Democratic Alliance's new interim leader, John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Democratic Alliance's new interim leader, John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

The DA is on the brink of losing control of the Tshwane municipality in the same way it has done in the city of Johannesburg, DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Thursday.

The ANC took control of Johannesburg on Wednesday after the collapse of the DA-led coalition with the EFF. The ANC's Geoff Makhubo was elected mayor.

Steenhuisen said at a media briefing on Thursday that the DA was very disappointed that Johannesburg had now been “thrown back to the wolves” and was extremely disappointed that “treasonous” DA councillors had broken ranks with the party's caucus in the secret vote.

“There is a very good likelihood that there is going to be a similar result in Tshwane. It is very clear that there are forces of collusion at work to take Tshwane back. It’s a waiting game,” Steenhuisen said.

The loss of Tshwane will mean that the DA has lost all three of the metros it succeeded in winning via coalitions in the 2016 local government elections. It still retains control of Cape Town.

It has also lost control of the Nelson Mandela Bay council. The crisis in Johannesburg was precipitated by the resignation of mayor Herman Mashaba from both the DA and as mayor.

In Tshwane, DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa is facing allegations of having had a sexual relationship with roads and transport member of the mayoral committee Sheila Senkubuge. Both the EFF and ANC have said they will support a motion of no confidence against Mokgalapa based on the city's handling of the Hammanskraal water crisis, allegations of corruption relating to a tender awarded to engineering firm Aurecon, and the mismanagement of Wonderboom Airport.

The withdrawal of EFF support for the DA-led Tshwane government would hand control of the metro to the ANC.

Steenhuisen said that the DA's loss of control over Johannesburg and the expected loss of Tshwane was unfortunate, but that the DA held its head high about its record in governing the two metros.

He said an investigation would be undertaken into the fact that two DA councillors in Johannesburg voted against the party, though he was not confident that they would be identified as the vote was secret. He stressed that even if the EFF had continued to support the DA, the DA would still have lost control of the council.

The atmosphere in the Johannesburg caucus over the past year had been toxic with many frustrated members feeling that they were not being listened to or had been sidelined, Steenhuisen said. Strong action would be taken against acts of indiscipline by DA leaders, such as the leaking of information on social media and to other political parties, and public bickering between members.

He said ill-discipline within the party's ranks was the biggest obstacle to its succeeding at the polls, and that the loss of the DA's control of the two Gauteng metros came at the end of a bad year for the DA, which suffered a significant decline in voter support in the May general election.

Steenhuisen held the media briefing to highlight the DA's performance in parliament in 2019.

“The DA once again punched way above its weight in carrying out its constitutional duty to hold the executive to account,” he said.

Of all the 1,482 questions to ministers submitted by DA members of the National Assembly since the start of the sixth parliament, 70% came from the DA.

DA MPs in the National Council of Provinces submitted more than 200 written questions to ministers.

“Every single one of these questions relates to an issue that profoundly affects South Africans — from crime and policing to outstanding Eskom debt, and from the cost of NHI pilots to the eye-watering amounts of money spent on maintaining the lifestyles of current and former presidents and their families,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA had also led the fight against the “unworkable and unaffordable” National Health Insurance and expropriation of land without compensation. It had also tabled a number of private members' bills including the Independent Electricity Management Operator Bill and the Public Finance Management Amendment Bill.

Clarification: December 6 2019
A previous version of this story said the DA would lose control of all metros it won in the 2016 local government elections. This was clarified to explain that it would still retain the City of Cape Town.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za