New estate agency board CEO is raring to break the walls
The new boss can see the challenges, but insists she’ll help change the real estate industry for the better
Mamodupi Mohlala, the newly appointed chief executive officer at the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), is clear on the daunting task ahead of her: she needs to disrupt the industry.
Last year, the board appeared to be in shambles following the announcement of a public protector’s investigation into possible maladministration and corruption within the body.
A forensic report had suggested former chief financial officer Silence Mmotong, who had resigned in 2017, was the one responsible, alongside Mohlala’s predecessor, Bryan Chaplog.
While both men have denied wrongdoing, the investigation does not quell Mohlala’s plans to disrupt the status quo, both internally and in the real estate industry as a whole.
Last week Thursday marked 12 days since she took up the post and, speaking to Times Select, her excitement was almost tangible. “We need to be disruptive in our thinking. We can’t keep doing it the same way it’s been done, because I would not want for us to keep following the old conventional ways of doing things, or follow the same strategy that the established players have used,” she said.
As a qualified advocate, former chairperson for the Rental Housing Tribunal in Gauteng, consumer commissioner and being involved in the investigation into Auction Alliance’s impropriety, she’s no stranger to complex real estate issues.
The Constitutional Court ultimately found Auction Alliance was abusing consumer interests. But as the brand new head of the EAAB, she’s already setting deadlines to rectify the internal issues within the board and its membership.
“In the recent past the EAAB has not been the friend of the auditor-general in that we’ve had two previously qualified audits. We are working tirelessly to make sure we put measures in place to deal with those challenges from an audit point of view.
“Specifically we are bringing additional resources into the institution. We are advertising for a chief financial officer who will come in and make sure the finances of the institution are in check,” she said. She also acknowledged their IT systems were in dire need of strengthening because there was now a backlog of issuing of Fidelity Fund Certificates, a document real estate agents require to function legally.
She admitted the delays were a major complaint they received from estate agents.
“We don’t want to be a contributing factor to them not being on the right side of the law,” she said, promising that by the end of February, the issuing of the certificates would be up to date.
By the end of March, she wants to “lay [the EAAB’s] records open, to see that we have met our obligations”. “And if someone says anything to the contrary, I can show them the proof … This is not going to be just lip service.”
However, it’s Mohlala’s long-term plans that indicate her passion to transform the industry. There need to be more black, or historically disadvantaged, individuals in real estate – and not just interns, she said.
To start with, she wants to start an incubator programme, where either the EAAB can itself provide resources to developing agencies and individuals, or bring in an umbrella body of established estate agencies to assist their smaller counterparts.
It will be more than just a financial boost, she said, with infrastructure, tools of the trade and strategic advice on offer. Beyond this, she wants to assist in these smaller agencies teaming up with developers with similar ideologies so developing agents can become involved in complex and housing estate development.
She also suggested bringing the government and the Public Investment Corporation on board.
Mohlala is looking forward to the changes that will come out of the new legislation proposed to supersede the Estate Agency Affairs Act.
The Property Practitioners Bill, set to be signed into law in the near future, is set to give the EAAB the tools it needs to ensure the process of transformation in the industry can truly begin.
The new bill will ensure the definition of “property practitioner” (or estate agent) is expanded, to help regulate the number of the potentially fraudulent estate agents and agencies. BEE certificates will also be required, and those without them or proper Fidelity Fund certificates and tax clearance will be disqualified.
An ombudsman is also to be established for consumer complaints, and practitioners will also be required to keep records of their sales and purchases for up to 10 years.
“It shows meaningful commitment not only from government, but also industry, so clearly the industry was involved in the legislation-making process, and they are putting their money where their mouths are. Now they are saying, we are really putting money to [transformation] and it’s an objective that can be reached,” she said.
Regarding the public protector’s investigation into the board’s previous conduct, she said it was an issue that would receive immediate attention. “The office of the public protector needs to be taken very seriously, so any information they require will be immediately made available. But we will have an outcome soon, and in that outcome, we will address any recommendations put forth.”