PORT ELIZABETH – The coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay is on shaky ground and Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani went to the Humewood police station on Wednesday to open fraud cases against two of the most senior city officials.
He opened cases against City Manager Johan Mettler and Acting Executive Director of Corporate Services, Vuyo Zitumane.
Speaking to the media outside the police station, Bobani said: “The case relates to millions of rands that have been spent on allegedly dubious contracts entered into by the City Manager, Acting Executive Director of Corporate Services Director and with the Mayor allegedly implicated to have been part. The Mayor must answer, he knows everything about it.”
Bobani made light of his relationship with mayor Athol Trollip being in shambles in that his “credibility was questioned” after he sat down with the Mayor at a mayoral committee meeting earlier on Wednesday morning.
“He [Trollip] decided to adjourn the mayoral committee meeting, maybe I am too ugly for him or I am stinking,” Bobani said.
Bobani described the status of the coalition government in the metro being at an all time low. He said that he was uncertain of what would happen with the coalition government in the coming days.
“It is really on a low pace, the [Democratic Alliance] DA don’t want to accept that they are not in power, the DA doesn’t want to accept that this is a coalition government. There is no way that we can allow one man to actually decide for us, to run the municipality like a farm,” he said.
Bobani also claimed that racism existed within DA ranks in that suspended officials from the Public Health Directorate were swooped in on by police officials without a search warrant while at home with their wives.
“The racism is there, this man does not want to sort the matter out. All the workers are crying about racism, black workers are being vindicated…you send the police to them in the evening to take their laptops while they are sitting with their wives, but when you have a white official on suspension no computer is taken from him,” said Bobani.
Meanwhile, in a brief media statement made by members of the mayoral committee, coalition partners representing the DA, Congress of the People (Cope), and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) – partners came out in support of Trollip.
Bobani’s party, the United Democratic Movement (UDM), was not noted in the press release.
“The charges laid today at the Humewood police station are spurious and should be dismissed. The DA, Cope and ACDP coalition partners, and the Mayoral Committee Members listed above are in full support of this administration’s efforts to stop corruption where it really exists,” the statement read.
“All evidence-based suspicion is dealt with decisively in what is clearly the real fight against corruption. We endorse and fully support the actions of the Executive Mayor and the municipal administration.”
On Tuesday, the metro called a press conference to announce that the municipality would launch high-level forensic investigations into three contracts where there were serious allegations of impropriety, according to Bobani, Trollip “lied” by saying his deputy was informed about investigations linked to the Public Health Directorate, a portfolio headed by Bobani.
“I was omitted deliberately, ask yourself a question why was I omitted. The Mayor lied in front of you to say I was invited, I was not invited. There were investigations that are happening in my own department, but he also lied to say I was informed. I was never informed, I am being targeted,” said Bobani.
Bobani said that the appointment of Mettler and Zitumane warranted an investigation – “you can’t pay yourself, you can’t have a company and pay that company yourself. The council can’t pass a decision to appoint you as an acting executive director and then you and the municipal manager enter into a contract with your company without following necessary procedures”.
Zitumane was seconded to the municipality by the Department of Cooperative Governance towards the end of 2015 on a fixed-term contract. She reportedly explained that the terms and conditions of her appointment were negotiated with Mettler, who signed a contract with her company that is represented by her.
Earlier in January this year, following simmering tensions between Bobani and Trollip an inter-party meeting was held, with UDM and DA party bosses attempting to resolve issues which brought a council meeting to a deadlock.
At the time Bobani was quoted as saying: “The matter around Mr Mettler has been put to rest. As the UDM we supported him, but we just wanted to ensure that we are in compliance with the city and that has been taken care of. As of now the UDM and the coalition government are fully supporting the municipal manager.”
It would appear that Bobani has backtracked on this position and questioned the legitimacy of the person signing off on these contracts which are now subject to an internal forensic investigation.
On Wednesday, Bobani recalled past meetings held with party bosses UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and DA leader Mmusi Maimane. He said that out of those meetings Trollip was told to go and implement certain decisions but instead approached the Economic Freedom Fighters to garner support for numbers.
Bobani further lashed out at the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Kristoff Adelbert.
“[Trollip] has a Chief of Staff who is a DJ, he doesn’t even have experience in government, he just does things his own way. I don’t know if he thinks he is a municipal manager.”
After opening cases against Mettler and Zitumane on Wednesday, he said that he was in a “hurry” to get them removed adding that it was not because he harboured a vendetta against the two.
“Not at all, not at all. I don’t have a vendetta against Mr Mettler and Vuyo Zitumane, I am just rooting out corruption and I am just treating everyone equal in front of the law,” said Bobani.
African News Agency