Nelson Mandela Bay landlords to blacklist ‘students behaving badly’
One night in August 2018, a group of Nelson Mandela University (NMU) students decided to have an impromptu braai, but they did not have any wood.
They then kicked down the front door of their student commune at The Dunes, in Summerstrand, broke it into pieces and lit a fire.
Weeks later, a security officer who was responding to complaints about excessive noise at one of the townhouses at The Dunes was beaten up by three students.
These are among the countless incidents that have prompted the Student Accommodation Providers Association to compile a “blacklist” of students it says have poor social tendencies.
If the student accommodation owners have their way, the blacklist will come into effect in January 2020.
Students will be blacklisted based on various criteria, including abuse of alcohol, hosting parties, playing loud music, sub-letting, threatening and assaulting fellow student tenants and staff, smoking on the premises, damaging property, abusing water and electricity, and failing to pay their rent.
The proposal has been rejected by some student leaders, who say it would go against the very nature of student life.
But Student Accommodation Providers Association chair Herman van Thiel Berghuis said the intention was not to punish students, but to protect the properties as well as the well-behaved students.
He said the association had solicited legal advice and was advised that its planned move would be covered by the Protection of Personal Information Act, which allowed for landlords to include a blacklist clause in lease agreements.
The association is made up of owners who provide about 2,000 student accommodation beds in the Summerstrand area.
Van Thiel Berghuis, who owns student accommodation at The Dunes townhouses, also revealed this week that it had already turned away about 50 students who had proven to be bad tenants in the past year.
The Dunes accommodates about 900 students who live off-campus, as well as non-student tenants and owners.
The offending students had been listed in an internal blacklist based on transgressions from the previous academic year.
“This is not a punishment; it is not perpetual. It is basically a tool that [landlords] can use to say to the students ‘listen, here are the rules, abide by them and we will have no problems. And if after many warnings you don’t improve, then you will end up on the blacklist’,” Van Thiel Berghuis said.
He said he had noticed an increasing trend of violent behaviour among students.
“It’s terrifying how, instead of coming to the office to report, they take matters into their own hands, and the next moment they end up in a brawl and then one student ends up going to the police,” he said.
“There is no ruling on how bad a tenant a student has to be. There is no barometer, but there was an incident where students had a party and used the door as firewood. They wanted to braai, so they kicked down the door, broke it into pieces and used it as firewood.
“Another time they broke furniture to use as firewood – where will we draw the line?”
Student accommodation providers who choose to participate in compiling the black list will use a demerit system where students lose points and ultimately end up being blacklisted
“We hope that when students know there’s a blacklist they will know that there are consequences to their actions.
“Once the students understand that they get points against them they will decide if they have learnt their lesson and correct their behaviour.”
NMU SRC president Bamanye Matiwane said the SRC would oppose the blacklist.
“That is a mad proposal and we don’t agree with it. Students must be allowed to think and grow into adults and make sober decisions.
“You can’t police students.
“I am 100% opposed to this and I will never agree to it while I am the president.”
Matiwane said any destruction of property by the students was covered by the breakage deposit that NMU keeps.
“The reality is that students will damage property. All that is needed is to [educate] people; there must be restrictions and students must know that if you do ABC this will happen. But do not say people will be blacklisted.
“Where they must go?”
Matiwane said the move would result in students dropping out because they would be homeless.
“This is a very wrong attitude,” he said.
Kwanda Jakalase, who represents DA student wing Daso, said it would support the move only if it was championed by NMU.
“We must remember that we are in an institution of higher learning that is responsible for grooming students into becoming better people.
“At face value the idea sounds like it would be fair, especially as we hear of more rape incidents clouding institutions of higher learning.
“You also get irresponsible students who would cause damage to property. My fear is that this would go against what institutions of higher learning are for.”
But Jakalase said he was concerned that a blacklist would be abused by landlords.
The list, which would be valid for the year, would include the student’s name and surname, student number as well as the phone number of the previous landlord.
Participating landlords would use the list when sifting through applications.
Landlord Senzo Xaba, who rents rooms at Salford, in Central, to five students, said the blacklist was a “brilliant idea”.
“I would support the blacklist. If there was any other way we would live in harmony with the students, perhaps the blacklist could help save the students because a lot of them abuse drugs,” Xaba said.
Xaba said some students who rented his property had gone as far as removing a television set from its mountings in one of his flats and selling it.
“Theft is a big problem. [Some students] steal. They steal the furniture because they steal from each other because they want to sell the furniture and buy drugs on Parliament Street.”
Xaba said students also vandalised the property when they were drunk.
He said he had banned bottles in his flat in an attempt to curb drinking.
“This didn’t help the situation because they will go to a place where drinking is allowed; this is a difficult situation because while you see that there is a substance abuse problem you also want their business,” Xaba said.
A property owner in North End who asked not to be named said she would not support the blacklist because it would mean sending away students with deeper issues.
“This would mean that we turn away students who actually need rehabilitation and as a parent I simply cannot do that,” she said.
She said, however, some students could not be helped.
“There have been incidents where I have tried to intervene and even brought the university on board but the student simply does not change.”
A Summerstrand property owner said the blacklist would help landlords know who they were dealing with.
“We spend thousands of rands repairing carpets when they have been burnt and maintaining the rooms. This would definitely help,” he said.
Another landlord in the suburb, who also asked not to be named, said the blacklist was an excellent idea.
“Because of the behaviour of some students we decided that we no longer accept first-year students as they go crazy at the taste of freedom.”
However, he said he was concerned that vindictive landlords would use the list to ensure that students did not get accommodation the next year...