Meeting minutes reveal federal executive not unanimous on decision to remove De Lille

De Lille’s case to have the clause reviewed was meant to be heard on Friday, but has been postponed until June 4 so the judges can have more time to prepare. (Netwerk24/Adrian de Kock)

De Lille’s case to have the clause reviewed was meant to be heard on Friday, but has been postponed until June 4 so the judges can have more time to prepare. (Netwerk24/Adrian de Kock)

The minutes of a Democratic Alliance federal executive meeting has revealed that one member of the structure, Zwakele Mncwango, voted against the expulsion of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille.

An extract of the federal executive meeting minutes is attached to a supplementary affidavit De Lille filed in her court application to have the DA’s cessation of membership clause in its constitution reviewed and set aside.

The clause states that a member’s contract with the party can be terminated if they make a public intention to resign. It was invoked by the DA’s federal legal commission and the federal executive to terminate De Lille’s membership on May 8.

The federal executive met on May 7 after the federal legal commission made a recommendation that De Lille’s membership should be ceased after she said that she was willing to resign once she has cleared her name during a radio interview.

The DA contends De Lille made a public declaration to resign from the party, while De Lille has countered that she meant she would resign as mayor.

At the May 7 meeting, the federal executive voted on whether it should adopt the recommendation made by the FLC to remove De Lille.

The minutes read: “The federal executive voted on whether to accept the recommendation of the FLC. All the members present, except Zwakele Mncwango, voted in favour.”

Mncwango is member of the federal executive and the DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal. He told the Mail & Guardian that his reasons for voting against De Lille’s expulsion are confidential and can only be divulged by members who are approved to speak with media. But he stands by the choice he made.

“At the end if the day, as a leader, when you go to sleep at night you have to ask yourself: Am I proud of the decision I took,” Mncwango said. “I believe as an individual you must speak out. You don’t just move with the majority. That’s how democracy works.”

The federal executive’s decision to terminate De Lille’s membership is binding on all members, even those who disagree. Mncwango said that even though he had voted against the recommendation, it was part of democracy to accept the consensus.

“You can still maintain that the panel took the wrong decision, but you have to accept it,” he said.

Natasha Mazzone, DA federal executive deputy chairperson and spokesperson, said that she could not reveal Mncwango’s reasons.

“I’m sure you will understand that discussions that take place in FedEx are confidential and I will not break confidentiality,” Mazzone said.

De Lille and the party are currently waging an ugly feud against one another in both the public domain and in court papers.

Since the DA invoked its cessation of membership clause against De Lille, analysts and De Lille herself have asked why the party has not terminated the membership of leaders such as Mmusi Maimane and Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga, who also made public remarks that they would resign. Other senior DA members, such as Phumzile Van Damme and Dianne Kohler Barnard, have made similar utterances.

In July 2016, Maimane was campaigning for local government elections when he told residents in Port Elizabeth: “I’m so invested in the DA, we the DA must deliver and if we don’t, I myself will resign”.

Msimanga made a similar remark after it emerged his chief of staff Marietha Aucamp was appointed without having the necessary qualification.

The DA has not applied its cessation of membership clause to Maimane or Msimanga.

In her supplementary affidavit, De Lille used the cases of Msimanga and Maimane to demonstrate that the DA applied the clause inconsistently and unfairly against her. James Selfe, in his responding affidavit, rejected her version.

Selfe said that Van Damme and Kohler Barnard had made their public declarations to resign in the context of good governance. Van Damme, he said, was expressing a commitment to address black poverty and white privilege during a closed caucus meeting, while Kohler Barnard was apologising out of remorse for an offensive Facebook she shared calling for the return of former apartheid leader PW Botha.

Msimanga and Maimane, he added, were referring to resigning from their positions in leadership and not the party.

The cessation of membership clause, as it is worded, does not consider the reasons for a member’s public declaration to resign. It, instead, automatically ceases a membership once the federal executive and the FLC have followed due process in reaching a decision.

De Lille’s case to have the clause reviewed was meant to be heard on Friday, but has since been postponed until June 4 so the judges have more time to prepare. De Lille is currently serving as Cape Town mayor pending the decision taken by the court in the review. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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