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DA requests Mkhize to make a Section 154 intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay

Nov 28, 2018
DA requests Mkhize to make a Section 154 intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday announced that it has written to Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Zweli Mkhize, to make a Section 154 intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, after the appointment of Peter Neilson as Acting Municipal Manager.

The softer Sections 154 intervention is different from the usual section 139 intervention. Section 154 states that national and provincial governments must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs; while Section 139 states that the provincial government has a mandate to intervene to assist distressed municipalities.

This follows the suspension of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality City Manager, Johann Mettler over apparent gross misconduct.

Motivation for Section 154 intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay

"Mr. Mettler was seconded to Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBMM) in 2015 by one of your predecessors, the Hon Minister Pravin Gordhan MP. This intervention by the national department came on the back of a number of failed attempts by the province to provide assistance in respect of Section 154 to the metro," writes DA Eastern Cape leader, Nqaba Bhanga.

"In 2016, Mettler was appointed as permanent Municipal Manager by the newly-elected council of NMBMM and given a five year contract as from the 24th of November 2016.

"On the 27th of August 2018, there was a change in the governance in NMBMMwhen former Executive Mayor Cllr Athol Trollip was replaced by Executive Mayor Cllr Mongameli Bobani.

"Cllr Bobani immediately started proceedings in order to endeavor to suspend Mettler on a number of charges that are at best described as frivolous and trumped up. Mettler was subsequently suspended pending the outcome of the disciplinary case on the 28th of September 2018. Important to note is that all but one of the original charges against Mettler has now been abandoned by the municipality."

Bhanga said that since Mettler’s suspension, two executive directors in the administration were appointed to act as municipal managers.

"The first acting municipal manager resigned and the second was recalled by Cllr Bobani," he added.

"We learnt with concern on Monday, 26 November 2018 that a third municipal official was appointed to act in the position of municipal manager.

"The aforesaid appointment of Mr Peter Neilson as Acting Municipal Manager will entail that the city has seen three different acting Municipal Managers over the past two months. It is our contention that the appointment of Mr. Neilson is highly irregular in that it contravenes The Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000, section 54A (2) and (3)."

Bhang said that the  furthermore believes that Neilson also does not possess the minimum competency levels to occupy said office.

"The aforesaid lack of minimum competency is a great cause of concern as said appointment will no doubt expose the institution to further adverse risk," he described.

"We are therefore of the opinion that the appointment of Nielson, if subjected to legal scrutiny, will reveal gross disregard of section 54 of the Municipal Systems Act."

Bhanga further said that Bobani himself is facing a corruption investigation by the HAWKS after apparently being implicated in an investigation relating to an alleged corrupt relationship with a local businessman, who allegedly defrauded the Integrated Public Transport System project in Nelson Mandela Bay.

"Cllr Bobani is furthermore also the subject of a second investigation by the HAWKS for alleged interference in the municipal administration in that he allegedly contacted an official at ABSA bank requesting said official not to issue a bond of security as
was requested by Mr. Mettler in preparation for a Labour Court application in Port Elizabeth," Bhanga said.

"The aforementioned occurred whilst Cllr Bobani was an ordinary PR list Councillor and the matter was referred for investigation by SAPS in July 2018."

He added that Bobani's administration has failed to fill critical vacancies resulting in an apparent failure to render municipal accounts for period of ten weeks, which led to a dramatic drop in the collection rate.

"During this period the creditors’ repayment rate has also deteriorated to an average of nearly 60 days."

He claims pressure is now also mounting on officials to avail some R18 million for a drain cleaning project to benefit some 600 SMME’s.

'Section 154 intervention in Nelson Mandela Bay would restore some stability'

Bhanga said that Bobani and the African National Congress' (ANC) Andile Lungisa, were behind the suspension of Mettler and the subsequent recall of the Acting City Managers appointed in his absence.

"It is our understanding that the Acting Municipal Manager has been instructed to dispose of high profile disciplinary matters, relating to senior officials, who were suspended by the previous section 154 team," he added.

"The aforesaid team were sent to Nelson Mandela Bay by Minister Gordhan to address the rampant corruption and deteriorating levels of governance. This is cause of grave concern to ourselves and the institution."

Bhanga said that the DA is confident that a Sections 154 intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality "will bring some form of stability to NMBMM and provide your department with the necessary insight into the current dysfunctional administration of the metro".

"We furthermore believe that failure to invoke this section forthwith will only further compromise an already fragile administration which will inevitably lead to its collapse."

The DA is also seeking Bobani's ousting through a motion of no confidence at the next Council Meeting.

This afternoon, the Port Elizabeth High Court will hear a case in which it is seeking to terminate the membership of its three roguecouncillors after the hearing was postponed to Wednesday afternoon on Tuesday.

Read the full letter to Minister Zweli Mkhize HERE.

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