Estate agent turmoil: govt steps in

2011-03-08 21:28

Johannesburg - The trade and industry department has appointed an independent firm to compile a report on the dismissal of chief executive officer the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) Nomonde Mapetla.

The DTI said that as a matter of course Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies would not intervene in employment-related matters.

"In this case however, there was a concern that the CEO's dismissal was related to her commitment to dealing decisively with malpractices and fraud in the industry," the department said in a statement.

"Given the large number of disputes of fact it was recommended that an independent firm be instructed to conduct a full investigation into this matter and report within two weeks."

It was necessary to establish that the board acted in a "fit and proper manner".

Mapetla was currently challenging her dismissal, and the department said Davies would abide by the court's decision.

Davies had asked acting director general and the deputy director general responsible for consumer and corporate regulation, Zodwa Ntuli, to meet with both parties and compile a report on the matter.

The meetings took place last Thursday, and a report was presented to the minister on Tuesday.

"From the preliminary investigation it is clear that there are a number of disputes of fact regarding the suspension and termination of the contract, the nature of charges and whether due process was followed."

The department however, wanted to "state categorically" that both Mapetla and the board had worked together on dealing with fraud and corruption in the industry.

"There is no disagreement between the parties on this matter. It should be noted that investigations against four large estate agency firms are continuing and the board will be reporting on the results of these investigations in due course."

Mapetla's case was postponed in the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Acting Judge GL Bhikha had not received the case file so the matter would be heard on Wednesday.

Last week, the board said Mapetla's employment contract had been immediately terminated "due to an irreconcilable breakdown in the working relationship between the parties". Her contract was to have expired on July 15.

Mapetla took up the post of CEO six years ago. The EAAB is the regulator of the country's 27 000 estate agents.

An EAAB investigation into estate agency Wendy Machanik Properties led to the closing of the agency and criminal charges against Wendy Machanik and her chief financial officer Bruce Bernstein.

The two allegedly made irregular transfers totalling R28m from Wendy Machanik Property Holdings, to a fictitious account. They also allegedly failed to reflect 116 transfers of money between the firm's trust account and its business account in their financial records.