Fired for putting her house in order

2011-03-05 09:56

The Estate Agency Affairs Board will find it hard to convince anyone that their reason for hurriedly jettisoning their chief executive, Nomonde Mapetla, from her position is not linked to her ­perceived clean-up of the real estate ­industry.

Just when you would have ­expected the board to support her, they do the exact ­opposite and sack her instead.

The members of the board are only ­fooling themselves if they think they can get away with simply denying the link between Mapetla’s move to investigate some of the industry’s star players and her sudden ­sacking.

The board’s chairperson, Thami Bolani, needs to know that the sudden strong-arm tactics look suspiciously like an attempt to muzzle Mapetla, especially given that she was barred from talking to the media.

The public interest in this matter far ­outweighs any arrangements the board may have struck to hush the matter up.

As soon as rumours began to fly that a second high-profile player in the industry was about to face scrutiny, hot on the heels of the much-publicised Wendy Machanik debacle, the heat was suddenly turned ­on Mapetla without explanation.

The speed with which the chief executive was first put on “special leave” by the board, and then dismissed altogether, has all the hallmarks of a cover-up.

They can protest all they like and claim that their actions as a board had nothing to do with Mapetla’s clean-up campaign, but they will struggle to convince anyone.

It is difficult to fathom why an IT system that has not been functioning well since it was installed in 2007 should suddenly earn Mapetla the wrath of her board.

Now it is up to the board to show that they can justify their hard-to-believe claim that their decision to fire Mapetla was not driven by pressure from powerful forces within the industry.

We all know the saying, there is no smoke without fire, continues to hold ground.

Ancient as this saying might be, it goes to the heart of the matter in this ­instance because it certainly appears that instead of supporting Mapetla’s efforts to root out impropriety in the industry, the board has caved in to pressure from those facing ­scrutiny.

This is a classic case in which the board would be well advised that they will not earn public trust simply by trying to dismiss the perception that they are sidelining the chief executive to stop her from exposing more ­wayward business practices among some of the industry’s big players.

The public has grown accustomed to dirty practices in big business, including the outrageous practice of price-fixing and ­other acts of collusion which serve only the interests of big corporations, at the expense of consumers.

As a result the public sits up and takes notice when an individual has the courage to challenge big business.

At the time of her sacking, Mapetla appeared to be bravely taking on the previously ­untouchable big players in real estate.

Real estate is big business, and its biggest players are powerful individuals who are used to getting the deals they want.

That is why the board should have known that it would not do simply to sideline their crusading chief executive and then claim that her ­actions had somehow earned her the wrath of the mighty and powerful who know how to protect their considerable interests.

The same fate befell Vuyani Ngalwana when he began to put pressure on the giants of the life-insurance industry to clean up their act.

After years of doing as they pleased, they did not take kindly to ­Ngalwana’s insistence that they stop some practices which seriously prejudiced their clients.

It seems that history is repeating itself in Mapetla’s case. She was purged before she could bring about change in the industry.

There is much at stake for the public in this matter, as property is the single biggest investment most people make in their ­lifetimes – and they need to know that the ­industry is not covering up any practices that are inappropriate.

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