Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s membership of the DA automatically expired as soon as she said in a radio interview that she would resign from the party once she had cleared her name. In other words: she is officially out of her mayoral post. This conclusion of the DA’s federal executive was communicated at a press conference on Tuesday morning, following a meeting of the party’s top leaders last weekend to deliberate over De Lille’s fate. Next step: court
Patricia de Lille’s strained relationship with the DA has reached the end of the line. Party leaders told journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday that they viewed De Lille’s membership of the DA as having already ceased, due to comments made by her in a radio interview on 26 April.
As a result, federal executive chair James Selfe said that the party leadership did not take any decision on whether to uphold the motion of no confidence against the mayor brought by DA councillors in the Cape Town council a fortnight ago.
Selfe quoted from an interview Patricia de Lille carried out with 702’s Eusebius McKaiser last week in which De Lille said that she would resign from the DA as soon as she had cleared her name in court.
“I think it’s very clear from that, that Mayor De Lille declared her intention to resign from the DA,” federal executive deputy chair Natasha Mazzone said.
Selfe explained that the constitution of the DA stipulates that any individual’s party membership ceases “when he or she publicly declares his or her intention to resign”.
This rendered the other disciplinary processes against De Lille moot, Selfe said.
He announced that City of Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson will be acting as mayor immediately, but that the DA hoped to see a new permanent mayor in place as soon as possible in order to stabilise governance.
Nobody will be less surprised by this outcome than De Lille herself, who wrote in a submission to the DA’s federal executive that she had “little faith in a positive result”.
But De Lille was expecting to be asked to resign within 48 hours, in accordance with the recall clause adopted by the DA’s national congress in April.
She had indicated that her lawyers were on standby to launch an urgent legal challenge to the decision, the basis for which would be the constitutional validity of the recall clause.
It is now unclear on what grounds De Lille will challenge the DA’s assessment that she ended her own membership by publicly affirming her intention to leave.
The mayor’s alleged misdemeanours in the eyes of the DA over the past months have included claims of nepotism, maladministration, and failure to uphold the Auditor General’s previously unblemished audit of Cape Town.
Yet these serious charges are not the ones invoked by the DA now in order to oust her. The DA’s federal executive made its decision based entirely on the assessment that De Lille has effectively ended her own career with the party.
“The substantive issues have not been dealt with yet,” Mazzone confirmed, while Refiloe Nt’sekhe said that other investigations into De Lille’s conduct were still ongoing.
De Lille had requested in her submission that five senior figures of the DA’s federal executive, including party leader Mmusi Maimane, recuse themselves from considering her fate due to bias. As evidence for this claim, De Lille presented public utterances made by the five which she said proved that they were already prejudiced against her.
Nt’sekhe said on Tuesday that although the five leaders denied the charge of bias, they had indeed recused themselves from deliberating on the De Lille case last weekend.
At her own press conference a few hours later, De Lille was characteristically upbeat, telling journalists that after the briefing she would be heading back to her mayoral office as normal for a meeting.
She referred to the DA’s latest actions as a “shortcut” motivated by “desperation”, and said that she would be heading to court with her lawyers on Friday morning.
“I will show that this so-called automatic cessation clause is unconstitutional and unfairly applied to me,” De Lille said.
Pushing her out of her mayoral post, De Lille claimed, would be “a victory for the conservative people in the DA who don’t want to see transformation in the city of Cape Town”. DM
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine