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Wednesday Aug 31, 2011

Estate agents' board readies to go belly up

The Estate Agency Affairs Board appears to be imploding, with two senior members suspended, nasty, mass e-mails being sent and accusations of fraud and corruption flying around.

The apparent collapse of the board could have huge repercussions for the property market, which makes up 15 percent of South Africa's GDP and earns South Africa R2 trillion.

The public collapse began on Friday when the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, suspended chairman Thami Bolani. The department refused to give reasons for the suspension, saying only that Bolani's suspension followed allegations he had contravened the conditions of his appointment as a board member.

"These allegations came about due to disclosures made to the department regarding an alleged conflict of interest," the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Two weeks ago, media reports indicated that the Hawks were investigating how NCF Consulting Enterprises, a company Bolani is chairperson of, had allegedly earned R200 000 from the board.

The DTI has ordered a forensic investigation into the allegations of fraud.

Spokesman Sidwell Medupe said they would not comment further until the investigation was complete.

But Bolani did not leave without controversy. A source who did not want to be named said Bolani heard the DTI was going to suspend him and immediately suspended the chief financial officer (CFO), Bryan Chaplog, through mass e-mails sent to all board members. He then appointed Clive Ashpol, head of enforcement, into the position.

"On Friday morning, Bolani heard he had been suspended and now there is a fight about who is the CFO," said the source.

"Bryan said a board meeting was not convened and Bolani acted while he was suspended, while Ashpol believes he is now in the position."

Spokeswoman Portia Mofikoe was also allegedly suspended for initiating the deal with NCF Consulting. She refused to comment.

A month ago, e-mails accusing Bolani of sleeping with Mofikoe and taking kickbacks in the purchase of new buildings for the board were circulated.

"The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) members are embarrassed to be associated with a chairperson who does not respect his position. He has brought the EAAB board into disrepute due to his actions.

"He has disappointed the minister, board, staff and members of the public by satisfying his lust at the expense of the EAAB," said one e-mail.

Bolani responded that the deputy chairperson (Tryphina Dube) was sending the letters slandering him.

"As some of us plan to do the right thing for the organisation and leave a proper legacy, other people are only thinking of their pockets. This is the background of this whole dirty campaign against me led by the deputy chairperson. It is fuelled on greed," Bolani said to the board in an e-mail.

A source said there were allegations that Bolani had bought a property in Bryanston through a friend of his, even though it was not on the tendered list.

Bolani said the board was a mess and the rumours had been part of a campaign to get rid of him.

Members of the board, including Ashpol and Tryphina Dube, did not answer the phone yesterday.

The Star


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