Patricia de Lille’s Independent ÂDemoÂcrats seems to be on the comeback trail in the Western Cape. And the reason appears to be its decision to delink itself from the ANC.
In last week’s by-election in Riviersonderend — part of the TheewatersÂkloof municipality, jointly governed by the DA and ID — the ID increased its votes from 2,49% in the municipal election in 2006 to 16,4%.
After losing the seat to the ANC by just 39 votes in 2006, the DA slipped to 34,7% of the vote, while the ANC improved its performance by just short of one percentage point, to gain 47,5%.
Significantly, the DA and ID together outpolled the ANC in the area, after failing to do so last year.
Speaking in Cape Town this week, the ID’s Simon Grindrod said the party had attracted new voters, the majority being those who did not normally vote.
Speaking about ‘the two ladies in his lifeâ€ — De Lille and Helen Zille (he is Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic development and tourism) — he said that they had mutual respect, which was ‘palpable when you see them togetherâ€.
Grindrod suggested the possibility of a DA-ID ruled province after 2009, predicting that the two parties would have ‘a heck of an electionâ€ for the Western Cape government. In contrast with the municipal tier, where they had to compete, the proportional system would reflect the strengths of the two parties, which had very different constituencies.
Meanwhile, De Lille has been freed up to refocus on the arms deal and other scandals in Parliament. Despondency over the party’s fight with the DA appears to be over.
A year ago, after it had been torn asunder by defections in Parliament and thrashed in the Tafelsign municipal by-election, De Lille’s party was in the doldrums.
In that campaign, then DA leader Tony Leon repeatedly underscored the betrayal of coloured voters when the ID backed ANC councillor Nomaindia Mfeketo for a further term as mayor.
De Lille’s reneging on a pledge to forge a multi-party government in an executive committee system in Cape Town had clearly alienated the ID’s core constituency.
After winning seven parliamentary seats in the 2004 election, the ID lost two key members — Cecil Burgess and Chris Wang — to the ANC in the September 2005 poll.
Burgess’s move was a brutal blow for De Lille, as he had been her legal adviser and confidant during her battles, including her suspension from Parliament after she had named former apartheid ‘spiesâ€ in the ANC.
Grindrod, a former hotelier, then entered the fray, conducting a high-profile campaign at the March 2006 election hustings and entering himself as a potential mayoral candidate.
Emerging as ID caucus leader on the Cape Town council, he appeared to enjoy having the casting vote. But as Zille has pointed out, it was only a casting vote if he backed the DA.
After backing Mfeketo as mayor, Grindrod acknowledged that he was so unpopular that even his neighbours refused to greet him. But his quip acknowledged a broader tactical disaster for the party.
The rebuilding of the party’s image began in earnest. It entered Zille’s multiparty government in Cape Town after an alliance partner withdrew at the beginning of this year.
This was quickly followed by the ID and DA’s toppling of three further ANC administrations in the Western Cape: Drakenstein, Kannaland Bergrivier and Beaufort West.