Solly Msimanga given DA push before he jumped
Solly Msimanga, who resigned as Tshwane mayor on Friday, was pushed out by the DA after being told to choose between leading the city and being the party's candidate for premier of Gauteng.
Sources in the DA federal executive told the Sunday Times that Msimanga had been seen as a liability in Tshwane. They said he was struggling to focus because he has been dealing with crisis after crisis in Tshwane.
"He was forced to resign. He didn't want to. The statement of his resignation was written and he was told to read it," said an insider who was at a meeting where this was discussed.
Msimanga told the Sunday Times that he had been advised by the federal executive to resign and focus on campaigning to become Gauteng premier.
"The party said, if you continue doing the mayoral work you are going to short-change the people of Tshwane because you will be out there campaigning. They said, let's get a replacement within the DA," said Msimanga.
He denied that he had been forced to resign, saying the decision was left to him.
"They did not force me out. I could have said no, but at the same time I needed to make a decision. If I have accepted the candidacy, and the party puts money into it, I need to show my commitment. I needed to show that I can be the face of the campaign."
Msimanga had been trying to fire municipal manager Moeketsi Mosola over the awarding of a R12bn contract to engineering consultants GladAfrica. Attempts to suspend Mosola have stalled in the council because they were not supported by the EFF, which is the kingmaker in the council.
The battle over the removal of Mosola became so heated that Msimanga narrowly survived a motion of no confidence. Msimanga was spared only when the EFF decided at the last minute not to back an ANC motion to have him removed.
He has also had a rocky relationship with his own caucus, amid rumours that members of the DA's black caucus in the Tshwane council, and some of his mayoral committee members (MMCs), did not support him.
"There is crisis after crisis in Tshwane. They are so divided, even his own MMCs don't want him. They were celebrating his removal. There are internal battles and he's lost focus," said another insider, who added that Msimanga had become a liability.
The source said Msimanga had angered many within the party when he decided to become the Gauteng premier candidate.
"He didn't have the blessing of the provincial leader because he said he would not contest [Makashule] Gana. [DA Gauteng leader John] Moody supported Gana. So it became even more difficult for [Msimanga] to be supported. The person who should have supported him, who wanted him for premiership, was Mmusi [Maimane], but he turned on him and led the charge to have him removed."
But Msimanga said the decision to leave Tshwane and focus on winning Gauteng was justified because internal polling showed that the DA stood a good chance of winning the province either outright or with the support of other parties.
"The DA is investing a lot of money and resources in this campaign. We have even moved our head office to Gauteng. If the party is going to invest so much into this campaign, I need to now commit the time in ensuring the numbers we are seeing do actually come true," he said.
Msimanga denied that the deterioration of his relationship with the EFF over Mosola had influenced the party.
The DA will decide on a replacement before Msimanga departs, but Tshwane speaker Katlego Mathebe is a frontrunner.
EFF leader Julius Malema on Friday told the media that the explanation given by the DA for Msimanga stepping down to focus on the Gauteng campaign did not make sense. He gave the example of President Cyril Ramaphosa as head of state and also leader of the ANC's campaign.
"Solly Msimanga, who runs a small thing called the municipality of Tshwane, says 'No, I can't do the two'. How is he going to preside over a province because it means that when we go to elections in 20-something, Solly will resign from being a premier if we make him premier, to campaign to be premier."
Malema said the DA explanation showed that the party lacked capacity.
"They have exposed themselves. I think there is something bigger than that. I don't buy the story that [he resigned to focus on the campaign].
"People have campaigned before [while] occupying government positions. It has never affected them," he said.