De Lille motion of no confidence goes ahead despite concerns of irregularities

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (David Harrison/M&G)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (David Harrison/M&G)

UPDATE

The Democratic Alliance (DA) caucus is divided over a new motion of no confidence in Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille with at least one member alleging due process has been flouted, which caucus deputy leader JP Smith, has denied.

The motion, which will be debated in council on Thursday, has sparked further tensions in the caucus and once again indicated that it remains divided between De Lille’s supporters and detractors. 

Shaun August — a DA chief whip and councillor who is a former Pollsmoor prison warder — has laid a complaint with the DA’s federal executive against two members of the party’s Cape Town caucus who submitted the motion of no confidence against De Lille.

In a letter to the federal executive and its chairperson James Selfe last week, August said that the motion was “highly irregular” because, he alleges, due process was flouted.

READ MORE: DA moves to oust De Lille again

Smith, however, has rubbished August’s claims, saying that the federal executive had indicated that the motion can go ahead, because its approval of the last council motion of no confidence in De Lille being tabled still stands.

“I asked James Selfe whether the motion can go ahead, and I was informed that the previous position still stands,” Smith said.

Selfe could not be reached for comment.

The DA councillor who brought the motion against De Lille — Marian Nieuwoudt — and one Brenda Hansen, who seconded the motion, allegedly broke the DA caucus rules, August said.
This is because — according to August —  the motion was meant to be endorsed by the DA caucus and approved by the federal executive before it was handed to the speaker of the council for his consideration.

August said that the two councillors also breached the party’s constitution and could face the possibility of losing their membership, because the federal executive had not deliberated on the motion at the time it was submitted to the council speaker.

At the time, August said that there was no indication that the federal executive had approved the motion. 

Clause 3.5.1.14 of the party’s constitution says that a person’s membership can cease if they: “being a public representative of the Party in a legislative body, introduces a motion of no confidence in any government controlled by the Party, or in which the party is in coalition, or office-bearer in such a government, except with the leave of the Federal Executive”.

This forms part of the same section — cessation of membership — of the DA’s constitution which was used to terminate De Lille’s membership in May.

In his letter, August wrote that the party’s rules were being broken to aid the political motives of a certain faction in the caucus, but Smith denied the claims saying that 70% of the DA caucus had lost confidence in De Lille which necessitated a new motion of no confidence upon her return as mayor. In the caucus’ internal motion of no confidence in De Lille in April, 70% of it councillors voted in favour of the motion.

Smith said that allegations of tender irregularities in the controversial Foreshore freeway development project and nepotism — which De Lille has denied — have led to a loss of confidence in her leadership. 

READ MORE: De Lille has a case to answer and will, sooner or later, have to do so

“This is no different to many of the previous decisions whereby caucus rules are flouted in the aim to drive a particular agenda by a small group of individuals, or those perceived influential within the party,” August wrote.

“In the light of the current political situation within the City of Cape Town, I trust that the party will uphold the rules and regulations that we as public representatives are all bound by,” he added.

Selfe did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publishing, but Smit, in his capacity as speaker of the council, said that the De Lille motion of no confidence will go ahead on Thursday.

Smit said that the speaker has to determine if the motion has passed three tests before it can be tabled on council’s agenda. The three tests, he said, are: if the date is correct, if a sitting councillor submitted the motion, and if it is within the ambit of council to decide on the contents of the motion — in this case, a motion of no confidence in De Lille.

“Those tests were passed by me and I’ve sent the motion forward to the city manager to add it to the agenda to be debated on,” Smit said.

He confirmed that the motion of no confidence in De Lille will be debated on Thursday.

Smit himself is facing a motion of no confidence — tabled by ANC councillor Xolani Sotashe — who has accused Smit of being influenced by DA factionalism which has allegedly conflicted his role as speaker.

“He has lost control of the council, he has no authority,” Sotashe said. “We told him don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by a cabal, but he didn’t listen.”

The DA caucus has been divided over infighting between members who support De Lille and those who are said to back Smith. A letter submitted by Smith to the DA is widely believed to be the basis for the party’s investigation into De Lille’s alleged misconduct, but Smith has said that the majority of the DA caucus has no confidence in the mayor, making it a bigger issue than simply between him and De Lille.

“It vexes us very much. The easy thing is to let go of the matter it is so vexatious and causes so many political problems, but it is the right thing to do,” Smith said. 

The motion of no confidence will be the third De Lille has faced this year, after the mayor survived an earlier motion in February in council,  and an internal DA caucus motion of no confidence in her succeeded in April.

*This story has been updated to reflect the comments of the DA caucus deputy leader
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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