ANALYSIS: EFF wags the dog in Tshwane, NMB

Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga woke up on Friday morning as the capital city's leader, but just who does he have to thank for that?

On Thursday, Msimanga faced two motions of no confidence in the Tshwane council meeting, one by the EFF and the other by the ANC, neither of which made it past tabling.

The EFF's motion was put forward first but was killed almost instantly by the DA caucus who argued that the motion could not be heard as it failed on a procedural point.

Council speaker Katlego Mathebe agreed with the DA councillors and disallowed the EFF motion saying that it did not comply with the rules of council because it was not written down and had no accompanying proposal. 

The EFF then threatened to take the speaker to court in a bid to compel her to overturn her ruling. The party left council shortly after, taking a decision not to return after lunch.

The decision by the EFF not to return to the council meeting was the catalyst for the ANC abandoning its own motion. The party stormed out after a few choice words about the speaker's ruling on the EFF motion.

The ANC, however, denied that their walkout was to preserve its honour, knowing it could not sack Msimanga without the help of the reds' voting power.

The council numbers sealed the fate of the DA's running of Tshwane, but the EFF clearly had other plans and as a result saved Msimanga from becoming the second DA mayor to be sacked this week.

On Monday, the DA's Athol Trollip was removed as mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro without a single DA councillor present in the chamber. He was replaced by the UDM's Mongameli Bobani.

Coming into the Tshwane council meeting, the ANC had 82 councillors lining the benches, the EFF had 24 while the DA had 93 councillors ready to vote against the motions accompanied by the FF Plus's four members.

To sack Msimanga, all the ANC and EFF had to do was vote together, then both parties would have succeeded in reaching the target of 50% plus one needed to oust the sitting mayor. So why did the EFF not remain in chambers to take a second bite at the cherry, albeit on the ANC motion?

The EFF claim that its motion was brought on the grounds of Msimanga's incompetence and cowardice in the face of "a racist white Caucus, and inability to implement key submissions of the EFF on issues such as insourcing of workers and opening of clinics for 24 hours".

The ANC's motion was borne out of Msimanga failure on service delivery and because of a tender fraud scandal allegedly involving City Manager Moeketsi Mosola and engineering consultancy firm GladAfrica. The R12bn tender was for the management of infrastructure projects in Tshwane.

If the EFF believed that Msimanga was not to fit to run the metro, the party could have voted on the ANC motion and then turn to the courts in an attempt to have the speaker's ruling overturned. After all, the ANC previously stated that they would be more than happy to vote on the EFF motion and that it had successfully lobbied other political parties for the motion.

The EFF chose not to stay in council and vote, which was certain to return Msimanga and the DA back to the opposition benches. Perhaps the ANC's lobbying tactics were not successful enough or the EFF did not want the ANC to take the political credit for the DA's exit from Tshwane.

A third theory suggests that the DA and EFF reached a conclusion not to vote Msimanga out on Thursday, buying the DA more time to come back to the party with the EFF in Tshwane.

A credible source earlier told News24 that DA leader Mmusi Maimane had met with EFF leader Julius Malema late on Wednesday night and struck a deal to not vote on Thursday. Both the DA and the EFF have denied these claims.

While it is abundantly clear that Msimanga has the EFF to thank for retaining his title as mayor, and conceded that he would have to reach out to the EFF to make Tshwane work, the reds have strategically aligned themselves once again as a kingmaker that can govern on the fringes with their political power.

Whether intentionally or not, the EFF has shown through its decisions to vote out Trollip and then leave the ANC hanging out in the cold in Tshwane, that both the ANC and the DA will have to fight for their attention and allegiance come 2019.

The EFF may not have governing power, but they certainly appear to have the political power as they navigate the political discourse, choosing which side wins and which side loses.

It could quite possibly be that the EFF had planned both the Trollip removal and the Msimanga walk-out to show the DA what they are capable of and to show the ANC that it will need to court the red berets if it wants to retain governing power in South Africa.

- Mitchley is a journalist at News24 in Tshwane.