Annual Report 1997

It is a pleasure to cast aside the pessimism characteristic of reports on the inner city and reflect on the progress of the JHC in its second year. I believe it is no exaggeration to claim that the JHC has become a beacon on the expanding canvass of social housing in our country. In doing so I am mindful that beacons embody two elements, stability and visibility. As regards stability, we are as yet a very young company, and much remains to be done before we can claim to be more than a flash in the pan. As regards visibility, I am reminded of the words of Proverbs 29, “where there is no vision, the people shall perish”. The vision of Johannesburg as the golden heartbeat of Africa is what drives the hard work and measurable output of the JHC. To the extent that we contribute and live up to that vision, to that extent will we be successful. On the basis of our achievements to date, I believe we have provided one beacon on the long journey towards our vision.

Training is Key
At the end of a training session with tenants who moved to Tasnim Heights in March this year, one participant remarked that he had never been to a session like this before. He was pleased to be introduced to his new neighbours; to discuss the rights and obligations imposed on both tenant and building owner by the lease agreement; and to understand the concept of mutual respect built into the house rules. I think that the property managers and trainers were amazed at the profound impact a simple session based on common sense, common law principles and common respect had on tenants. Our experience to date has a clear message for tenant/landlord relationships. Ensure a common understanding of the rights and obligations of both parties and much of the conflict that is reported around the inner city can be avoided. Such understanding, of course, needs to be within a framework of reasonable rentals for properly maintained buildings. But this does not seem like an unobtainable achievement in the inner city, as evidenced by our own experience and by the number of like-minded owners who have asked us to provide training for tenants, tenant committees and caretakers in their buildings.

We seem too, to have been successful in our efforts to integrate training into our construction programmes. Ordinary labourers, semi skilled workers and emerging entrepreneurs have all benefited from literacy, bricklaying, plastering, electrician and plumbing courses, as well as building management courses provided alongside their conventional work on the building sites. The foresight of our donors, the European Union (EU) and the Flemish Regional government and shareholders, Kagiso Trust, The New Housing Company (NewHco), the South African Black Contractors Assistance Programme and the Building Industries Federation of South Africa, in providing training funds has allowed a situation where we can insist on both quality of production from the contractor and allow the leeway needed to provide training.

Progress through Partnership
Progress through partnerships has become an important principle in the work of the JHC. Our very existence is due to the partnership of Kagiso Trust with the EU, and later the Flemish Regional government and NewHco. The Minister President of Flanders, Mr Luc van den Brande and Mr Erwan Fouéré, the Ambassador of the European Union in South Africa , have visited our projects and we are pleased with their positive verdict on our work to date. A visit from the European Union's Court of Auditors in March confirmed that we are on track in terms of our delivery commitments to the EU. We are also forging mutually beneficial relationships with housing associations based in Belgium , England , the Netherlands and Norway . Not only are our staff benefiting from the experience of these much older organisations, but we have been asked to participate in training sessions run by these organisations for the benefit of other South African social housing organisations. The JHC is also a part of a new and exciting alignment, the Association of Social Housing Organisations (ASHO) recently formed in Johannesburg . Such association with organisations of similar intent can only bode well for the future of social housing in South Africa .

No less important though, are our partnerships with various levels of government. On average about one quarter of the capital costs of our projects is provided by the subsidy scheme of the National Housing Ministry which is administered in our case by the Gauteng Department of Housing. We were delighted to host National Housing Minister Sanki Mtembi-Mahanyele and Gauteng MEC for Housing and Land Affairs, Dan Mofokeng, at the launch of our Jeppe Oval project in June of this year. The Oval project is indeed an excellent example of the value for money product that can be produced for subsidy scheme beneficiaries through the partnerships that social housing organisations offer.

The Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council and its various local councils are also important partners in our efforts. The land for the Oval project was provided at a subsidised rate by a local authority, mindful of the special dispensation needed to kick start residential development in the city. Further agreements around the provision of land owned by local authorities are in the offing, in addition to one concluded with the Johannesburg Diocese of the Anglican Church. In a mutually reinforcing pact, the JHC acquired the church owned land adjacent to the Oval, and will look at means to assist the church in the setting up of savings schemes for church members attempting to overcome the hurdles of decent accommodation. We are pleased to have an association with the church, an institution with such long experience in dealing with social issues.

To the Future
I want in conclusion to pay tribute to the board and management of the JHC. I must say that the JHC board is one of the most active on which I have had the privilege to serve. This in part is due to the ability of management to take advantage of the wide experience of the board, and in turn the willingness of board members to make the time available. This partnership too is fundamental to the success of our company. During the past year, Rod MacGillivray and Khehla Shubane resigned from the board. We wish Rod and his family well in their new land, and welcome in their place Willie Els and Zohra Ebrahim.

The management team has had to learn rapidly as they have undertaken the challenges posed by the new organisation. That there were many issues to confront in getting to this point, I have no doubt. That there were some disappointments and frustrations on the road, I am only too aware. But, as I have walked around on projects, I see the fruits of their efforts in the construction and management of the buildings, and the good relations between caretakers, head office management and tenants. For this I want to offer my congratulations and thanks to all.

Our work to date has laid a solid foundation. The results of hard work, guided by our vision of the future, and grounded in the need for training and progress through partnerships, are visible for all to see. With this foundation, the JHC is looking forward to the next year.

Rev Mvume Dandala

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JHC 1997 Annual Report