Billionaire Christo Wiese puts his money where his mouth is - CNBC Africa

Billionaire Christo Wiese puts his money where his mouth is

Southern Africa

by Rofhiwa Madzena 0

Christo Wiese has taken on the task of restoring the dignity of many South Africans by making real the dream of owning their own homes.

While many foreign nationals have had their dignity stripped from them in the last few weeks, others in the Ngwathe Municipality in Parys have had theirs restored with the commitment of citizens wanting to see a truly nondiscriminatory country.

Christo Wiese, chairman of Shoprite, said that South Africans who rent their homes have not fully experienced democracy until they have what he referred to as a basic right. He has sponsored 200 people with the legal documentation, giving them ownership of their houses, 100 in the Ngwathe Municipality and another 100 in the Western Cape. Wiese said that this amount he had contributed is a mere start and plans on contributing as much of his resources and time as he is able to.

“It’s not enough, all of us can do more … all South Africans can get involved, per unit it’s a modest amount of money, less than R2000.”

He explained that the motivation for him and his family to get involved in the project was that they are proud South Africans. “We have a wonderful constitution and in the preamble it is stated that this country belongs to all those who live in it, what this initiative does is that it gives body to that particular undertaking … the objective should be to make all South Africans owners of at least their homes.”

One of the recipients of a title deed was 89-year old Ngaungau Martha Olifant. After waiting for almost decades, she finally had her dignity restored when she was handed her title deed yesterday in an official ceremony arranged by First National Bank (FNB), Free Market Foundation and the Kaya Lam Housing Project in association with The Ngwathe Municipality. She explained that she did not have much dignity, knowing she had nothing to show for her existence apart from bills.

Disadvantaged citizens like Olifant were allocated homes through RDP projects and other subsidised housing projects, although, they never received legal documentation that showed that they owned the houses. They were therefore forced to pay rent to continue living in the houses by their respective municipalities.

Struggling to bring to the fore the memory of when exactly she moved to Parys with her three children, Olifant explained that she and her husband tried for years to have the house they were renting transferred into their name. “He died 15 years ago and didn’t get to see this day,” she explained in Sotho.

“I was really afraid that I was going to die with nothing in my name after working so hard and that was a very painful thought for me. I used to earn R3 a week working in a factory and I managed to extend this house, furnish it but that bothered me because I knew at any time I could be told to leave, I have been renting all these years.”

Olifant and her late husband had been trying since the 1990s to get ownership of their home but this request like millions of others around the country fell upon inefficient municipal institutions.

Asked if it was not unfortunate that she received her title deed after so many years she responded that she was proud to know that she and her late husband were leaving their children a decent inheritance. “I wish he was here to see this day,” she said , as she smiled at her ceiling. Another thing she is looking forward to is not having to use the R1400 grant she gets from government to pay for rent.

One of the founding sponsors of the project is FNB. Dr Simphiwe Madikizela, project executive at FNB explained that the project is an excellent opportunity for people because it allows them to use their homes as leverage to send their children to school.

He further explained that while the near future might bring FNB some monetary benefits, for now the project is about uplifting communities and FNB would like to see other commercial banks coming on board. FNB has sponsored over 800 title deeds thus far.

Wiese highlighted that he would like to see the initiative grow throughout the county and provide title deeds to the some seven million people currently without ownership of their homes.

“I will certainly do everything I can to persuade, not only the businesses that I’m involved in, other businesses, other institutions, organisations and individuals to step up and help… another beautiful aspect of the initiative is that every South African can get involved.”