Hindsight: The insignificant civil servant

optical jacket1OUR City of Tshwane’ Honorable Mayor Kgosientso Ramogkopa together with his entourage responsible for Finance, Policing, Health Care and Human Settlement were featured on Power FM’s Power Perspective hosted by Onkgopotse JJ Tabane on the evening of 25 April around 22:00. Although the round table was an opportunity for the listeners to hear reflections on our leaders successes and challenges that they have faced whilst carrying  our their mandate of moving our city forward as per their portfolios, I waited in bated breath to hear about the fate of the city’s employees who face being homeless by 30 June 2016. There was no mention of this issue in the lively conversation that ensued as listeners called in to comment or twittered on the various issues tackled through the live ‘round table discussion’. As an employee of the City of Tshwane and directly affected by the selling of its properties I wondered how my other colleagues who occupy houses and flats of this beautiful city felt at the end of the discussion as they wrestled for sleep

Perhaps it is a minor issue that the City of Tshwane employees’ homes will be auctioned, the date is yet to be set, but consultation with us about this motion was never conducted prior to the press announcement on 04 April 2016. Over the past ten years I have done everything I can not to get into any books, good or bad, through the work that I do as a public servant of the City of Tshwane. I have succeeded until now. Presently I find my hand forced to use my art in an attempt to fend off a nuisance that threatens my comfort. The present writing is not penned in the interest of soliciting empathy from anyone. It is done in an effort to raise an awareness of the implication of what is about to happen to some of the City of Tshwane’s civil servants at the end of June. It is written specifically to accentuate a nexus point of the implications of this unsound motion and what it heralds in the minds of those affected by the City of Tshwane’s decision to sell its properties.

I am a man of letters, an essayist. I approach writing as a problem like a mathematician approach numbers. I am titillated by well constructed words. However at this instance may the reader be mindful that I write first as a South African with the constitution of this country plastered to his heart, secondly I write as a Tshwane resident unwavering in my conviction that I live and work in a City that is progressive in its outlook to look after its citizens. Thirdly, and this is my last position, I write as a humble civil servant of the City of Tshwane who for more than a decade and a half have dedicated his life to the development of the Visual Arts sector in this city.

For a couple of years or so there was a rumour that did the rounds around the tenants and employees renting a myriad of properties from the City of Tshwane that the properties might be sold. During that period, as it is with rumors, there was a lot of speculation on how the properties would be disposed of. Some kind of anxiety began to heave itself up amongst those of us who touched on this disturbing factor a number of times only to arrive at a cold trail. Perhaps I speak for my self. Perhaps deep down we thought it would not be a big deal when it eventually happened and that our lives would not be affected drastically in any way. After all we were in the employment of the capital of the Republic of South Africa. But then like a rain that decides to shower on you on your way to work the day you are without your umbrella the news hit us. One by one, as of 7 April, we received calls from our housing administration to collect letters of notice informing us that we must look for alternative accommodation because come 30 June 2016 we ought to have vacated the places we have been renting from the city, our employer, some for more than a decade. The City of Tshwane had taken a decision to auction its properties. Panic set in.  see ‘Of Big Bossess and Minions‘.

»There is a cold comfort in suspicion and strength in isolating a challenge.«

It was more than panic, as of when we received the notice letter that exploited a clause of tenant-owner-agreement-termination, the ensuing questions were, where will we find accommodation in the middle of the year? How would our children get to school if we do find accommodation but it is outside of the city as it is difficult to find accommodation in the middle of the year? How would we get to work? What about our overall budget which did not anticipate our ceremonious evictions? I immediately send a letter of concern to the department responsible for our housing raising these issues and concerns but got no response from it. Later on together with fellow tenants I live with we wrote a collective grievance to the City manager asking for a formal meeting wherein we could at least discuss the possibility of being given until 31 December 2016 to vacate our homes or receive first offer to purchase the premise before any auction could take place. In any case we stood no chance to compete with seasoned property buyers in an auction orgy. We unfortunately got no response as well from the City manager.

In any circumstances wherein unforeseen problems crops up one is bound to analyze the situation comprehensively in an effort to make sense of what is happening. Perhaps to a certain extend it dulls the nerves a little bit when we think we have found the source of our troubles, even if we are wrong, there is a cold comfort in suspicion and strength in isolating a challenge.

The public appearance of the article mentioning the city’s intention to sell its properties wherein its employees reside, through auctioning in an effort to raise money circumvented the notice that we got from the housing department by about a week in that we never received any information prior regarding that decision excerpt when we received our notices as of Thursday 7 April which were signed on 6 April 2016 by the Director of Corporate Property Management.

Let me indulge you further. On Wednesday 06 April 2016 another event of importance took place, the honorable president of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, announced the date of our next local election as 3 August 2016. Unlike the last election’ date this year’s election would take place later in the year. In the light of the significance of the month of April personally I would’ve preferred the elections to have been scheduled for April since it is freedom month. For my present purpose I will ignore the national election timeline and restrict my self to that of local election as what follows dictates. The last municipal election took place on 18 May 2011 just after freedom month. We could say it took place during the workers’ month. If we go further back in time we would note that the 2006 local election took place on 1 March on Human rights month. August will represent women’s month. But what is significant about the month of August as far as the oncoming local elections in South Africa are concerned is that it lies in the new financial year 2016/2017 compared to the preceding elections that took at the end of the previous financial year.

If there is any meaning to be drawn from all this is that it will be an election that will occur three months into the new financial year wherein our local governments would have dispensed off previous projects, failed or successful, of yesteryear and took on new ones as politicians compositions would dictate by then. Observed from this vantage point the situation of the City of Tshwane’s employees housing challenge debacle lies outside of the new financial year 2016/2017. The ignorant timing of the announcement of the auctioning of the City of Tshwane’s employees homes is conveniently located during a time of finalization of projects of the City as per 2015/2016 financial year and the civil servants, the workers, are being pulled violently into a vortex with no one to turn to.

Presently we are at pains to look for alternative accommodation elsewhere while on the other hand we fight for time to continue to live where we are living until 31 December 2016 or better still we are hoping to be offered the opportunity to buy our current homes. As civil servants we believe that the Batho Pele principle applies to us too as far as consultation is concerned. No one consulted us of plans to formally sell our homes. As civil servants we are also human this means that human rights’ bill also cover us, as matters stand now there is a trammel on our human rights. We are aggrieved. How will we carry our mandate, and collectively also that of the City of Tshwane, in serving our residents with a dark cloud of being homeless by 30 June hanging over our heads?

*During the writing of this essay I worked with the title ‘City of Tshwane Employees Homeless by 30 June 2016’. For diplomatic reasons since the matter at hand is still being ‘debated’ I renamed this work ‘The insignificant civil servant’. The original tone envisaged for the final draft has been maintained throughout.



6 May

© mmutle arthur kgokong 2016