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'City Manager Johann Mettler suspended because he is an obstacle to looting'

By Afikile Lugunya - Sep 28, 2018
'City Manager Johann Mettler suspended because he is an obstacle to looting'

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday described the placing of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Municipal Manager, Johann Mettler, on precautionary suspension as a huge blow for governance in the Bay, as the suspension was only motivated by an alleged vendetta that Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Mongameli Bobani, has against Mettler.

Mettler was appointed as Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality City Manager in 2015 during Danny Jordaan’s tenure.

DA Eastern Cape leader, Nqaba Bhanga, told journalists that Mettler's suspension was the climax of a vendetta Bobani had with the City Manager after apparently failing to get Mettler to do what he wanted to do.

Bobani and Mettler have not always had a good relationship with Bobani previously calling for action against him.

Soon after entering office as part of the then DA-led coalition government, Bobani is understood to have also called for Mettler's removal citing that the process of his appointment by the Jordaan administration had been flawed.

The Mayor also once accused Mettler of being part of an alleged plot to oust him as Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Deputy Executive Mayor through “trumped up” corruption and fraud allegations last year.

Beginning of this year, Bibani even accused Mettler of undermining Council.

‘Mettler suspended because he was an obstacle’

According to Bhanga, Mettler was now essentially an "obstacle to be removed."

"The African National Congress (ANC)-led coalition of corruption has, at the insistence of their executive mayor, Mongameli Bobani, suspended someone that made a tremendous contribution to turning the fortunes of the City around," he described.

"Bobani has always had a vendetta against Mr Mettler and yesterday he eventually got his way.

"The charges against Mr Mettler are trumped up and he has fully and comprehensively replied to the allegations."

Bhanga says that in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mayoral Committee meetings, Bobani wanted discussions of which law firms must be paid, which contractor must be paid, instead of discussing items on the agenda.

"Mettler is being stopped because he refused to do what Bobani wanted him to do and that is unfortunate why he had to go."

Bhanga praised Mettler saying that he is widely considered to be one of the best Municipal Managers in the country.

"He is held in such high regard that a former Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan, seconded him to NMB.

"During Mettler's term of office corruption to the tune of hundreds of millions of Rand was exposed and many dubious contracts set aside," Bhanga noted.

"The coalition government led by former Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor Athol Trollip took a principled decision to keep politics out of the administration."

Bhanga said that the coalition government, with the assistance of Mettler achieved amongst others the following:

  • Exposed the IPTS corruption network;
  • Exposed the Access Facilities Management corruption;
  • Implemented a credible performance management system for senior and middle management;
  • Oversaw the implementation of a bucket eradication program. In less than 24 months bucket toilets was reduced by more than 60%;
  • Negotiated the successful return of the Housing Competency for NMB as from 1 July 2019;
  • Completely overhauled the Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes in order to safeguard against corruption; and
  • Severely reduced Fruitless, Wasteful, Unauthorized and Irregular Expenditure.

'Fraudulent process to suspend Mettler'

According to Bhanga, the process of suspending Mettler was fraudulent and Mettler has a case against the Metro.

"Although Mettler is likely to be vindicated at the end of the process, the City is set to be the biggest loser. Not only have we lost an extremely competent administrator but it is also highly likely that we will have to pay Mettler a substantial settlement.

"If this is found as illegal act, the costs of that are not going to be paid by the DA Councillors, but by the people who pushed this matter," he described.

"What I like about Mettler is that in each and every manner, he took a legal opinion and that's what we need because they write it down.

"You can't charge a City Manager who has been seeking legal opinion and not acting by himself. All those decisions are written down; he has been doing things by the book."

Bhanga added that Mettler's suspension will open a space for looting by the African National Congress (ANC), which dominates Bobani's new administration.

"This opens the Metro up to more looting, as was the status quo before the failing ANC before it was removed from government in 2016."

Speaking for the legal side of things, DA Cllr Retief Odendaal said that Mettler must be paid for the remainder of the year, which will cost the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality millions of Rands.

He added that legal advice was not sought before Councillors decided whether Mettler should be suspended.

Meanwhile Bhanga continued and said that as members of the official opposition party, they will not fold their arms when people are "busy looting the City".

"We can't have part one of stealing the City and part two of stealing City," Bhanga declared.

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