Sue Segar

TWO weeks after summarily dissolving the embattled Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has appointed Cape Town attorney and former president of the Law Society in the Cape of Good Hope, Taswell Papier, as administrator of the board – and given him just six months to turn it around.

Announcing the appointment yesterday, Sexwale said Papier would be accountable to him and would assume a “dual role” of providing leadership and strategic management to the dysfunctional board and accounting authority.

Sexwale dissolved the board – which was set up more than 30 years ago to ensure that estate agents adhere to a code of conduct – and placed it under administration on July 31, saying it was a “house in disorder” whose windows were “breaking from the inside”.

Sexwale also called for a probe by the Special Investigating Unit. His decision followed months of internal turbulence, during which several acting CEOs came and went.

This was after former CEO Nomonde Mapetla left under a cloud in March last year, as well as the suspension of the company secretary, Nkululeko Ndebele, and the resignation of the company chairwoman, Ina Wilken, and uncertainty over the board’s functioning. It also came in the wake of a spate of high-profile scandals, including the Wendy Machanik and Auction Alliance sagas.

Sexwale said that, by its nature, the tenure of the administrator would be short-lived. In six months, Papier is expected to “implement appropriate turnaround strategies … to improve good corporate governance within the board; implement financial controls, systems and measures for prudent financial accountability and management; provide strategic leadership and capability to the organisation to restore its reputation; ensure sustainability and organisational efficiency by implementing appropriate administrative and governance systems; and implement a strategic business plan and monitor its performance”. He will have to submit performance reports on progress.

Sexwale said he had consulted widely on the appointment before choosing Papier, who takes up the position with immediate effect. Papier has held several high-profile positions, including as acting judge of the Western Cape High Court and as a member of the board of control of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund.

Wishing Papier well yesterday, Sexwale said he had a responsibility to ensure that governance, transparency and accountability were restored at the EAAB. “Investors are looking for certainty and stability in this multi-billion rand industry. Buying property is a huge investment, hence the need for professionalism and quality service from all industry stakeholders.

“We want to see all basic rules of good governance followed. The management and staff of the EAAB are expected to give you full co-operation. I’m looking for complete independence on our part. You are assured of my full support,” he said.

Asked whether he believed six months was enough time for such a mammoth task, Sexwale said: “Six months is half a year and he will be working full-steam every week with a team. This is one of the biggest industries. Everybody should have a house or a home… I will sit with him… He will inform myself [sic] as minister what kind of back-up help he needs. We gave him six months in terms of how the rules apply. We hope he completes his work in six months, if not earlier.”