'We may have over-reached' — JP Smith on trying to curtail De Lille powers

The Democratic Alliance's JP Smith. (Jason Boud/ANA)

The Democratic Alliance's JP Smith. (Jason Boud/ANA)

Democratic Alliance (DA) deputy caucus leader JP Smith says the council may have overreached in its bid to curtail some of City of Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille’s executive powers during recent stormy times in the caucus.

However, plans are afoot to correct some of the deficiencies in the original motion passed on May 31 to delegate virtually all of De Lille’s executive powers to her mayoral committee,  he told News24 on Friday.

READ MORE: DA — Caucus in charge of Cape Town, not De Lille

News24 reported on Friday that the council may have to come back to council on July 26 to pass a new motion to amend the “deficiencies” in the first original resolution.

Council speaker Dirk Smit told News24 he was awaiting legal advice before making a final decision, likely in mid-July.

Smith told News24 that the caucus had in the past tried to “counter” moves to centralise the powers of the mayor.

A motion was passed in February of this year that successfully delegated De Lille’s powers to handle the water crisis.

“This time [on May 31], we might have been a bit overambitious, because I think there is now such an allergic reaction,” he said.

“This caucus has had such an abject lesson of what happens when you centralise power or give some person too much power.”

They also may have been foolishly under the impression that “just because it’s a DA-administration” they would never end up in some of the farcical situations that other municipalities have with “runaway mayors”, he charged.

‘Recoiling from a hot plate’

“We have just had a strong taste of that ourselves, so the caucus’s reaction was to create an incredibly decentralised model, and I think we may have overreached a bit.”

He likened the caucus’ reaction to a hand recoiling from the proverbial hot plate.

Smith maintained that the changes would not be substantial, but technical in nature and that the principle behind the new motion would still be that De Lille’s decisions would be made by peer-reviewable structures.

“We want the mayor alone to take as few decisions as the law compels. Only those decisions that the law explicitly compels the mayor to take [she will have]. Anything else will be taken by collective structures.”

The new measures will see the powers of the mayor return to levels equivalent to when Helen Zille and Dan Plato were mayors, he said.

He said some in the caucus first started feeling that De Lille had too much power just before the 2016 local government elections, when De Lille had submitted a batch of delegation proposals.

De Lille, however, had much “populist support” in the caucus at the time, he conceded.

Caucus waiting for clarity on De Lille appeal

With regards to the DA’s intention to table a new motion of no confidence against De Lille in council, Smith said that it could happen before the end of July.

However, there is a “delay” as the caucus waits for the DA to finalise a possible appeal of the court judgment on Wednesday.

The Western Cape High Court found that the DA’s federal legal commission (FLC) panel that looked into De Lille and all other party cases since 2015 was improperly constituted, and therefore set aside the termination of her membership.

DA deputy federal council chairperson Natasha Mazzone said on Wednesday that an appeal was likely.

“There’s no point in doing the preparations for a motion of no confidence if the appeal has a different outcome. There are also still two other grounds for summary cessation of membership,” Smith said.

READ MORE: De Lille’s scathing open letter to Mazzone

“So they (the federal executive) have to fix and reconstitute the FLC, and we need legal clarity if we are appealing the process or not, and what the implications for our rules are,” he added.

He contended that if the court upholds De Lille’s argument, it would have massive,  far-reaching effects for every social organisation in the country.

Mazzone told News24 on Friday that the DA was still studying the judgment and had not made a final decision on the matter. — News24

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