GOOD party leader Patricia de Lille was offered a Cabinet position just hours before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new executive.
The former Cape Town mayor and Democratic Alliance provincial leader was appointed as Ramaphosa’s minister of public works and infrastructure. She is currently the only opposition party member in the executive.
But, De Lille only found out about the offer of her appointment late on Wednesday afternoon.
“[Patricia] called me at 1:30pm and asked me If I’m sitting down”, GOOD secretary general Brett Herron told the Mail & Guardian.
“She said she just got a call from the presidency, that she’s packing a bag, and that she’s got to go to Pretoria. We agreed we’ll talk when she gets there. [At the Union Buildings] her phone was taken away. We found out which cabinet position she was offered when she stepped out of that meeting which was just as the President was announcing it.
The appointment is a massive boost to De Lille who resigned from the DA in October last year.
After announced the formation of her new political party late last year, she campaigned to be Western Cape Premier in the 2019 general elections.
When her party won two seats in the National Assembly, she opted to rather represent her party in Parliament.
Herron said the offer of a Cabinet position was made directly to De Lille and not the party.
A move GOOD endorses, though it may come with some political fallout.
“We are aware that there will be people who will regard it as her being co-opted. But GOOD remains in opposition in the National Assembly. We will support the ANC where they are doing things right, and when there’s wrongdoing or corruption we will expose them and fight them.”
With De Lille, a veteran politician who’s known as a no-nonsense firebrand returning to national politics, many felt with her experience she could be better used than just an opposition backbencher.
There had been rumours in parliamentary corridors that she be made the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) chairperson. A parliamentary anti-corruption watchdog which traditionally has a member of the opposition as it’s head.
“It was never our planning. But there were people in the ANC who were suggesting she should be the Scopa chair. Whether this [minister] is a better role? Well now she can demonstrate what she means when we spoke about public land for the public good,” Herron explained.
While DA leader Mmusi Maimane said De Lille’s appointed was a “well-executed ANC plan”, and that De Lille was “now part of the ANC’s infrastructure,” former Western Cape Premier Helen Zille welcomed her appointment.
“Patricia de Lille as Minister of Public Works opens real opportunities, especially for Cape Town. For years she (as Mayor) and I tried in vain to secure the release of department of public works land in well-located areas to build affordable housing to overcome the spatial legacy of apartheid. Here is a real chance!” Zille said on Twitter.
@PatriciaDeLille as Min of Public Works opens real opportunities, especially for CTown. For years she (as CT Mayor) and I tried in vain to secure release of DPW land in well located areas to build affordable housing to overcome spatial legacy of apartheid. Here is a real chance!
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) May 30, 2019
While uncommon, it’s not unfamiliar for opposition party members to be appointed to cabinet.
In Nelson Mandela’s 1994 cabinet, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi was appointed home affairs Minister. He was reappointed by Thabo Mbeki in 1999.
In 2004, the Azanian People’s Organisation’s Mosibudi Mangena was appointed science and technology minister also by Mbeki.
Former Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder served as deputy minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet from 2009 to 2014.