Patricia de Lille has asked the Western Cape High Court to suspend the decision by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to terminate her membership in order for her to remain City of Cape Town Mayor for another month to clear her name of any wrongdoing alleged against her.
De Lille’s legal team filed papers at the court on Tuesday morning after being informed that the Democratic Alliance had cancelled her membership and she had consequently lost her position as mayor.
De Lille’s court application has two parts: the first part deals with the matter of an urgent hearing, which is set down for Friday, while the second asks the court to suspend the federal executive’s decision to expel De Lille from the party, so that she remains a councillor and the mayor.
Her ultimate aim, she says in her founding affidavit, is to continue with the disciplinary hearings the DA has instituted against her so that her alleged misconduct as mayor can be dealt with.
“Most importantly, there is no reason why the DA could not continue with its disciplinary processes against me. If an independent person is appointed to preside at those hearings and an open hearing is guaranteed, then the whole process could be concluded within the next month,” De Lille said in her affidavit.
“The fact of the matter, however, is that the DA is using the automatic cessation clause precisely because it knows that the disciplinary route against me is fraught with problems such as that the charges are weak and the panels have been shown to be biased or improperly appointed.”
De Lille also told the court that the automatic cessation of her membership is unconstitutional because it “violates the right to freedom of expression” and enabled the party to “get rid” of her for “no good reason”.
The party’s case to remove de Lille
Natasha Mazzone, deputy chair of the federal executive, said on Tuesday that the DA would study the court papers De Lille had filed, but that the party is ready to challenge her.
“Ms De Lille voluntarily took up DA membership, where she served on the Federal Executive of the Party for many years and viewed the processes, procedures and application of the Party’s constitution up close,” Mazzone told the Cape Argus. “It is therefore disingenuous that she finds issue with the application thereof, now that it has been applied to her.”
The federal executive expelled De Lille after adopting the decision by the federal legal commission that her membership should be terminated.
DA Free State leader and MP Patricia Kopane had written a complaint to the party that in an interview with Radio 702 host Eusebius McKaiser, De Lille had allegedly violated the party’s constitution.
In the interview, McKaiser asks De Lille if he is correct in summing up her position as follows: she will resign from the DA once she has cleared her name.
De Lille replies: “I will walk away. You have summed it up correctly. Because really, it is not about hanging onto … I’m serving there at the behest of the DA. I’ve gone through a process, the electoral college, they put me in that position. I’m not representing my jacket, I’m representing the DA. And if the DA feels they want to put somebody else in that position they also entitled to do that.”
For the party, her utterance is an intention to resign her membership, but De Lille has insisted that she was referring to resigning from her position as mayor during the course of the interview. She also says that she had made the comment on condition that she would clear her name before she left.
Defiance and discipline
De Lille is now adamant that if the party accedes to her request for an open disciplinary hearing where an independent advocate or resigned judge can preside, then the charges against her can be cleared in a month and the party can appoint a new mayor if it wishes.
Currently, the DA’s two separate disciplinary hearings against De Lille have been indefinitely postponed pending decisions around if the processes should be open to the public. De Lille has argued her name has been “smeared” in public and should therefore be publicly cleared, while the party said it is an internal process that is defined by the DA rulebook.
In a separate court matter, which De Lille is taking on as a DA member, she has asked the court to order the DA to submit a full record of the documents or other information it used to make allegations against her in the Steenhuisen report. The DA is arguing that it is not required to submit the full record, because the Steenhuisen committee’s investigation into De Lille was a party process and therefore not subject to rules around court records.
The court matter on the record is part of a bigger application to put the Steenhuisen report under judicial review and set aside the federal executive’s decision to adopt it, which led to disciplinary action against De Lille.
But for now, De Lille, who insists in court papers that she is still mayor, is asking the court for one more month so that these cases against her are not swept under the rug.
“I will suffer enormous personal prejudice should interim relief not be granted. Apart from losing my job, it will mean that I will not be able to continue with the two court cases against the DA because I act in those cases as a member of the DA. It will further mean that I will also not be able to defend myself in the disciplinary proceedings against me and clear my name in public. The reason for this is that a party cannot discipline someone who is no longer a member of that party,” she said in her affidavit.
De Lille’s case is expected to be heard on Friday morning.