Joburg professionals and companies are moving to Cape Town

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated “what has always been in front of our eyes” in South Africa, which is a country that is not efficiently run, says relocation logistics expert, Renee Steggman.

As a result, people are looking at options abroad, or are choosing to semigrate – moving to areas that provide better service, and create better lifestyles, she told Cape Talk radio station.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote working, which is likely to stay. Some companies may settle on a hybrid work schedule for employees down the line, but this shift has opened the ability for people to choose how and where they live and work.

Steggman said that a noticeable move by Joburg residents began pre-Covid. She said that for many, Cape Town is the primary destination – however, with higher property prices in the Western Cape, many are moving to smaller coastal towns where homes are cheaper, or moving into a second home, and therefore ‘buying a better lifestyle” while still being able to hold on to their jobs.

People have also been pushed to make choices, she said, whether it be from losing a job, and needing to find alternative work or even looking at options abroad.

Nobukhosi Ngwenya, an urban planner and development practitioner at the African Centre for Cities told the radio station that Cape Town has created a hussle of its own in recent years. “Joburg isn’t always able to provide that kind of very outdoorsy lifestyle that a lot of people enjoy in Cape Town.”

“As more businesses move out of Joburg, the amount of revenue that is generated…will decrease quite significantly, and that will have a huge knock-on effect in terms of service delivery,” Ngwenya said.

Estate agencies have reported an increase in semigration trends in the country for some time. Leadhome said that with the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic and the limits and restrictions it has brought with it, many companies have had to change the way they do business by creating a more agile, online solution to allow people to work from the safety and comfort of their homes.

“Professionals are no longer bound to their city homes but can settle in a place which is the best of work and life worlds – spending less time on travelling to work while dedicating more time to what matters the most.”

The most popular city for relocation from within the country is Cape Town, according to Seeff Properties. Most semigrants come from Gauteng and from KwaZulu-Natal, with microdata pointing to a spike in families moving from Gauteng to the Western Cape over the past 12 months.

“Semigration to the Cape is by no means a new trend; however, it is sharply on the rise due to Covid-19, which has birthed a new era of remote working – making it easier for professionals to live, work and play in their preferred province, no longer having to wait until they retire to live by the sea,” said Alexa Horne, managing director of Dogon Group Properties.

“The allure of the Cape has long been pulling professionals who in the past would commute to Gauteng in the week for work and return to their families in the Western Cape each weekend. The need to keep working away from the family and to commute was a draw-back and a reason that more people were not relocating to the Cape.”

The main reasons for this swell of relocations are people looking for a lifestyle change and wanting quality of life in beautiful surroundings, as well as good schooling for their children and increased safety and security in general.

A city in decline

When asked if Johannesburg is a city in decline, Ngwenya said that it has not recovered from a flight of capital in the inner city, which began in the early 1990s.

This is evident in an increase in complaints by residents on social media, bemoaning a lack of service delivery in Joburg – extending to a lack of water, continued and prolonged unplanned electricity outages, and the longer time-frames taken to resolve these problems.

The City of Johannesburg admitted to budget concerns in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying in September last year, that it faces major service delivery issues if customers continue to fail to pay for services.

Consumers, however, are struggling to pay their bills in the wake of the pandemic.

“The non-payment for municipal services consumed by residents poses a significant threat to the continuation of basic service delivery and exposes the city to increased water and electricity load shedding interruptions designed to balance demand and supply,” CoJ said.

The city said that its refuse removal service Pikitup was also under budgetary constraints and could reduce waste collection frequency schedules in some areas in a bid to cut costs.

Service delivery

Private companies have also begun to fight back against service delivery failures in the areas in which they operate.

In April, the South African High Court ordered the national government to intervene in the affairs of a municipality for the first time. The intervention was a result of an ongoing financial and service delivery crisis in the Lekwa local municipality in Mpumalanga.

The issue was brought by poultry producer Astral Foods, which said that the municipality had not been able to provide clean water or electricity. The group claimed that 40% of its production was under threat due to the crisis.

Dairy group Clover also announced plans to shut down its factory in Lichtenburg over similar service delivery failures – opting to shift its operations to Durban instead.

Read: Stellenbosch wants to be the first municipality in South Africa to leave Eskom and load shedding behind

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