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Estate agency watchdog to investigate racism allegations against Cape Town company

25 October 2021 - 20:12
A Cape Town estate agency is being investigated after an employee turned down a lease applicant because he was black.
A Cape Town estate agency is being investigated after an employee turned down a lease applicant because he was black.
Image: iSTOCK

The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) said it would launch an investigation into a complaint involving a Cape Town estate agency that allegedly allowed the landlord of a Cape Town CBD apartment to decline a rental applicant based on his race.

In a statement on Monday, the EAAB said Pol Osei registered a complaint at the EAAB on Thursday after realtor Gabriella Johnson allegedly told him in a WhatsApp conversation that her client was “race specific”.

In the WhatsApp conversation, of which a screengrab was seen by TimesLIVE, Osei asked Johnson what she meant by the term “race specific”.

He followed this up with a message asking: “I understand that it’s her property but isn’t this illegal? I assume that’s why nothing about race was said on the actual listing.”

Another follow-up message read: “As a company how can you guys knowingly do business with racist people? I’m horrified.”

Johnson’s alleged response to this was: “It’s not illegal how landlords choose their tenants. It’s not our fault.”

Osei responded, saying: “It’s literally in the constitution Gabriella, section 9(4)”.

Johnson responded saying: “Cool,” to which Osei said: “It’s completely illegal.”

Her final response in the WhatsApp conversation was: “Find another lease or apartment.”

Johnson’s lawyer, Gary Jansen, said his client had apologised publicly and to Osei, and declined to comment further.

On Monday, the EAAB said: “The EAAB can confirm that Mr Osei has registered a complaint via the EAAB online service on October 21 2021 at 6.58pm and received an automated response acknowledging his complaint. An investigator from the EAAB head office in Johannesburg will be dispatched to Cape Town to co-ordinate the investigation.”

EAAB CEO Mamodupi Mohlahla said in the statement that discrimination in any form was unacceptable and “it was time to clamp down on rental racism in the property sector”.

“From the details publicised in the media, both the owner of the property and the authorised agency are bordering on criminality by knowingly leasing apartments to whites only. South African law is clear that discriminating against anyone on the grounds of race, religion and gender, among others, is strictly prohibited,” said Mohlahla.

“We take very seriously this complaint and will conduct a thorough investigation into not only the agency and the agent but also to ascertain the extent of rental racism in the province. We will pursue this matter to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that the property sector understands that such practices will not be tolerated,” she said.