Joburg resisdents resort to "runners"

Desperate Johannesburg residents and attorneys trying to obtain billing and clearance certificates have resorted to hiring "runners" who begin queueing at Jorissen Place from 2am.

A group of about six "runners" that The Star found in line at 4am on Monday said that if they don't line up before dawn, they will probably queue all day and possibly not be served at all.

Calling themselves "consultants", some operate independently, while others have formed companies representing several attorneys and conveyancers.

They charge between R200 and R1 000 per transaction.

The group were unanimous in saying the staff at Johannesburg's clearance section were helpful and friendly, but they had to wait for figures from the utilities such as water, electricity and water.

Problems also arose when properties were not on the valuation roll or rezonings had not been captured on computer.

Most of the runners would not talk to The Star, fearing their relationship with the staff would be jeopardised.

However, Benny Goldberg, an estate agent, who is one of the group, said the systems should be improved and more staff allocated to attend to customers.

He said delays were causing great inconvenience and often leading to the cancellation of property deals.

Another runner, Heather Ludeke, said: "It is very frustrating that we have to do this but we have no option if we have to do our jobs," she said.

A runner, who would not be named, admitted that the chaos was creating opportunities to make "a lot of money". He said: "We know we are here for about five years so we are making as much as we can now."

Goldberg arrives at 2am, books his place in the queue, goes home and returns at about 6.30am. This infuriates some of the others who stand for hours in the foyer of Jorissen Place.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Virgil James said the runners should be able to arrive half-an-hour before opening time to consult with staff.

"If indeed there is a problem, as they are claiming, we will look at it with a view to establishing a facility at the help desk to sort out problematic transactions," James said.

Article by: Anna Cox - www.iol.co.za