NELSON Mandela Bay’s new metro police chief, Pinkie Mathabathe, reported for duty yesterday amid a host of unanswered questions, including some on the legality of her appointment and a budget for her department.
Although city manager Mpilo Mbambisa insisted her appointment was legal, the council has yet to approve an organogram which accommodates the metro police chief.
The budgets for safety and security have also not yet been adjusted for a new metro police force.
Mbambisa yesterday said they appointed Mathabathe acting on the council’s 2009 resolution to establish the force. “If there was a council resolution to establish the metro police force, then I don’t see it as an illegal appointment.
“We’re in the process of reviewing the organogram. Her appointment doesn’t have to be approved by council. It is not an illegal appointment. In my understanding, within the safety and security department, there is a budget,” he said.
However, the DA and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) questioned where the budget would be coming from.
But in a letter to the DA, Mbambisa indicated previously that the metro would use the budget for the director of safety and security position, with a R1-million annual salary, which was vacant.
DA safety and security portfolio committee member Gustav Rautenbach maintained they were in favour of the establishment of the force.
“This is not about her personally because I don’t even know her, but about reality. Where is the budget? Where does it appear on the organogram? And how are we going to sustain the metro police?
“We are very concerned. The mayor [Ben Fihla] is not playing open cards with the residents because someone has to pay.
‘The money has to come from somewhere. There is absolutely no budget. I believe this is a case of putting a cart before the horse,” Rautenbach said.
Imatu regional chairman Chris Hay said they were “technically” against Mathabathe’s appointment. “The poor woman is walking in to where there’s no budget. The budget is a huge concern not just in the safety and security and traffic departments, but the metro as a whole.
“They are still busy consulting with us as labour when it comes to the organogram. They haven’t rescinded the organogram they approved last year. They have put it on ice and gone to the organogram of 2007.
“On the basis that there’s no budget, I think it’s premature to appoint a chief,” Hay said.
The establishment of the force has already been delayed for almost five years because of funding shortages, red tape and bickering between senior municipal officials and former metro police chief Trish Armstrong.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union, which has been vocal against appointing a metro police chief before establishing the force, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The 49-year-old Mathabathe’s biggest task will be to establish a 900-member force which city bosses plan to form from the merger of the traffic and security departments.
She was previously a senior director in the Tshwane metro police. In 2010, she acted as Tshwane’s interim chief for community safety.
Mathabathe has also been Tshwane’s deputy chief of the metro police’s internal and civilian affairs.
Even with that experience, Mathabathe faces the tough challenge of merging the security department with a troubled traffic department.