Come Friday, I’m back – Mettler
Nelson Mandela Bay city manager Johann Mettler will be back at work and in the council on Friday – in collar and tie as usual, he said – after a month’s precautionary suspension.
His planned return follows the city’s failure to appoint an investigator and complete a probe into allegations of misconduct against him within the prescribed 30 days.
In a letter to mayor Mongameli Bobani, Mettler’s attorney, Chris Unwin, said that the 30day period to complete the investigation expired on Sunday October 28, and he was thus returning to work on Friday.
“Our client has not been advised of the outcome of the investigation,” Unwin wrote.
“In fact, our instructions are that in complete disregard of the [disciplinary regulations for senior managers], an investigator has not even been appointed as yet.
“There could be no lawful, fair or rational basis for continuing to suspend our client in the absence of an investigation, given that it was the reason advanced for our client’s suspension.”
Unwin said in the letter that Mettler’s suspension had lapsed as a result.
“In the circumstances, our client tenders his services and will be reporting for duty on 2 November 2018,” he wrote.
Mettler said on Wednesday morning that he had yet to receive any information with regard to the start of a disciplinary process.
“I have not received any information to that regard.
“I was never contacted and I will be reporting for duty on November 2.”
Mettler was placed on precautionary suspension by the council on September 28 following allegations of misconduct against him levelled by Bobani.
The allegations include:
● Unlawful extension of the scope of a communications contract with Mohlaleng Media;
● Irregular appointment of former acting executive director of corporate services Vuyo Zitumane through her company Logodisa;
● Misappropriation of municipal funds for the implementation of the mSCOA [Municipal Standard Chart of Accounts] system;
● Irregular appointment and involvement of Gray Moodliar Attorneys in municipal affairs; and
● Giving incorrect or conflicting advice to the council in the matter involving DA councillor Mbulelo Manyati and whether or not there was a quorum at the August 27 council meeting.
Mettler, in a detailed report to the council, said the allegations were devoid of any details or factual basis.
He also raised concerns about whether or not the disciplinary process would be fair as he felt that Bobani had already planned to suspend him prior to the council deciding on his suspension.
Bobani had told The Herald before this that he was planning to suspend Mettler – and already had the letter of suspension on hand.
Contacted for comment on Wednesday, Bobani said: “I am not saying anything.”
Council chief whip Bicks Ndoni (ANC) said that divulging any details would infringe on Mettler’s rights.
“Legislation is very clear on the process that must take place on matters involving any staff member,” he said.
“Divulging any information on this confidential matter would be unfair towards the city manager.”
Friday’s council sitting is expected to debate Mettler’s disciplinary case, along with the appointment of Noxolo Nqwazi as acting city manager.
Both matters will be debated behind closed doors as they are confidential agenda items.
Nqwazi’s appointment by Bobani as acting city boss was slammed by opposition parties, who said it was illegal as it had not received council approval.
ACDP councillor Lance Grootboom said Mettler’s situation was the result of local government regulations not being followed.
“This is what happens when you take office and you don’t know the rules, you don’t comply with the rules,” he said.
“You want to take action against competent officials to pursue your own agenda.
“It’s clear that they [new administration] had their own interests and had to remove a competent city manager to achieve that.”
DA councillor Nqaba Bhanga said the state of Mettler’s case was proof the allegations were unfounded. “It is very clear,” he said. “Here is a mayor who is tainted and is implicated in all forms of [alleged] corruption and it is clear that Mettler was cornering Bobani – this is a witch hunt against Mettler.”
Bhanga said the DA would fight against any move to have Bobani preside over the disciplinary board that had yet to be appointed.
COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu said she would welcome Mettler’s return to work.
“From the outset, we have said that Bobani has a personal vendetta against Mettler.
“With regard to the appointment of Ms Nqwazi as acting city manager, it goes to show that they don’t know how to run a municipality – which is weird because the ANC has been running municipalities for years.”
PA councillor Marlon Daniels said: “It’s very clear that council resolved that the mayor must consult with the mayoral committee, put a panel together and bring that to the council, but we haven’t had a council meeting because our council has been postponed indefinitely.
“I don’t believe we are at a stage where a decision can be made around the fate of Johann Mettler.
“In the absence of a report, Mettler will be on precautionary suspension.”
Daniels said he was more interested in the real reasons behind why human settlements executive director Nolwandle Gqiba stepped down as acting city manager.