DA leader Mmusi Maimane and outgoing Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Monday thanked outgoing Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba for the three years he served as mayor, calling him a hero.

Mashaba stepped down from the DA and as mayor following the election of former party leader Helen Zille as federal council chairperson.

Maimane said he supported the coalition government in the Johannesburg council and was one of those who urged Mashaba to reconsider his decision to resign.

"As tough as it was because we never got an outright majority, it was important that we work with parties so that we can advance that dream of building an inclusive city and also removing the ANC. 

"The events that have taken place in the last couple of days are democratic and will be part of discussions in the party to charter a way forward. I respect Herman Mashaba's decision and the communication that he has forwarded. I would have preferred for Herman Mashaba to finish the term but in lieu of the circumstances, I respect his decision...you are a hero, you are a hero to me," Maimane said before hugging Mashaba at the press briefing.

The DA leader said the city's programmes and its coalition government would continue.

Zille, who recently resigned from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), beat Athol Trollip, Mike Waters and Thomas Walters for the federal chairperson job at the party's federal council meeting held in Johannesburg over the weekend. 

Mashaba had indicated that he would step down should Zille be elected back into the party. He previously expressed concerns at developments in the DA, saying he would leave the party the moment "right-wing elements" took over.

The DA became the coalition leader in Johannesburg after the 2016 local polls. Mashaba has since then enjoyed a close working relationship with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who vote on an issue basis in the council. He gained popularity for his efforts to revive the Johannesburg inner city and the crackdown on crime by the city's law enforcement departments.

African News Agency/ANA