Herman Mashaba's resignation as Johannesburg mayor on Monday could lead the Democratic Alliance (DA) to lose its hold on the city's top job in the next few weeks as a successor is sought.
With just 38% of the vote, the DA has managed to lead a seven-party coalition since the local elections in 2016. An important factor in securing control of the council was the partnership the party struck with the EFF.
READ | The DA has been the most difficult coalition partner - Herman Mashaba
While the EFF's relationship has soured since 2016, the red berets have lauded Mashaba at almost every turn. The EFF and its leaders have often praised Mashaba for being instrumental in preserving its informal partnership.
However, political analyst Ongama Mtimka believes Mashaba's dramatic exit announcement on Monday could open the door for EFF to, once again, negotiate to have the DA back its desire to lead the City of Tshwane.
Mtimka's views are motivated by EFF leader Julius Malema, who made it clear shortly after the national and provincial elections in May that the party wanted to lead the capital city.
READ | DA review report: Agreeing to EFF support in Joburg, Tshwane 'was a mistake'
With a minority council in Tshwane, the EFF was not able to persuade the DA to go for the idea.
Malema also announced that the EFF would not support the DA in Tshwane. The freedom fighters had already worked to oust Athol Trollip as the mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Malema said the party would not co-operate with the DA or ANC in hung municipalities.
One DA insider said the DA's alliance with the EFF in Johannesburg was based on its relationship with Mashaba.
"We have to face facts. Mashaba was the only one who was never affected by Malema. He was favoured. He had the ear of the EFF in caucus and at national level. I, in fact, would have wanted him to be part of coalition talks with the EFF in future elections. The Nelson Mandela Bay was lost to us because of the EFF, and Tshwane is hanging in the balance. We will need to sweeten the deal going into these talks if we want to keep Johannesburg," the party insider said.
READ | Outgoing Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is a 'friend and hero' - DA leader Mmusi Maimane
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi praised Mashaba hours after he announced his resignation.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the election of Helen Zille as federal [council] chairperson is a turn to the right in the DA, which should necessitate all social democrats to abandon it once and for all.
"Helen Zille represents a colourblind white caucus that seeks to live life as if there is no racism and [no] brutal history of apartheid in South Africa," Ndlozi said in a statement.
The ANC, which has battled to assume the role of the opposition in the Johannesburg metro, having brought three motions of no confidence against Mashaba without success, staged meetings with its partners in council.
Wooing the IFP
The ANC immediately tried to woo the DA's coalition partners shortly after reports of Mashaba's anticipated exit, in an attempt to regain the metro, two sources told News24.
News24 understands the ANC has been wooing the IFP for several months in a bid to regain the metro.
This plan seemingly failed in August, when the ANC relied on the IFP to pass a motion of no confidence against Mashaba.
The IFP's tense relations with the DA in Johannesburg have intensified a determined ANC to dislodge the coalition.
The DA and IFP relationship in the City fell apart when the IFP's Mzobanzi Ntuli was fired as housing MMC.
"Mashaba's resignation may plunge the Johannesburg metro into a political crisis", Mtimka said.
He added that Tshwane would likely be up for grabs too, and said the EFF would play hardball depending on who was in charge of the talks.
The DA will hold an urgent federal executive meeting on Wednesday to discuss pressing matters, including whether Mashaba should immediately step down as per the party's constitution, and devise a plan to regain public trust after the departing mayor's stinging words.
The blue party, which has been under intense scrutiny due to factional battles for the soul of the party, will have to go back to the negotiating table with some of its coalition partners if it intends to continue leading Johannesburg, a party insider said.