We visited the decaying remains of a half-built shopping centre on the outskirts of Pretoria
- In the early-to-late 2000s, an estimated 40,000 people, mostly retirees, poured about R5 billion into property syndication company Sharemax.
- One of the investment scheme's biggest projects was to build a 90,000 square metre shopping centre rivalling Menlyn Mall on the outskirts of Pretoria that would cost about R3.5 billion.
- After being repeatedly warned about flouting financial and banking laws, the scheme went under, leaving behind an eyesore tombstone.
- Property owners in the area aren't particularly pleased having it around, slowly decaying.
Nine years ago Sharemax promoted itself as the largest unlisted property investment company in Africa, with one corporate video inviting South Africans "to be a part of something we can believe in, put our trust on - a steadfast and dynamic asset with expanding possibilities and real prospects for medium to long-term growth - offering you a collective share, growth and security."
An estimated 40,000 people, mostly retirees heeded the call to invest in the property syndication company - pouring in about R5 billion into Sharemax's schemes.
The Villa shopping centre, now also known as The Sharemax Tombstone, was one of Sharemax's biggest group investment schemes.
Sharemax Investments collapsed in 2010 after a registrar of banks investigation found that Sharemax’s funding model had contravened the Bank Act.
Alarm bells were rung by market-watchers as early as 2003. Investors were later warned the handsome 12.5% annual return on their investment that comprised monthly interest cheques will eventually stop arriving when the scheme goes bust, as indeed it did.
The Nova Property Group has since undertaken to rescue the collapsed Sharemax investment scheme after the South African Reserve Bank placed Sharemax under statutory management. That left The Villa at a standstill to this day.
We first visited the gloomy construction site in August 2018 and again in December 2018. This is what we found.
Located on corner of De Villebois Marceuli and Delmas Road in Pretoria East, the "Ghost Mall" is unmistakable.
Construction beams and rods still reach for the sky.
The 90,000 square metre construction site is fenced off from the public, with two security guards (the only personnel on site) posted at the entrance to the site when visited for the first time.
The site was entirely sealed off on the second visit.
There was not a single construction crane or heavy machine to indicate any on-going work during the first visit.
When another publication, Moneyweb went for a visit in 2017 - there was no construction activity or machinery either. Materials had been packed away.
That remains the case...
with no signs of work or life.
There is also little development all around The Villa - a concern that was raised in the project's initial stages
Market-watchers were also concerned about the prospects of development around the area. The Villa retail park set out to offer 90,000 square metres of retail space, rivalling Pretoria's biggest and most popular mall, Menlyn which boasts 118,307 square metres.
Old Mutual valued Menyln Mall at R3.4 billion in 2011 which translated to R28,800 per square metre in a busy, developed, and rich area. The Villa was valued at R39,222 per square metre – 36% more.
Head of the Wingate Golf Estate body corporate, the neighbouring property to the Ghost Mall, tells Business Insider SA that a majority of homeowners in the area aren't particularly pleased with the "eyesore" unfinished structure and have been lodging queries to find out what is to become of it.
To date, all the neighbours have been told is that the project is still waiting for a cash injection.
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