SAPOA says the real estate sector needs to prioritise the social aspect of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) to reduce poverty and support underprivileged communities in townships and rural areas where its members are landlords and mall owners.
SAPOA President and Pareto Limited CEO Malose Kekana says the real estate sector can no longer afford lip service to the devastating poverty in most communities, especially in rural areas and townships, since the sector owns some of the best shopping malls in these locations. He went on to add that sustainability should be given more weight in the decision-making processes of investors, stakeholders, regulators, and governments and the real estate sector must adhere to it and to support social economic development.
“We want to promote ESG’s social component, which is close to my heart and contribute to helping alleviate poverty. So as landlords and owners, we can no longer be about making only money and neglecting the socio-economic challenges facing our communities.”
“As SAPOA President, I want to change people’s perceptions of landlords and property owners as people who just care about their bottom line. In addition to advocating for the interests of our members, we aim to make sure that we encourage social and economic growth in areas with high unemployment and poverty rates.”
Kekana says the real estate industry must not only comply with its corporate social investment obligations but also make substantial contributions that can have a significant impact and make a difference in underprivileged communities as unemployment rises to around 40% nationwide.
“Given the high rate of unemployment and the large number of young people without jobs in townships and rural areas with nothing to do, we need to offer a helping hand. “By coming up with initiatives in social and economic development, I think the sector can make a huge impact in these communities, so I believe that as landlords and property owners, we need to make space available for the market so that people can sell fruits and vegetables for a living.”
“I grew up with my grandmother who raised selling vegetables, and this made a huge difference in our family because we could afford to eat meat during the weekend. The riots we experienced in this country in 2021 in which malls were targeted was a clear warning for the real estate industry to address inequality.”
Kekana says SAPOA, which represents over 800 organisations within the commercial property sector, with 90% of the nation’s commercial real estate being owned by the association’s members, needs to do something to help these communities tackle poverty.
The 2021 riots saw shopping malls and retail outlets in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng suffering more than R20 billion in damage. In addition to that, during 2020 and 2021, landlords had to bear the full brunt of the lockdown and continued making payments of utilities and property rates to municipalities, even when properties were not rent-producing.
More than 200 shopping malls were looted in the wake of protests, and they did not only affect the landlords and retailers but also had a devastating impact on black entrepreneurs who had no opportunities for investment setting back the positive strides that have been achieved over the past 25 years.