DA's Helen Zille. Picture: TIMESLIVE
DA's Helen Zille. Picture: TIMESLIVE

Feuding parties the DA and UDM are in talks and could once again come together and rule the Nelson Mandela Bay metro. 

The coalition that governed the city since the 2016 local government elections, collapsed in 2018 following the ousting of DA's Athol Trollip as mayor through a no-confidence motion. It was replaced by an ANC/UDM coalition that installed Mongameli Bobani as the city's first citizen.

Bobani was later removed as mayor through a no-confidence motion brought by DA councillor Morne Steyn in December 9.

The DA recently lost control of the City of Johannesburg to the ANC. It is also expected to lose control of the capital city Tshwane following a sex scandal involving its mayor, Stevens Mokgalapa.

The party is also reeling from the resignation of its former leader, Mmusi Maimane, who quit the party almost at the same time as Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba and the resignation of Trollip as federal chair in October 2019.

It has also lost a couple of by-elections nationwide mostly to the FF Plus.

The decision by the DA, which holds 57 seats in the 120-seat Nelson Mandela Bay council, to enter into new coalition talks with the UDM, which has two seats, signals the party's intention to claw back its political power in local government. It also runs the key metro of Cape Town.

Both the UDM's Bantu Holomisa and DA federal council chair Helen Zille confirmed the talks.

UDM leader Gen Bantu Holomisa has stated in a party statement that his party and the DA had met in Pretoria to talk about the possible future of coalition politics in SA, particularly as it concerns Nelson Mandela Bay.

During the meeting, various matters were discussed "in terms of the principles that must be applied to take the work of this council forward", said Holomisa.

"Both parties agreed that service delivery to the people of the Nelson Mandela Bay is of paramount importance. The UDM will take the discussion on coalition politics in Nelson Mandela Bay and other municipalities to our structures for full consultation," he said, adding that the parties agreed to have more meetings.

On Monday, Zille said the communication between the parties were just "talks about talks".

"We haven't gotten to the crux of the matter. It's just talks about whether we should be having these discussions at all," said Zille .

DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga said they welcomed talks that would bring about political stability in NMB. The residents needed a safe and stable local government that was at the coalface of the fight against corruption and maladministration, he said.

"We want residents to be prioritised and their concerns taken into consideration. The DA believes in conversations and in openness and we are willing to engage with anybody who espouses the values of good governance and the constitution. We are willing to engage with such people," said Bhanga.

Commenting on the talks, Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka said DA interim leader John Steenhuisen would want to go to its early federal congress in May having "reclaimed the metros they lost”.

Mtimka said the DA wanted to gain positive momentum and gain "greater traction in government". He said that meant considering some of the stances it took against Maimane and Trollip's leadership in forming coalition agreements with parties such as the EFF, among other things.

A coalition of the DA, UDM, COPE and other smaller political parties had installed Trollip as mayor and Bobani as his deputy, following the watershed local government elections in 2016. 

However, the two leaders soon fell out over governance issues and the direction the Eastern Cape's biggest metro should take, and this resulted in Bobani being booted out as deputy mayor following a controversial vote of no confidence in August 2017. In a dramatic turn of events in 2018, Trollip was removed from the mayoral office and replaced by Bobani, who only served 461 days as mayor.

Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor, Thsonono Buyeye, was appointed interim mayor until a new coalition government is formed later in 2020

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za