Outgoing Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is a 'friend and hero' - DA leader Mmusi Maimane

Within 24 hours of Helen Zille's return to power, the Democratic Alliance (DA) had been dealt its first blow – the resignation of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba from the party.

Mashaba did not mince his words when he made his resignation speech, in which he accused the party of interference and striving to uphold the needs of a few.

He said the re-emergence of Zille in the ranks of the DA was a victory for those opposed to his values and beliefs.

FIRST TAKE: Mashaba punches DA in the face, Maimane calls him a hero

Flanked by party leader Mmusi Maimane and provincial leader John Moody, Mashaba said he could not reconcile himself with people who believed race was irrelevant in discussions of poverty and inequality in the country.

Maimane, who took a heavy loss during the federal council meeting on Sunday, thanked Mashaba for his service and called him a "friend and hero".

Despite damning claims Mashaba made in his resignation speech, Maimane took his hand and raised it up in the air.

"Today is a difficult day. It is a difficult day for the people of Johannesburg because any decision that anyone makes should always be motivated by how he served the people. Mashaba and I met a number of years ago, I would consider him a friend, a fellow comrade I've had an honour to serve with in the same political party, and ultimately would have the honour to campaign with him. There can be no doubt, Johannesburg is a better place today than it was under the ANC," Maimane said.

Factional battle

Maimane's preferred candidate for federal council chairperson, Athol Trollip, lost to Zille in the battle for the soul of the party this weekend.

The chairperson position was part of an ongoing factional battle in the party, between the so-called pure liberals and the progressive liberals.

Mashaba, a known ally of Maimane, had indicated to News24 that he would resign should Zille win the race.

News24 understands that Mashaba, Moody and Maimane were in back-to-back meetings to convince Mashaba against resigning, but to no avail.

READ | The DA has been the most difficult coalition partner - Herman Mashaba

Maimane took a round trip back to Johannesburg on Monday morning in a bid to persuade Mashaba to stay, one source close to the party leader told News24.

Mashaba will remain in his position until November 27, to allow the party to find a new candidate.

Mashaba was leading a seven-party coalition. Central to this coalition was the party's informal partnership with the EFF.

'Supported, stood firm behind coalition'

News24 earlier reported that the panel which Maimane commissioned to review the party's election performance, viewed its partnership with the EFF as a mistake.

However, Maimane said he was committed to a coalition in the city.

"I have watched with great interest to see developments and never have I ever been proud I could one day watch it being led in a liberal democratic manner by the party and by Mashaba… I have supported and stood firm behind the coalition," Maimane said.

READ IN FULL | Herman Mashaba: I cannot reconcile myself with people who believe race is irrelevant

With Mashaba on the way out, the DA's hold on Johannesburg hangs in the balance.

More than a month ago, the ANC withdrew its motion of no confidence against Mashaba at the 11th hour. The withdrawal was due to a fallout in horse trading talks with the IFP.

It's understood that the ANC is now plotting its way back with the aid of the IFP.

The question is whether the EFF, the kingmakers in the metro's council, will continue to vote with the DA.