Industry leader: Meet Norman Griffiths
Every month, SAIV profiles some of our most established property valuers who have become leaders in the industry due to many years of experience.
Why did I become a property valuer?
I was born and schooled in UK and qualified as a chartered surveyor through the college of Estate Management at the University of Reading.
Following qualification I looked for opportunities worldwide and following a number of job offers eventually arrived by boat in Cape Town on the 7th November 1968 to take up a contract with the International Chartered Surveying Firm of Dunlop Heywood initially in Cape Town but later in their Johannesburg office.
On arriving in Cape Town one of the very first exercises which I was involved was valuation of Rembrandt Wineries and other allied operations in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Tulbach, Paarl and elsewhere throughout the country. One of the challenges within the valuation profession is that one frequently gets involved in industries of which one has little or no knowledge. I had never seen a vineyard before but at that stage I was merely an assistant and so I learnt.
I later moved to Johannesburg where I spent 3 years as part of a large valuation team. At that stage Dunlop Heywood probably employed more chartered surveyors and valuers than any other private sector organisations in the country. The company was retained by many of the mining houses and I gained experience in the valuation of mines throughout the country, cement works, timberlands and a cross section of industry. This involved crisscrossing Southern Africa and there are very few cities, towns and dorps south of the Zambezi which I have not visited as a valuer over the years.
During this period Dunlop Heywood associated themselves with the much larger international real estate company of Richard Ellis which is a multi-disciplined real estate organisations with associates throughout the world which gave the company the opportunity of handling real estate business on behalf of many multi-national companies including the valuation of property portfolios which were truly international.
In 1971 I relocated to Salisbury Rhodesia to set up a Central Africa branch office of Richard Ellis where I operated for 3 years. During this period I was involved in one of the largest expropriation in Southern Africa which was the expropriation of all of the privately held game lands within the Matetsi area lying between Wankie Game Reserve (now Hwange) and the Zambezi. This matter ended up in court for final determination of compensation. The court inspection was held over 3 days and involved 3 light aircraft crisscrossing that part of Matabeleland carrying the judge, legal representatives and valuers staying overnight at Victoria Falls.
Other valuation exercises in Central Africa where I was involved included fish factories on both Lake Kariba and Lake Malawi, tea estates on the Mozambique border and hotels including the Wankie Safari Lodge where we had to dodge the elephants whilst undertaking the site inspection.
I returned to Johannesburg in 1974 and specialized in valuations for litigation purposes including expropriation. My very first case that went to court involved land expropriated for railway purposes in the Ermelo district and I experienced my first expert witness moment in the old Jewish Synagogue in Pretoria converted for court purposes.
From that time onwards I have been involved in litigation valuation and spent many hours in consultation with advocates where I have learnt that in litigation you can never do enough homework as the range of questions upon which you can be tested is infinite and you are required as an expert witness to commit. You cannot afford to go into the witness box unprepared and must fully understand all aspects of the case. You as a valuer need to coordinate with other disciplines such as town planners, engineers (electrical, mechanical, civil) together with other experts with related expertise linked to such aspects as water, agriculture, geology, mining and more recently environmental etc. As the valuer one is frequently required to be the final expert pulling together all of the other expert information influencing the final valuation.
From 1981 to 1984 I was the partner in charge of the Pretoria office of Richard Ellis and undertook a lot of expropriation valuation work instructed by The State Attorney operating country wide. I was also involved in the “regularization” of the “homelands” with the acquisition of white held properties and transfer to indigenous enterprises. During this period I travelled extensively through the Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana, Lebowa, Venda and Kwa Zulu valuing by way of example many of the coastal hotels in the Transkei, major commercial enterprises and trading stations.
I continued with Richard Ellis based in Johannesburg until 1990 at which stage I formed my own practice under the name of Norman Griffiths and Associates based in Rivonia where I continue to advise major property owning companies on valuation issues still specializing in litigation matters which fall into four main categories being:
Expropriation (with compensation)
Municipal rating valuation
Land restitution issues
Disputes including rent reviews, intercompany disputes, partner dissolutionment, etc.
Major cases where I have been involved as the main valuation expert witness include:
- Disputes arising from the expropriation of land for the Gautrain Project where I was specifically retained by The State Attorney on behalf of the Gauteng Provincial Transport Department to act as expert valuation witness.
- The Kangra Coal case involving determination of the compensation to be paid for coal sterilized by the construction of the Heyshope Dam near Piet Retief, which case continued for over 5 years involving 3 legal counsel on either side and numerous expert witnesses.
- Leopard Creek Golf Estate being a dispute on municipal valuations under the Municipal Property Rates Act.
- A dispute on the ownership of certain saltpans in the Northern Cape involving the need to analyze property transactions within the salt industry throughout the country.
- A series of cases acting for various mines involved municipal valuations of mine property on the East and West Rand.
- I am advisor to 3 of the major hotel groups in the country on property valuation issues mainly but not exclusively linked to municipal valuations including the valuations of most of the countries casinos.
- I have been retained by the V&A Waterfront to provide both corporate and municipal valuation input in their relationship with the Cape Town City Council).
- I recently acted on behalf of the Emfuleni Municipality in the Valuation Appeal Board case to determine the value of Arcelor Mittal (ex Iscor Steelworks) in Vanderbijlpark.
- Land claims cases:
– I acted on behalf of the state in the Richtersveld land claim involving land held by the Alexcor Diamond Mine between Alexander Bay and Port Nolloth.
– On behalf of Sun International in respect of the land claim over The Fish River Sun Casino and Golf Resort in the Eastern Cape.
– On behalf of Sun International in respect of land claim issues over The Wild Coast Sun in the Transkei.
- I acted as a consultant to the Lesotho Highlands Water Authority on property utilization within Lesotho as a result of the LHWP.
- I have been involved in land valuations necessitated by the eastern extension of the Madikwe Game Reserve and of many other games lodges.
- I have acted as valuer to a number of property unit trusts and reits.
- Environmental issues – Valuers always need to be aware of environmental issues. I have been involved in cases where the impact on township development of Africa Bullfrogs (in Midrand), Wild Hyacinths (in Rustenburg) and Brenton Blue butterflies (in Brenton on Sea) have been issues.
I sat on the SAPOA Committee responsible for the organization and presentation of their annual Property Development Program in Cape Town during the period 1995 to 2018. Presented valuation lectures on the course and acted as a judge in the assessment of student projects. This is a highly intensive senior management course run in conjunction with the UCT Graduate School of Business covering all aspects of property development.
I sat during the 1980’s as a committee member of the SAIV “Transvaal Branch” with such luminaries as Gordon Atkins, Chris Small, Jorry Jordaan, Ken Meakle, Tony Torr and others. I was chairman of that committee and sat on the National Council.
He travels extensively with family in California and Connecticut in the USA, Geneva in Switzerland and Melbourne in Australia while internally he spends as much time as he has available in the Southern African bush with the Okavango Swamps and Kariba being held to be special places.
Every year in December he retreats to his holiday home on the Bushman’s River at Kenton on Sea in the Eastern Cape.
He is married to his second wife Jill and together they have 6 children and 12 grandchildren scattered around the world.
Despite his UK heritage he is a fanatical supporter of the Springboks and has followed them on tour in UK, Australia and New Zealand. His blood is green.
He has also been seen deep sea fishing in the Mozambique Channel.