Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille arrived to ululating and loud cheers at the Western Cape high court on Tuesday where she is applying for the vote of no confidence in her to be held in secret.
De Lille approached the courts after 59 members of the Democratic Alliance’s caucus voted against holding the no confidence motion in her at the party’s meeting. The DA holds 154 seats in the 231 member council.
De Lille wants the court to ensure the vote on Thursday is held in secret, arguing that if the 59 members and the 77 opposition members voted against the motion, it would be defeated.
Outside court the suspended Cape Town mayor was welcomed by about 20 people wearing white “Keep Mayor De Lille” t-shirts and waving a PAC flag.
Her supporters accuse the DA of trying to unseat her as mayor without allowing her to defend herself in a party disciplinary hearing, describing it as a “witch-hunt” by the “baaskap”.
In court De Lille was represented by advocate Dali Mpofu, who argued that the DA cited her conduct as its primary reason for losing confidence, but the mayor has not been allowed to defend herself.
“This is the political equivalent of the death sentence. We are saying someone’s career must be ended without a hearing, without proper process. We can’t simply be dismissed,” Mpofu said.
Mpofu also said the DA’s federal chairperson James Selfe intimidated other councillors when he told them to toe the party line, and despite this being retracted and the caucus told they could vote freely, the threat remains.
“All I’m asking for is that you ask the court that the vote is not a sham. That it represents the true feelings of the councillors. Don’t allow a situation where they have to go and vote on Thursday with a gun on their heads, held by Mr. Selfe. It must reflect true and free will of councillors,” Mpofu said.
The vote is expected to happen after another vote among councillors on whether it should be done by secret ballot.
The DA’s advocate Ismail Jamie said the party is not opposed to this, but insisted that all councillors had been assured of their protection if they decided to vote openly against the motion.
“The DA caucus was held yesterday assuring members of the caucus that they are free to vote with their conscience.”
Judge Robert Henney then asked whether any of the parties in the case, including the city of Cape Town council and speaker, were opposed to secret ballot.
“It seems the DA has no objection to a secret ballot. The speaker might not have any objection to secret ballot. Question is whether the council has a secret ballot,” judge Henney said.
Advocate Sean Rosenberg, acting for the council and speaker, said they “held no view” on the secret ballot but would discuss its implications during the adjournment for lunch.
Jamie is expected to begin his argument after lunch.