MEC takes Mettler row to court

MAIN PLAYERS: Bay mayor Athol Trollip, centre, and Cooperative Governance MEC Fikile Xasa are at loggerheads over the appointment of city manager Johann Mettler, left

Mayor Trollip denies appointment of Bay manager did not comply with statutory procedure

Mayor Athol Trollip and his council have been criticised for the manner in which municipal boss Johann Mettler was appointed, with claims of several shortcomings in the process.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has called for Mettler’s appointment to be declared null and void.

While the municipality has not yet filed a response to the high court application, Mettler said yesterday they would oppose it.

In papers filed with the Grahamstown High Court last week, Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa said he had made every effort to avoid litigation, but was ultimately left with no choice.

“I have come to the view that the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality council appointed Mettler as its municipal manager by way of a process that did not comply with the statutory framework applicable,” Xasa said in an affidavit.

He said the decision to appoint Mettler was consequently null and void.

“I apply for an order declaring Mettler’s appointment as such.”

Trollip said the municipality’s legal representatives had been instructed to oppose the application.

“We are opposing the matter and have done so from the start,” he said.

The appointment of municipal managers is governed by the Systems Act. However, according to Xasa, there were several flaws in the process adopted by the municipality. He said: ý At times the selection panel comprised as many as nine panellists instead of a maximum of five;

  • Municipal staff members served on the panel;
  • The composition of the panel changed from meeting to meeting;
  • Trollip appointed the members, a function reserved for the council; and
  • Mettler was appointed following the disqualification of recommended candidate Vuyo Mlokhoti, instead of the second or third highest-scoring candidates being offered the job.

Mettler was appointed municipal manager by majority vote on November 23.

Xasa said Trollip and the municipality first sought to report to his office on the appointment process – as is procedure – on December 7.

He said it appeared from documentation supplied that Mettler had been the second-lowest scoring candidate.

“It is unnecessary to deal with the reasons to rescind Mlokhoti’s appointment, save to say it appears the rescission was justified. The same cannot be said of the reasons to appoint Mettler,” Xasa said.

“The report says no more than that Mettler was one of the candidates interviewed and shortlisted.

“Evidently, a number of councillors found motivation to be lacking. The minutes record that a number of concerns were raised about appointing the fourth-best remaining candidate.”

Xasa said he wrote to Trollip on December 13, requesting further information. He then wrote to him again on January 16, informing him that the said appointment was not in line with the provisions of the Systems Act.

It was advised that the municipality readvertise the post.

Xasa said while he had no specific criticism of the merits of the decision to appoint Mettler, his difficulty was with the appointment process.

Trollip responded that of the nine “panellists”, four were merely observers. He disagreed that Mettler’s appointment was non-compliant.

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