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Diary of a pandemic – Estates at Play: part 2

2.00pm 19th June 2020 - Opinion

The response to COVID-19 has been of the type, which will, like an icy draught of cold water in a mouthful of bad teeth, seek out all the flaws and cracks in everything, writes John Cockayne.

Globally, finding the right protocols has tested both the intelligence of governments and the resolve of their people.

In talking to some of the people in South Africa’s estates and golf estates sector and in answer to the question, ‘has living in an estate been a case of one rule for some and an entirely different one for others’, the answer has been a definite ‘no’.

In searching for a cross section of examples, the few real problems encountered, seem to have emanated largely from homeowners and residents.

The silly example in our trilogy, involves a homeowner suggesting, to the GM, that posting a picture of herself putting her horse over a jump, as being a good way to promote the ‘joys’ of living on her particular estate.

Naturally, management promptly nipped this ‘idea’ in the bud, by pointing out, diplomatically, that this was hardly conducive to the type of image the estate wanted to project in the middle of a national lockdown, within which the overriding mantra is for everyone to ‘stay at home’.

Morne Botha, GM at Pecanwood Golf & Country Club South Africa

Of the many good examples, Pecanwood would be an excellent case, where the country club GM Morne Botha, reported to me that any proposed house moves had been vetoed in accord with the lockdown requirements. He also commented that the estate’s homeowners and residents had been supportive of the need to adhere to the regulations.

It has to be said that the general level of support has been in the face of a number of quite extraordinary requirements, including those for social distancing and exercise, which can be achieved on the manicured acres of estates like Pecanwood, with very little special effort.

If you are living in a home overlooking an empty and pristine Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, it must be very tempting to sneak out for a few holes. However, eight weeks and counting into the lockdown and this temptation has been resisted.

Francois Schoeman, the COO of GEMS property management, also confirmed that in general compliance, levels among residents had been good.

Francois Schoeman, COO GEMS Property Management Group South Africa

Francois’ company manages over 70 estates and gated communities, within a portfolio of almost R 40 billion worth of property assets. Francois confirmed that GEMS took Senior Council’s opinion, which concluded that lockdown protocols in stage 5, and the first week of stage 4, could not in any way be interpreted to permit any person to move house.

It is a truism that your brand never sleeps and golf estate clubs’ managers have been under extraordinary pressure to keep their brands reflected in a positive light and their businesses above water.

The overall levels of compliance lends support to the sense that estates and golf estates have been effective in preserving their business’s brand integrity, thereby ensuring that the best interests of their residents, members and homeowners are served.

However, not all estates appear to have been quite so successful in these efforts during the lockdown period.

Course at Pecanwood Golf & Country Club

I lease a property, in what is labelled an equestrian estate, near Hartbeespoort and the management and trustees have yet to respond to an email requesting clarity around the circumstances of a home move into the estate on 01 May 2020.

Subsequently, in a WhatsApp group discussion, it was confirmed, “management was in possession of a legal permit for the new resident and all requirements were in place”.

This sounds promising, but one hopes that the estate’s management is not inadvertently in error in believing it had a ‘legal permit’, which the consensus of expert opinion states was not available. One can hope that this is an isolated example, caused by a simple misunderstanding where the various parties involved in the move were ignorant of the law, as opposed to choosing to ignore the regulation, because it did not suit their respective agendas.

In broader terms, it might be argued that these types of incidents are merely indicative of the stresses everyone is facing and it is true that some of the government’s decisions have made about as much sense as teeing off with a lob wedge on long par 5.

However, whatever the levels of disagreement with the regulations and our individual opinions of them, breaking the law is not the solution.

The National Command Council (NCC) would do itself a great service by not taking the South African public’s patience and relative good humour for granted. The continued issuance of inconsistent and illogical edicts will undermine the belief that the NCC knows what it is doing, while the threads holding together the continuing stoicism and willingness, displayed by the vast majority of people, in complying with the regulations may really start to unravel, irrespective of where they might live.

‘Diary of a pandemic – Estates at Play: part 3’ will be published next Friday, 26th June 2020

John Cockayne Mobile 0027 (0) 73 8967931 & 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.

John Cockayne

John is a very experienced event manager, has had extensive marketing experience, worked as a project consultant on three continents and has developed and run a travel agency and two tour operator businesses. He is also a Founder and Life member of the PGA of South Africa and is no stranger to working inside the ropes having held operational roles as a head professional, director of golf, club manager, coaching director and as a tournament official on the Sunshine Circuit.

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