Mokgalapa backed into corner as DA prepares to act - step down as Tshwane mayor or be forced out

2020-02-01 19:12
City of Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa (Tshidi Madia, News24)

City of Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa (Tshidi Madia, News24)

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Embattled Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa could be hit with the DA's so-called "De Lille clause" if he doesn’t step down from his role leading the metro in the coming days.

Mokgalapa has been on special leave since November following the release of an audio recording allegedly featuring him and then-Transport MMC Sheila Senkubuge engaging in an intimate act in the municipality's offices.

The mayor's leave, which was extended in January, ended on Friday, meaning he is due to return to his office at the helm of the capital city on Monday.

However, News24 understands a petition from his own caucus and a meeting with the Freedom Front Plus, one of the DA's coalition partners, have placed Mokgalapa under pressure to vacate his position soon.

READ | This too shall pass: Stevens Mokgalapa on DA disciplinary action

The "De Lille clause" refers to an amendment the party adopted at its 2018 elective conference. It makes it easier for the party to recall members in government positions if they've "lost the confidence of the party".

Patricia de Lille was locked in a lengthy and very public battle with the DA's leadership during her tenure as executive mayor of Cape Town.

Mokgalapa replaced Solly Msimanga, who stepped down ahead of the 2019 general elections to lead the DA's campaign to win Gauteng.

The previous mayor also left the city under a cloud of scandals, which included the multi-billion rand Glad Africa contract, unlawful appointments and an unhappy caucus.

Disciplinary hearing

While Mokgalapa was expected to stabilise the city and focus on delivering services to residents, it seems he has left the caucus even more frustrated, and embarrassed the party.

He is now set to face a disciplinary hearing over comments he made in the audio clip, pertaining to his colleagues and the business of governance.

News24 understands a majority of caucus members signed a petition - for Helen Zille and the DA federal executive's attention - complaining about their mayor and asking for his removal.

The Tshwane council has spent numerous months focused on battles between the different parties, with the ANC and EFF attempting to work together to oust the DA-led coalition government.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen confirmed to News24 that talks were under way between Mokgalapa and party leaders, both national and provincial.

"It is an ongoing process to look at how we can resolve this. The federal executive had made a decision that his matter requires a full hearing, but we are hoping to resolve this before those issues are concluded."

While he refused to confirm whether they had asked Mokgalapa to consider resigning, he said there were a number of options on the table.

ANALYSIS | ANC and EFF need to follow due process with a little strategic flair to unseat Mokgalapa

Insiders, however, have said the mayor was told to step down or face a motion of no confidence. Sources close to the matter said he had been defiant until a meeting with several leaders on Friday.

"His intention was to return to work on Monday; he was ready to fight them because in his head just agreeing to go, is the end of his career," said one insider from the City of Tshwane.

A national party leader said Mokgalapa had run out of luck and should resign in order to "at least" secure a soft landing as opposed to putting on a fight and finding himself completely out in the cold. The leader used Msimanga, who is now in the Gauteng legislature, as an example of what could happen if Mokgalapa agrees to go without a fight.

'DA would allow angry caucus to remove him' 

Steenhuisen said he hoped a resolution would be sealed early next week, which some have suggested could be an announcement of a resignation from Mokgalapa.

According to insiders, if the mayor refuses to step down and digs his heels in, the DA would allow an angry caucus to remove him via an internal motion of no confidence.

The interim leader also told News24, Zille had met with the caucus, which expressed its concerns over Mokgalapa's prolonged stay.

"Obviously [there is] a lot of frustration and concern around the matter, it is a frustrating situation. No one wants to resolve it more than me," said Steenhuisen.

He said the options being considered were being done with the municipality's best interests in mind, emphasising that the DA had a progressive agenda it wanted to see through in the capital city.

While he said he did not specifically meet with the Freedom Front Plus, Steenhuisen said concern over Tshwane was being expressed inside and outside the party.

Freedom Front Plus Gauteng leader Jaco Mulder told News24 the party had asked for a meeting with the DA to have a "responsible discussion" about service delivery.

"We talked about issues, we did it very responsibly, everything was in very good faith," said Mulder.

He told News24 the DA seemed fully aware of the challenges it was currently facing in Tshwane.

"We made them aware of worries and concerns that we have," he said.

Mulder said there was no ultimatum given to the DA over the matter.

Read more on:    da  |  stevens mokgalapa

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