The DA’s Athol Trollip at the Humewood Police Station to open a criminal case against Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani. Photo by Raahil Sain /ANA.

PORT ELIZABETH - Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Mongameli Bobani had a track record of purging municipal managers who pursued investigations into the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS), dubbed the city’s biggest corruption scandal.

The allegation was made by the DA’s Athol Trollip, who was at the Humewood Police Station on Wednesday to lay charges of corruption against Bobani and former ANC regional secretary Zandisile Qupe. 

Following damning media reports, Trollip claimed that Bobani and Qupe had been implicated in alleged fraud and corruption within the IPTS bus system and benefitted from public funds.

In 2013, Bobani applied to the Port Elizabeth High Court for the suspension of then city manager Dr. Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, accusing her of being unqualified for the job. The court dismissed the application and Bobani was responsible for costs. 

Msengana-Ndlela, who was headhunted for the post, came with academic and extensive managerial experience both in provincial and national government. At the time she wanted to cancel a dubious contract, which had to do with the introduction of public transportation.

According to The Herald, Port Elizabeth attorney David Le Roux detailed in a statement how Nadia Gerwel, a former assistant director in Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s finance department, had asked the lawyer to facilitate a payment from IPTS coffers to finance Bobani’s legal fees.

Le Roux said that he had a meeting with former IPTS head Mhleli Tshamase and Gerwel at her offices in July 2014.

According to Le Roux’s statement, he was asked to make out two invoices amounting to R1 million and transfer the money into Bobani’s account, The Herald reported.

Trollip said that Le Roux’s statement, contained in a forensic report by Deloitte, was unsigned at the time it landed on his table as the mayor. 

“The problem with that statement is that it was never signed and it made it very difficult for anything to happen. It was frustrating... there’s always a technicality that allows these cases to go quiet, like Bosasa.” 

Le Roux’s unsigned statement was made to investigators about two years ago. 

According to Trollip, the statement had since been signed, which saw the former mayor moving to lay charges against Bobani. 

Bobani is also reportedly being investigated by the Hawks over the alleged payments made to him of over R600 000 by Heerkos Projects, owned by businessman Fareed Fakir.

Last year, the Hawks raided PE City Hall with a search warrant and seized documents and computers. The raid related to an ongoing investigation around the IPTS scandal. 

In the latest move aimed at Nelson Mandela Bay city managers, Bobani led a crusade for the suspension of city manager Johann Mettler. 

According to Trollip’s affidavit made to police, the move by Bobani was motivated by the fact that Mettler, assisted by National Treasury, was the driving force behind the investigation into the alleged corruption and fraud within the IPTS project.

Mettler was placed on cautionary suspension in September last year and is challenging the matter in court. 

During his tenure, Mettler had also laid criminal charges against Gerwel and former Eastern Province rugby boss Cheeky Watson.

Watson, Gerwel, Zeranza director Andrea Wessels, Mandisi Mkasa, a former director of Laphum’ilanga Transport Services and former chief executive of Access Facilities and Leisure Management, Stephan Pretorius, face charges of fraud and money laundering following a lengthy probe into alleged fraudulent activities involving around R12 million. The case is scheduled to resume later this year. 

Commenting on the charges laid against him, Bobani lashed out at Trollip, constantly referring to him as a “liar”. 

“That white man Trollip is a liar. Why must I comment on lies?” 

When questioned about allegations that he moved against city managers who were pursuing IPTS corruption investigations, Bobani responded: “[Trollip] lied about that and he lied to police. He is doing what his forefathers did, like they lied about Mandela.”

In 2007, National Treasury approved a budget of R208 million for the improvement of the IPTS system. 

African News Agency (ANA)