DA caught between a rock and hard place in Tshwane

The events that unfolded following Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa and MMC for roads and transport Sheila Senkubuge's leaked tape have left the DA in a no-win position, the writer says.
The events that unfolded following Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa and MMC for roads and transport Sheila Senkubuge's leaked tape have left the DA in a no-win position, the writer says.

The DA is facing a big predicament as it looks into how to discipline Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa for allegedly breaching the party's constitution.

Mokgalapa, the Tshwane mayor who is currently on special leave, will soon be facing the party's disciplinary hearing over remarks he allegedly made in a leaked recording of a conversation with ex-councillor Sheila Senkubuge.

In the 30-minute long audio, which was leaked in November, Mokgalapa is, among others, heard making disparaging comments about his DA colleagues, including his predecessor Solly Msimanga and speaker Katlego Mathebe whom he refers to as a "witch".

The pair, who were allegedly involved in an affair, also discussed plans to fire government officials and taking a BMW X5 belonging to another official for their own personal use.

The party's federal executive met at the weekend and the Mokgalapa matter was among those on the agenda.

There are those in the DA pushing for a strong statement to be made with Mokgalapa shown the door, while there are those who seek to push for a political solution taking into consideration the current unsavoury climate for the party in the capital.

Tshwane is where the DA suffered most losses in the last national elections. With just under two years remaining before the next local government elections, the DA wouldn't want to risk losing more votes in Tshwane due to how it handles this issue.

However, the party's biggest worry may, justifiably so, be the risk of losing the second Gauteng metro in as many months to the ANC. This comes after the ANC regained power in Johannesburg last month following a fallout between the DA and the EFF upon former mayor Herman Mashaba's resignation.

The DA cannot afford to sack Mokgalapa as mayor, as that will force the Tshwane council, in which it currently has no majority support, to vote in a new mayor.

Just like in Johannesburg, defeat seems inevitable for the DA should it take that risk. And to make matters worse, this would come as an opportune time for both the ANC and the EFF in Tshwane, who are baying for the DA's blood as they jointly hold a 50-plus majority in council.

The DA which often says it prides itself on excellent governance, transparency and in holding people to account is now forced to think hard on how it manages the tricky Mokgalapa saga.

Handing power to the ANC and the EFF on a silver platter in the capital may not be on the DA's menu right now.

The timing of the whole matter puts the DA on a serious back foot, as it's currently faced with a strong alliance of the red berets and the ANC who are pushing to table motions of no confidence against Mokgalapa and Mathebe, and grab power in the capital.

The DA might slightly be emboldened by Gauteng cooperative governance MEC Lebogang Maile's decision to rescind the suspension of Mathebe and former Johannesburg speaker Vasco da Gama, but in councils what matters more is the numbers. And in Tshwane the numbers favour an ANC + EFF coalition.

This puts Helen Zille, the party's federal council chair's back against the wall. She may want action to be taken against Mokgalapa, but she knows very well it would be a suicidal move.

Zille informed DA's divided Tshwane councillors this week that Mokgalapa would face a disciplinary hearing for calling Mathebe a witch and other comments. Mokgalapa may easily get a slap on the wrist or this matter may drag on and on until the balance of forces in the Tshwane council tilts towards the DA's side.

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