Why smack the sheriff?
● Mob attacks court official trying to serve papers on councillors at special meeting
A sheriff of the court trying to serve three dissident Nelson Mandela Bay DA councillors with court papers was attacked by a mob who pulled at his clothes, shoved him around, forced the papers from his hands and tried to bar him from entering a school hall where a heated special council meeting was taking place.
The sheriff, who ran for safety and had to be escorted off the premises by police without serving the papers, had earlier been barred from entering the Ernest Swanepoel hall in Despatch where the meeting was under way.
It has not been established whether the sheriff was injured in the melee, or whether he intends to press charges.
The fracas followed a scuffle inside the hall involving some ANC councillors who vowed the sheriff would not deliver the documents as “this was a meeting of the speaker”.
The drama unfolded during a short adjournment as councillors were debating the fate of city manager Johann Mettler.
The sheriff was meant to serve papers on councillors Mbulelo Manyati, Trevor Louw and Neville Higgins, who despite turning on their party and the DA, saying they were no longer members, turned up at the council meeting.
The DA is taking them to court to have them forcefully removed as councillors.
As municipal security officials struggled to protect the sheriff from the group of supporters from various parties outside, leaked recordings from the meeting show that the situation was just as tense inside the hall as councillors locked horns over Mettler.
Opposition parties accused the Bay’s new mayor, Mongameli Bobani, of abusing his powers by appointing an investigator when he was the one who brought the allegations of misconduct against Mettler.
Also, they cited what they believed was a conflict of interest as Bobani had appointed Ntsikelelo Mbewana, the same attorney who represented him, his deputy Thsonono Buyeye, speaker Buyelwa Mafaya and chief whip Bicks Ndoni in the case against the DA in October, to investigate the claims against Mettler.
Mbewana and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi represented Bobani and others in the case over the August 27 council meeting which overthrew Athol Trollip as mayor and installed a new government.
The DA believed the meeting was not a lawful one, but lost its case as the Port Elizabeth High Court ordered that the meeting, which saw Bobani elected mayor, was in fact legal.
The judge was scathing of Mettler in his handling of whether or not there was a quorum at the meeting, after the DA claimed it had fired Manyati.
This is one of the reasons for Mettler's suspension.
The other allegations against him include:
● The alleged unlawful extension of the scope of a communications contract with Mohlaleng Media;
● The irregular appointment of former acting executive director of corporate services Vuyo Zitumane through her company Logodisa;
● The misappropriation of municipal funds for the implementation of the mSCOA [Municipal Standard Chart of Accounts] system; and
● The irregular appointment and involvement of Gray Moodliar Attorneys in municipal affairs.
A report on the preliminary investigation found that there were grounds to pursue a disciplinary case against Mettler.
In the report, senior counsel Nomawabo Msizi and Marius Grobler – instructed by Mbewana Attorneys – concluded that they believed there was evidence to pursue a full investigation into Mettler’s conduct.
At Friday’s confidential sitting, DA councillor Retief Odendaal asked that Bobani recuse himself from the council for the debate around the Mettler’s suspension.
“Having the mayor inside while we debate this matter will compromise this case. We believe the executive mayor is compromised and that would have a bearing on this case,” Odendaal said.
DA councillor Nqaba Bhanga said Bobani was tainted.
“The city manager tried to expose the mayor. The city manager was doing everything to expose corruption.
“This document itself shows that the mayor’s lawyers are the ones that are presiding over this,” Bhanga said.
“You must recuse yourself. As the DA we reject this because this tainted mayor is abusing his powers.”
During the debate, ACDP councillor Lance Grootboom could be heard saying he rejected the manner in which the matter had been handled.
The opposition parties had previously asked that Bobani recuse himself at an earlier council meeting.
Their request was not granted on Friday and Bobani remained in the hall.
COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu said: “Councillor Bobani is severely compromised. These charges are a personal vendetta. Today I would’ve expected that councillor Bobani tables his report and then leaves because he clearly has an interest on the matter.
“How we deal with this will have a severe impact.”
The recommendations by senior counsel Nyameko Gqamane, as per the report, were
accepted by the majority and executive director of sports, recreation, arts and culture, Noxolo Nqwazi, was appointed acting city manager.
Chief whip Bicks Ndoni (ANC) would not comment on what took place inside the confidential meeting.
He said councillors had not been briefed on what had transpired with the sheriff.
“I am not too sure on the commotion but there is a council meeting here and I am sure they have their own processes in terms of serving papers.
“The person who came here should have been professional in terms of serving the papers.
“Just coming in and serving the papers is not acceptable. There can be no disruptions.
“The council cannot be disturbed. It must be allowed to conduct its business decently.
“You can’t come here during a special council meeting and raise special matters. No-one can come here and say this one must go.
“It is common cause that all the councillors who were here were agreed upon,” Ndoni said.
“I am not privy to any information contrary to that the three councillors are still DA councillors.
“The only issues they raised were around seating arrangements. They signed the attendance register and there was no query.
“If anyone was assaulted that is not something that the ANC condones. It is not a way of resolving problems. There are better ways of dealing with the issue.”
Meanwhile, despite saying he would attend Friday's meeting, Mettler did not turn up.
This, as the municipality’s acting city manager Nqwazi said in a letter to his attorney, that the 30 days in which to investigate the claims against him only came into effect after an investigator was appointed.
She wrote that Bobani appointed an investigator on October 4, 2018 and the 30-day period thus ended on November 3 and not October 28, as Mettler believed.
Mettler’s attorney, Chris Unwin, responded that Nqwazi did not take into account Bobani’s notice of precautionary suspension which stated that “the investigation would be concluded within 30 days from the date (28 September 2018)”.
Unwin also raised concerns about the fact that Bobani appointed the investigator, saying there was a clear conflict of interest as he was the one who brought the allegations of misconduct against the city boss.
POWER PLAY: EFF councillor Zilindile Vena argues in defence of mayor Mongameli Bobani while Nqaba Bhanga from the DA lobbies to remove the mayor. Bobani, second from right, and deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye look on
ON CAMERA: A screenshot taken from a video of the assault