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News from South Africa: ‘Diary of a pandemic – Estates at Play’

9.15am 5th June 2020 - Coronavirus NewsOpinion

It has been said that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, This rationale is used as the justification for some of the increasingly inconsistent decisions and bizarre pronouncements made by governments everywhere, not least in South Africa, writes John Cockayne.

Of course, people throughout the world will have their own first-hand experiences of this and all of it leaves most of us confused and grumpy. I heard the UK PM recently saying in a broadcast how the country had ‘come together’ to deal with the crisis – not actually Boris, most people had stayed away from each other.

Perhaps, Barack Obama summed it up best with his comment to the effect that – if nothing else, the pandemic has torn back the veil from the flimsy belief that those in charge know what they are doing – in fact, he continued,  some of them are not even pretending to be in charge.

In South Africa, it is a fact that through the ANC’s failure to address the social, housing and land issues effectively, the ruling party has created a rod for its own back in terms of the number of people living in poorly structured townships and informal settlements.

These conditions required the resulting lockdown to be structured as a one fits all solution. This means that whether you live in a shack, on an isolated farm, or at an estate – ‘stay at home’ is the overriding requirement.

However, even the ANC’s most disingenuous members would blanche at the thought of trying to relay the dual message that if you are in a township like Diepsloot you must stay at home, whereas if you live at a Pecanwood you will be allowed to walk, jog, or even play golf. Even if social distancing in these environments is easier to achieve, even outdoors, than it is under the strictest ‘house arrest’ in very densely populated areas like the townships.

Therefore, wherever you live and irrespective of the individual circumstances, the same ‘stay at home’ requirements were applied to everyone.

South Africa is generally acknowledged as being one of the most unequal societies in the world. The country’s lockdown has further highlighted these glaring social disparities, while also being one of the most severe.

Too draconian many have said with, during level 5 and most of level 4, 95% of business activity shut down, no house moves, night-time curfews, no going outdoors, even for exercise other than in a recently introduced period when everyone is allowed to squeeze out between 06h00 to 09h00, no alcohol or tobacco sales allowed, etc.

In a business sense it has become a bloodbath and few would now disagree that the cure is proving to be worse than the disease, which it was set up to combat.

The poorer sections of the region’s community have been surrounded by what has proved to be the not so benign presence of the SA Defence Force and the SA police, both under orders to enforce the lockdown regulations.

Golf estates represent a significant niche in the golf market and residential housing sector. In all of this uncertainty and discomfort, has it been a case that another set of rules have been in play behind closed doors, for those fortunate enough to live in the parallel universe of the region’s estates?

Happily, this would not seem to be the case.

The consensus from the golf estates is that most homeowners and residents currently are complying with the requirements of the lockdown, but have also said that it is the police’s job to enforce the lockdown’s regulations.

The estates I have contacted have been communicating regularly with their homeowners and residents. The focus of the messaging has been the on the need to comply with the regulations. None have empowered their security firms to ‘police’ the requirement and have relied on their residents and homeowners to ‘do the right thing’.

Pecanwood’s Country Club GM Morne Botha commented, “Our members and homeowners trust the judgement and abilities of both management and the board.”

He continued by saying that, “This trust is reciprocated in that we have an equal confidence and trust that our residents will adhere to the laws, whatever personal opinions they might have of them”. 

“Trust and respect are the bedrock of any successful community, which is what has been developed at Pecanwood and this type of trial has put us all to the test and we are very pleased to say that, as a community, we have not been found wanting”.

Therefore, it would seem to be a case of far so good.

Let us hope that the restraint displayed to date, by the majority of South Africans, is not squandered by any continuation of the opaque decision-making and inconsistencies, which have characterised too many areas of the government’s response to the pandemic.

John Cockayne Mobile 0027 (0) 73 8967931 and email John’s eclectic business experience in tandem with his writing skills – makes him much sought after as a business consultant and writer. In terms of the latter, and amongst a number of current roles, he is the golf editor with, or a columnist for, a number of top platforms and publications including Destination Golf Travel Global, GolfVistaSA, GolfRSA and Business Day.

Morne Botha, Pecanwood Country Club General Manager
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