Communicare accused of ‘empty promises’

Communicare board chairwoman Anne Emmett alongside corporate services general manager Jana du Plooy at the Bothasig Gardens Communicare rebranding ceremony.

Elderly Communicare tenants have complained that the social housing agency’s promises, made earlier this year during a rebranding drive, to ease their burden are nothing more than hot air.

In September, Communicare announced it would give concessions to its more vulnerable residents battling to afford rising rents (“Communicare promises to deliver,” Wednesday October 12).

However, many elderly residents in Brooklyn who applied for the concessions say they have come back empty-handed, despite going through an arduous application process.

Patronella Oosthuizen, who has been living at the Communicare complex in Brooklyn for the past 16 years, said she had given up on the possibility of receiving a concession, saying it would cost her more to get the necessary documents together for the application, than anything she gets from Communicare.

“I haven’t heard back from them. They wanted my bank statement, but I can’t afford to pay R75 for the statement. I will also have to pay for transport to get to the bank for the statement; there is nothing else I have in the bank, I don’t know why they need it.

“I don’t think the concession will help, I heard it is only R100, which is not worth much. I pay R1 355 per month, I gave them a pay slip to show them that I am with SASSA (South African Social Security Agency), but I don’t think it will help.”

Silvia Geldenhuys, who also lives at the Communicare complex in Brooklyn, said she had not heard anything about her application for a concession, even though all her neighbours had received notification.

“The reduction on rent was supposed to start on November 1. I emailed all my particulars to them and till today I haven’t heard anything from them. It is simply something they want to put in the paper so that people think they care for the elderly people, but they don’t do anything,” said Ms Geldenhuys.

Community Tenant Association (CTA) representatives Elsa and André Havenga received many calls from elderly tenants in the Brooklyn and Ruyterwacht areas who had received objections to their applications for concessions or couldn’t produce the necessary documentation, despite meeting the Communicare concession criteria.

“The pensioners are receiving their pensions at the till points of Shoprite and some other shops and only receive a till slip as proof showing the amount of the pension. Many pensioners are not in need of bank accounts because the bank costs will make their pension less than what it already is.

“There is only one amount receivable for all Sassa pensioners, which is R1 510 from age 60 till 74, and, when older than age 75, you receive an extra R20. For an elderly pensioner to go to the Sassa office to ask for proof, they have to be in the line on the pavement at 3am standing till 8am, sitting maybe the whole day,” said Ms Havenga.

Ms Havenga said many pensioners had endured that process only to get a R100 concession.

“They look for proof that you’re suffering. They don’t give concessions to those with a disability and the concessions are only valid till June month when the rental increase comes in,” she said.

“Those who pay R502 per month got a concession of R100 and, those who pay R1 677 per month didn’t get it. You have to read between the lines with Communicare.”

Communicare spokeswoman Michelle Matthee, confirmed the concessions were R100 a month and would only last until the end of June next year.

“We have awarded 64 individual concessions of R100 per month, up until end of June 2017. Most residents did not provide all the required information that was requested at the time of the invitation, and, as a result, Communicare, as an act of goodwill, went back to the applicants who applied to ask for the outstanding information,” she said.

“All elderly tenants were invited to submit an application with a copy of their ID, Sassa payslip and a copy of their Sassa card, three months’ bank statements and proof of residential address or rental statement as supporting documentation.

“If they were unable to obtain the required documentation, Communicare accepted substitution documentation such as an affidavit,” said Ms Matthee.

Communicare was trying to provide some relief to its most vulnerable tenants and had received a lot of positive feedback. In many cases, said Ms Matthee, the amount equated to “an average of a 10 percent reduction in their rental”.

Communicare would reopen applications in March/April next year for concessions to paid out during the agency’s next financial year.

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