THE individual occupying the post of national consumer commissioner would not expect to receive Christmas cards from either the business sector or the state, given that it is part of his or her job to make their lives difficult if they fail to deliver on their promises. This is certainly true of Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, who is locked in a dispute with the Department of Trade and Industry and has managed to fall foul of scores of companies and municipalities.
None of this would necessarily be problematic if Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi was an effective consumer champion, rather than just one who "works very hard" and had "gone beyond the call of duty", as she described herself at a press briefing earlier in the week. Trouble is, despite having dealt with more than 10,000 complaints laid with the commission by consumers since its inception last year, the commission has developed an unfortunate habit of losing the really big cases.
At least eight high-profile compliance notices, issued against entities such as Auction Alliance, the City of Johannesburg and Vodacom, have been set aside by the National Consumer Tribunal. In fact, no appeal of any consequence that has been heard by the tribunal so far has gone the commission’s way, and both the tribunal and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies have clearly lost patience.
An internal report by the tribunal was scathing of the commission’s performance under Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi, accusing it of being dysfunctional and unable to follow the processes required by the Consumer Protection Act. This accords with the chorus of complaints from private companies and some in the legal fraternity that it is frequently overzealous in issuing punitive compliance notices and has scant regard for the law.
Little wonder that Mr Davies gave notice that he did not plan to renew Ms Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s contract when it came to an end next month. What is surprising is that she should want to hang on to the job, even when the Labour Court has ruled that she has no grounds to expect the contract to be renewed and that the tribunal that will decide future cases has clearly lost all confidence in her.