Rush of suitors woo De Lille

The battle to recruit Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille before next year’s general elections has intensified, with the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) all hoping to capitalise on the divide between her and the Democratic Alliance.

READ MORE: ANC on a De Lille membership: “Never say never”

The parties’ leaders have apparently held informal discussions with De Lille and the three parties have publicly defended her following the DA’s bid to recall her.

De Lille said in an interview this week that she will only leave the DA after clearing her name of accusations of maladministration and bad governance regarding the MyCiti bus services and of bringing the party into disrepute.

The DA has said it wants her to leave voluntarily.

“It’s about my name, my integrity, my reputation that I have built up in this country over many years, that has been tainted. I cannot honestly plan my future with a cloud hanging over me,” she said.

“Which political party would like to take somebody with such [a] serious allegation [against them]? You can’t buy integrity and can’t buy your name. So speculation can go on, but I have got to clear my name.”

De Lille said the ANC, the EFF and the UDM were dynamic parties, “but I have not considered joining them privately”.

A senior ANC official in the Western Cape said: “They [the DA] will lose big time if they let her go. I think she is poised for a long fight and we can see that through her decisions to go to court. But from our side, we have met with her allies and said she must say what her conditions are. Hopefully we will have direct talks soon.”

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee, when asked whether the party was trying to recruit her, said: “I would not be surprised if there is something that can be done in the nearest future but I wouldn’t be aware of something that has happened in that regard.”

This week De Lille asked DA leader Mmusi Maimane and the party’s federal executive council chairperson, James Selfe, to recuse themselves from her disciplinary hearing because of “bias” against her.

Selfe said the DA had proposed settlement offers to her, which included her stepping down as mayor and being sent to the National Assembly.

But on its website, the DA appears to have accepted the political implications of the party losing De Lille.

READ MORE: De Lille to fight on till bitter end

The DA has already stripped her of her powers as mayor and has barred her from attending caucus meetings.

“The true test of any political party is what it does when confronted with serious allegations of corruption, maladministration and governance failures.

“Unlike many of our political competitors, the DA takes allegations such as these very seriously and will always act to confront such matters, even when those decisions may carry a possible political cost,” its statement reads.

De Lille has said that she is being forced out of office before her disciplinary hearing is concluded to make way for DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela.

She said talk of her joining another party arose from speculation in the media “because they saw me hugging President [Cyril] Ramaphosa, as I always do when I see him, at the jazz festival, and people said I’m going to the ANC.

“Then I was invited to speak at Mama Winnie’s memorial and people said I’m joining EFF. Next thing when I have coffee with Bantu Holomisa, they will say I’m UDM.”

Instead, she hinted at the possible revival of the Independent Democrats (ID), the party she founded, saying that leading the ID had been the highlight of her political career. “In 2003 I set myself the goal that I wanted to become the first woman to start a political party that will contest elections in all three spheres of government and win support. I wanted to see how South Africa would respond to a woman leader during those 10 years.”

The mayor’s falling-out with the DA has earned her support. The ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, told journalists in Cape Town that the “DA doesn’t know [it is] throwing a good love away. They don’t know it now; they will know it sometime.”

Holomisa said: “The treatment she is receiving is more or less the same of what we witnessed in Nelson Mandela Bay, where these guys, when they differ with you, will say you are corrupt.” Gardee said: “There was an ideological shift when she went to the DA from Pan Africanist Congress but otherwise she is a public representative that South Africans can be proud of and any other political party would be lucky to have her in their fold.”

Despite being silenced by the DA, De Lille maintains she has widespread support in the city she governs. Last month, the mayor held 25 meetings across the city, in the wards of councillors who voted against her in a motion of no confidence. De Lille said no one called for her to resign as mayor.

Instead, they were concerned about their future without her.

But the road to clearing her name will be long and arduous; De Lille has indicated her intention to challenge her recall in court if it goes ahead. She said the DA had set a precedent by allowing a four-year disciplinary hearing against Juanita Terre’blanche to go on without removing her from her position as an MP in the National Assembly.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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