JOHN COCKAYNE: No moving house and no horse jumping — estates play it straight in lockdown
Managers of gated communities say compliance with regulations has been high
The response to Covid-19 has been of the type that will, like an icy draught of cold water in a mouthful of bad teeth, seek out all the flaws and cracks in everything.
Globally, finding the right protocols has tested the intelligence of governments and the resolve of their people.
In talking to some of the people in SA’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. One example involved a homeowner suggesting to the GM that posting a picture of herself putting her horse over a jump would be 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 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.
Of the many good examples, Pecanwood would be an excellent case, where the country club GM Morné Botha reported to me that any proposed house moves had been vetoed in accordance with the lockdown requirements.
He also said 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 extraordinary requirements, including those for social distancing and exercise, which can be achieved on the manicured acres of estates such as Pecanwood, with little special effort.
If you are living in a home overlooking an empty and pristine Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, it must be 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. Schoeman’s company manages more than 70 estates and gated communities within a portfolio of almost R40bn worth of property assets.
Schoeman confirmed that GEMS took senior counsel opinion, which concluded that lockdown protocols in level 5, and the first week of level 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 so successful in these efforts during the lockdown.
I lease a property in what is labelled an equestrian estate, near Hartbeespoort, and the management and trustees have yet to respond to an e-mail requesting clarity about the circumstances of a home move into the estate on May 1. 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 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 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 coronavirus command centre (NCC) would do itself a great service by not taking the 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 the public in SA in complying with the regulations may really start to unravel, irrespective of where they might live.