The tense political standoff in the fragile DA-led coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay could force an election rerun, giving the ANC a chance to regain power in the metro.
Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), told City Press on Friday that he would not oppose an election rerun.
The UDM went to court this week in a failed attempt to have its former deputy mayor, Mongameli Bobani, reinstated after he was removed in a motion of no confidence put forward by the Patriotic Alliance (PA) at a Nelson Mandela Bay council meeting last month.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has six seats in the council, accused the DA of “an arrogance of power and white supremacy” in the way it had ousted Bobani. It then announced that it would be boycotting all council meetings in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and also in the DA-led coalitions in the Tshwane and Johannesburg metros.
The saga took a turn for the worse on Thursday when the PA withdrew from the DA-led coalition, saying it would only return when offered the position of deputy mayor.
A source within the DA said the party had been divided on the issue of working with the PA, with one side warning that it would not end well.
“Some of us questioned why the party would choose to work with a known criminal [PA leader Gayton McKenzie served time in jail]. We said that, in the end, it would come back to haunt us, and that is what has happened now.”
Thus far, the EFF has given no indication that it will rescue the DA. This week, the Nelson Mandela Bay council had to adjourn its meeting after failing to reach a quorum in the wake of the EFF stayaway.
Meanwhile, Holomisa said he would entertain the removal of DA mayor Athol Trollip as a solution to the impasse.
“That was the UDM’s position when we met with Trollip and Bobani in Cape Town,” he said.
“After listening to both of them, I failed to understand exactly what they were quarrelling about. I then told them that they should go and work together – failing which, we would have to recall both of them as we cannot afford to scupper the coalition programme.
“I repeated this in a meeting of coalition leaders in Cape Town after findings of an inquiry conducted by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Congress of the People (Cope) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) were presented to us. Although that report accused Trollip and Bobani of being egocentric in their behaviour, the DA made a unilateral decision when dealing with Bobani, and then we rejected their stance, as you know.”
An insider from the opposition coalition said Nelson Mandela Bay could see a similar situation to the one that occurred in the coalition-led Metsimaholo Local Municipality in the Free State. The executive council was forced to appoint an administrator at Metsimaholo after the mayor, Sello Hlasa – appointed by the Metsimaholo Community Association – was ousted after defecting to the ANC. The council collapsed, resulting in the municipality being forced to rerun elections.
A DA insider said: “At some point, the EFF will attend the council meeting. The EFF will do enough not to force a re-election.”
Despite this, Holomisa maintained that there was no “threat” to other municipalities where the UDM and DA co-govern.
“I met DA leader Mmusi Maimane. He conceded that they had made mistakes, especially where their mayors had not consulted with coalition partners. He undertook to improve this breakdown of communication. So, if the DA leader has recognised their shortcomings, we should be hopeful that a self-important attitude will be a thing of the past. They must always understand that they did not win the election.”
‘Opposition are no threat to our long-term plans’
Differences between opposition parties are not a threat to the long-term project of working together in defence of the Constitution, says DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
“I am working hard with the opposition leaders to say: ‘There’s a national project here. We cannot, at the altar of one person in Nelson Mandela Bay, sacrifice a national project,’” he told City Press this week.
In response to the hardening of attitudes, Maimane said he had tasked all DA mayors to hold weekly meetings with opposition partners to share knowledge and ensure that everyone was on the same page.
“I do not think there was the sufficient relationship building that needed to happen. That is why I have instituted that, in every city, people must meet and discuss these issues,” Maimane said.
“There are ways of working that we did not achieve, and now we have had to correct those things,” he admitted.
These renewed vows will be tested in the motion of no confidence brought by the ANC against Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. The date for the motion to take place has yet to be set, and it remains to be seen how the DA and its partners will fare.
Maimane compared the problems faced by the opposition with a new marriage, saying they were not insurmountable.
“Coalitions are a bit like a marriage. There are points when, in a marriage, you have to clarify certain things.
“That is just the nature of coalition management. They are new for our democracy, but I am grateful to say that, where they have worked, we have been able to pass budgets, and the governments are fully at work and delivering on mandates and issues.”
Maimane said he was in “constant dialogue” with all opposition leaders in Parliament and expressed the belief that they were “on the path to working together”.
Some opposition MPs have previously accused the DA and Maimane of being arrogant in the way they work with other opposition parties in Parliament.
An example of this was the tabling of last month’s motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma. Smaller opposition parties proposed that the DA not table the motion, but rather leave it to either aggrieved ANC MPs or one of the smaller parties to table it. “But he went ahead and tabled it,” two sources close to the process told City Press.
Also, before National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced her decision allowing a secret ballot, opposition party leaders held a meeting in Parliament to discuss their options should Mbete decline their request for the vote to be secret.
City Press learnt that it was a heated meeting as the DA again allegedly ignored other parties’ strategies. They had proposed that the DA withdraw the motion if Mbete opted for an open ballot. Maimane declined their proposal, saying the DA had brought the motion and would go ahead with the parliamentary debate as scheduled, whether voting was secret or not.
A proposal by the EFF for opposition parties to boycott the sitting if Mbete opted for an open vote was shot down as being “too drastic”, especially considering the thousands of opposition supporters who would have gathered in Cape Town to back the motion.
The UDM was understood to have proposed that the opposition walk out only if their pleas fell on deaf ears.
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