Axing of estate agency CEO ‘not related to Machanik case’

2011-03-11 11:34

The court case of the CEO of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) has nothing to do with the Wendy Machanik case, EAAB chairman Thami Bolani said today.

He was addressing a select committee on trade in Parliament.

Bolani said lawyers who represented the board during the Machanik case were representing the board in the case of CEO Nomonde Mapetla.

Mapetla was suspended, then fired on February 27, with media reports suggesting it may be linked to whistle-blowing against Machanik.

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

They allegedly made irregular transfers totalling R28 million from Wendy Machanik Property Holdings to a fictitious account.

Bolani said if the two cases were related it would be a conflict of interest and that this was not the case.

“This has got nothing to do with the Machanik issue.

“It’s a purely labour matter. It’s got nothing to do with politics.”

Bolani said he was quite disturbed that the matter had attracted front-page news coverage for two weeks.

“We are quite concerned it has been politicised so much.”

Acting director-general of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Lionel October, said the department did not make determinations on unfair dismissal disputes and was not investigating the employment dispute in the matter of the CEO.

“The dispute we are investigating is to see that there was no abuse of power from the side of the board when they made their decision.

“Whilst the minister has oversight of agencies, we do not operate in their day to day affairs. They have operational independence.”

He said the department launched the investigation because the matter became one of public concern and it was being reported that Mapetla was dismissed because she was fighting corruption.

“The minister did ask that we launch a short investigation audit ... for the minister to satisfy himself that proper process was followed.”

Bolani said the reasons for Mapetla’s suspension were stated in court papers and available to the public.

In an affidavit yesterday, EAAB board chairman Thami Bolani said that Mapetla “has, through nothing more than conjecture, speculation and self-promotion, attempted to build up a case that pretends that this matter is about something much bigger than the mundane early termination of a fixed-term contract”.

Her contention that she was suspended for whistle-blowing was without foundation and it “had nothing to do with any fight against corruption and crime”, he said.

The EAAB board said Mapetla’s employment contract had been terminated immediately “due to an irreconcilable breakdown in the working relationship between the parties”.

Bolani told committee members today that he was “totally convinced” that the board had acted properly and within the law.

“And we will fully abide by the decision of the court. There are no agendas. It is strictly a labour matter.

“We accept that the DTI has a duty to investigate whether we acted within the law. All of us are simply acting within our mandates.”

The Johannesburg High Court was expected to rule today on the urgency of an application by Mapetla to be reinstated.

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