Deputy mayor says he won’t pay cent over graft claim
A fierce legal battle is looming between Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani and a senior municipal manager over his alleged defamatory claims of corruption against her.
Bobani had until the close of business yesterday to pay corporate services acting executive director Vuyo Zitumane R500 000 in damages and promise not to make defamatory statements about her again.
But a defiant Bobani said Zitumane would not get a cent from him and that no one would stop him from exposing corruption.
This follows months of escalating tension between the two as Bobani has spoken out frequently about his belief that the way Zitumane was hired was tantamount to corruption.
Bobani’s contempt for Zitumane spilt over into a confidential meeting last month, when he lashed out at her and city manager Johann Mettler, calling them incompetent.
Zitumane threatened at that meeting to deal with him. The meeting was to discuss the shortlisting of candidates for the public health department boss.
Meanwhile, in a letter sent to Bobani by attorney Gerald Friedman, who is representing Zitumane, Friedman listed five instances between January and last month when Bobani allegedly said she was corrupt.
He also allegedly said the extension of her contract would be tantamount to corruption.
Friedman referred to articles published in The Herald and Sunday Times as well as a meeting with mayor Athol Trollip and others when Bobani allegedly called Zitumane corrupt.
“To your knowledge, Mrs Zitumane has rendered services in various metros throughout the Eastern Cape as municipal manager, etc, and in many instances has been appointed by the administrator/government, who have intervened in dysfunctional municipalities,” Friedman wrote.
“Mrs Zitumane’s skill and integrity is the reason for these various appointments, no different from her current appointment, which has been hampered by allegations made by you, particularly relating to corruption.
“You have made these allegations without regard to Mrs Zitumane’s integrity, which you are prepared to sacrifice for political expediency, despite the fact that you know that these allegations are unfounded, disgraceful and untrue”.
Friedman said Zitumane’s reputation had been damaged by Bobani’s comments.
Yesterday, Zitumane said she had not received a response from Bobani to the letter.
“My lawyer even asked [on Monday] if there will be a response and there’s been nothing.”
Asked what the next step would be if Bobani failed to respond, she said she would sue him for defamation in the high court.
While the letter was e-mailed to Bobani and his personal assistant on April 12 and hand-delivered to his office at the Noninzi Luzipho Building, he was adamant yesterday he had not received any letter. “I have received nothing, they’re lying.
“Maybe they threw it somewhere.”
Asked if he would adhere to Zitumane’s request that he stop making defamatory allegations against her, he said: “I won’t refrain from doing anything. I will continue to expose corruption.
“No one is going to stop me from exposing corruption in any platform, anywhere.”
He said he would not pay Zitumane the R500 000 in damages. “Not one cent will they get from me. They must pay all the money they spent,” Bobani said.
“They must pay the money for the corruption they have done.
“You can’t employ your own company and your own company pays you. I’m investigating that matter. I put a forensic investigation around that matter,” he said.
“I’m investigating Vuyo Zitumane – and I’m going to expose the real corruption. They can go anywhere in the world, I don’t care.”
Zitumane was seconded to the municipality by the Department of Cooperative Governance towards the end of 2015 on a fixed-term contract.
She has explained previously that the terms and conditions of her appointment were negotiated with Mettler, who signed a contract with her company that is represented by her.
“All my other previous engagements as an administrator based on either section 154 or 139 [of the constitution] have always been with my company as I am not, and have not been, a full-time employee of the municipality,” Zitumane said at the time.
“My company has a contract with the municipality based on this relationship of a fixed-term contract, and all required supply-chain management processes were followed to the letter.”