Steenhuisen to take 'charge' of DA's Tshwane conundrum ahead of crucial council sitting

2020-03-03 07:24
John Steenhuisen addresses the Cape Town Press Club, where he announces his candidature to become the DA's leader.

John Steenhuisen addresses the Cape Town Press Club, where he announces his candidature to become the DA's leader. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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The DA's national leaders, including interim leader John Steenhuisen, federal council chairperson Helen Zille and head of the governance unit James Selfe, will meet with its Tshwane caucus on Wednesday ahead of a sitting to elect a new leader for the city.

In a letter to the caucus, which News24 has seen, Steenhuisen expressed an understanding of the frustrations experienced by the party's councillors in Tshwane following last week's collapsed council sitting.

READ | Embattled Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa announces resignation, DA thanks him for his service

The sitting failed to elect a new mayor for Tshwane, which formed part of a discussion among frustrated councillors, with some expressing dissatisfaction with the party's pick for mayor.

The capital city also runs the risk of being placed under administration, as its council has failed to pass its adjustment budget, which had to happen before the start of March.

DA vs ANC candidate

Steenhuisen weighed the DA's options against both the ANC and EFF, which he claimed had been holding discussions on how to "divide the spoils".

"It seems that the strategy of the ANC and EFF to collapse the council was to give them more time to seek an agreement."

READ | Randall Williams an excellent candidate for Tshwane mayor - DA

Steenhuisen, in spelling out the different scenarios that would have helped the DA retain power, said all three of the big parties in the council would have fielded a candidate, predicting the EFF's candidate would have failed to get past the first round, leaving the DA to face off with the ANC.

"After the first round of voting, the EFF's candidate would be defeated but the EFF would remain in the chamber and abstain. Under these circumstances the DA mayoral candidate would be elected."

He said the DA had an understanding the EFF and ANC failed to agree on the ANC's chosen candidate.

"We all know that the ANC, in particular, is deeply divided in the Tshwane caucus and in Gauteng province," continued Steenhuisen.

He said this would also work to the DA's benefit.

READ | DA lays fraud charges against ANC Tshwane leaders over 'forged' signatures as council battle continues

Steenhuisen's predictions though, regarding an ANC candidate is at odds with the views of the ANC's regional chairperson, Kgosi Maepa, who tweeted his party was willing to wait until the 2021 local government elections.

DA's preferred candidate

Randall Abrahams is the DA's candidate to replace former mayor Stevens Mokgalapa who stepped down on Wednesday.

Mokgalapa is the second DA mayor to not finish his term. He had been on suspension since last year following leaked audio of him and former transport MMC Sheila Senkubuge allegedly engaged in an inappropriate act at council offices.

Previously, Solly Msimanga also resigned following a series of scandals, including the GladAfrica tender saga in which the company was reportedly awarded an irregular multibillion-rand contract.

Steenhuisen also addressed some councillors' apparent frustrations around the DA's candidate.

"While we sympathise with your feelings, not all this discussion was based on fact," he said.

According to insiders, this is in relation to discussions some DA councillors had following last week's failed sitting.

News24 understands some are unhappy with Abrahams being the party's mayoral candidate and question why Abel Tau was overlooked by the party.

Tau is the regional leader and was acting mayor while Mokgalapa was on special leave.

"If anything, they could have fielded Tau, he didn't do too badly in December, having taken over the helm under difficult conditions," said one caucus insider.

The same source argued Abrahams could not necessarily connect to Tshwane's residents, arguing his appointment could be further used against the DA by opposition parties in the council.

Another caucus member questioned why Abrahams was good enough now, saying the former leader of government business under Msimanga's tenure had not been reappointed by Mokgalapa and the DA's federal executive seemed unbothered by the move.

"He served in [Msimanga's] mayoral committee and was leader of government business, why was he not retained? Why do our leaders feel a character like that is the best person to serve the city?" questioned the second source.

Steenhuisen, in the letter, explained the party had already started engaging office bearers and the municipality's officials during this period of a "vacuum" to ensure residents still got services delivered.

He said the DA would continue engaging with the ANC and EFF to bring about a "stable and permanent solution" to the political instability in the capital city.

"The residents of Tshwane deserve better than being used like a football in senseless fights between politicians."

While he refused to give comment, Steenhuisen confirmed he had sent the letter to the caucus.

"But yes. I'm taking charge of the Tshwane situation," he said.

Read more on:    da  |  john steenhui­sen  |  pretoria  |  politics
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