The General takes tough line on DA
Veteran politician Bantu Holomisa says the official opposition can’t take on the ANC alone
United Democratic Movement (UDM) president Bantu Holomisa has warned the Democratic Alliance that its “Big Brother” approach to its coalition partners could derail the opposition’s chances of assuming power in the 2019 general elections.
“There is a huge possibility that we might govern through a coalition government after the 2019 elections and that is why I have been writing to both the DA and [its leader Mmusi] Maimane in black and white warning them to stop behaving like a big brother. The DA can never run this country alone,” he said.
Holomisa, known as “The General” in political party circles, says the opposition parties must remain united and focused to topple the ANC.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday, three days after his party’s 20th anniversary celebrations, he said opposition parties in coalition with the DA, including Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), in several municipalities have raised serious concerns about the DA’s attitude.
“This is the right time to expose it [the DA]. The DA sees itself as the small opposition parties’ big brother. I do not know where they got this from. I want them to be aware that, if you want to work with other political parties, you will be put in line and reminded that a coalition does not mean that you have won elections. The DA needs to rid itself of that mentality.”
The tensions between the DA-led coalition partners were sparked by the DA’s decision to remove the UDM’s Mongameli Bobani as deputy mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro few months ago.
He has been accused by Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip of corruption and colluding with the ANC. Holomisa said it was one of many incidents in which the DA has acted unilaterally and undermined its coalition partners.
“This is not the first time the DA do as they please. The DA tends to take unilateral decisions. I do not know how many times Juju [Malema] has shouted at Maimane in our meetings. I remember in one meeting Juju said to Maimane: ‘DA must stop doing this [acting like a big brother]’.”
Holomisa said that, before the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, Malema and Maimane differed sharply on whether to take speaker Baleka Mbete’s decision to court if she rejected a secret ballot.
“The period between waiting for the speaker’s decisions and the actual announcement was tense. There wasn’t a clear decision of how to go forward if the speaker doesn’t give a secret ballot. There were talks of going to court … Not everyone was in agreement.
“There was uncertainty. But luckily the speaker gave the secret ballot and there was relief all around. That is when you saw us opposition parties walking together near the Nelson Mandela statue.”
The former Transkei homeland leader says his seniority has allowed him to play a mediating role in the opposition alliance.
“I co-ordinate the meetings of the leaders of the opposition. When we are in a meeting, Malema and Maimane listen to people like [Mosiuoa] Lekota and myself. I remember after the 2016 local elections Juju said, ‘Yes, General, let us get them to agree to free education, nationalisation of banks and the land issue’, and I told him, ‘Not now, Juju’.”
He said opposition parties have started organising a multiparty national convention that will seek solutions to the crises confronting South Africa.
“We are talking quietly with civil society, churches and so on with the aim to have a bigger steering committee, which will include sectors outside of formal political structures.”
Although the current crisis in the country can be blamed on the governing party, “it cannot be excluded from participating in the convention. Therefore, the invitation has been extended to them to participate in the convention.”
University of the Witwatersrand political analyst Professor Susan Booysen said a national convention is a good idea, but she doubted the ANC would accept the invitation.
“A national convention is a great idea. The promotion of unity and goodwill will speak to what we have already seen earlier in the year with how various political parties and civil society organisations united under a common cause. However, I do not think the current ANC is prepared to humble itself like the ANC of old and, because of this, it might not be all that fruitful,” she said.
Holomisa, asked whether he would consider stepping down to allow young blood to take the UDM forward, replied: “It has not yet dawned in my mind that I should quit now.
“It depends on one’s health and whether the family is still interested in your services and, lastly, whether the party structures are still interested in your services.
“But, in my case, if I were to take a decision, I would still be a member of the UDM and still assist while other leaders are given the baton to run the party. That is why we have youth programmes in place to ensure that we have another generation of leaders ready.”
Unimpressed: UDM president Bantu Holomisa has criticised the Democratic Alliance for acting like ‘Big Brother’ towards its coalition partners. Photo: Paul Botes