ONE avenue to create and sustain lasting value particularly in uncertain economic times is through acquisition of property. Unfortunately, a number of our Zimbabwean communities consider this to be way out of their league.
Way back in the early 90’s, I worked for the then largest pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Harare. In our laboratory, we had a general hand named Mr Kandima whose function was to clean the glassware.
After years of complaining on how difficult it was to get accommodation in Harare, he together with other like-minded people took decisive action which changed their destination. They formed a cooperative aptly named Kugarika Kushinga composed largely of domestic workers and other minimum wage earners.
Those who were around during this period would remember that a cooperative was a no-no, particularly after the horrors and carcasses of failed projects that scattered the socio-economic landscape of Zimbabwe. Many had been formed and slaughtered mainly by ex-combatants.
Month after month, they would meet with copious minutes and record taking. They opened bank accounts and defined the rules. As things started to happen, they started to get more and more support as everyone loves a winning story. That is why we find corporate sponsors fighting to pin their masts on sports heroes like Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney, but stampede out with equal zest as soon as they make a mistake. Even an international donor eventually put up a bank guarantee for their loan with the building society to ameliorate the interest rate risk factors. The construction of their units began in earnest and as each unit was completed, members were allocated.
Kandima and his fellow members survived many snide jibes from co-workers who felt it would not amount to much and meet the same fate of other cooperatives before them. If you drive through Mabvuku today, their four roomed houses stand as a monument of what perseverance and working together synergistically can achieve. What began as a quest by lodgers to get their own roof over their heads resulted in the restoration of their pride and human dignity which comes from owning their own property in an urban setting.
I am an advocate of property syndication as a means of wealth creation in our communities. I deliberately used an example of this old cooperative in the dusty streets of Mabvuku to show that it is possible, despite low levels of personal income, if we desire it sufficiently. As Africans, we are generally gregarious communities and working together should come naturally. The saying “umuntu ngubuntu ngabantu” comes from our own shores.
I have been told of Nigerian professionals who have pulled their funds together to build a shopping mall in South Africa. While I have heard of individual, scattered cases of innovative involvement in property by our country folks here in South Africa, I am still to witness a collective synergistic effort. Many of us come from a mindset of lack, which causes us to try and compete with each other even where it would make better sense to cooperate.
When I started speaking about acquiring property to our communities in South Africa a couple of years ago, a good number were really not interested at all, putting forward all sorts of excuses. Some of them really felt that their sojourn here was a temporary excursion, and they would soon be back in their beloved Zimbabwe. We have watched this temporary sojourn turn from a year to five and now for others it is fast racing towards ten years.
When we compound all the rentals that they have parted with during this period, it is a significant amount. It reminds me of when we were growing up in Sakubva, Mutare, many of our parents were not really interested in acquiring a property in a city because they always felt they would soon return to their rural home. They missed an opportunities to create lasting value during their working lives.
Three unrelated people each earning R6,000 ($880) a month can collectively obtain a mortgage and purchase together a R500,000 ($74000) entry level property. If you hear some people agonising on what would happen if they lose their jobs, you would think their current landlord where they are renting would let them stay for free if they lose their job. Buying the house you live in should really be just the baseline or entry level.
One advantage of syndicating on a large scale is that it allows us to be involved in the construction value chain which individually would be difficult. We should not be content with just purchasing finished apartments if there is a possibility to be involved in the property development, where most of the value accrues.
I am aware of at least 10 Zimbabwean engineers who were involved in the construction of the Gautrain, the rapid transport system in Johannesburg. If you travel along the Harare-Bulawayo road just between Kuwadzana and Chivero where dualisation has taken place and you notice all the pot holes developing on the recently done road, you start to wonder whether it is really necessary to import all these mistakes all the way from China and whether it would not make better sense to allow our own people to make these mistakes.
I received an email last week from a NUST-educated Zimbabwean architect who has grouped together with others to establish a practice in Cape Town. From civil and structural engineers to construction project managers, we seem to have sufficient brain power to carry out successful projects. We should not be content with acquiring a professional qualification useful for creating economic value for other people after which we revert to our survivalist existence. Property syndication would create a synergistic opportunity to create wealth through property development while even creating opportunities for our own professionals.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Napachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity