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A national insurance firm has changed tack and apologised to a township homeowner for its initial refusal to insure his R5m house in KwaNobuhle. Despite Old Mutual underwriter iWyze saying its initial refusal was due to a valuation discrepancy, Uitenhage advocate Vuyo Jack, 56, said he was told it was because he lived in a high-risk area.
House insurance row

The eight-bedroom home has extensive security features such as CCTV cameras, high automated gates, an intercom system, razor wire and high walls. The immaculate brick home stands out as an imposing figure in its neighbourhood.

Jack said he contacted iWyze on 10 August for a quotation and, after he was interviewed, a consultant promised to call back, but did not. It was only when Jack followed up a few days later that he was informed he did not qualify because KwaNobuhle was a high-risk area.

"According to them, I should have bought the house in the so-called suburbs and only then would it not be considered a high risk to insure. This is despite the fact that I met all safety or security requirements,"Jack said.

iWyze has apologised to Jack but noted a discrepancy between the estimated value he provided and lower values it obtained. A fuming Jack accused the company of discrimination. "The company thinks low of us because we live in the township," he said. "We are denied the privilege of having our goods insured - and this is the general experience by people in the township.

"If they say it's a high-risk area because it's in the township, does this mean we are supposed to live in the so-called white or middle-class suburbs, which in their minds are more secure?"

Jack said his parents were forcibly removed from KwaLanga in 1975 by the apartheid regime and moved to a four-roomed house in KwaNobuhle - where they had had no break-ins.

The house, in Makinana Street, had a massive facelift two years ago when it was converted into eight bedrooms. Jack had approached the company last month for R5m cover on the property, with R400,000 for household contents.

iWyze spokeswoman Suzanne van Schoor said they had probed the case. "The underwriters noted a discrepancy between the estimated value provided by Jack and the lower values obtained by the underwriters from public sources.

'On this basis, the underwriters said we would not be able to insure the risk at the requested cover amount," she said.

"Unfortunately, the sales agent gave Jack the impression that the cover had been turned down because the risk was too high.

"The agent failed to explain that the cover was turned down because of the misaligned property values."

Van Schoor apologised to Jack for the miscommunication and assured him Old Mutual did not tolerate any form of discrimination. Jack said the comment by Old Mutual was not true. "The only answer I got from them was that this was a high-risk area. There was no explanation. Now they are trying to protect themselves," he said.

Senior assistant ombudsman Peter Nkhuna, advised Jack to shop around until he found suitable cover. "If there are allegations of discriminatory or illegal practices, there are bodies and institutions which can be approached," he said.

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