trying to get through to Telkom

Before I start with Telkom, I must mention that Shoprite called today and has promised 50 blankets as a contribution to our winter blanket drive. With over R7 000 in the bank, this means we will have at least 150 blankets to distribute – but I am still expecting more financial contributions, so we could actually hit 200.

Yesterday, the principal of Yeoville Boy’s School told me that he has realised there are a number of children coming to the school who come from extremely poor families who would benefit from getting a blanket. He’s preparing a list. I hope to formalise distribution of all the blankets in this way – identifying the most in need through various existing institutions.

To Telkom. I’m trying to get Telkom to sit around a table and discuss with us a way of transferring to the City of Johannesburg or to the community a piece of land they are trying to sell. It comprises four stands in Yeoville which stretch from Raleigh St to Hunter St. We’d like to use the land to start an additional market which would take some of our informal traders off the street and reduce the incidence of illegal trading. It would also help us to create income-generating opportunities as well as attract tourists if we have this particular market focus on selling all things African – craft, food, clothing etc.

Finding a way to give the land to the community would also give Telkom a lot of Corporate Social Investment credits, but they don’t seem to be interested. And they aren’t even prepared to meet to talk about it. I received a letter from them today saying that they cannot ‘accommodate our request’. It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to get a piece of empty land in a good position and use it to benefit the broader community – and unless we manage to persuade Telkom to change their minds, we are going to miss out on it.

I had already proposed to the City of Johannesburg at the beginning of the year that we get the land for a new market and they do seem interested. The problem is that, unless we can get Telkom to consider the donation of the land or perhaps a long lease at no cost, the CoJ will not, at least in the immediate term, be able to buy the land. Telkom wants to go ahead with an auction they have planned for 23 June, despite the plea we have made for them to consider our proposal.

So we lack money and we lack time. What a pity. This could really make a difference to the development prospects of the area.

And if we don’t get the land, who will? What guarantee do we have that whoever buys it will use it in a way which will benefit the community and not their own narrow commercial interests?

I played the Lotto Powerball last week. Prize – R100m. If I’d had the winning ticket, I’d be writing a very different post today. Instead someone in Free State is walking around a hell of a lot richer than he or she was on Friday – and doesn’t know it. According to the Lotto managers, the winner has not yet come forward.

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