Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip and his Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani have been in conflict since they were elected last year. The DA this week plans to table a motion of no confidence in the UDM’s Bobani as allegations of corruption continue to surface. By GREG NICOLSON.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) regional chairperson and Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani has more to worry about than just a no confidence motion set to be tabled in council on Thursday. A report prepared by the metro’s public health standing committee implicates Bobani in irregular Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) appointments and is also due to come before council this week.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has accused its coalition partner the UDM of protecting Bobani and defending corruption. The relationship between Bobani and Mayor Athol Trollip has completely disintegrated, leading the DA to once again threaten that it will attempt to remove Bobani through a no confidence motion.
Bobani has repeatedly voted against coalition motions and continues to face allegations of corruption. The public health standing committee report, seen by Daily Maverick, blames the regional UDM leader for bypassing EPWP employment procedures. The report, expected to be tabled this week, interrogated the appointment of EPWP workers in the city’s “War on Waste” programme launched earlier this year.
EPWP and ward councillors were meant to take CVs and conduct skills audits to fill the posts. The EPWP programme is meant to provide job opportunities to the unemployed and is implemented in municipalities across the country. Over 400 potential recruits, from two lists, were called in February and brought together. But the investigation found that the lists of recruits were put forward not by the EPWP programme but the deputy mayor’s office.
“These recruitments were not done according to the EPWP process that was agreed during the ‘War on Waste’ planning phase which led to the EPWP section distancing themselves from this recruitment process,” it reads. “A list of participants was only received from EPWP on 28 March 2017 after the launch had taken place… This confirms that all the participants were not recruited by EPWP.”
The city was left with little choice but to employ 70 of the applicants. Seven admin staff, the highest paid in the project, were also employed, despite only three positions being available. Bobani’s personal stamp is on six of their recruitment documents. As the municipality tries to clean up it’s EPWP mess, municipal officials have complained they are being intimidated by those benefiting from the programme. Two criminal cases have been opened after officials received death threats. Daily Maverick saw no evidence that the intimidation attempts were linked to Bobani.
The allegations against Bobani, which he denies, continue. Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has been known for allegations of graft under the former ANC government and an affidavit from David Eduard Le Roux, an attorney and director at Le Roux Inc, details a web of corruption allegations. Le Roux helped provide legal and compliance services to the city’s Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS), meant to build a bus network.
He describes a system where subcontractors were appointed under Le Roux Inc, under pressure from government and ANC officials and charging exorbitant fees that would be fed back into the party’s election coffers and the pockets of individuals involved. Much of it comes back to ANC-linked businessman Fareed Fakir, who did business with the city.
“Fakir told me that the lion’s share of his funds were paid in cash to the ANC, Qupe and to other role players ‘to keep them happy’,” claimed Le Roux. Zandisile Qupe was the ANC’s most powerful politician in Nelson Mandela Bay before he was removed in 2015.
Bobani also pops up in Le Roux’s affidavit, when he mentions Nadia Gerwel, the city’s former assistant director in its finance department who has been charged, along with four others, including rugby figure Cheeky Watson, with fraud and money laundering relating to the IPTS project.
“Gerwel informed me that Cllr Bobani of the UDM needed money for past and future legal costs in his legal battle with the then City Manager of the Municipality,” he says. “I was asked to load invoices of R600,000 and R400,000 (Vat inclusive) for the IPTS. These invoices will not be seen by top officials in Budget and Treasury Directorate and Gerwel would approve the payments to Le Roux Inc. I was then requested to transfer the funds to Babani.” Le Roux said he objected to “this scheme” and the proposal wasn’t implemented.
Bobani on Monday strenuously refuted the claims against him. “It’s a lie. I have never appointed any person in this administration,” he said on the EPWP investigation. He was health MMC at the time and removed by Trollip shortly after. Bobani said the EPWP process followed the correct procedures. He said the UDM stamps on the documents of six applicants were not a sign that he was implicated in dodgy appointments. He said he was simply stamping proof of address documents and he stamps around 60 similar documents a day.
The UDM leader said he’d never heard of Le Roux’s allegations nor had he ever requested funding from the officials. “I know nothing about that,” he said. Bobani said he’d never met and discussed those issues with the mentioned officials and anyone with allegations should report the cases to the police.
“I am not corrupt. I have never been corrupt. I will never be corrupt,” he said. Bobani has opened corruption cases against acting city manager Johann Mettler and acting executive director Vuyo Zituman and on Monday promised he would open more cases in the coming days.
While the DA-led coalitions in Johannesburg and Tshwane have so far avoided damaging intra-party conflicts, the party has constantly been at odds with the UDM in Nelson Mandela Bay since the coalition was elected after last year’s municipal vote.
The DA plans to table a motion of no confidence in Bobani on Thursday. The planned motion states that Bobani has voted against multiple council resolutions: the multiparty women’s caucus steering committee, appointment of the executive director for corporate services, waste management and cemetery tariffs, electricity tariffs and an amendment to the Integrated Development Plan.
“The above voting behaviour displayed by Cllr Bobani, for which no coherent argument was presented, contradicts the coalition’s commitment to gender equality, financial prudence and legal compliance. It is well understood that failure to adopt a compliant IDP and budget, inclusive of all tariffs, can at the very worst cause the municipality to be placed under administration,” it says.
On Monday Bobani did not want to talk about accusations that he voted against the coalition in council – he was busy lobbying ANC MPs to vote against President Jacob Zuma in the motion of no confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday – but denied he had gone against coalition resolutions.
“As the DA, we are serious about dealing with corruption,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane was quoted as saying this week. “Bantu [Holomisa] is driving some racist narrative because he knows he has no case. We agreed at the last leaders’ meeting that this guy must go because there was prima facie evidence that there was corruption there. Why protect one person at the expense of a national project?”
Both the DA and UDM claim to put service delivery first on the issue, but as the city’s most senior officials are in battle, the city’s residents are most likely to suffer.
UDM leader Holomisa has hit out at the DA’s attempts to remove Bobani. He’s accused the DA of making allegations against Bobani without proof and using its black members to fight the battle against the deputy mayor. Holomisa has consistently defended Bobani and accused the DA of making unilateral decisions without consulting its coalition partners.
The DA and UDM are in a coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay with the Congress of the People (Cope) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said on Monday he believed the no confidence motion in Bobani might be delayed. A similar motion was recently put off after coalition partners applied pressure on the DA. Lekota said the various parties were concerned about corruption but leaders of the coalition need to meet and discuss a way forward.
The ACDP’s Jo-Anne Downs said Bobani had “broken the coalition, no doubt”. She said she was surprised the UDM had not taken action against him as he had ignored his own leaders’ advice. However, she said the DA’s coalition partners were “fed up” with the party’s lack of consultation. “It was done unilaterally by the DA. They have not consulted, to my knowledge,” she said on the no confidence motion in Bobani. The coalition partners are expected to meet in the coming days. DM
Photo: DA mayor Athol Trollip and Deputy Mayor Mongameli Bobani. Picture: Eugene Coetzee / PE Herald