In 2001, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) president Stanley Mogoba said he had “never known a member of the party as popular among PAC members as Patricia de Lille”, adding that the party was “most blessed” to have her as a member.
Fast forward to 2015 and De Lille’s popularity is being tested in the Democratic Alliance as she competes for the position of Western Cape leader against former provincial police commissioner Lennit Max.
Both candidates say they want to build the party and demolish the chances of the ANC ever governing the province. In De Lille’s words, she wants to kick the ANC out of the Western Cape “one municipality at a time”. But first De Lille needs to convince DA voters that she’s the right person when they choose a provincial leader this weekend.
The 64-year-old said it was time for fresh blood with new ideas to lead the party. “I want to promote activism in the DA and to show [it is] a party that cares,” she said.
Max is equally upbeat about his chances. After unsuccessful attempts at the same position in 2007 and 2010, he believes his experience in the DA and the support he has in the province’s rural areas will seal the deal for him this time around.
“The areas we don’t govern in the Western Cape [are] mostly rural areas, and I am a rural boy. My message therefore resonates with rural communities,” he said.
De Lille’s early political awareness was based largely on pan-Africanism, and later she formed the Independent Democrats (ID), which she collapsed into the DA in 2010. Her radical liberation politics has been toned down, but she said her ideology remained the same and her ascension through the country’s political ranks has been about achieving personal goals while serving the country.
“In our new democracy, I wanted to become the first woman to start a political party and to win seats at national, provincial and local level, and I have achieved that and opened the way for other women to do the same. But I now want to throw my weight and energy into building a very strong alternative to the ANC, and that is where I am busy.”
When attempts to force her out of the PAC reached a peak in 2001, some accused her of seeking personal glory.
She said: “It is not about ideology. Ideology was important when we fought in the struggle against apartheid because we were still competing. But after 1994, we are all subject to the ideology of the Constitution.”
Some of the radical policies of her former political home don’t clash with her work in the DA, De Lille said. She added that the PAC believed in Africa for Africans and that the country belonged to those who believed they were Africans first and foremost.
Focused on the position
Interestingly, Max was expelled from the ID in 2005 under De Lille’s leadership. But he insists he is not running against De Lille, instead claiming that he is focusing on the position.
“But obviously, if you weigh the two up against each other, I believe I have got what it takes to be the provincial leader. Without naming anyone, but perhaps referring to De Lille, Max said: “One of my strong characteristics is I deal with people with respect; I am not arrogant and do not belittle people in public as some tend to.
“I am confident that with me at the helm, we would take those areas from the ANC because I am a walking example of the opportunities available for all of us out there. If a farm boy who left school with standard six [grade eight] can become a police general and a lawyer, that gives hope to people – and the DA stands for hope,” Max said.
A member of the provincial parliament, Max said, should he win, he planned to ensure the DA’s women’s and youth structures are represented in the provincial executive council.
“If they are not part of the engine room, how can they be expected to perform? It will benefit the party tremendously to have them as part of the [council].”
Though he does not believe in “counting [his] chickens before they are hatched”, he has a good feeling about this weekend’s election.