Golden Rules for WhatsApp Groups in Community Schemes


BY The Bellbuoy Group

WhatsApp and Community Housing Schemes


“Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ‘em.”
Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

WhatsApp groups are proving increasingly more important for the dissemination of news that affects people living within community schemes. However, like many social platform technologies, they can be open to abuse and difficult to manage.

WhatsApp groups can be incredibly busy and for those with limited social interaction they may be a lifeline that makes us feel connected and less alone. One must be cognisant though that not all members are going to enjoy a particular sense of humour or train of thought, so rules are of the upmost importance.
If you do have a WhatsApp group or want to start one the following are considered golden rules:
Place a notice regarding voluntary membership on the group as information such as contact numbers and photos will be available to all members on the group and thus the POPIA legislation must be taken into consideration.

Content shared is for members only and should not be redistributed to any third party unless permission has been sought and such permissions should not only be unanimous but also factual and the following should be considered:
a)    No vulgar language, jokes, religious and political opinions, hate speech, racism or any other ‘ism’ of domination should be permitted.  
b)    Consideration must be given to the varying age groups of members, particularly children and the elderly.
c)     Respect your peers and ensure your posts are inoffensive and not inclined to provocation or too much further comment.
d)    Crime-related information should be considered sensitive, but it is understood that the group is an ideal platform to report suspicious behaviour and concerns around security.
e)    No advertising or spam should be permitted.
f)      a scheme communication group does not replace any armed and medical response services but if an emergency should arise, urgent assistance can be requested.
g)    The group may be used to post relevant scheme/ suburb information such as would impact on your immediate environment or day-to-day activities.
h)    Do not expect responses immediately and if you require comment from all parties provide at least 24 hours for them to do so.
i)       Try where possible to keep to the aim of the group, be it security, information or perhaps power/water outage groups.
j)       Post one chunk of relevant text rather than several text chains.
k)     Switch to private messaging if the conversation becomes relevant to only a select few.
l)       Try not to post on the group between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM unless there are security or emergency situations.
m)   Check your sources before sharing information that may be fake or old news.
n)    Do not post data heavy videos or images.
o)    You do not need to respond to every post; if a question is asked it is acceptable not to answer or react.
p)    Bear in mind that tone and meaning can be misinterpreted in a text so pick your words carefully.
It should be made clear by the administrator that infringement of rules may result in the member/members being removed from the group. Administrators should also be reactive in asking those involved in any heated debates to go offline and try always to be the voice of reason.
What must be understood is that no matter how annoying an individual or topic can be the WhatsApp group provides essential information to a community scheme. Used correctly it should be beneficial to the strengthening of relationships among the scheme members or perhaps even save someone's life.

Three questions to ask yourself before you post on WhatsApp:


Although rules may be different for each type of WhatsApp group there are three especially important considerations that can be applied before posting:
1.     Is this relevant/appropriate to all in the group?
2.     Is this necessary?
3.     Is this a good time?
Legal status of WhatsApp messages
WhatsApp can prove useful for day-to-day digital communication, however if we begin to implement business responsibilities, decisions and contracts via this forum we can run into problems.


The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 allowed data messages as a legitimate binding method to conclude agreements. In 2014 the Supreme Court (SCA) held that email messages and signatures could alter and vary agreements and in 2019 it became evident that WhatsApp messages could be regarded as legal if the intention to change or vary a contract was evident.


In 2021 it was further decided in Canada that a thumbs up emoji could be construed as acceptance of a contract. General legal opinion received is to avoid WhatsApp communications for business.


Bellbuoy only allows official communication through the company approved channels, being telephonic (although certain instructions must be received in writing), or a signed and written instruction received via email, post or hand delivery to the domicile.


These channels are monitored regularly and communication forms part of the official record. To allow instructions on unmonitored channels, such as WhatsApp with continually changing content and disappearing messages and so on, is not good business practice and we cannot guarantee receipt or attendance of instructions timeously.  

 February 27, 2024
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