Smoke, but no Fire

When Dawid October approached me for advice about selling his home on Plot 222, Haarlem, I asked him what price he had in mind. He said R35,000-00; then when he saw the look of horror on my face: “Do you think it’s too much?”

T-Chimneys.jpg“Too little!” I said. “It’s worth twice that.”

“So, do you want to buy it?” he asked.

“No, I thought you wanted me to find you a buyer?”

“Yes, but why don’t you buy it?”

The property was located on the main road of Haarlem, the house had a good roof but no floors, no ceilings, the internal walls were disintegrating, and, worst of all, it had two families living in it.

I would hate to live on the main road, being a bit reclusive by nature, but it might make an investment to repair and resell. So, reluctantly, having a small inheritance to invest, and believing in property as an investment, I bought it. At least nobody could accuse me of taking the seller for a ride.

Dawid moved out of his half of the building, but his three cousins, resident in the other half, had not moved out in the three months notice I had given them. I pleaded and begged, but two months later, they were still there. I started knocking down the interior walls to use as fill under the yet-to-be floors. The brothers moved at last.

Dawid’s grandfather had two sons and two properties, side by side. He gave the elder the one with the dwelling on, and the younger got the other without, but it was understood that they could share the house until the younger built his own house next door. The sharing of the house involved two kitchens, so, another chimney was built, but no house next door.

The two brothers grew old and passed on. The older left his plot, with the house, to Dawid, his only son. The younger gave his empty plot to two of his four sons. The other two got property elsewhere. A dwelling was started next door but never finished; thus three of the sons had stayed on, sharing with Dawid.

Twin Chimneys.jpg

Twin Chimneys, before the addition of the veranda,

Some sort of pub, or restaurant, I thought, being on the main road. I put in concrete floors, tiled them, outfitted the outer rooms as a kitchen with worktops, and an office with adjacent toilet and shower in case it was used as a flat. The two chimneys, side by side, made an interesting feature for the dining area with a yellowwood bar-counter, behind which was a wash-up sink and secure store for booze. Alongside these were a gents and ladies washroom/toilets.

Then, with approved building plans, I added a big 6x12m veranda on the street side. And along came a gent from Cape Town, with family in Haarlem, to hire it from me as a night-club. Well and good. I gave permission for him to close in the veranda area to use as a disco, and he started to apply for permits. I accepted a low rent for six months to give him time to get his ducks in a row.

He spent mega-bucks on painting it out, adding security lighting, sports-bar TV screens, stools and tables, fridges etc. His young relative, Reagan, was a DJ, but he cautiously invited local dignitaries and senior citizens to an introductory opening where he explained the need for a licence pub, the only one in the village, to prevent young folk from driving to neighbouring towns for such entertainment. Everyone there agreed that it was a good idea, but the ANC councillor did not attend, although he had been invited. He set about condemning the idea of a bar in his town, even though he did nothing to eradicate the more than a dozen illegal shebeens. He set about stymieing the applications for licences.

To bring in something while waiting for his permits, Reagan had some disco events, even advertising them, saying, “Bring your own XYZ.”

A paleface, newly moved to the village, had built his home on the main road a block from the pub. He phoned me at two in the morning and yelled at me about the noise. I told him that what the business owner did with it was not my concern. I had to turn off my phone every Saturday night. He also involved the police with a written complaint, which did not help with the application at the liquor board… He was the only one whoever complained.

He also complained to the building inspector that I had closed in the veranda without permission. The Inspector wrote me an ultimatum about submitting more drawings or tearing it down. I tore into the Inspector about his allowing hundreds of tin squatter shacks all over Uniondale and elsewhere, but being petty with my veranda…

The ANC councillor once pursued me home, filled with righteousness about alcohol and the devil, but I pointed out that he was in a marvellous position to aid the community with the chance of several jobs, as well as a locally run  business to be encouraged and should grab the opportunity with both hands. He simmered down; admitting he had arrived with anger and was leaving with something to think about. He did withdraw his opposition thereafter, but it made little difference as the damage had already been done, and he lost his position to a DA councillor in the next election. The DA councillor was no help either. Lately, another ANC councillor has the position and things now look a little more promising as he tries to persuade the Municipal hierarchy that the village does need a place of entertainment.

The section of the village in which the property is situated had been officially designated as commercial, but I still had to apply for rezoning, which took months of meetings and cost me R8800-00 to George Municipality, under whose care we lie. They eventually sent me a letter confirming that it was rezoned to commercial in 2014, but didn’t bother to give me the certificate which is required for all licence applications…

They eventually sent one late last year for a residential zoning! When I went to George to get the correct one, they had lost all my files and grudgingly gave me one earlier this year (2018) which excluded a place of entertainment.

To date, August 2018, licenses are still being sought. I could weep for my tenant, but unable to raise the rent as per agreement, I calculate I have sacrificed more that R110,000-00 loss of revenue. More fool, me, but half a loaf is better than zilch. Nobody else has offered to hire the place, and I am too busy writing to run a business there myself…

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
This entry was posted in Building, Shaping a writer, South Africa and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Smoke, but no Fire

  1. johan says:

    Lets hope a solution is around the corner….deservedly!

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