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Councillors pawns in suspension warfare

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YOLANDE NEL
>>observer.yolande@gmail.com

There is seemingly more to the precautionary suspension of Polokwane Municipal Manager Connie Mametja than meets the naked eye.
This week insiders alluded to the belief that councillors were being pawns in the political warfare characterising an orchestrated attempt to see Mametja go. The suspension followed a marathon special closed session of the city council on Friday. Seen in the light of more letters of intent expected to be issued against a host of high-ranking municipal officials in tow, it is described as a concerted effort to finally get rid of the last remnants linked to Cassel Mathale.
Sources in the political sphere are adamant that Mametja is perceived as a stumbling block in the way of many who allegedly intended to still “eat” before the 2016 local government elections. One such source stressed that the ruling party could not “go to elections with her” for her firm stance against alleged corrupt tendencies as she attempted to prevent the raiding of municipal resources. In some quarters her suspension is regarded a blow to service delivery, coupled with the fear that projects currently on track and budgetary allocations handed down by National Treasury stand to be jeopardised.
A handful of hot potatoes – including the dubious municipal billing system, management of certain contracts, collection and credit control in service delivery hotspots and alleged failure to spend half the service delivery budget of the city a month prior to the end of the current financial year – will seemingly form the core of the forensic investigation underway.
According to a source close to the ensuing investigation Mametja’s comprehensively set-out response as to why she shouldn’t have been suspended was seemingly not conviction enough for councillors to decide against it. It was described as a predetermined outcome to dismiss her.
Therefore the ethical conduct by Frank Haas, Democratic Alliance (DA) Caucus Leader in Polokwane City Council who issued a press statement on Tuesday seemingly initially labelling Mametja an alleged fraudster, is being questioned. It was learnt that the release of the statement – in spite of reported requests by Executive Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng and Speaker Caiphus Mathiba during Friday’s meeting for matters discussed to be treated as confidential – caused raised eyebrows in the political arena.
In the communiqué to the media, Haas referred to “allegations that she committed fraud in approving the Motor City Centre” under seven pointers further setting out allegations against Mametja. From close scrutiny of facts at Polokwane Observer’s disposal, no reference could, however, be found to alleged fraud in relation to the Motor City development. Upon further investigation it was re-confirmed that she is suspected of serious misconduct requiring investigation, without the suggestion of alleged fraud. Upon Polokwane Observer questioning Haas about the matter he indicated he first had to revert back to the party office. Shortly thereafter a follow-up media alert issued by DA Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle rendered an apology for the error in communication. It was stated that the press release of that morning had contained an erroneous comment due to the fact that it was issued without having been properly edited by the DA press office.
If the investigation against Mametja was being done earnestly and not by means of a witch hunt, the inference could be drawn that the possibility existed that more municipal officials could be probed, said Johan Willemse, Freedom Front Plus representative on the Polokwane City Council. He refused to divulge what was discussed in Friday’s meeting, but was only willing to say that a single copy of the documents was locked away in the care of a local lawyer for perusal on request of councillors from opposition parties.
Despite several attempts to obtain comment from Mametja she could not be reached.