Redefine CEO Marc Wainer. Picture: REUTERS
Redefine CEO Marc Wainer. Picture: REUTERS

Real estate mogul Marc Wainer says white businesses need to contribute more to SA or risk repeating mistakes, such as when they fled Johannesburg’s inner city in the 1980s.

At the SA Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) conference held in Sandton, Gauteng, on Thursday, Wainer said while many white-run businesses had created wealth for shareholders and developed the country, they had not been charitable enough.

Having a narrow view about business’s role in SA had actually destroyed value in some parts of the country.

"I remember in the 1980s, [property investor] Gerald Leissner tried to save the Johannesburg CBD but so much investment left it and a lot of capital was lost. We can’t repeat a mistake like this and we can do more," he said.

In 2017 Wainer — who, without a university education, founded R66bn diversified property group Redefine Properties — launched a mentorship programme, saying he could rally corporate SA to give their time and help to alleviate pressing problems harming the youth, including unemployment. He became executive chairman of Redefine in 2014 when Andrew Konig replaced him as CEO.

"Giving back lacks in white communities. It’s not a strong enough part of our culture.

"I launched an interview show on TV last year and spent months talking to a range of entrepreneurs and young aspirant people.

"It was very noticeable how strong the culture of giving back is among black South Africans."

Wainer said real estate companies needed to employ more people, even if this was at a low-skill level, and to develop and contribute to projects to fight SA’s ills instead of relying on the state only. "We have to invest in our own future even though it may be painful. A privately funded education fund would be a start," he said.

Meanwhile, Estienne de Klerk, MD of SA’s largest real-estate group, Growthpoint Properties and a co-ordinator at the conference, said he had noticed a suggestion by organised business group the CEO Initiative that listed property companies should donate 1.5% of their distributable earnings to causes. This is being debated by the South African Real Estate Investment Trust Association.