Message of hope as 10-party coalition governing SA’s #5 Metro beating the odds, delivering turnaround 

Nelson Mandela Bay’s 10-party coalition is now seven months old and, according to executive mayor Retief Odendaal, has already notched up some remarkable wins. Apart from keeping all partners onside in reputably the largest governing coalition on earth; focused maintenance and fast-tracking of existing projects has removed the very real threat of the city’s taps running dry. Although the Democratic Alliance, with 48 seats, dwarves the next most prominent coalition member’s three seats, Odendaal says a partnership approach was adopted from the get-go and is reaping dividends. This is a template which may be applied to address instability elsewhere, especially Gauteng, where smaller members of coalitions complain about not being adequately respected. Odendaal spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.


Timestamps for the interview below:

  • Retief Odendaal on Nelson Mandela Bay’s 10-party coalition – 01:00
  • On coalitions; working together and not having one big brother – 03:45
  • On what precisely ‘irregular expenditure’ is – 07:10
  • On service delivery coming to a grinding halt due to broken supply chains – 08:45
  • On identifying problems and achieving successes in his multi-party coalition – 12:00
  • On the ANC trying to block their efforts and progress – 24:25

Some extracts from the interview:

Retief Odendaal on Nelson Mandela Bay’s 10-party coalition

It is no easy job – that I can certainly attest to. This is the biggest coalition that’s ever been put together in South Africa. I’ve got some colleagues that say that it is, probably, currently the biggest coalition in the world. I’m not too sure about that. But there are ten parties. As you can imagine, it’s not a walk in the park – it is difficult to manage and there are problems that arise every now and again. But I think that we have been able to stabilize the administration and we’ve been able to work relatively well together. I think that the reason for this, everybody wants to know how are you managing it and why are you guys working so well together?

Well, we decided from the get go that if this is going to work there is going to be no big brother in this case. So notwithstanding the fact that the DA who is essentially the foundation of this coalition, I’ve got 48 seats and then the next big party, the Northern Alliance, with three seats. Notwithstanding that, we consider ourselves to be equal partners. We take collective decisions. So we try to take the egos out of the coalition and we try to focus on the issues at hand. And believe you me, Nelson Mandela Bay was systematically broken down over the last couple of years. So there’s a lot of work to be done. And I think that as a coalition, we have probably been more stable than smaller coalitions in the country, elsewhere, certainly in some of our metropolitan municipalities, upcountry. 

Read more: SA’s new test case for coalition government – Retief Odendaal of the DA, now NMB executive mayor after 10 party coalition ejects disastrous ANC/EFF administration

On coalitions; working together and not having one big brother

You have to focus on the job at hand. You have to put your own interests aside and you have to put your party political interests aside. I think that if we as political parties want to prove to the electorate out there that there can be a credible alternative to the ANC at a national level, we must be able to prove that we can work together at a local government level without falling apart at every corner, so to speak. It’s a test for us. And I also want to just say that it is clear to me as well that unfortunately, all political parties have not necessarily reached political maturity. And I say this because sometimes people find it difficult to put their own political party interest aside and I suppose that’s the nature of politics. But those political parties, those are the ones that are responsible for coalition instability. They need to be punished at the ballot box. And I wish that our electorate can realise that ultimately they determine the future. They determine their future. They determine what the governments look like in the cities and towns. But at the end of the day, if it is a coalition, they also have to look at who is partaking in the coalition arrangement and how these parties behave – do they make you proud? Do they really represent your interest? Are they trying to move from one coalition to the other, going to the highest bidder? Because instability in government is the biggest enemy of progress. 

Read more: Helen Zille calls ‘Hokaai’ on SA optimism post-2024: Nelson Mandela Bay an example of political chaos that may await

On what precisely ‘irregular expenditure’ is

Irregular expenditure is expenditure that was incurred in contravention or outside of our supply chain procedures and legislation, which means that it either represented deviations or just gross irregularities in terms of supply chain processes. But it was done by design so that proper supply chain processes would be circumvented. Now that 20 billion rand that was spent is more than any other municipality – exponentially. It is more than any other provincial government. It is more than what the national government has spent on irregular expenditure. It just highlights what has happened here in Nelson Mandela Bay over the last couple of years and how looting from the state was facilitated. 

Read more: Mashaba rolls dice to bring PA into a rejuvenated Rainbow Coalition – and take back Jhb Metro

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