Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille believes the ANC and other opposition parties in the city rightly prevented the Democratic Alliance from abusing its majority in the council after it failed to oust her through a motion of confidence.
De Lille has thanked opposition parties in the city for saving her from the motion, tabled against her by her own party, which she narrowly survived by a single vote.
Following a heated council sitting on Thursday, an open ballot vote saw 109 councillors vote in favour of the motion to remove De Lille, with 110 against and three abstentions.
The DA holds 154 seats in the 231-member council and could have, but failed to, remove De Lille after some of its members defied the party decision to oust her.
“I want to thank the councillors of the ANC and all the opposition councillors that have really shown that you cannot abuse a majority. I mean, the fact that the speaker did not even allow a free vote and yet that was the result. I am very grateful and I will continue to do my best for the people of the city,” De Lille told the Mail & Guardian.
“It was never about me. It was about fairness and justice, so I am very grateful.”
The move by the ANC to not support the motion is seen as a shock decision, as two weeks ago the party was expected to vote against De Lille in a separate no-confidence motion it had tabled against her.
The party, however, made an about-turn at the last minute after the DA caucus announced its intention to vote with the ANC to have De Lille removed.
“We will not allow the DA to use our motion to fight its own destructive and racist internal battles at the expense of the people of this city,” the ANC caucus said in a statement at the time.
During the council sitting on Thursday, ANC caucus leader Xolani Sotashe lashed out at the DA for “using black leaders and dumping them”.
“The fact that you get black people resigning from strategic positions, in particular women, there is a problem of racism and a disregard for black people [and] particularly women in the Democratic Alliance,” Sotashe said after the vote.
Similar criticism of the DA has been expressed by the United Democratic Movement.
It appears infighting within the DA and an apparent witch-hunt against De Lille by the party has generated sympathy for the embattled Cape Town mayor, not only from DA supporters but also from the ranks of the opposition.
On Tuesday, members of the Pan Africanist Congress demonstrated in support of De Lille, who was once a member of that party, outside the Western Cape high court. She was seeking an order for the council speaker to allow voting by secret ballot.
The court ordered speaker Dirk Smit to use his discretion to decide whether voting would be done by secret ballot or not, and to ensure that councillors were allowed to vote according to their conscience.
But on Thursday, De Lille stormed out of the council after the speaker decided not to grant a secret ballot on the motion. She has threatened to take legal action against that decision, believing that she was treated unfairly.
“I will see my lawyers and inform them about my outcome and after consultation with them, we will decide what is the next course of action,” she said.
“And from the speaker, I have only asked him for a printout of his decision [to allow an open ballot]. That’s all I’ve done for now.”
Now that she has retained her position as mayor by a slim margin, De Lille will have to focus her attention on internal party investigations that have been instituted against her for alleged misconduct.