take pride in appearance, and have inspections often. And if you are not perfectly presented, they will make sure that you know it. And harp on about it for the rest of the day.
    Honestly, if you are considering going to SABA, don’t!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.