You are currently viewing our desktop site, do you want to download our app instead?
Moneyweb Android App Moneyweb iOS App Moneyweb Mobile Web App
Join our mailing list to receive top business news every weekday morning.

Wiese, worth $7bn, helps South Africans own land for R1 850

Focused on helping millions make a more modest purchase to secure the title to the land on which they live.

Christo Wiese, who led a $1 billion takeover this month, says he’s also focused on helping millions of South Africans make a more modest purchase: The R1,850 ($156) they need to secure the title to the land on which they live.

Wiese, South Africa’s fourth-richest man with a personal fortune of $7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, says that more than two decades after the country’s first democratic elections millions of South Africa’s citizens have no legal right to their dwellings.

“The terrible irony is that after 21 years of post- apartheid rule not a heck of a lot has been done in this respect,” the 73-year-old said by phone from Cape Town last week. “I’m hoping that we can get to the objective of having every house being entitled. Be it a modest shack or a little home in a township.”

South Africa has about a million households where the residents don’t own the dwelling, according to the country’s Statistics agency. That’s a relic of apartheid where many blacks were deprived of land tenure and has made it difficult for the country’s poorest to pass on their property to their children or to raise money to improve their houses or start businesses.

The white minority government passed The Natives Land Act in 1913, which prevented Africans owning or renting land in over 90% of South Africa, according to independent research website The act sought to racially and spatially separate the country and remained a cornerstone for further segregationist policies under apartheid rule.

‘My house’

Wiese owns the 4,000 hectare (9,884-acre) Lourensford Wine Estate that’s a 45-minute drive east from Cape Town. He owns 35% of Brait SE, which bought 80% of UK gym chain Virgin Active for 682 million pounds ($1 billion) this month. That was funded by selling his discount retailer Pepkor Holdings to Steinhoff International Holdings for $5.7 billion, the biggest deal in South Africa for a decade.

He is a sponsor of the Free Market Foundation, which is working with First National Bank to give people land tenure, and gave more than 100 title deeds to residents of Ngwathe, a municipality inSouth Africa’s Free State Province, according to the Foundation’s website.

The foundation’s Khaya Lam land reform project seeks to give freehold and title deeds for all municipal-owned rental homes from the apartheid-era to the registered occupants. The phrase translates roughly as “My House” in Zulu and Xhosa, which are two of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

Title deeds will enable South Africans to access finance to develop their properties or move into larger homes, according to Simphiwe Madikizela, a managing executive for housing finance for Johannesburg-based FNB.

Inherited home

“They can now be able to leverage the property, to be able to trade with the property, to be able to access funds,” Wiese said by phone on April 29th. “They can sell this house now because they’ve got title deed, it’s got value, they can buy something bigger or they can remain where they are.”

FNB, which is the retail banking unit of FirstRand, has funded the transfer of around 300 title deeds so far, Madikizela said.

“When we handed out these title deeds in the Free State last week there was a lady who was close to her nineties who burst into tears,” Wiese, who declined to specify how much he donates, said. “She said she’s nearing the end of her life but at least she now knows that if she dies, her children will not be out on the street.”

©2015 Bloomberg News


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


There must be a way Mr Wiese will profit from this – it is contrary to his nature to give away money or opportunity without getting something back. Or it could be that old age has changed him?

Poor cynical comment unworthy of you.

That is my view and my understanding of the man – and I have the right to express it. Since when have you been the Chairman of his Fan Club?

Illphil – Again your jealousy of these successful guys is amazing…. maybe Jooste is actually running a ponzi scheme behind all this? Your paranoia must really damage your portfolio.

Haiybo. I don’t know you or Jooste. So, may I suggest you keep your gratuitous comment about me and my portfolio for yourself. Thank you.

Sure not in his nature – if he was in the least interested in genuinely helping the poor and reducing the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, his record would reflect that of the Rupert and Ackerman families.
It does not – quite the opposite – profit before people and the more for myself, the merrier.

Watch out Louise! You risk being attacked, as I was, by pacaratac and Haiybo, who are members of the Christo Wiese fan club.

More than two decades ago, Hernando de Soto (1989)
maintained that people in developing economies were sitting on a rich source of dormant capital with their land and home ownership (often without formal property
rights) and argued that if the poor were able to leverage this ownership (as collateral for capital), this could form the basis for a new productive economy

Wiese is starting a bit late, don’t you think. Those interested in doing something for SA boast educational trusts and all kinds of different NPOs for many, many years already.
The argument that private property ownership is a significant empowerment tool for the poor (which I support) is as old as the hills. Why is Wiese such a late starter? (Probably too busy carting illegal cash around Heathrow airport to avoid paying tax.)

While there is truth in the statement that the Land Act prevented blacks from owning land, the current problem remains that people cannot get title for land in communal areas. This needs to be prioritised to also reduce the influence the so-called “traditional leaders” have on people.

I think the headline of this piece is very unfair towards Mr Wiese, referring to his personal fortune in relation to how much he donated per house. He was certainly under no obligation to donate anything, it is after all his money. Are journalists in future going to dictate to us how much and to who we must share our assets ?

I reckon this COULD BECOME a significant gesture to influence the national direction….But I would challenge Mr Wiese to commit only 2% of his reported wealth, i.e. R1.8 billion AND set up a fund to this end. THEN he may challenge ordinary, fellow South Africans to imitate him, (I will follow him at roughly 1/10,000 his worth) and THEN MAYBE we can steer away from communism and get somewhere….. For now it is just cheap publicity in my view.

Cheap publicity for sure. Probably a PR to try to cancel the bad publicity after the stinking deal between Steinhoff and Wiese’s corporates Pepkor and furniture interests that lacked transparency and flew in the face of any proper corporate governance.

Seriously now, how would it FEEL to know that you have put 1 million South Africans into the free property market…… let alone the publicity. And then to learn after 10 years that you have been the catalyst to get the free market to put another 20 million title deeds into the hands of ordinary South Africans and to have helped people to THINK AND DREAM about the possibilities that their ownership of a property could open up…..instead of thinking where and when they could next riot and break down and loot, etc…. Come on now, Mr Wiese.

OK, I notice the need isn’t THAT great… ( a bit surprising, I must say). So, Mr Wiese, you need only do R185 million for your 100,000 properties, I’ll do R18,000 for my 10. Where do we pay……? The fund, remember? Please arrange your follow-up press release!

The juxtaposition of this article with the Bobroff story (under “commented”) illustrates the difference in the humanity of people. Here we have someone trying to help others, and another hell-bent on screwing the life out of unfortunate accident victims. Both rich, but with diametrically opposed ideas of how to treat fellow human beings.

i read recently that to build a nation we need to rid ourselves of tribes. it was a eureka moment for me – especially in light of the xenophobic violence that plagues our country. unfortunately, the ruling party has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in this regard. so, the true nation will just have to wait.

Hell 100 people got title deeds. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in houses that they have had for all of their lives without title deeds. Ekurhuleni has 450k back yard dwellers, 169 informal settlements and squatter camps almost another 460k people , housing initiatives non existent. They have estimated that they have to build 4500 houses a year just to meet the current demand and back log, they budget for 2500, clever move, see how this helps the back log and manage 400 or something like that?

Is the following correct, Chris Spillane?
R1, 850 cost of one title deed. FNB funded 300 title deeds. Value of charitable donations thus far: R555 000 – just more than half a million rand.
The news value of this article lies in Mr Wiese’s disgraceful stinginess as a beneficiary of white apartheid and his perpetuation of white privilege and inequality in SA. It so happens that of the large food retailers, Shoprite Checkers is the one that pays its staff the worst wages and Mr Wiese is the very person who was stopped at Heathrow Airport some years back loaded with oodles with cash he was illegally taking through customs control.
It’s not surprising he doesn’t state the value of his charity – whatever it is, it pales in size compared to his businesses’ BEPS (base erosion and profit sharing) tax haven activities.

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles:Advanced Search
Click a Company: