But new pensions fund boss Mamodupi Mohlala is very capable, writes Isaac Moledi

Mamodupi Mohlala is South Africa's new pension funds adjudicator.

Mamodupi Mohlala is South Africa's new pension funds adjudicator.

She was formerly a councillor at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). She was appointed last week by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and will start work at the beginning of next month.

Mohlala, 33, replaces the popular and efficient Vuyani Ngalwana, who vacated his post about two months ago after years of clashes with life insurance companies and the Financial Services Board (FSB), which regulates the financial institutions in the non-banking sector.

Mohlala was re-appointed when her four-year term expired last year at Icasa, but resigned this month.

Mohlala has been described as a pioneer on many fronts. Not only was she, at 15, the youngest to matriculate from Girls High Secondary School in Harare, Zimbabwe, but she was also that country's youngest attorney and the youngest black female to obtain a Masters degree in law at the age of 23.

Besides having been the youngest councillor at Icasa before she resigned, Mohlala is also the first black female pension funds adjudicator in South Africa.

Mohlala's experience in the communications sector began in 2002 as councillor at Icasa.

Her activities included the formulation of the strategic direction for Icasa, yearly approval of projects for the different business units, the budget for the organisation and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework in relation to the relevant financial period.

Mohlala has been directly involved in the process of Telkom's initial public offering as the counsel advising the government.

The nature of the involvement in this project has had the effect of cultivating, developing and entrenching her knowledge and an in-depth understanding of telecommunications.

This also had the effect of equipping her with in-depth knowledge on the legislative and regulatory framework in the telecommunications sector.

Her appointment is seen as a big challenge by some industry experts as she takes over from Ngalwana, a man who could stand his ground against his bosses at the FSB, including the most powerful insurance companies.

His resignation is said to be closely linked to clashes with the FSB and the insurance industry.

Ngalwana was quoted as saying that he was quitting because he had been "stymied at every turn by those concerned more with procedural niceties than considerations of pragmatism".

Ngalwana's constant request for extra funds to deal with the pension complaints backlog was turned down by the regulator. The current backlog of consumer complaints is estimated at 4500.

Ngalwana will also be remembered for having single-handedly challenged the life assurers for levying excessive charges on consumers and rules which many believe were uncalled for.

Though consumers lauded his actions, the life insurance companies showed their constant irritation that resulted in several court actions against Ngalwana's office.

His landmark rulings have resulted in the companies settling with Manuel, setting aside about R3billion to correct their irregular practices.

The agreement also saw the life assurers agreeing to put in place minimum standards that would make sure consumers who had invested in an annuity would face only a minimum penalty if they withdrew funds before the policy expired.