Large commercial property companies have created monopolies in townships through their shopping mall developments that continue to squeeze small businesses, said Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.
Malema, who was speaking at the South African Property Owners Association Convention in Cape Town on Wednesday, accused commercial property companies of being dominant in townships and profiting at the expense of spaza shops and emerging businesses.
“Property ownership in South Africa must reflect demographics of the country. We need real black property owners in townships. There must be a deliberate effort to ensure that black people participate in property ownership,” Malema said.
Large JSE-listed property companies and grocery retailers have come under fire in recent months for their expansion into township areas over the last 15 years and face accusations of anticompetitive behaviour.
Malema has called for the state to be the custodian of land, allowing it to know landownership patterns in South Africa.
“Black people will never own land as they don’t have the money to purchase land. We need the state to say that all of this land in the country belongs to the state and must be allocated back to people who have been looking for land but cannot afford it,” said Malema.
The EFF party leader said these proposals won’t scare investors. “Why would investors be scared of a policy that looks to redistribute land?”
The EFF has founded its policies on socialism and pro-poor measures such as expropriation of land and rebuilding township and rural economies.
In recent years, a land registry has been proposed by the government in order to document land purchase transactions as the state – through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Public Works – is believed to not know landownership patterns.
Malema said the state has to introduce a policy that will enable township communities to own stakes in new shopping mall developments.
“Malls are coming in and shutting down spaza shops owned by black people.”
The practical step would be to get spaza shop owners organised in some sort of a consortium, then they are given some shares in the mall or preference in rentals at malls including allocating free spaces for emerging entrepreneurs.
This, he said, would enable fair sharing of land and promotion of greater participation in the economy without barring private land ownership.
Malema’s comments come as competitive dynamics between big property companies and small township entrepreneurs have been thrown under the spotlight with the Competition Commission’s on-going inquiry into grocery retail, which aims to examine the general state of competition in the sector.
In their submissions to the inquiry, grocery retailers and property owners said their entry into townships has brought quality products and more choice for consumers.
Malema also proposed that a new fund be set up to help black people to be able to fund property developments in the townships. “Black people must not be a front for white people. We need real black property owners. We call on banks to give preference to black people.”
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