Cracks in the DA-led coalition in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality have deepened, with the DA accusing its coalition partner, the United Democratic Movement (UDM), of harbouring corruption within its ranks after it refused to remove deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani from his position.
So serious is the fight that the DA intends passing a motion of no confidence on Bobani, to be debated in council next week.
In a tit-for-tat move, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has threatened not only to pull out of the coalition over its “apartheid-style dirty tricks” but also to raise a countermotion against mayor Athol Trollip.
The motion on Bobani comes a week after opposition parties marked exactly a year since they dislodged the governing ANC from three major metros: Johannesburg and Tshwane in Gauteng and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape.
Speaking to City Press this week, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the situation with Bobani had become untenable and that a preliminary investigation into the deputy mayor showed prima facie evidence of corruption.
Tensions between Bobani and Trollip have been going on for months. They came to a head when Trollip axed Bobani as MMC for public health earlier this year.
Maimane said the DA had repeatedly appealed to the UDM national leadership to replace Bobani with another candidate, but the party refused to do so, signalling a tolerance for corruption which infringed upon the coalition agreement.
“As the DA, we are serious about dealing with corruption,” said Maimane.
“We want the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to work. The African Christian Democratic Party and others have written a letter requesting us to take action against Bobani. It is not just us,” he said.
“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?” Maimane said.
But Holomisa said the DA “can go jump”.
“If it’s a fight they want, they must bring it on.”
“He is not going anywhere”
In a letter emailed to the other coalition partners – and also copied to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema – on Thursday, Holomisa did not mince his words, telling the DA to bring evidence of wrongdoing first.
“We are still waiting for Trollip’s promised investigation findings against Bobani. If this is the DA’s style of governance, the UDM might have to review its participation in this coalition arrangement. We cannot tolerate being tossed around by the DA.
“The DA signed an agreement with the councillor from the Patriotic Alliance and promised him the post of deputy mayor. The same poor chap is used by the DA to move a vote of no confidence against Bobani.
“This is what you call dirty tricks similar to the old apartheid tactics, which were used to spite blacks against each other. Shame!”
In the same letter, Holomisa argued that Bobani and Trollip had both been found by a coalition investigation team not to have conducted themselves in a proper manner – “but the DA’s big brother mentality” undermined the coalition processes of dealing with the two men.
Holomisa was also unhappy about the DA’s unilateral decision to convene press briefings without coalition partners about the progress made by three metros since the coalition government took them over from the ANC.
He said this undermined the spirit of the coalition agreement. “So, the UDM’s participation in the Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay coalition will be reviewed as soon as possible,” he warned.
But Maimane denied that the DA’s probe on Bobani and its efforts to remove him from the council would cause cracks in the coalition and potentially derail it.
“This is not about the coalition,” said Maimane.
“The coalition is strong and we agree at a national level. This is about tackling corruption as something we had all agreed upon when we got into the agreement.”
Holomisa suggested that the DA would not come close to getting the required majority to kick Bobani out. “He is not going anywhere.”
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