The Gen­eral takes tough line on DA

Vet­eran politi­cian Bantu Holomisa says the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion can’t take on the ANC alone

Mail & Guardian - - News - Given Si­gauqwe

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

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