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Hearings to dig into how widespread racism is within the Cape Town property sector

Hearings are scheduled to take place in Johannesburg (March 22), Cape Town (March 23), and Durban (March 24), with further dates to be announced. Picture: Henk Kurger/Armand Hough - African News Agency

Hearings are scheduled to take place in Johannesburg (March 22), Cape Town (March 23), and Durban (March 24), with further dates to be announced. Picture: Henk Kurger/Armand Hough - African News Agency

Published Mar 16, 2022

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Cape Town - After numerous complaints about racist practices in the property sector, including race-specific requests from landlords, the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority (PPRA) is to hold public hearings into how widespread the problem is.

The Western Cape also seems to be a hotbed of racist practices within the property sector, with 15 complaints so far after news of the hearings spread.

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Hearings are scheduled to take place in Johannesburg (March 22), Cape Town (March 23), and Durban (March 24), with further dates to be announced.

PPRA CEO Mamodupi Mohlala said all industry players from the real estate sector, auctioneers, industry bodies, the general public and anyone who has suffered from racism in the industry, should be attending or submitting complaints.

“The hearings are being held to get a nuanced perspective of racism in the property industry in all provinces. The aim is to highlight the magnitude of the problem and to discuss possible solutions with the public and industry at large,” Mohlala said.

Once the hearings have been completed, the PPRA, formerly the Estate Agency Affairs Board, will submit a consolidated report to the human settlements minister with the aim of introducing legislative changes to address racism in the property sector.

The hearings were prompted following the receipt of several written submissions to the regulatory authority, and an investigation undertaken as a result of a complaint received in October last year by Pol Osei against a Cape Town-based real estate agent who refused to proceed with a rental application on the basis of Osei’s race and the property owner being “race-specific”.

SAHRC commissioner advocate André Gaum said the commission would closely monitor the hearings to better understand grievances of racist practices.

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“The commission is not particularly aware of the prevalence of this conduct; hence we will closely monitor this issue. Sections 9 and 10 of the Constitution are aimed at rooting out racism and its historic hold on South Africa.

“Similarly, the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Pepuda) is aimed at addressing unfair discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of race,” Gaum said.

The SAHRC and the Equality Court are avenues for persons aggrieved by unfair discrimination, harassment or hate speech.

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Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney Jonty Cogger said racism in the Cape Town property market is by design, with access to the best housing opportunities having always been racially defined and deeply embedded in the colonial apartheid ideologies of racial segregation.

“It should therefore not be surprising that Mr Pol Osei and countless others, are expressly denied a home based on the colour of their skin and that estate agents and prospective landlords should seek to justify their racism behind the supposed legitimacy of their right to property ownership.

“In order to dispute structural inequality in the property market, we need to promote access to well located affordable housing to people historically and presently discriminated against,” Coggers said.

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Although having offices based in predominantly coloured areas, Zolam Properties owner, Zola Mekula said it was a struggle to obtain business from locals.

“I had an office in Kuils River for about three years, which is a mixed area, but coloureds dominated and a few black people. What we noticed was the only people who gave us business were black people,” Mekula said.

A similar situation occurred at his office in Mitchells Plain in 2018.

As the industry attempts to transform, bringing previously disadvantaged groups into the property sector, these efforts are being hindered and even blocked by white people, said Mekula.

“We are less than 15% black people nationally in this industry.”

Those within the property sector and the public can email [email protected] and [email protected] to attend the hearings and obtain venue details.

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