Mongameli Bobani prepares to suspend city manager
New Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani is preparing to sack his nemesis, city manager Johann Mettler.
Bobani has been relentlessly gunning for Mettler to be axed for more than a year – back to when he was still the deputy mayor early in 2017.
In a bombshell admission on Tuesday evening, Bobani revealed that he had in his hands a letter for Mettler’s suspension, saying there was an “irretrievable breakdown” in the relationship with the city boss.
The shock move follows a report in The Herald earlier in the day that Mettler had blocked attempts by Bobani and his mayoral committee on Monday to interfere in the administration.
“I have got the letter of suspension with me,” Bobani said, after barely eight days in the job.
“I’m waiting for him to knock on the municipality’s doors and I’m going to give him the letter.”
He said the city boss – who was attending a government event in the Western Cape – had not told him he would be out of town on Monday and Tuesday.
“He left the city without informing me about where he is going,” Bobani said.
“I was informed by the MMC [mayoral committee member] of safety and security that his executive director, Keith Meyer, was acting municipal manager.”
Asked if that was the basis for his intention to suspend Mettler, Bobani said: “There are a number of incidents which makes our relationship to have an irretrievable breakdown.
“I want to bring stability now. It’s about installing discipline and ethics.”
While the laws that govern municipalities stipulate that it is only the council that can decide on disciplinary action to be taken against the municipal manager, Bobani is adamant that he is well within his rights to do so.
“I have received legal advice and I can suspend him. I’ve got his letter of suspension.”
While he was on the opposition benches, Bobani continuously demanded Mettler’s suspension.
His accusations against Mettler included allegations that he had unlawfully extended the contract of communications firm Mohlaleng Media, irregularly hired and suspended senior staff and misappropriated municipal funds on the city’s new accounting system.
Bobani even went as far as trying to get the Special Investigating Unit to investigate.
Asked if he had a vendetta against Mettler, Bobani said: “It’s not a vendetta. I’m the executive mayor now and I was in the opposition then.”
Mettler said he was not aware of plans to suspend him.
He said there was a legal process that had to be followed before instituting disciplinary action against a city manager.
On Monday, Bobani sent a scathing letter to Mettler – which The Herald has seen – threatening him with “adverse consequences” if he does not toe the line.
He has accused Mettler of undermining the mayoral committee by not appointing its preferred law firm – NE Mbewana Attorneys – to represent the municipality, and even Mettler, in the case against the DA and its coalition partners – the ACDP, COPE and Patriotic Alliance.
Mettler gave the go-ahead for the firm to represent Bobani, speaker Buyelwa Mafaya, deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye and chief whip Bicks Ndoni.
But he is using another law firm to represent him and the municipality as he does not plan to oppose the court bid, saying he and the administration – which Mettler represents as the accounting officer – would abide by the decision of the court.
Bobani said in the letter that he was “appalled” by Mettler’s defiance of the committee’s instructions that NE Mbewana Attorneys also represents the municipality.
“This is clearly undermining the outcome of our meetings on this matter and creates huge discomfort, to say the least, given the recent happenings and your inconsistent and/or wrong advice and inconsistent and at times blatant wrong legal advice,” he wrote.
“Accordingly, you are hereby instructed based on a resolution by the MAYCO [mayoral committee] taken 3 September 2018 to appoint NE Mbewana Attorneys to act on behalf of [the metro] and [Mettler] in terms of delegated powers.
“If you have already appointed any other law firm or counsel to act on behalf of [the municipality] and [Mettler] ... kindly ensure that you simultaneously terminate their mandate upon the appointment of NE Mbewana Attorneys.
“Failure to ensure the above will be deemed to be gross insubordination, given the circumstances, which could result in adverse consequences.”
Mettler said on Tuesday that he had taken the position that he and the municipality would not get involved in the dispute between the parties.
“We will abide by the decision of the court, whatever it is,” he said.
Asked about the process that was followed when appointing a law firm to represent the municipality, Mettler said attorneys were either appointed by him or the director of legal services.
The municipality chooses firms from a pool of attorneys on its legal panel on a rotational basis.
Asked if Bobani or the mayoral committee had the authority to decide on the attorneys that the municipality should use in cases, Mettler said: “No, he does not.”