The Democratic Alliance (DA) will convene an urgent federal executive meeting after the announcement on Monday that Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba was resigning.
Mashaba was unequivocal in his disenchantment of the party during his resignation briefing in the council chambers.
With DA leader Mmusi Maimane by his side, Mashaba said some in the party were more concerned about "cutting grass" in Johannesburg's suburbs than the plight of the poor. He also lambasted members for believing that race was irrelevant in discussions about inequality and poverty.
"I cannot reconcile myself with people who do not see that South Africa is more unequal today than it was in 1994," Mashaba said in his resignation speech.
He will only leave office on November 27, to allow the party to find a replacement, he told the media.
Maimane praised Mashaba for his efforts in the City and added that he considered Mashaba a comrade and "hero".
Grip on power in the balance
In a press statement shortly after his announcement, DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said Mashaba's resignation did not signal an end to the party's commitment to the people of Johannesburg.
The DA's grip on power in the metro hangs in the balance with its coalition partner, the IFP, understood to be in discussions with the ANC about a possible partnership.
The party will also struggle to convince the EFF to maintain their partnership, albeit a tenuous one, as the red berets and their leader, Julius Malema, view Mashaba in a favourable light.
The partnership between the EFF and the DA in Johannesburg has experienced the fewest hiccups as the parties have jostled for power.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, the EFF was instrumental in removing Athol Trollip as mayor and in Tshwane, former mayor Solly Msimanga struggled to get the backing of the freedom fighters on several votes.
Malatsi said the federal executive, which is in charge of the day-to-day workings of the party, would meet soon to assess the impact of Mashaba's announcement.
Their discussions may also take into consideration the panel review, chaired by former leader Tony Leon, which found that entering into a partnership with the EFF after the 2016 municipal elections was a "mistake".
Progressives vs pure liberals
Mashaba's resignation follows a federal council meeting in which the so-called pure liberals regained their power position from the progressives, through Helen Zille's election as federal council chairperson.
Maimane favoured Trollip for the position.
Fire from the pure liberals was stoked after the DA lost a strong cross-section of voters to the Freedom Front Plus in May's general elections.
The progressive liberals – represented by Maimane – have publicly stated their view that the party needs to diversify and broaden its policies to appeal to more black voters.
Naming DA successes during Mashaba's tenure, Malatsi said 1 500 metro police officers have been recruited to assist in the fight against crime, and investment in Johannesburg's inner city had increased from R5bn to R16.355bn to build affordable residential units and student accommodation.
He added that the City's preliminary reports demonstrated that at the end of the 2018/19 year, it was in a stronger financial position with a closing cash balance of R4.4bn.
"The South African Democratic Project is not an easy one to advance, which means building a capable state, fighting for non-racialism, pushing for economic redress and inclusion through sustainable programmes, respect for the rule of law. We will not falter in our mission to bring real change to South Africa We would like to thank Mr Mashaba for his service to the people of Johannesburg and the DA," Malatsi said.