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PORT ELIZABETH - Nelson Mandela Bay City Manager Johan Mettler has taken a neutral approach to the political battle brewing in the city.
Lawyers for Mettler and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality filed a notice stating it will abide by whatever the Port Elizabeth High Court decides in the case involving the DA and its coalition partners - the ACDP, COPE and the Patriotic Alliance.
The former DA-led coalition is challenging the resolutions adopted at a controversial council meeting last month, which led to the ousting of Athol Trollip as mayor and the DA-led coalition government.
The DA believes that the meeting was "illegal". The drama unfolded when DA councillor Victor Manyati betrayed his colleagues by abstaining from a vote which ultimately led to the removal of Council Speaker Jonathan Lawack.
For a short while Mettler presided over the meeting and later declared a vacancy after DA Federal Executive Chairperson James Selfe wrote a letter indicating Manyati’s party membership would be terminated after he told journalists of his intention to quit.
After a vacancy was declared, the DA and it’s coalition partners walked out of chambers but opposition parties were adamant at the time the motions would be heard.
Mettler told the remaining councillors from the ANC, UDM, EFF, AIC and UF that there was no quorum and he too left chambers.
Later that day, Mettler did an about turn after he sent a text message to ANC councillor Rory Riordan stating that he would retract declaring a vacancy. Meanwhile, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) member of the executive (MEC) Fikile Xasa sent a senior official to preside over the council meeting and oversee the election of a new council speaker.
The ANC’s Buyelwa Mafaya was elected as the new speaker and after that the rest was history as motions passed unanimously with 61 councillors in chambers.
Filing a notice to abide by the court's decision on the matter means that Mettler and the metro will take a back seat and ultimately respect the court's finding in the case.
"I have taken the view that this is a political matter, I have no business with involving myself in a political dispute," Mettler told ANA.
Meanwhile, at a press briefing on Wednesday, Executive Mayor Mongameli Bobani was mute on his intention to suspend Mettler after a report surfaced in The Herald on Tuesday.
Bobani was quoted as saying that he had Mettler's suspension letter already drafted. Bobani, who pitched 50 minutes late for the briefing, deferred all questions on Mettler to Chief Whip Bicks Ndoni.
Ndoni told the briefing that a clear council process had to be followed. "Processes have to be followed so that a person is given a fair hearing and a chance to respond," said Ndoni.
Bobani told the briefing that the metro would oppose the DA's court case, however, Mettler who is within his rights to appoint legal counsel for the municipality, has already indicated that the metro would abide by the court's decision.
Mettler, who has not received a suspension letter from Bobani, said that it was clear in his mind that there was a legal process to be followed before a suspension.
"I have no idea as to what are the so-called charges against me. I am continuing with work as per normal with a full days work. I will be here tomorrow and I will be here on Friday," said Mettler.
Just seven days ago, at his first media briefing as mayor, Bobani had kind words for Mettler and praised him for doing a good job, even though earlier this year Bobani accused him of misconduct and misappropriation of municipal funds.
Mettler assured the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay that as far as the administration was concerned, there was stability. "I am still the accounting officer of this metro. In the end it is for the court to decide and on the legalities and there should not be any confusion in that regard," said Mettler.
African News Agency (ANA)