The flooded tank farm basin which forms the heart of the residential marina under development in the Waterfront.
The flooded tank farm basin which forms the heart of the residential marina under development in the Waterfront.

Black ownership of property in the spotlight

By Bronwyn Fourie Time of article published Sep 12, 2021

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Johannesburg - The residential housing problem in South Africa is primarily a black one – but is mainly being solved by white men.

And this not only limits the volume of work being done but potentially results in an outcome not fitting to our black communities.

After all, only those who have experienced life in these areas can truly make impactful changes.

This is one of the statements made and contemplated further at the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP) Annual Convention this week, which saw the issues of transformation – both in the sector and in property ownership generally, coming under the spotlight.

“Black people need to be thought leaders, and not just taken on as employees,” says SAIBPP president Tholo Makhaolo.

“We must lead opinion.”

Similarly, Polo Letaka, chairperson and founder of entrepreneurial financier and advisory firm IDF Capital, says more black professionals are needed in top management positions of powerful organisations – such as banks.

“Once black people are in these decision-making positions, they can make decisions about where the money goes.”

However, she points out that many who are already in these positions merely assimilate once they get there, instead of ensuring that services are channelled to the right places.

“They forget that they need to use their positions to drive transformation.”

Although it may be easy for people to blame their white counterparts in terms of creating barriers for the advancement of black people to top management positions, Letaka says it is more concerning that, once these barriers are broken, and these positions are achieved, “we are not using them”.

“Sixty percent of our population still resides in townships, but there is very little investment where people are. Shouldn’t we, as banks and insurance companies, look at how we deploy infrastructure development in these areas?

“We are not having conversations with people in townships and rural economies to find out what they need and then seeing how we can invest there responsibly. Now that we can, we are not using our positions to drive growth where it is needed – where it was not driven previously.”

For example, she asks how much money is being put into getting black people involved in fintech start-ups and states that the typical South African still did not have access to these products in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We are not leveraging what we have to effectively drive transformation. We are not rising to the occasion as black professionals.”

And until then, she believes black people’s prospects for economic growth will “always be stifled”.

In terms of the state of transformation in the South African economy, Khulekani Mathe, senior general manager for financial inclusion at the Banking Association of South Africa, believes that “we have reached the limit of what we can do in an economy that is not growing”.

“The lack of growth is what is holding us back on many levels and what has kept us trapped for the last decade. When you allow growth to flounder, a whole lot of things go wrong in the economy.”

He says the country does not have effective leadership and that other matters have become more important. Therefore, there has not been time to enhance government initiatives.

“We are not a competitive economy because we do not invest in the right infrastructure to create growth. Unless we make this economy grow, we have reached our limits.”

Because not enough attention has been paid to this, Mathe says problems have arisen.

“We have reached a situation where large numbers of our people have become so desperate that they are able to be recruited for looting...We have not invested enough in addressing the high levels of inequality, and this leads to what we saw in July (and more).”

While he recognises the effects of BEE deals that were signed, black people need to be able to eventually leave these deals and diversify.

“With the right kinds of policies in place, this sector can do more to finance homes in the hands of black people.”

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The Saturday Star

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