Athol Trollip, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor elect for the DA, has not yet been sworn in.
Nevertheless, he is already at loggerheads with the municipality’s head of safety and security, Linda Mti, over corruption allegations.
During a victory rally at the City Hall in Port Elizabeth on Saturday last week, thousands of supporters gathered to celebrate the DA’s 47% majority in the metro.
Trollip told the crowd that as incoming mayor he could not guarantee Mti’s job and that “his future is very bleak”.
Mti, who was appointed by outgoing mayor Danny Jordaan in April, has since referred the matter to his Johannesburg-based lawyers.
“I am avoiding talking about this. It is distracting me from family commitments and my work. Everything is being handled by my lawyers.”
Trollip questioned Mti’s appointment as the Nelson Mandela Bay’s head of safety and security in April.
The metro’s Safety and Security Directorate consists of units such as disaster management, fire and emergency services, security services, traffic and licensing, and the crime prevention volunteers special project.
He queried Mti’s suitability for the job given a cloud of corruption allegations that forced him out of his job as correctional services commissioner in 2007.
During the DA’s local government election campaign in the metro, Trollip issued a statement on June 12 titled: “Linda Mti belongs in jail, not protected by Danny Jordaan.”
Trollip said Mti was implicated in fraud and corruption of more than R1 billion, according to a Special Investigating Unit report, and his prosecution over the allegations had been delayed for nine years.
The allegations related to a R1.5 billion tender that was awarded to the Bosasa group of companies by correctional services.
Mti was rumoured to have unduly benefited from the deal.
This is not the first time Mti’s appointment has been criticised. In 2007, opposition parties reacted with concern at his appointment as the 2010 World Cup security chief.
The Local Organising Committee, headed by Jordaan, was criticised for appointing Mti by DA spokesperson James Masango at the time.
Masango described his professional reputation as “in tatters and managerial performance not up to scratch”.
The Inkatha Freedom Party also described the appointment as a “national disgrace”.
Attorney James Ndebele confirmed he was representing Mti on the matter. He said they had sent a letter to Trollip last Tuesday.
In the letter, Mti denied all the allegations levelled against him and informed Trollip of his intention to take legal action for defamation.
Ndebele said Trollip had already damaged Mti’s reputation through the remarks that he had made against him.
“As far as I am concerned, my instructions are that he [Mti] will pursue legal action against Mr Trollip. My client is now quantifying the damages, so we are in the process of [suing Trollip].
“This has really upset my client,” Ndebele said.
He said if Trollip made good on threats to fire Mti, they would take up the matter.
“If that happens, it will be dealt with accordingly. I mean, as far as Mr Mti is concerned, he has got an existing contract in place. You cannot just embark on a witch-hunt whereby you want to start purging people,” he said.
Trollip told City Press on Friday that he would not be bullied into silence by Mti.
“My lawyers have written back to him and said that my utterances were made in the public interest. And I will not be bullied into apologising, or retracting, or doing anything of that nature. He can do whatever he wants to do. If he wants to litigate it, we will defend,” Trollip said.
He said his remarks made at Saturday’s rally that Mti’s future at the metro was bleak, referred to the fact that his employment at the metro was questionable in the first place.
His employment had also not been ratified by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Fikile Xasa as was required for an executive director.
He said the DA had not purged anyone in the 25 municipalities the party governed – until today.
“Anybody who is a political appointee on contract, their contract expired when the ANC lost the city. So there is no need for a purge.
Trollip said the allegations against Mti were so serious that he should not be considered for a senior appointment until he cleared his name.
“If he is innocent, why does he not go to court and defend the charges. Corruption is endemic in South Africa and these are charges relating to billions of rands,” Trollip said.
Meanwhile, in the letter sent via email to Trollip on Tuesday – which City Press has in its possession – Mti’s lawyer, Ndebele, wrote in part:
“Our client absolutely rejects and disputes having conducted himself in any blameworthy manner and will have no difficulty in defending and refuting any allegations should they ever come before a court.”
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