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Jim Tait | 5 May 2024

In an open letter to Ms Thato Ramaili, CEO of the Property Professions Regulatory Authority, Jim Tait raises concerns regarding the requirement for real estate practitioners to submit fully compliant BEE certificates. Highlighting challenges and proposing alternative approaches, Tait emphasizes the need for a more practical implementation strategy. Urging collaboration with industry stakeholders and addressing internal inefficiencies within the PPRA, his letter seeks to ensure equitable progress in the real estate sector.

Dear Ms. Thato Ramaili, CEO of the Property Professions Regulatory Authority

I am writing to you directly as well as addressing this as an open letter to voice significant concerns shared by many within the real estate sector regarding the PPRA’s intention to enforce the requirement for every business property practitioner to submit not only valid but fully compliant BEE certificates with their Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) renewal applications starting in 2025, and with immediate effect for new applications.

Historical Context and Current Challenges

While the intentions behind Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and, more recently, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) aim to correct historical imbalances and foster a more inclusive economic environment, their implementation has not achieved the desired impact since their inception. Unfortunately, both BEE and B-BBEE have often led to significant challenges throughout the economy and in this case, particularly in the real estate sector, especially for small to mid-sized enterprises. These policies have frequently benefited a select few at the expense of broader economic development, failing to foster real empowerment or economic inclusivity.

Supporting New Enterprise Creation

A more sustainable and equitable approach would involve actively supporting the creation and growth of new enterprises by previously disadvantaged groups. By facilitating access to funding, training, and resources, we can empower these individuals to set up, own, and manage their own companies. This strategy recognizes that wealth and empowerment cannot simply be legislated into existence but must be built through genuine opportunities for entrepreneurship. Such an approachnot only expands the economy but also enhances competition, leading to better deals in the real estate sector—more competitive commission structures for all agents, and improved services and pricing for all consumers.

Unintended Consequences of Redistribution Policies

Furthermore, policies that mandate the redistribution of ownership based on demographic criteria can have unintended psychological and motivational consequences. For the party from whom assets are taken, such policies can diminish the incentive to innovate and invest. For the recipient, this approach can undermine self-esteem and foster dependency, as benefits are not earned through merit. True empowerment arises from opportunities gained through one’s capabilities and hard work. It is crucial to foster a policy environment that encourages success based on merit, ensuring that all individuals can genuinely feel proud of their achievements and contribute positively to the economy.

Global Perspectives and Alternative Approaches

Research and case studies from around the world suggest that empowerment and transformation can be achieved through various means not limited to strict regulatory compliance. Countries like Brazil and Malaysia have successfully implemented broader educational and economic participation programs that have led to substantial improvements in socio-economic disparities without the drawbacks observed in narrowly focused policies such as those observed with BEE and B-BEE in South Africa.

Barriers to Entry and Funding Challenges

It is pertinent to acknowledge that the qualifications required to enter the real estate sector are not overly restrictive, which theoretically allows access for individuals from various backgrounds, including those who have been previously disadvantaged. This openness is crucial for fostering a diverse and dynamic industry. However, a significant hurdle arises in the early stages of establishing a real estate business, particularly for those aiming to run their own agencies. The gap between performing work and receiving income can often span several months, posing a substantial cash flow challenge. This delay in income makes it extremely difficult for new entrants, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to sustain themselves and their businesses during the initial phases.Helping these individuals overcome these early financial hurdles would not only be more effective than mandating existing businesses to relinquish or redistribute their hard-earned assets, but it would also significantly enhance the self-esteem and autonomy of new entrants, truly empowering them to succeed on their own merits.

Concerns over Practical Implementation and Industry Impact

The transition from a validity requirement to a compliance mandate within such a condensed timeframe (approximately 17 months) could disproportionately impact smaller agencies. These entities often lack the resources to rapidly overhaul their operational structures to meet the stringent new standards. It is crucial to consider the feasibility of such significant changes without jeopardizing the livelihoods of those the policy aims to support. Additionally, the introduction ofthese changes has been sudden and, to many in the industry, unexpected. This shift has caused considerable uncertainty and apprehension among practitioners, who were previously under the impression that existing certificates were primarily for data-gathering rather than strict compliance enforcement. Another important point to consider is one of the qualifying criteria for an estate agent to be issued a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC). The agency under which they work must also possess a current and valid FFC. Should the agency not be issued an FFC, by default, all agents working for that agency would not receive theirs either. This could affect a large percentage of estate agents working in the industry, potentially impacting thousands of agents.

Recommendations for a Constructive Way Forward

Given the potential negative consequences outlined, I strongly urge the PPRA to adopt a more practical and proven approach to policy implementation. Engaging with industry stakeholders to develop alternative empowerment strategies could ensure that the goals of transformation are met without unintended setbacks. Furthermore, given the PPRA’s history of inefficiency and suboptimal performance, particularly in the issuance of Fidelity Fund Certificates (FFCs), it is imperative that the Authority focuses its energy on a significant internal overhaul. These existing inefficiencies are already costing working estate agents a considerable amount in wasted time, energy and income. By getting its operational house in order, the PPRA would be better equipped to serve the real estate industry faithfully and efficiently, restoring confidence among property practitioners.

In closing, while the intentions behind the BEE certifications align with national goals of empowerment and transformation, the method and pace of implementation require urgent reassessment to avoid repeating the economically destructive failures that have historically plagued both BEE and B-BBEE policies. These policies have consistently led to unintended negative impacts on the industry. Thank you for your attention to these matters. We look forward to a constructive dialogue and are eager to contribute to solutions that advance our industry and fulfill the broader goals of equity and empowerment in South Africa.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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