A house divided

The surprise two-month suspension and subsequent resignation of board chairman Thami Bolani for alleged irregularities — followed by the suspension of board spokesman Portia Mofikoe — appears to stem from unpopular decisions Bolani made in his efforts to turn the board around.
The acrimonious sacking of former CEO Nomonde Mapetla earlier this year was clearly one of them. At the time, Bolani maintained that Mapetla was fired because of gross mismanagement. Though Mapetla denied this, with suggestions that her suspension was linked to blowing the whistle on the Wendy Machanik trust fund scandal, a forensic report by Deloitte Risk Advisory leaked to the media last week appears to back Bolani’s claims.

Bolani, who also chairs the National Consumer Forum, denied any wrongdoing in his resignation letter to minister of trade & industry Rob Davies, of which the FM has a copy.
He hinted in the letter that allegations against him were prompted by the critical decisions he took during his tenure at the EAAB, and which made him a “number of enemies’’. Bolani said the way events unfolded in prior months made his position “untenable”.

In his resignation letter Bolani undertook to give his full co-operation to the two investigations against him — one by the department and another by the office of the public protector.
These relate to allegations that he did not disclose his financial interests in a private business venture. His interest in NCF Consulting Enterprises may have constituted a conflict of interest with his position at the EAAB .

Industry players fear that Bolani’s departure will further hamper the board’s operational efficiency. It’s no secret that the EAAB has in recent years bungled the capturing of industry data, which led to thousands of registered estate agents not receiving their fidelity fund certificates on time. Without these it is illegal for an estate agent to sell a property.

Estate agents say they were hopeful that the board’s administrative processes would be vastly improved under Bolani’s seemingly decisive leadership. Andrew Golding, president of the Institute of Estate Agents of SA, says it appeared that the board was making progress in this regard under Bolani . “This new development is a setback for the industry.’’

Though new appointments have been made at the EAAB in recent weeks, including that of former chief financial officer Bryan Chaplog as CEO and that of Tryphina Dube, former deputy chair, as acting chair , this has apparently created further friction among board members. Industry insiders say the board is divided into pro-Bolani and pro-Mapetla camps.

While the shenanigans at the EAAB appear never-ending, the real estate industry’s credibility continues to be eroded. Sean McCauley, a director of Rawson Properties, says the industry now needs stability more than ever.

One way to achieve this, he believes, is for the industry to start lobbying for self- regulation. The general view is that if the statutory body cannot even regulate itself, how can it be entrusted to regulate an industry that turns over around R120bn/year?

But self- regulation would mean, among other things , an overhaul of the Estate Agency Affairs Act, which dates back to 1976, and would no doubt be a long and laborious affair.
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