South Africa


The rebellious side of Patricia de Lille is back – and the DA should watch out

The rebellious side of Patricia de Lille is back – and the DA should watch out

Patricia de Lille’s relationship with the DA is on its last legs. The only question remaining is when the final severance will happen – not if. In sharing a stage with EFF leadership this week at a memorial for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, De Lille was undoubtedly thumbing her nose at the party doing everything in its power to force her out. And in that act of rebellion, what we appeared to be seeing was something closer to the original Patricia de Lille – before the DA set the Cape Town mayoral chain on her shoulders. By REBECCA DAVIS.

Patricia de Lille has officially gone rogue.

This was made clear by the events of this week, which saw De Lille embraced by the leadership of the EFF at a memorial hosted by the Fighters for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and included on the programme as a “special colleague”.

De Lille is now in trouble with the DA for not having informed the party’s leadership of her intentions in this regard. In an interview with 702’s Eusebius McKaiser on Thursday, the DA’s federal chair James Selfe said that her appearance at the EFF memorial had “blindsided” the party executive, and amounted to a breach of “protocol”.

When McKaiser suggested that disciplining De Lille for her attendance at the memorial of an old friend would be both “petty and callous”, Selfe stuck to his guns, suggesting further that the issue was one of “good manners”.

Observers pointed out that De Lille was not the only DA figure to have graced the stage of the EFF’s memorial. DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane was also there. Would she, too, be hauled in for questioning?

No, the DA’s parliamentary operations director Louw Nel told Daily Maverick – because Kopane, unlike De Lille, had spoken specifically in her capacity as a DA leader.

“The EFF had extended an invitation to the DA to attend their memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,” Nel said.

“Patricia Kopane, the DA’s Free State Provincial Leader, was in attendance and was given an opportunity to address the memorial as the representative of the party.”

Amid all the hoo-hah about De Lille’s apparent new cosiness with the EFF, less attention was paid to what she actually said at the memorial.

While most of De Lille’s remarks were devoted to paying tribute to Madikizela-Mandela, one other statement was particularly revealing.

Discussing the phenomenon whereby it is now increasingly difficult to find any South Africans who will admit having voted for apartheid, De Lille turned to EFF leader Julius Malema and said:

“One day, Comrade Juju, we must go fetch that voters’ roll and see how they voted for apartheid in droves.”

A threat to expose the identity of those who voted in support of apartheid? It was vintage De Lille – but the old De Lille, not the more recent incarnation.

It was a throwback to the De Lille who was rarely far from news bulletins in the mid-90s as a leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), when her idea of reconciliation was amending the old PAC slogan “One settler, one bullet” to “One settler, one plane ticket”. That version of De Lille scorned the idea of power-sharing with whites and encouraged land invasions to combat the sluggish pace of land reform.

The truth is: that De Lille has lasted this long within the ranks of the DA is nothing short of a miracle. When erstwhile DA leader Helen Zille invited De Lille to fold her Independent Democrats into the DA in 2010, and be rewarded with the position of mayor in return, both parties must have known what they were getting. The agreement was an example of extreme political expediency on both sides.

What South Africa witnessed on Wednesday was the return of the PAC-era De Lille, who during her heyday espoused a radicalism that could put the EFF to shame.

Her days in the DA are now numbered. But the DA will also be aware that a De Lille outside its political fold could be a very dangerous weapon indeed.

There is little doubt that axing De Lille might cost the DA dearly in the Western Cape. Following the 2016 local elections, former DA leader Tony Leon wrote an op-ed titled, “Why the election’s biggest winner was Patricia de Lille”, in which he noted:

“By winning more than 66% of the votes… [De Lille] posted the biggest win of any party in any city.”

She is believed to have a formidable following among coloured voters of the Western Cape. Beyond that, her treatment by the DA has won unlikely sympathisers. This week Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger – hardly De Lille’s greatest fan in normal times – wrote an editorial condemning the DA for its handing of the De Lille saga.

Consider, too, that De Lille is listed as one of the state’s potential witnesses in former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial. If she takes the stand to testify against him with regards to the arms deal, her political capital will automatically sky-rocket. In occupying her position as arms deal whistle-blower once again, De Lille will be associated with independence, integrity and courage. Those are highly desirable political traits.

Given these factors, it’s very unlikely that De Lille’s ejection from the DA will mean the end of her political life when she is still, to a certain degree, hot property within her home province.

The question of where she will go next, however, is far from clear. If De Lille is to throw her lot in with the EFF, as is currently being speculated, she would open herself up to derision about her floor-crossing tendencies once again – though this appears not to have bothered her in the past.

But it’s important to remember, too, that the relationship between De Lille and the EFF has not always been rosy. In 2016, following an outbreak of violence in Dunoon, De Lille blamed the unrest on “EFF thugs and gangsters” and accused the party of trying to “gain votes at the expense of the poor through the destruction of public and private property”.

While De Lille was still head of the Independent Democrats and Malema was ANC Youth League leader in 2010, the two also had a nasty war of words.

After De Lille accused Malema of tax evasion, Malema told students at the University of Johannesburg that De Lille should be “concerned about the taxes of her husband – if she has got a husband. Patricia doesn’t look like a married woman. There’s no normal man who can marry Patricia. If Patricia has got a husband, that husband must divorce Patricia and come look for well mannered and beautiful women in the ANC.”

Though Malema denied this week that De Lille might join his party, EFF national chairperson Dali Mpofu was singing a different tune at Wednesday’s memorial, chanting in Xhosa that De Lille must “come home” to the EFF.

The ANC in the Western Cape has also made no secret of its desire to have De Lille throw in her lot with them. Provincial leader Khaya Magaxa has said that the party would welcome the present Cape Town mayor with “open arms”.

Life outside the DA, then, looks likely to hold multiple possibilities for Patricia De Lille.

Wherever she goes next will spell bad news for the DA. A De Lille freed from DA shackles, returned to her ungovernable ways – but armed with all sorts of inside information about the party – can only be dangerous for the DA. DM

De Lille had not responded to telephonic requests for comment at the time of publication.

Photo: Patricia De Lille addresses a media briefing on the water crisis on January 9, 2018. Photo: Leila Dougan


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