Leon Cohen

Hello from the CEO | Leon Cohen

Who could have predicted the extreme and rapid changes in 2020?  I am sure you will agree that it has been a year for the record books!

Rabie, like all South African firms, has had to adapt to the sudden shift of the winds. But as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”.  Despite pre-existing economic challenges, we were in the ground with a few developments before national lockdown and from 1 June, when construction could resume under lockdown level 3, we were fortunate to continue where we left off.

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

In Century City, our new prime office building, Sable Corner, is complete and we are ready to receive more tenants.  Opposite this striking building, Bridgewater One is rising rapidly as an extension of the successful Bridgeways Precinct.  It is essentially six developments rolled into one – a boutique hotel, 122 apartments, three different office components and the complete rehabilitation of the ex-Ratanga Junction site into a large water body connected to Century City’s canals.

In addition, we broke ground on two new schemes in July – Cape Gate Crescent, a residential scheme for rental stock and Oasis Life Burgundy Estate, our second life-rights retirement development. Our first is currently under construction in Clara Anna Fontein Lifestyle Estate.

Unfortunately, it has not all been smooth sailing, as the hospitality industry received a tremendous blow by lockdown, and the restriction on international travel is proving to be particularly distressing.  Our Century City Conference City and Hotel, as well as the Cape Town Marriott Crystal Towers Hotel, came to a grinding halt, its recovery a slow and painful one.  Our teams remain agile in impossible times and in response to the challenges posed by restrictions on large physical gatherings and international travel, the Century City Conference Centre has launched a comprehensive and cutting-edge digital conferencing solution. Read more about this here.

The hotels on the other hand, depend on actual occupancy and we look forward to when our international and business guests return en masse.

As we found ourselves amidst a global situation never experienced before, under lockdown and unsure of our immediate futures, many of us were feeling helpless regarding the plight of those less fortunate.  Bombarded with images on the news and social media, we wanted to make a difference.

At Century City, the predicament of our neighbouring community Joe Slovo Park and the children of Sinenjongo High School were pressing on our hearts and we needed to make a difference where it matters most: ensuring that these families do not go hungry.

Century City Property Owners’ Association (CCPOA), Rabie Property Group and Century City Conference Centre and Hotel founded the Century City Feed-A-Family, with the objective of assisting our local community in feeding their families.

The food hampers were assembled by the Conference Centre and Hotel staff, and each 30kg food hamper fed a family of four for a period of three to four weeks.  With the incredible assistance of the Western Cape Red Cross Society and their passionate volunteers , our first drop-off took place on 30 April 2020 and by end of August, 6 000 hampers were delivered exceeding our initial target.

I wish to express gratitude towards every contribution from near and far, that enabled us to hold out helping hands to our neighbours in need, during this extreme crisis.  We trust that the little we could do, made the difference.

Being suddenly thrust into an unknown world and having to adapt in a short space of time, the new balance of digital versus the human touch remains a hot topic.  Across the world, the debate of continued working from home is raging.  With Covid-19, we have been catapulted at least ten years into the future in terms of technology.  The hybrid of technology and human interaction has become a reality much sooner than expected.

However, there are undeniable benefits of working under one roof – leaders who inspire through their energy, the cultures of businesses driven by their people and the close interaction, networking, and stimulus of another’s energy.  These ingredients have made businesses great.  Now, not being exposed to charismatic leadership and camaraderie, loss of the casual conversation and absence of the spontaneous sharing of ideas, has its price.

Add to that the physical challenges – home environments which might not be ideal for full-time working, trying to concentrate at the dining room table where your children are being home schooled, internet connection disruptions and power failures.  The divide between work and home has all but disappeared as these two worlds have fused into one.  The emotional and mental health price must still be calculated.

In my mind, the collective remains greater than the individual.  We need each other – whether for inspiration and collaboration, or just allowing ourselves to be human.  As elegant as a supreme digitised world sounds, “remote” in its essence remains sterile and disjointed.

A successful hybrid solution would be the best of both: working and communicating digitally when it makes sense to do so, yet never losing sight of the importance of fundamental humanity and its role in making us great, together.

Leon Cohen CEO Rabie, Hello from the CEO | Leon Cohen, Rabie.co.za
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