Holomisa may be in charge of a small, regional party with minimal growth prospects, but he remains influential in South African politics and commands immense respect, even in the ANC.
Bringing him on board would have restored the ruling party’s dwindling credibility and public trust.
But Holomisa had other ideas.
He is now the mastermind behind an opposition plan to unseat the ANC at the next general elections by co-ordinating talks of a possible coalition of opposition parties.
He has called for a national convention to seek solutions for the country, from the economy to the land question and education. Even if the ANC snubs such a gathering, Holomisa wants the combined opposition to adopt its outcomes as an election manifesto for 2019.
However, during an interview at a restaurant in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Holomisa conceded that convincing all opposition parties to work together in 2019 would be a difficult task given the tensions caused by the ructions in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
When he was asked how a 2019 coalition would work, Holomisa struggled to hide his anger with the DA, which removed UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani as deputy mayor.
“Maybe what we should be doing is to seriously look at the rules and regulations, and have a bible which is approved by parliament as to how the coalitions should operate,” said Holomisa.
The ANC would have never ascended to power in KZN in 2004 had we not helped them.
“We need that urgently because others think smaller parties owe them something.
“They can’t even raise a question. If you won elections through a coalition, decisions must be taken through consensus. There is no other way. You can’t just be a bully,” he said in reference to the DA’s behaviour in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“If they continue with the attitude of using other people, it won’t work.”
Holomisa was an asset for the ANC before he was expelled in 1996.
No wonder the ANC has repeatedly tried to convince him to return “home”.
Holomisa revealed this week that Zuma was not the first ANC president to try to lure him back to the ANC fold.
In 2001, Nelson Mandela made a similar plea.
“I told Madiba. I said: ‘No. I now have a small party called the UDM,'” Holomisa recalled, staring at the Mandela statue in front of us.
“Madiba said: ‘You can leave the United Party. You are ANC. Thabo Mbeki needs strong leaders like you.’
“I said to him: ‘UDM members found me in political limbo. Going back to the ANC will be tantamount to selling them out. What if I mess up again and you expel me?’
“I said: ‘It won’t work, Tata. Let’s talk about co-operation.’ I said: ‘On matters of national interest you can wake me up any time.'”
Mbeki also tried. First he sent Makhenkesi Stofile, then Mosiuoa Lekota. Both came back empty-handed.
But Holomisa delivered his promise to help the ANC by lending his party’s support in KwaZulu-Natal after the 2004 elections.
“The ANC would have never ascended to power in KZN in 2004 had we not helped them,” said Holomisa.
The ANC won just short of 47% of the vote in the province while the IFP took 38.6%. The UDM’s minuscule number helped the ANC to rule.
I never asked to join the ANC. The ANC sent a delegation to me. I said to them they must go to the soldiers.
In the early 1990s, Holomisa was one of the most popular leaders in the country and revered for collaborating with the liberation movements despite being a bantustan leader.
He formed bonds with ANC leaders, especially Chris Hani, and made the Transkei a haven for MK combatants and activists while he presided over a homeland where he’d seized power in a coup.
It was not surprising when the ANC recruited him soon after the end of apartheid.
“I never asked to join the ANC. The ANC sent a delegation to me. I said to them they must go to the soldiers,” said Holomisa, then still a military commander in the Transkei.
Holomisa recalls that the generals were suspicious of the ANC’s intentions.
‘It is not our wish for the general to enter politics. We thought he was going to assist with the integration of armed forces because of his experience and training and so on. We are worried that once you have a fallout with him you’ll ditch him.'”