UNITED Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa has declared himself available to be his party’s candidate for premier of the Eastern Cape.
This would fulfil the late Nelson Mandela’s dream, he said. “Personally I don’t have a problem [with being redeployed by the party to the Eastern Cape]. I am available,” Holomisa said in an address to Transkei business people and religious leaders in Mthatha yesterday.
Some years before he died, Mandela had tried to bring him back to the ANC to lead the province as premier. “Of course this [call for him to be the next premier] would also be a fulfilment of Madiba’s dream. But he wanted me to go back to the ANC first and I declined,” he said.
ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu yesterday dismissed Holomisa’s claims. “Never. That never happened,” he said.
Holomisa was presenting his party’s manifesto and election strategy.
He will spend the rest of the month in Transkei consolidating support for the UDM.
Members of the crowd, including some from the ANC and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Front (EFF), had earlier begged the erstwhile Transkei bantustan leader to “come back home” and lead the province.
They complained it had deteriorated and its leaders were detached from the people.
“There is a gap now between us and the leaders that are supposed to lead,” businessman and former ANC supporter Wellington Mbalo said.
“The time has come to switch allegiance. We have had enough [of the government].”
EFF organiser and coordinator in the OR Tambo region Malungelo Mgolombane, who went to the meeting with some of his party’s regional executive members, said the call for Holomisa to lead the province was about wanting sustainable development. “As we move around the Eastern Cape we [EFF] get support from the youth and even people in the mines.
“However, if you go to rural areas, elderly people always ask ‘when is Holomisa coming back home’.
“He has the know-how to run a clean government and everybody knows that. This [call] has nothing to do with political formations but everything to do with sustainable development.”
Mgolombane warned those wanting to derail their plan to have Holomisa back that there were strategies in place to counter any such attempts.
Council of Churches member Mbulelo Mvubu said: “We want to see [real] change in the Eastern Cape, especially in the area of development and service delivery. We think Holomisa can bring about this change.”
Professor Sipho Buthelezi, a former director of public management and development at Fort Hare University, dismissed the announcement as insignificant. He said Holomisa posed no threat to the ANC as he had no political base beyond Mthatha.
The move by Holomisa follows that of DA leader Helen Zille who, when the DA sensed it was making inroads in the Western Cape just before the 2009 general election, became provincial candidate for the party. This is believed to have tilted the scales in favour of the DA.
The UDM is capitalising on Holomisa’s popularity in the Transkei. His no-nonsense attitude to corruption could win him votes in other parts of the province.
Other politicians believed to be contesting the premiership are the DA’s Athol Trollip, while the ANC has yet to decide on its candidate.
Helen Sauls-August, Phumulo Masualle, Mlibo Qoboshiyane and Noxolo Kiviet are all vying for Bhisho’s top job. COPE has yet to announce its provincial list. Holomisa said for him to become premier, a non-partisan approach would be needed where opposition parties would work together.
“They would have to form a government that will be inclusive, to reflect the views of the people. We all have to wake up and fight for the integration of the Eastern Cape on infrastructure development. At the moment, it is hugely under-budgeted.”
The UDM recently absorbed the Mbhazima Shilowa faction of COPE.