Following the devastating effects of the riots and unrest that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng during July, major property services and management company Broll suffered much damage to their extensive property portfolio, but they are set to be back on their feet in no time
WORDS: ATLEHANG RAMATHESELE
Managing more than 400 shopping centres countrywide, it was inevitable that Broll Property Group would be affected by the looting and arson attacks that recently took place in SA. With 39 properties affected, many of Broll’s clients and landlords have had to pick up the pieces. While it has been difficult, they are emerging from the crisis. COO for property management, Nkuli Bogopa, shares more on the extent of the damage and what is being done in the aftermath.
While Broll Property Group was adversely affected, she was glad that some of their clients were able to rebuild as early as the first weekend after the riots. “Even if a centre couldn’t function as a whole, it could operate partly. There is still a future. Some of the centres will take up to eight months to rebuild, but those affected less have been able to be up and running,” she says. Broll’s income was impacted by the riots, but right now they are focusing on sustainability and this will take some effort. “Thankfully we weren’t in a position in which we had to shed jobs like other retailers. We have been able to maintain jobs even though our income was compromised,” she says. After the fallout from the tumult, Broll sprang into action to assist clients with the administration of processing insurance claims.
“We also got involved in the actual clean-up and the prevention of further damage. We had suppliers who we relied on heavily for this. Stakeholders all came together including security companies and people would come to work without their uniforms on. They even thwarted fires from happening,” she says. There was major emphasis on containing the situation and this was propelled by how many people were willing to step in to help. “We also had to ensure our landlords were protected and engaged with tenants about how we could further support them,” Bogopa says.
Broll Property Group has been working alongside various stakeholders to combat this dire situation and Bogapa says that communities rallying countrywide were one of the most powerful forms of support. “There was the Rebuild SA campaign through which many South Africans made a meaningful contribution. Communities, our suppliers, landlords, government and all the various social partners and interventions that the president highlighted in his previous address all played a crucial role. Some of the government funding entities are putting together interest-free loans to assist SMEs and retailers to rebuild and recover. There has generally been enormous support,” she says. While Broll is investing in some preventative measures to avoid similar occurrences in the future, they are also aware of how emotional attachment to a certain property increases one’s propensity to safeguard it.
“I recently attended a security presentation that highlighted how the way properties interact with the communities in which they exist is likely to inspire the community to want to protect it. As we saw during the uprisings, many people were stopping others from doing further damage to buildings in their communities,” she says. While Bogopa says security will be heightened, she concedes that it is better to be proactive and preventative. “How to avoid this in future is also a macro question that speaks to the economy at large about how to curtail inequality in our country. As long as inequality and lawlessness prevail, it doesn’t matter how high we build the walls,” she says.
The way forward
How has Broll Property Group added positivity to the current situation?
Broll Human Capital has come up with a programme focusing on staff wellbeing. We are recognising that our staff are going through a lot of strain following the perpetual trauma between the general effects of Covid-19 and what recently transpired during the riots. It covers a broad spectrum of issues including mental and financial wellness. It has gone a long way to provide the necessary support for our staff. We also continue to support our clients and landlords. We are being proactive about how to manage leases and lease terms and what needs to be done upfront.
What has Broll Property Group learnt from this?
We have learnt that disruption happens and one has to be agile when it does. We continue in our efforts to be responsible corporate citizens and emphasise transformation in the way we do business. Some lessons learnt from riots that took place elsewhere in the world have assisted us in our own experience.