Spin doctor’s head on a block over controversial metro tender

Rochelle de Kock dekockr@avusa.co.za

NELSON Mandela Bay Municipality’s chief spin doctor, Roland Williams, could be suspended by the end of the week for his involvement in the controversial gantries tender which cost the city hundreds of thousands of rands in legal fees.

Acting municipal manager Themba Hani has written to Williams, ordering him to appear before a hearing tomorrow to explain why he should not be suspended while he is being investigated.

Williams gave the go-ahead to Century Media to put up the four gantries to advertise the Fifa World Cup in 2010 despite an instruction not to, according to human settlements department officials.

He could be the third senior official in the municipality suspended since October in what some in the ANC say is an ongoing witch-hunt to boot out ANC regional chairman Nceba Faku’s supporters.

Former acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba, who was believed to have been taking orders from the ANC regional leadership, was given his marching orders in October. Integrated development plan head Sithembele Vatala was suspended the following month for being in possession of interview scores for the municipal manager position he had applied for.

He is still on suspension while the arbitration process is being concluded.

At the time, a senior ANC member said it was part of a drive by mayor Zanoxolo Wayile to rid the municipality of Faku supporters.

Williams refused to comment yesterday.

In the letter sent by Hani on Friday, which The Herald has seen, the city’s interim boss said he had received reports that Williams played “a prominent role in the alleged unlawful erection and installation of gantries by Century Media”.

He said Williams’s conduct was viewed “in a very serious light” and could lead to his suspension.

Both Hani and chief operations officer Israel Tsatsire, who is Williams’s immediate boss, refused to confirm or deny the intention to suspend.

Hani said: “I cannot confirm it. I don’t know why I should report to the press about things happening in my institution.”

UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani said the municipality was opening itself up to litigation because Hani’s contract had expired on July 18 and he did not have the powers to suspend someone.

“We need a report on what happened here. We are also still waiting for a report on Dr Vatala’s case,” he said.

“There are people in this institution who have committed heinous crimes but nothing’s been done to them – there are untouchables in this institution.

“Everyone must be treated equally. And if Roland is guilty, then he must be brought to book, but it must not be seen as if this municipality is targeting certain people.”

DA councillor Leon de Villiers welcomed the intention to suspend Williams because it would allow for a full-scale investigation to take place.

“I am aware that he has been summoned. We welcome the move because they will finally be doing what I asked for since October 28 last year.”

COPE councillor Rano Kayser said Williams should be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.

“If Roland is found to be in the wrong, then the necessary processes must take place.”

ANC chief whip Feziwe Sibeko could not be reached for comment and ANC regional secretary Zandisile Qupe said he could not comment as it was a municipal matter.

The gantries were set up towards the end of the World Cup, but were taken down in May last year after the Port Elizabeth High Court found the structures contravened the city’s new bylaws. Advertising company Tractor Outdoor Eastern Cape took Century Media, five other advertising firms and the municipality to court because they said the gantries contravened the bylaws.

At a municipal public accounts meeting in November last year, housing official Danie Strydom said Williams had gone against their instructions and Century Media had worked at night and out of ordinary working hours to erect the gantries.

This was despite a notice allegedly given to Williams that his department could not go ahead with erecting the structures without building plans.

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