Statement by Thami Bolani, Chairman of EAAB, in response to allegations of non-disclosure

Statement by Thami Bolani, Chairman of EAAB, in response to allegations of non-disclosure

8 August 2011

Mr Thami Bolani, Chairman of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and National Consumer Forum (NCF), has responded strongly to sensationalist allegations that he failed to declare his interests in Consumer Fair, a newspaper published by NCF Consulting Enterprises under the guidance of the NCF. This newspaper has since 2009, and prior to Mr Bolani’s involvement in the EAAB, published EAAB advertorials promoting consumer rights and educating consumers about the property sector.

“Both the EAAB and the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), which appointed me to the board of the EAAB as a representative of consumer interests, had full copies of my CV, which clearly states my continuing involvement with the NCF and the Consumer Fair,” states Mr Bolani. “When joining the EAAB board, my involvement in the NCF and hence Consumer Fair was disclosed, and in any event, was public knowledge due to the high profile nature of my role within the NCF. Indeed, shortly after being appointed, four board members attended a NCF-organised meeting for poor and more rural consumers in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga.

At this meeting, I thanked various organisations and agencies that support the NCF, including the EAAB,” expands Mr Bolani. “All disclosures that were necessary in terms of legislation and the EAAB Board Charter by which the organisation is governed have been made,” says Mr Bolani. EAAB board members are provided with a written agenda before each meeting. At each meeting, the board members present sign an attendance register and declare any interest they might have in any item on the agenda. In respect of each meeting, where Mr Bolani has been present since his appointment in Jan 2010, the issue of Consumer Fair, as a separate agenda item, has never arisen.

Further, in terms of the board charter, a disclosure has to be made once during the course of a financial year. Mr Bolani disclosed his interest in each of the financial years since his appointment to the EAAB baord and this is confirmed by the relevant company secretaries, whose duty it is to guide board members as to their responsibilities and how these should be properly discharged in the best interest of the board, as well as having to ensure that applicable rules and regulations for the conduct of the affairs of the board are complied with.

Regarding advertising, in the form of advertorials, placed in Consumer Fair by the EAAB, DTI spokesman Mr Sidwell Medupe has confirmed this commenced prior to Mr Bolani’s involvement with the organisation. “The EAAB resolved in 2009 to advertise in Consumer Fair and this was before the chairperson became a board member. When he was appointed to the EAAB, it was already in the public domain that he is from the NCF and that Consumer Fair was one of their own initiatives. The DTI, its agencies and other departments also advertised in Consumer Fair before the chairperson became a board member.”

Further, records of the EAAB reflect this. For example, the 2nd quarterly report (July – September 2009) of the marketing department, responsible for advertising, indicate advertising placement in Consumer Fair. This report was signed by the reporting line head, the CEO and the Chairman prior to being sent to the DTI, as required by legislation. Explaining the role of NCF Consulting Enterprises, that produces Consumer Fair, Mr Bolani said that the NCF, as an NGO, is affiliated to the international consumer body Consumers International, an association that has given South African consumer issues prominence internationally as well as enabled skills development of NCF staff.

As Consumers International do not wish affiliates to receive funding from the private sector and the NCF obviously required ongoing monetary support for the running and publication of Consumer Fair, as well as to expand its services into additional provinces, NCF Consulting Enterprises was established. NCF Consulting Enterprises is a social enterprise development that the NCF depends on for its survival as it has no other source of funding.

Consumer Fair, a free publication, aims at educating consumers, particularly the weak and vulnerable, with 80 000 copies being distributed through ABSA. It receives advertising support from other private sector companies as it is seen as one of the means to reach low income consumers. The NCF also issues an annual report, which is sent to all stakeholders, including the EAAB.

“To claim that the company ‘pocketed’ monies is spurious as any publication requires advertising to continue operating. All profits of the magazine go to the NCF, to enable it to be a sustainable body and continue its valuable work in protecting consumers.”

Commenting on the criminal complaint that has allegedly been made against Mr Bolani, he states: “It’s odd that a complaint was apparently made in June of 2011 but the first I learnt of the matter was on Saturday 6th August 2011. I immediately tried to ascertain the facts regarding this alleged complaint, finally managing to track it down to a specific police station, and then sent a press statement to Mr Werner Swart, a journalist from the Sunday Times to meet his evening deadline on Saturday 6th August, after having met him at the EAAB offices on the non-disclosure issues on Friday 5th August 2011.

“In this statement, I clearly iterated that I had disclosed my interest in Consumer Fair, that my interest in Consumer Fair is a well-known fact, and that my attorneys, after having great difficult in establishing that a complaint had been lodged at a police station in June 2011, had immediately made contact with the Hawks to arrange for a consultation and to give the Hawks my full cooperation.

This liaison is continuing with a meeting arranged for later in the week, to clarify matters and to provide the Hawks with all documentation required. I believe I will be fully exonerated.”Since Mr Bolani was appointed as Chairman of the EAAB, the number of investigations initiated and undertaken by the regulatory body has increased dramatically.

Between April and July 2011, 330 inspections have been carried out, compared to the previous maximum number of 17 per year. This effectively highlights the determination of the EAAB, under the leadership of Mr Bolani, to effect a turnaround strategy that will see it become a more effective organisation, fulfilling its mandate to regulate the estate agency sector for the protection of consumers nationwide. The Sunday Times article also alluded to investigations into estate agencies being stopped following the termination of a contract with Pasco Risk Management, the company appointed by the EAAB to investigate Wendy Machanik Property Holdings (WMPH).

“The EAAB has not terminated investigations into estate agencies – we have terminated Pasco’s contract, which was initially only for the WMP matter, and broadened our pool of service providers to ensure an equitable spread. We have already appointed SAB&T to conduct another investigation on our behalf.

“What needs to be completed regarding current investigations as well as new ones, will continue, as far as our mandate and jurisdiction applies.

“Addressing the main investigations, the WMPH matter is now being dealt with by the National Prosecuting Authority and when requested, the EAAB will give evidence. In the Constantia Sectional Title Management (CSTM) matter, the licence has been withdrawn for as long as CSTM and Mr Quintin Brown do not hold valid fidelity fund certificates, the trust account cannot be operated and a curator has been appointed. Regarding Dusty Moon 103, trading as Seeff Klerksdorp, a curator has been appointed to administer and control the trust account while a criminal complaint has been lodged by the EAAB with the South African Police Services (SAPS), thus the EAAB has fully discharged its statutory function and duties regarding this matter. Regarding both Wakefields Estate Agents and Seeff Fractional Ownership, the EAAB does not have statutory jurisdiction and hence cannot take the investigations any further,” concludes Mr Bolani.

For media enquiries or additional media information, please contact

Ms Portia Mofikoe, Acting Executive: Stakeholder Relations and Education, Estate Agency Affairs Board, 083 449 0883 or 011 731-5662 or Portia.mofikoe@eeab.org.za

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