Why smack the sher­iff?

● Mob at­tacks court of­fi­cial try­ing to serve pa­pers on coun­cil­lors at spe­cial meet­ing

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page - Siyam­tanda Capa ca­pas@ti­soblack­star.co.za

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.

Pho­to­graph: EU­GENE COET­ZEE

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

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