Smaller parties feel left out, insiders say, but top leaders deny claims
The honeymoon period is over as claims of mounting tension between the DA and its coalition partners in Nelson Mandela Bay have come to the fore less than five months after they joined forces to govern the metro.
The UDM’s Mongameli Bobani – deputy mayor of the Bay – is said to be butting heads with the DA, which has the majority stake in the partnership.
The differences are believed to be over how some disciplinary and legal matters involving metro officials should be handled by the municipality, to Bobani feeling undermined and being left in the dark.
But both mayor Athol Trollip and Bobani yesterday moved to allay fears that there were problems, being adamant that all was well.
Trollip said: “Regarding my relationship with [Bobani], I believe we have an excellent relationship and that we have established an open-door policy to hold frank discussions about our government on any and all issues that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“In fact, I spend more time in direct engagement with [Bobani] than with any of my other executive members.
“There are no problems in the coalition and if any arise, they are discussed and dealt with in an open and frank manner as per our agreement.
“Our coalition is not in jeopardy at all.
“We have a comprehensive coalition agreement and to date there has been no need to engage any conflict or disagreement resolution provisions.”
Bobani also said there were no differences.
“The coalition is strong and intact. It will stay like this for the next five years,” he said.
However, at least five insiders told The Herald that there was, in fact, friction which stemmed from the recent decision to block the prepaid meters of account defaulters.
The insiders refused to be quoted for fear of reprisals.
The decision to implement the metro’s credit control policy was announced before it was discussed with all coalition partners.
This caused an upset and saw UDM and COPE supporters join a mass march, led by the ANC and EFF, in protest against the decision.
Bobani and lone COPE councillor Siyasanga Sijadu were insulted by fellow party members who were angry and accused them of forgetting about the plight of the poor.
The DA’s coalition partners are the UDM, ACDP and COPE.
Trollip conceded that the announcement by the political head of finance, councillor Retief Odendaal, that the acbe counts of defaulters would be blocked was “not canvassed with anyone”, saying it was an existing policy.
“The decision was discussed with our coalition partners in our full multiparty caucus before the council, where I personally accepted that the decision to implement the policy could have been better communicated to all concerned.
“[It] was, however, the correct decision as we were in a perilous position with regard to declining rates collections.
“We all learnt important lessons,” Trollip said.
The ANC is, meanwhile, waiting in the wings, hoping to take advantage of any rifts within the coalition to get back into power.
ANC regional task team coordinator Beza Ntshona said the ANC had been approached by a number of political parties wanting to work with the party.
These include the EFF, COPE and UDM, among others.
“What I can confirm is they want working relations with the ANC,” he said.
“We have not yet discussed the context to which we want to work with them, but we will doing that soon.
“We are aware that there are certain things they are not happy with and how they are handled at the level of council.
“They want to see how they can work with the ANC.
“We will be able to check whether these issues will have an impact on the coalition that they joined because it is not only those parties outside the coalition, but also those parties inside the coalition that want to engage with us.
“There are still other parties that want to get the mandate from other levels to engage with us on content issues related to the coalition,” Ntshona said. “There are UDM members who have been engaging the ANC, both at a provincial and a regional level.
“They seem not to be happy with certain things that relate to the coalition.”
EFF councillor Yoliswa Yako said its members would not form any partnerships with the ANC.
“We are not in talks with the ANC about forming a coalition. That will never happen.
“If we were to engage with the ANC, it would be on issues that we want to raise in the council,” Yako said.
Sijadu denied that COPE was talking to the ANC, saying it was “a fabrication of a desperate ANC”.
Bobani also denied secret discussions with the ANC as well as talk that he had been offered the mayorship should he break ties with the DA.
DA federal council chairman James Selfe said there were a number of dispute resolution mechanisms detailed in the coalition agreement should there be disagreements between the signatories.
He said nothing had been conveyed to him about possible problems.
However, should any members endanger the coalition, their party principals would be obliged to take action, Selfe said.