Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Solly Msimanga. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Solly Msimanga. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

DA Gauteng premier candidate and Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga’s stay at the helm of the council in SA’s capital city is not a foregone conclusion, as the opposition party mulls his possible removal from the mayoral seat. 

The DA held a soft launch of its 2019 election campaign and announced at a media briefing on Sunday, attended by Msimanga, that it is all systems go for the party to intensify its campaign across the country. 

Gauteng is a clear target for the party, with research showing that the country’s economic hub is a soft target for opposition parties after the ANC’s poor performance in the province in the past two elections.

Speaking to Business Day after a meeting of the DA’s federal executive committee, party leader Mmusi Maimane said the 2019 campaign is in full swing, with premier candidates out in full force across the provinces.

Asked how Msimanga is juggling his mayoral responsibilities with a hectic campaign schedule, Maimane said this is an issue being discussed inside the DA and a final decision will be made as soon as President Cyril Ramaphosa formally announces the election date. 

“Once the date is gazetted we will make a decision about that [Msimanga’s mayoral post] ... obviously we want him to be a premier so clearly he can’t remain in council; he can’t do both. We are in the process of working that out,” Maimane said.

This marks a shift in the party’s stance. Two months ago Maimane said Msimanga would stay in his post as mayor, despite the expected hectic campaign schedule. 

Business Day understands that Msimanga was asked to step down as mayor when he was announced as premier candidate, but due to the volatility of the situation in the council — he recently narrowly survived a motion of no confidence — it was decided the decision should be made at a later stage. 

The ANC in Tshwane has accused Msimanga of knowing about an allegedly dodgy municipal contract with Glad Africa, for which the responsible manager is under investigation. Msimanga has denied having prior knowledge of the contract.

On Sunday at the media briefing, Maimane said the DA has launched a total of 62 campaign groups and these are rolling out 500 campaign units across the country.

“These groups and units are powered by thousands of activists and volunteers who have signed up ... the focus of ground mobilisation is on recruiting more activists, delivering the message of change that builds One SA for All and getting people to register to vote,” he said.

The first voter registration weekend is set  for January 26 and 27. Ramaphosa hinted during a visit abroad last month that the national election in 2019 was likely to take place in May. The date is likely to be announced before the end of 2018.