Two of the biggest political parties in the country are taking turns courting the United Democratic Movement (UDM) in a bid to govern the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
The UDM, fully aware of its kingmaker status, is not giving anything away, and is refusing to commit to anyone until it is satisfied it won’t be undermined because it is a small party.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa confirmed that his party held talks with the DA the week before last, and with the ANC last week.
On Thursday, Holomisa said that he led a UDM delegation to meet with DA leader John Steenhuisen and DA MP James Selfe.
The meeting prompted the ANC to ask for a similar meeting.
“Yes, there are currently those kinds of talks that were initiated by the DA. I asked them why they were not forming a coalition with the ANC because they had ganged up with the ANC to remove the UDM in the metro,” said Holomisa, referring to the expulsion of Mongameli Bobani as mayor of the metro.
“But they were not able to respond to that. I even offered to chair a meeting in which the ANC and the DA could engage and form a government in Nelson Mandela Bay, but they seemed not to be keen.”
The UDM leader hinted that it wouldn’t be easy for either party to convince the UDM to form a coalition government.
For instance, he told the DA leadership to first produce evidence that former mayor Bobani was corrupt, as was alleged before he was ousted.
Holomisa demanded that his party be given the report by auditing firm PwC that was commissioned by former DA mayor Athol Trollip against Bobani before they could engage in fresh talks.
Holomisa said whether talks with the DA continued or not depended on the party providing the report or, at the very least, evidence that proved Bobani was corrupt.
If it failed to do so, the DA would have to apologise to Bobani and the UDM.
He added that, if the UDM was to come to an agreement with the DA, he wanted to ensure they would be treated equally.
“When you have a coalition with the DA, they like to call it a DA-led coalition because they have more numbers. But when we worked with the ANC, there was nothing that said it was an ANC-led coalition. We want to put a stop to that,” said Holomisa.
He made it clear that the party would not be dictated to by the DA regarding who it would field as a candidate in the executive.
On the part of the ANC, Holomisa, whose party finds itself in a uniquely powerful position in the metro despite only having two seats, said he met with ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, this week.
“Magashule phoned me after he heard that we had met with the DA. We told them the same thing we told the DA – that, because they had partnered with the DA to remove the UDM, they should rather form their own government as the ANC and the DA.
“Ace said the changes in the metro that saw the removal of Bobani were not sanctioned by the top leadership of the ANC, but came as a result of a decision made by the ANC’s provincial executive committee [PEC],” said Holomisa.
He said he told the ANC leaders to sort out their issues first so that there was no confusion between who made coalition decisions in the metro between the party’s national executive committee and the PEC.
“We reminded them that it was the ANC that came to us to remove the DA in the metro, which we did. We did the same thing in the Johannesburg metro recently. The very next day, the ANC sided with the DA to remove Bobani. How are we supposed to trust people who can betray you like that?”
Holomisa said the UDM’s top leadership would meet today in Port Elizabeth to report back about the talks.
Nqaba Bhanga, the leader of the DA in the Eastern Cape, confirmed that he personally asked the DA leadership to approach Holomisa about a possible coalition.
“Immediately after Bobani was removed, I asked [DA Federal council chairperson] Helen Zille to approach Holomisa to see if there could be a new conversation about what happens to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro’s future,” said Bhanga.