Sunday – just another day in the life

My Sunday started at 1am when I went to fetch Nicci and her friends from a deserted Rosebank and dropped them back at Sheila’s. Have to confess that, when I got back, I wanted to check to see if there had been any reaction to the blog yet – and indeed, two night owls had posted responses. Positive ones. And there are some more this morning. One asked about subscribing. There is a button up top which says ‘subscribe’. Press that, I guess. I don’t know how it works exactly. Maybe if you’ve subscribed you get notified if there are new posts in the blog.

Last night, my friend the guest house owner – the one who wants to ‘shut me down’ – had yet another event in his establishment. The street was blocked, pavements covered with cars. I’m told he had a live band in his place – another infringement. Liquor licensing is very precise (or appears to be). In order to host live entertainment in a liquor-selling establishment, you need an entertainment license. I suspect he might also be breaking zoning by-laws. His property is Residential 4, which allows for a wide range of residential options, including having a block of flats or a guest house/hotel. But this does not include being allowed to run other business activities – and providing entertainment is probably regarded as a business activity. For that, he would need to have the property rezoned to Business 1.

This is a problem. We already have an overwhelming demand for housing in the area. Turning residential properties into businesses – rezoning them for business – is a very dangerous trend. It reduces the available space for people to live in, it changes the residential character of the area, it opens the door for a wide range of business activities that are not compatible with a residential environment.

The thing is: it’s not easy to rezone from residential to business. It also costs money to do so and objections to such a rezoning can be lodged by departments of the City Council, by the community, by the business sector, but anyone who might be affected. If a rezoning is granted, the value of the property increases because it is now possible for it be used for profit-making activities. And it is not likely that some future owner will change the zoning back to residential – the only benefit to doing this would be that their rates would go down, but they would only do it if the area had once again stabilised into an exclusively residential one.

It’s al about having the right vision for the area, it’s about effective management of bylaws by the CoJ, and it’s about empowering people to be able to influence what is happening in their community. Trouble is, most people don’t even know when applications are made for rezonings, liquor licenses, gambling licenses and the like. These are published in obscure sections of newspapers and in government gazettes, not sources of information readily accessible to or consumed by the average South African (or indeed the average citizen anywhere in the world, probably). We try to get the information out through our local newspaper, Yeovue News, to which I will eventualy make a link in this blog. I can email it to you each week if you send a request to yeovue.news@yeoville.org.za.

By the way, we do also have a website, though it is not currently up-to-date. Check it out at www. yeoville.org.za. You can also get an interesting summary of Yeoville Bellevue’s history on Wikipedia. I drafted the original, someone has made quite a few changes since then.

Back to the guest house. The CPF Deputy Chair said he was going to get a contingent of police to go over and investigate what was happening there. I don’t know if he did – but when I went to fetch Nicci at 1am, the street was clear. I’ll find out later if there was any action by the police or if the guest house guests had an early night.

I guess if the owner were to read this blog, he would be even more convinced that I was victimising him. He wants to know why I don’t target other places. Well, the fact is that through various structures in the community – the CPF, the new Yeoville Bellevue Community Advocacy Committee, the Yeoville Stakeholders Forum – we collectively have identified over 120 places – legal and illegal – selling alcohol in Yeoville Bellevue. We will be handing this information to the SAPS and to the Liquor Board for them to consider and take action. But he’s right – I personally do pay more attention to him because he is right on my doorstep and he impacts directly on my immediate environment.

This is a natural tendency. There was a guy who called me for help with a noisy bar across from him. I advised him on what to do, he worked on it, got 70 signatures, wrote a letter to the Liquor Board, we backed them up and so on. When we were forming the Advocacy Committee, I called him and invited him to join, He said that there had been an improvement in the noise levels and that he was now reasonably happy and so he had no further interest in getting involved. Okay, I said. But please don’t call me in future if you have problems because this problem is bigger than your immediate one and if you aren’t prepared to help others with similar challenges after you have been helped, then I don’t think it’s fair to expect us to concern ourselves with your problems.

Like I said, it’s a natural tendency to focus on that which is closest to you. He has since said he will continue to work with us, even if the place across from his house is permanently sorted out. The struggle to organise people to act in the broader interests of the community (which, in the end, are their own interests) is not an easy one.

Someone – Marx, Engels, Lenin, I don’t recall – once said sonething like this: the difference between animals and human beings is that animals adapt to their environment, but human beings can change their environment. Now some of course would say animals have got it right, but that’s another topic of discussion. My point (and the point of the person who said it) is that we can all be agents of change. We don’t simply have to accept reality if we don’t like what it offers us. There is a degree to which we can influence it, modify it, improve it. If we choose not to do that, then we don’t really have a right to complain if things are not to our liking.

Going shopping after paying off the various workers who have come to do piece work to earn a weekly stipend.

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