Article by Annelie du Plessis, published in Probono.Org June 2016 Newsletter.

 Mrs Zanele Gladys Mokolo, in her capacity as coordinator of the Itsoseng Women’s Project (IWP), approached our offices for assistance in a matter involving the Johannesburg Property Company. The IWP serves the community of Orange Farm by providing skills training programmes and community based projects to unemployed women in the area. One of these projects involves running a crèche for children between the ages of 0 to 6 years. The IWP presently has about 60 children in its care. The project also provides the destitute with a source of income through its recycling activities. Each programme operates from shipping containers on the premises, donated by the Department of Social Development, Agriculture and JAM SA, and one of these containers serves as the crèche.

The crèche employs four child minders, a cook and a gardener, and together with its recycling activities it employs about 18 women. Social Development provides subsidised funding to the IWP but this only buys food for about 36 children and barely covers the salaries of the crèche employees. The IWP provides the children with lunch. Most of the parents in the area cannot afford to pay crèche fees and for many children this is the only meal they receive.

The IWP does not own property. It has been leasing the erf in Orange Farm for several years. Before 1994, the Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA) managed this property but in recent years it was given to the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) to manage on behalf of the City of Johannesburg.

Following the disbanding of the TPA, the IWP was told by the JPC to re-apply for a new lease agreement in terms of a tender process, citing the Municipal Finance Management Act of 2003 (MFMA) as the basis for this change. Such an application involves a submission in accordance with the JPC’s Standard Transaction Application Form process and requires a R3000 application fee.

The IWP was not in a position to pay this fee or go through the tender process and requested assistance. An attorney, Neil McKenzie from Fasken Martineau provided our offices with a comprehensive opinion on the JPC’s proposed negotiations concerning the lease agreement with the IWP.

Various meetings were called to secure the IWP’s lease without going through the proposed tender process. This led to the JPC’s discovering that the premises were never formally registered with the Deeds Office. Further meetings and negotiations ensued, which ultimately led to the JPC agreeing to let IWP stay on the property, while it resolves the transfer and registration issue with the City of Johannesburg and the Deeds Office.

The JPC’s proposed tender process would have had far-reaching implications for the Orange Farm community as a whole. A tender process in terms of the MFMA is inappropriate for struggling social welfare organisations. ProBono.Org knows of at least 300 other NPOs (crèches) in a similar position. These NPOs provide a vital service to the community through employment, empowerment, training, education and food provision, but remain insufficiently funded or supported. These NPOs stand to lose properties that they have occupied for years, leaving many of their beneficiaries (mostly children) deprived and without any alternative care options. They are also not receiving sufficient funds or grants, which strains their resources even further.

For the above reasons, our offices, along with Gladys and her children at the crèche are grateful for Neil McKenzie’s dedication and commitment in finalising this matter. We hope this case will set a precedent, impacting on other NPOs in the area.

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