Johannesburg - DA leader Mmusi Maimane has fallen short of calling the EFF racist in his defence of Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip on Saturday.
Speaking to journalists during a visit to a voter registration centre on Kaalfontein, Maimane said the EFF intention to table a motion of no confidence against Trollip was racially driven.
"I think they want to take him out because he is white. The issue here is a racist agenda," he said.
Maimane, a close ally of Trollip's, said that he would defend the mayor.
On Sunday during the EFF's election registration campaign launch at the Standard Bank arena in Johannesburg, the party's leader Julius Malema explained that his party was specifically aiming to remove Trollip because he was white.
"We have taken a decision that we are going to remove the mayor of PE [Port Elizabeth].
"Why? Why not [mayor of DA-led Johannesburg Herman] Mashaba, why not Solly [Msimanga – mayor of DA-led Tshwane]?
"Because the mayor of DA in PE is a white man. So, these people, when you want to hit them hard – go after a white man. They feel a terrible pain, because you have touched a white man."
He said this did not mean that the EFF would not target Mashaba and Msimanga in the future.
Malema said that this was punishment to the DA for voting against its motion in Parliament which received overwhelming support from the ANC, to amend the Constitution and expropriate land without compensation.
Malema's announcement was not taken lightly by the DA, with the party announcing that it would take the EFF (its partner at key municipalities and metros) to the Equality Court for what is saw as hate speech.
"The day we revert land back to the state, we are simply removing and asking black South Africans to become tenants in the land of their birth," Maimane said.
He told journalists on Saturday that while he was willing to negotiate with the EFF on the issue of land, for the sake of his vision of a coalition government in 2019, the Constitution was not an impediment to property rights.
News24 understands that the EFF has been in talks with the ANC on the motion against Trollip planned for April 6.
The DA with its allies Congress of the People (Cope) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) are expected to vote against the motion. Their votes add up to 59, while the Economic Freedom Fighters and the ANC, together with smaller parties such as the UDM, stand at a combined 61.
Last year a motion of no confidence was tabled against Trollip by the Patriotic Alliance and was supported by ousted deputy mayor and UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani. Ironically, the EFF ensured Trollip's survival by voting against the motion at the time.
During a press briefing earlier this week, Malema said their party's proposal for former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to take over the mayoral job was non-negotiable.
ANC regional chair Andile Lungisa, who stands trial for assault after attacking DA councillors during a sitting, has expressed his ambitions to be mayor, News24 understands.