The appointment of an interim leadership to head the embattled Estate Agency Affairs Board by the human settlements, water and sanitation minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, has come under fire.
Democratic Alliance MP Emma Powell has challenged the legality of the appointment of the interim board, made in July, on the grounds that it was carried out without any legislative basis.
Powell said Sisulu made the appointment while waiting for the gazetting of new regulations, contained in the new Property Practitioners Act. She said Sisulu appeared to have made the appointment “without an explicit legislative prescription allowing for this to be done”.
The estate agency board made headlines recently with claims that its chairperson, Nkosinathi Biko, had sat on a dossier of damning corruption and nepotism allegations against its chief executive, Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi in January. Then, in April, she was appointed the deputy chairperson of the SABC board.
Mohlala-Mulaudzi has been mired in controversy in both posts.
At the SABC, she has allegedly been receiving board fees, despite regulations stating that employees of public entities who sit on the board should not be paid.
In September, staff on the estate agency board submitted the dossier to Biko and the director general of human settlements, Mbulelo Tshangana.
Powell said the board’s leaders had informed the portfolio committee on human settlements last month that, although legislation made no explicit allowance for the appointment of an interim board, the minister had relied on the principles of “good governance” to do so.
“Either this board has been validly appointed in terms of an Act of law or it has not,” Powell said. “If the EAAB [Estate Agency Affairs Board] has not been validly appointed, it may mean that everything done by the board is illegal; this includes things such as the issue of fidelity fund certificates.
“It could mean that every single fidelity fund certificate issued to agents is completely invalid in law, with far reaching consequences,” she added.
Last month, Sisulu wrote to Biko, giving him seven days to provide her with an action plan of how the crisis facing the entity, which has gone through three chief executives and five chief financial officers in the past five years, would be resolved.
Sisulu’s spokesperson, Makhosini Mgitywa, said the minister would be meeting with the board this week to try to resolve the “regrettable” challenges faced by the entity. He said the interim board’s appointment was procedurally correct and that the process of appointing a permanent board would begin early next year.
Mgitywa said Sisulu had written to the board regarding the allegations against Mohlala-Mulaudzi and would discuss their response with them next week.
The minister is yet to respond to written parliamentary questions submitted last month by Powell about the appointment of ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini as chairperson of the Social Housing Regulatory Agency, and about the department’s national rapid response task team.
Whistle-blowers in the department claimed the team, most of whose members were part of Sisulu’s campaign for the ANC presidency in 2017, had been appointed by her to further her bid for the post in 2022.
At the time, Sisulu denied the claim that the appointment of the task team — at an annual cost of R13.9-million — was a move to bankroll her campaign, saying its members were all experts who would act as an interface between the ministry and the public.
Powell will ask the public protector and the Public Service Commission to investigate the appointments once she has received the responses to her written parliamentary questions, which Sisulu was meant to have submitted within 10 days. Powell said this week that she had received “no responses”.