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Umbono: almost one year later

MAIN IMAGE: Sisonke Borris Makapela loves being in the property industry after completing the basic Umbono training programme. He is one of many success stories says Elize van der Merwe, managing trustee of Umbono Educational Trust.

In October a third group of young black interns will be learning the in’s and out’s of being an estate agent through the Umbono Educational Trust. That will be exactly one year since the first group of students entered the training programme. A few of them quit but most stayed and as a group they have already sold property worth millions in total. Sounds too good to be true? Not at all.

One of them is Sisonke Borris Makapela who is a 22 year old black intern agent that has clinched seven sales (six sectional title and one freehold property) in the Strand area since February this year. This would be no small feat for any young agent, especially in these sluggish economic times, but what makes Makapela’s success even more remarkable is the fact that he did this as a young black agent in Strand, a bustling coastal town in False Bay that’s predominantly settled by white Afrikaans-speaking people where he also faced stiff competition from experienced estate agents who’s been servicing the area for years.

Enough to rattle any young intern, but not Makapela. He admits he was concerned about these things when he started working in the Strand, but says he then decided he will start from scratch and find his own niche market. He zoned in on investors interested in the sectional title market and the rest is history. No wonder he was the top performer in the first group of students trained by the Umbono Educational Trust in Blaauwberg, Cape Town.

Makapela is part of the programme’s first intake of 42 young black students in October 2017 of which 38 completed the 5-week training programme and are busy with internships at various estate agencies. From the second group 24 out of an original group of 26 students are busy with their internships. There are 38 women in the programme so far.

Makapela is one of several success stories from Umbono. According to Umbono managing trustee, Elize van der Merwe by around May property sold by the first group came to a total value of around R24 million. By now she reckons that number to be more than R40 million.

During the 5 weeks the students are taught about the day to day activities in an estate agency office, everything from how to deal with buyers and sellers to doing a ‘CMA’. Of course, there are some that soon realise that the property industry isn’t for them and then leave the programme.

“As we all know the property industry isn’t for everyone, so all applicants are interviewed individually to assess whether they would be suitable candidates before they are admitted to the programme. While on the programme their progress is continually assessed, and they write a final test before they can continue to an internship with a participating agency,” Van der Merwe explains.

Currently Umbono have students placed at 26 estate agencies. According to Van der Merwe the feedback from students doing their internships have mostly been positive but there have been a few instances where they had to move students to other offices where they receive better support. She says they monitor the students’ progress with weekly attendance registers and work reports. After six months Umbono follows up with interviews with the agency and individually with the students.

“The Umbono students are hard-working and ambitious,” says Arno Schneidernel, marketing manager of Property4Sale. He works directly with the interns they took in from both groups. “The training they receive is appropriate and we felt they had to do our inhouse training as well to understand how our office works,” he continues.

“The Umbono program gives an opportunity to people who otherwise won’t have the chance to enter the property industry. It is beneficial to the South African economy and to these students individually,” he concludes.

Van der Merwe says most of the agencies that take in students are optimistic and satisfied. Henning van Aswegen is Makapela’s mentor at the Leapfrog Gordon’s Bay agency. Besides being very proud of Makapela, he feels Umbono provides good training and he has great appreciation for what they are trying to do.

The property industry has in the last couple of years come under increasing pressure to fast-track opportunities for more black agents to enter the field which is still dominated mostly by white agents and white-owned agencies. Umbono is a non-profitable educational trust, who developed this training program to help transform the property industry. The Department of Public Works supplied the financial backing for the training of the first two groups.

During their internship the students receive a stipend of R4 600 a month for one year. Umbono also pays for their Fidelity Fund certificates and their NQF4 qualification. The programme is open for young black people ages 18-35 years who have a grade 12 qualification. Van der Merwe says they plan to start with the training of the third group towards the end of September and hope to expand the program to the other provinces by the end of the year. “We have already met with role players in connection with the possibility of taking the programme to other provinces,” she says.

Agencies who want to participate in the program must be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and have a valid FFC. There has to be at least one person with minimum a NQF4 to act as mentor for the intern agents.

Van der Merwe says one big challenge they have is that many people in black townships don’t know what an estate agent does. This often leads to mistrust towards agents.

Also read: Pushing through to transform the property sector

Asked what his advice would be to young black agents like him facing all these challenges, Makapela said: “My attitude towards challenges is to take responsibility. I believe you are solely responsible for the outcome of what you do. Challenges are part of the journey, what is important is that you are consistent in your work. Don’t play the victim. Take every day as a new day.”

Sounds like good advice for anyone currently in the property industry …

For more information on the Umbono Training programme, contact Elize van der Merwe on 084 913 3280 (o)/082 898 9536 (s) or email:

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