The DA's leadership has moved to stabilise its fractured caucus in the City of Tshwane, effectively placing Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa's municipality under party administration.
This is according to party insiders. News24 spoke to at least four well-placed sources at both national and local government level in the DA, with some saying there was no other way to fix the mess that's been created in the capital city, but for national leaders to step in.
Over the weekend, DA leader Mmusi Maimane admitted, when asked by News24 about the state of the City's leadership, that decisions had been taken to get more "involved" in both the work of the municipality and the party's caucus.
"I made no apologies about the fact that we are going to take a strong stance there. We have to," said Maimane.
While he highlighted the challenges the DA government inherited when it took over control of the City from the ANC, which had registered a disappointing showing at the polls following its own internal squabbles, Maimane said there was a need to turn the City around and make sure it delivered services to the people of Tshwane.
"So certainly, it's a capital city and we are working hard, and I pride myself that, as the DA, we are going to turn that municipality around and do the work that needs to be done," he said.
The DA-run municipality has been plagued by its own troubles, chiefly the GladAfrica tender scandal and the handling of city manager Moeketsi Mosola's battle with the council.
James Selfe, who is currently moving into a new role dealing with local governments, flew to Gauteng from Cape Town earlier this month to discuss how the municipality could resolve a dispute with striking workers over the implementation of wage increases.
When former mayor Solly Msimanga stepped down earlier this year it was expected that his successor Mokgalapa would stabilise the region and resolve the impasse with Mosola.
Insiders have told News24 that the situation has worsened, with Mokgalapa merely rewarding those who were unhappy during Msimanga's tenure.
"Now the Soshanguve people get to eat, they get the opportunities... that's who Stevens cares about. We thought he was capable, but he really has been a let down," said one Tshwane insider.
'It is really difficult right now'
While Maimane and several others refuse to outright say the party had placed the Tshwane caucus under administration, one source said the national leadership was literally "breathing down their necks" and not allowing any decision to be taken without it being scrutinised and approved.
"They want to know of every step, have a say in every decision. It is really difficult right now, but I believe in the end it will be for the best," another Tshwane source told News24.
The leader of the ANC caucus, Kgosi Maepa, has complained about the involvement of Selfe and federal chairperson Athol Trollip in Tshwane.
He told journalists that the two had come to the capital city to give instructions. Maepa claimed the DA was not happy with Mokgalapa, whom he's dubbed "gimmicks" over growing divisions between so-called "white" and "black" caucuses.
The mayor has been accused of advancing the interests of the black caucus, which had previously been aggrieved with Msimanga.
Even City employees seem disgruntled, with a group calling themselves Concerned Employees of Tshwane writing to both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile, asking for them to intervene in the City.
Maile said, while the department had enough reason to place DA-run municipalities in Gauteng under administration, that was not its objective, and that they were instead prioritising working together optimally to serve their respective communities.
When Trollip was quizzed by News24 regarding the claims and concerns around the Tshwane caucus, he declined to answer, saying he would never discuss internal party issues with the media.
Maimane, in raising concerns about its Tshwane members adhering to the DA's principles, said the party was attempting to address the challenges facing its caucus.
"When it comes to the caucus. I have deployed people there to monitor that caucus to make sure we build a united team there that will deliver in Tshwane."
Maimane complained about the recent Samwu strike, which shut down the capital city for three days, questioning how the chief of police had failed to stop an "illegal march" from going ahead.
He said this was a failure of leadership and accountability.
"More than anything, I wanted to make sure in the adjudication of certain decisions that take place in that municipality, that we always uphold the DA's principles in that regard, [ensuring] clean government, making sure that we don't have contracts that are not of service to the people, making sure of the competence of the leadership."
Mokgalapa's office said it was not aware of moves by national leaders to get more involved in monitoring the performance of the municipality. Selfe, who's recently been given the task of running the party's governance unit, admitted to "closely monitoring" work being done under Mokgalapa's watch, but said this was not "unique" to Tshwane.
He said the DA had appointed top leaders to closely monitor work across all the country's metros.
"This is a programme implemented in order to clearly ascertain the state of affairs in those councils and the communities they serve; the intervention is to better prepare ourselves ahead of the 2021 elections," said Selfe in an email response to News24.
Selfe also said the DA regularly met with its members who held elected office to ensure they were "on top of all issues" and able to "advise on any appropriate action, if necessary".