‘Only a heart attack would stop me’- Township mall owner Jason McCormick on Exemplar’s Mamelodi development

Township mall owner Jason McCormick joins BizNews founder Alec Hogg days after presenting at the BizNews Investment Conference. McCormick and his family are majority shareholders in JSE-listed Exemplar REIT, a property company focused on shopping malls and convenience centres in rural and township South Africa. The McCormick’s property empire was ravaged a few months ago as widespread looting and vandalisation took many parts of KZN and Gauteng hostage. Although McCormick admits there is scar tissue, he’s looking for further avenues of growth and is developing a shopping centre in the heart of Mamelodi. – Justin Rowe-Roberts

Jason McCormick on whether Mamelodi was subject to looting and vandalisation:

Yes, indeed – shopping centres did get hit – two, that I know of in Mamelodi. It’s not one of those (the new development), if that’s what you’re asking. This is a greenfield development in the middle of Mamelodi.

On the rationale behind the development: 

Well, we were investing in the homelands under apartheid and had we listened to the rational minds back then, we wouldn’t be where we are today, quite simply. So maybe the rational mind is irrational because they don’t understand our markets, on the one side. From our side, when we first conversed – I think it was a Thursday – when we were still burning in South Africa, I did mention our intention to carry on doing what we’re doing. Obviously, we won’t do them in the same way that we’ve always done them. And they’re not the only ones who started since then. We know we’ve got three new ones underway. But certainly this is the only one in KZN or Gauteng that we’ve started for the moment.

On whether there is still scar tissue from the events that unfolded in July: 

No, we didn’t take fright. Obviously, we had a lot of our thinking rearranged and reordered. I think the reality is that the need still exists, as I told you at the time, for these kinds of developments, the opportunities that these developments do provide and the needs of their service remain. So whilst this was literally a once in a lifetime event, let’s hope we don’t have such an event again. But if we do, we will be ready this time. There’s no doubt about it. So certainly from our side, as you would have seen from the press release, we are co-investors with Putprop – the land was owned by them. They are being co-shareholders, co-investors with ourselves. We’ve discussed the inherent risks and how we sought and they’re supportive of us – what we’re looking to do. Certainly the community is supportive of us. We are on the ground. We haven’t had any stoppages on site. We are working closely with the local community, as we always do. So the indications are for now that we’ve got the support of the community. But as I’ve said before, we’re certainly not going to go into any of these developments with our eyes shut. We’ve taken learnings from what we are carrying on.

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