Advice and Opinion News

Now is time for government to implement and enforce policies, says SAIBPP

Sisa Ngebulana, CEO, Rebosis

The era of government crafting wonderful and enlightened policies that are the envy of the world but failing to implement and enforce them is over. It’s time to act two decades into our democracy, says South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners President Thomas Matlala.

Matlala says while much has been achieved in the past 20 years in the property industry through the entry of black players and women more still needs to be done.

The past four years has seen the rise of new black property players such as Rebosis Property Fund CEO Sisa Ngebulana, Delta Property Fund CEO Sandile Nomvete and Dipula Income Fund Izak Petersen who have listed black-managed and substantially owned funds on the JSE worth billions of rand.

However, black people are still highly under-represented in the high echelons of real power and decision-making in most listed property companies.

According to the IPD SA research for 2013 and 2014, out of a total of 261 non-executive and executive directors only 53 are black and 189 are white. Black people are over-represented as non-executive directors, meaning they don’t play a role in operational management of these companies. The report shockingly shows that there are only six black executive directors on the boards of listed property companies.

Credit goes to a few companies such as Growthpoint Properties, Redefine Properties, Hyprop, Vukile, Resilient and SA Corporate that did black economic empowerment (BEE) transactions in the early to mid-2000s. Hyprop and Redefine also played a key role in transferring skills, balance sheet support and assets to then unlisted funds Vunani (Now Texton) and Dipula Property Funds.

Sesfikile director Kundayi Munzara says many lessons were learnt over this period but one often untold story is that many of the consortiums “disappeared” from the sector by selling their shares once they had made their money. “This may have been a missed opportunity for the start of black property empires,” says Munzara.

Government has partly played its part too in promoting the emergence of black property players. In 2011, the Department of Public Works (DPW) stopped signing long-term leases with established property companies or individual landlords who lacked empowerment credentials. This was a catalyst for the listing of so-called BEE funds, or funds with BEE credentials such as Ascension, Delta, Dipula and Rebosis, with a combined market cap of R14bn (about 4% of the total market cap of the sector). The listed property sector has a market capitalisation of almost R400bn.

Matlala says that is why government appeals to SAIBPP – the biggest tenant and landlord – to use its massive influence to bring about drastic change to the property industry.

Ngebulana, the founder and executive chairman of the Billion Group Limited and the CEO of Rebosis Property Fund agrees with Matlala saying more could be done to transform the property industry.

“The Property Charter by default doesn’t have the same teeth as other charters in the industry have,” he says. “For argument’s sake, the Mining Charter acted as a much bigger catalyst for broad-based black economic empowerment given the procurement levels it prescribed. As a mining house you had to comply to qualify for new mineral order mining rights. In the property sector, government doesn’t necessarily have this leverage – the Department of Public Works (DPW) is the only mechanism available at a national level to influence transformation. And even there it is limited to the Incubator Programme applied to a handful of listed funds.”

For Nomvete, Delta Property Fund CEO, the transformation of the property industry is intricately linked to efforts to transform the entire South Africa’s economy in order reduce the yawning economic disparities among citizens – the so-called haves and the have nots – which is a legacy of South Africa’s ugly past.

“Transformation, therefore, is part of a larger project to ensure that everyone thrives and leads meaningful lives. For him such economic transformation is crucial to creating a stable society. If such transformation is not implemented, he warns, the consequences will be dire and grim…. “Unless we actively pursue change, we could find ourselves with our very own ‘South African Spring’, where the ‘have nots’ no longer ask to be included in the main stream economy, but agitate for change through an uprising,” says Nomvete.

“It is, therefore, very important for us as a society and a sector to avoid such a scenario. In future, as historically disadvantaged individuals increasingly muscle their way into the mainstream economy, the focus will no longer be on skin colour but on class – the rich versus the poor. I believe this would be the greatest challenge for the country.

You already see this phenomenon in India, Brazil and a number of other emerging markets.”