As South African political parties diverge in different directions this weekend across our country to launch their political manifestoes sandwiched with promises and posturing ahead of the oncoming local government elections on 3 August 2016 an uneasiness pervades the employees of the City of Tshwane and their families who have been renting apartments and houses from the municipality.
As of the closure of business last week (8 April 2016) most tenants have received notices to seek alternative accommodation by 30 June 2016. The notice exploited a clause in the lease agreement with the tenants which states that the owner can give the tenant a three month notice. The notice pointed out that the tenant, at a date to be given later, would be invited to buy the flats or houses on auction. Sometime on 4 April 2016 there appeared an article in the independent newspapers that informed the public that the city was planning to sell off its houses and flats amount to 155 properties in an effort to raise billions. The tenants, which this writer is a part of, were never informed about plans to sell the homes they have been renting, some for more than ten years. Perhaps the reader may pose the question as to why the tenants did not make plans to buy their own properties all these years. That question in itself throws into stalk relief the economic challenges that many of us face when we have to apply for a bond or a home loan. Some of us have settled for rental instead because life must go on. Geography also plays a big role in terms of being close to work and schools. This is why we have chosen to live where we live. While on the one hand the appearance of the 4 April article has pricked the market’s interest in the properties we live in as far as their auctioning is concerned on the other hand it has brought much distress to us and our families as we face being homeless should we fail to go par to par with seasoned bidders come auction date. There is no question about it that there is an acute chance we won’t succeed to buy our homes on auction should we compete with the property market businesses.
It is curious how in my country a man who tries to live as honestly as possible is met with violence. However subtle it may be, violence is violent. It starts with the mind before its gets physical.
The motion to sell the properties which, we’re told, was voted for by our ruling party in council and subsequently won through a majority vote has forecasted a situation as 30 June dawns where-in many families will be displaced and homeless. The timing of the motion is premature in that we are in the middle of the calendar year. The ideal situation would have been to give council employees to vacate the premises at least by 31 December 2016. This would give us the opportunity to seek alternative accommodation closer to our work place and schools for our children comfortably. Presently it is unlikely that the council resolution gave any thought as to where City of Tshwane’s employees would find accommodation in the middle of the year as it tabled the motion to instruct them to vacate their rented homes. What kind of a picture will we have on the weekend following Thursday 30 June 2016? Perhaps the City of Tshwane’s employees will ceremoniously be led out of their homes by the red ants or violently yanked from them should they make a stand as it has become tradition in our country to fight violently for one’s right. Either way family lives have been mentally disrupted as I write and when that period comes it will be a defining moment for the city council of capital city of South Africa and its employees.
There are ways to resolve this without some of us becoming bad boys. But it will take humility on the part of those who lead us and bravery on the part of those who are being led. The different ways I will subsequently offer here will threaten if not thwart off big business’s salivating mouths to buy the properties on auction as it takes priority on the part of the tenants who are the employees of the City of Tshwane, your civil servants.
The City of Tshwane mandated by the city council of which the ruling party is at the helm can give its employees more time to look for alternative accommodation, surely looking for a place in the middle of the year is next to impossible especially for a family. Besides, the market price for renting privately is far greater than what the employees have been used to paying and it will take some reprioritization on the part of each individual family. While this will reduce their monthly earnings it will give them the chance to perhaps continue to live in the same area they have been living in for years. The other way around this problem would be to give the employees first offer of purchase of the flats or houses they have been renting. This will give the employee the chance to try to stay at the homes they have come to love and cherish and their lives will not be disrupted. This is how the envisioned billions can be raised, humanely. It will prioratize batho pele principles and our constitutional rights.
As we continuously launched our complains over the past week it was our hope that the council would listen and come back to us with alternative resolution that takes into account the pertinent issues that I have tried to raise here. So far there has not been an answer. But time is ticking. It is curious how in my country a man who tries to live as honestly as possible is met with violence. However subtle it may be, violence is violent. It starts with the mind before its gets physical.
*the reader is drawn to the spiritual successor to this piece ‘the insignificant civil servant‘ for further reading.
© mmutle arthur kgokong 2016