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New Pension Funds Adjudicator

18 May 2007 Financial Services Board

The new pension funds adjudicator is attorney Ms Mamodupi Mohlala, who takes over from Vuyani Ngalawana who left office at the end of February. Mohlala, who is a councillor at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), assumes duty

When meeting the newly appointed PFA, clichs immediately spring to mind: Dynamite comes in small packages and iron fist in velvet glove.

This petite attorney has a sweet, yet authoritative voice hence the iron fist in velvet gloves label. Dynamite? Well, what do you call someone who matriculated at the age of 14, attained her Bachelor of Arts  in Law  at the tender age of 19 , a Bachelor of Laws at the age 22, and  attainment of a Masters in Law ,with admission as an attorney  at the age of 24. Her long term ambition is to sit on the bench. There arent many black females on the bench and this has to be addressed

Mohlala, who was headhunted for the job, is a pioneer on many fronts. Not only was she the youngest to pass her Olevels  at Girls High Secondary School in Harare Zimbabwe, but she also graduated at the top of her class in her Bachelor of Arts Law degree at the age of nineteen. Mohlala is also the first black female pension funds adjudicator. She was also the youngest Councilor at ICASA during her first term having been appointed at the age of twenty eight. Even currently within her second term she and another one of the newly appointed Councilors are still the youngest Councilors on the ICASA Council, her current employer until the end of May.

The new pension fund adjudicator comes from a good pedigree. Her parents were in exile and as she was educated in various countries, including the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (an educational institution established by the African National Congress (ANC) for exiles in Morogoro, Tanzania); it allowed her to see the bigger picture, to see beyond boundaries. Her parents Peter and Nomaswazi taught her not to think conventionally and she loves pushing the boundaries Im willing to always push it even further, she says.

Her late father Peter was an economist, her mother NomaSwazi is an accountant and city councilor for Johannesburg while brother Mxolisi is an IT specialist and youngest brother Mabushi is a businessman. Although born and raised abroad, her parents always spoke in vernacular to the young Mamodupi to instill a sense of belonging to South Africa.

When she heard that she had secured what some may call the hot seat of the pension fund adjudicators office, what thoughts went through her mind? More sleepless nights, she blurts out jokingly. However I see it as a good opportunity to continue the sterling work done by my predecessor. Vuyani Ngalawana has laid a solid foundation for me to build from. The challenges he faced, Im also likely to face but the distinction will be in the manner of approach in addressing these challenges.

Mohlala feels that her stint working in the Regulator, as a commissioner at CCMA and as an attorney in practice will stand her in good stead. I believe using facts and law to communicate and convince is the most effective tool to achieve a desired outcome.

At Icasa and as a practicing attorney she was exposed to different facets of public sector and is familiar with interpretation and implementation of legislation. Further she has been a regulator for the past five years even though in a different sector she is no stranger to adjudicating over disputes and providing findings thereon. Most importantly as a practitioner she gained some experience even though limited in dealing with pension fund matters.

One of the challenges that the new adjudicator will face is the backlog of complaints. Yes the backlog is a challenge, but if we streamline the work and create specialists in work streams, we can expedite the timelines for the resolution of complaints. We will where necessary burn the midnight oil and bring on board additional capacity.

So why did Mohlala choose the hot seat? I need a new challenge the post offers a challenge and I want to make an effective contribution to South Africas economy. More importantly regulation is a passion for me and this position allows to continue on this path in a slightly different and equally demanding arena.

In my new role Ill be weighing the interests of big business and the small person and coming up with the correct balance guided by the law and facts.

Another passion of Mohlala is public awareness. I would like to put in place systems that will ensure greater awareness by the public of the work of the OPFA , this is more so among categories of our society where levels of literacy are lower and access to  information is limited, this is to ensure that such persons are well appraised of their rights and entitlement. Further resources permitting it would be good to set up an internship programme for new graduates.

Any messages for the pension funds industry? Fairness and transparency will continue to be  vital and the OPFA under my leadership will stop at nothing to ensure transparency is upheld and that freedom of informed choice is ensured at all times.

The industry has been warned!

In the past emphasis has been placed on the good decisions of the Adjudicator but some of these have unfortunately been overturned by the court. Forward looking I believe that constructive engagement with the judiciary will be beneficial to minimize this occurence.

For relaxation, Mohlala reads a lot and her current read is Capitalist Nigger. Another pass time is poetry writing, whenever she is inspired to put pen to paper.

Mohlala certainly needs all the calmness before the storm that is the office of the pension funds adjudicator. From what Ive experienced, the countrys pension funds will be safe in an iron fist in a velvet glove.

QUALIFICATIONS

Highest Qualification

January 1996 to February 1997
L.L.M
University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

January 1994 to December 1995
L.L.B
University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

August 1989 to May 1993
Bachelor of Arts in Law B.A
University of Swaziland Kwaluseni - Swaziland

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