De Lille to fight on till bitter end

There are reportedly fears in the DA that Patricia de Lille is casting the party in a poor light, which may damage its election chances in 2019. (David Harrison)

There are reportedly fears in the DA that Patricia de Lille is casting the party in a poor light, which may damage its election chances in 2019. (David Harrison)

The fate of Patricia de Lille will be decided on Sunday when the Democratic Alliance’s federal executive meets to discuss whether she should be removed as Cape Town mayor after allegations of management lapses.

The Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of a report by the DA task team, dubbed the “Steenhuisen commission” as it is headed by party whip John Steenhuisen, in which De Lille is accused of nepotism, intimidating councillors and covering up corruption in the City of Cape Town.

De Lille, however, believes there is a political plot to push her out of the party and the metro and have her replaced by DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, a close ally of Premier Helen Zille.

In an interview with the M&G this week, De Lille said her resignation last year as party leader in the Western Cape was a result of mounting tensions and attempts to block her from contesting the position of Western Cape premier, which she said she was not even seeking. At the time, De Lille said she resigned so that she could focus on her mayoral duties.

“I also wanted to put to rest the speculation that I wanted to become the premier of the Western Cape. I have no intention of wanting to become the premier, and some people were told that I want to be premier and therefore the jostling for positions started,” she said.

“The question I’m asking myself daily [is]: What has changed since the local government elections in 2016? What has changed so drastically that there are now some people who don’t like me?”

De Lille is unlikely to go down without a fight, saying she will “keep her options open”.

Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s meeting, she will decide whether to take legal action against the party. She said she believed those who compiled the task team report had already predetermined the outcome without fully testing the allegations against her.

“My problem with what is happening now is that a finding and a sanction has been made already, which is to ask me to give reasons why I should not resign, and I see that as a sanction before the actual process,” she said.

One of the allegations against De Lille detailed in the task team report is that she used her position to secure a water management contract for a company her sister worked for and that she interfered to have a close family friend recommended for appointment to the Cape Town Stadium’s board. De Lille has denied the allegation, according to the task team report.

Unnamed councillors have accused De Lille of routinely belittling and humiliating them, making it difficult for them to raise opposing views. The report also outlines how members of the caucus claim De Lille has stripped subcouncils of their power, in an alleged attempt to centralise power in her office.

She has expressed concern that many of the allegations made against her were raised by “faceless” councillors.

“Most of the allegations given to me to respond to did not have any names of any councillor, so I don’t know who are the people who have complained. Secondly, they’ve also not quoted dates so that I can apply my mind and give a proper response,” she said.

“That is why I say these allegations being made, and my response, must be tested in a structure, so that the person who made the complaint can state their case and I be given a chance to respond.”

Despite her assertions that she has done nothing wrong, pressure appears to be mounting against De Lille from all sides. In addition to the DA task team’s investigation, De Lille also faces an independent probe by Bowman Gilfillan over claims that she covered up alleged corruption by senior council member Melissa Whitehead. The law firm recommended that her role be further investigated. The Bowman report is briefly referred to by the task team, whose report will be considered on Sunday.

On Wednesday the DA regional executive in Cape Town recommended that De Lille be removed as mayor, citing a lack of confidence in her leadership. This recommendation will be presented to Madikizela, the party’s provincial leader who De Lille believes is being primed to take over her job.

Political observers believe the DA federal executive may move to have De Lille removed as the party considers its 2019 electoral ambitions. In its report, the task team raises concerns that De Lille’s perceived failure to properly manage the party’s flagship municipality could reflect negatively with its potential voters. The task team believes De Lille has allowed tensions in the party to spill over into the public arena, casting the party in a bad light.

Federal executive chairperson James Selfe said the party would ensure that it acted fairly in making its decision.

“Ultimately, the DA will act in the best interests of the people of Cape Town and it is vital that this process is allowed to go ahead and not be prejudiced, considering the serious nature of the allegations.” 

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