DA Politics

De Lille out – Mutual agreement struck as a political solution to damaging party infighting

By Marianne Merten 5 August 2018
Caption
epa06928554 (FILE) - Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille speaks during the unveiling ceremony of a bronze statue of former president and Nobel Peace laureate, Nelson Mandela, at the City Hall balcony in Cape Town, South Africa 24 July 2018 (reissued 05 August 2018). South Africa's oppostiion Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has confirmed 05 August 2018 that Patricia de Lille will resign as Cape Town mayoress. De Lille's resignation will be effective from 31 October 2018. This comes in the wake of months of allegations of misconduct and corruption which she has denied. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille is serving notice until the end of October, when she’ll vacate the mayor’s office. On Sunday, DA national leader Mmusi Maimane and De Lille announced what effectively is a political solution to some eight months of damaging internecine party battles that spilt from the Cape Town DA structures to the Western Cape and into national party terrain. At their joint media briefing Maimane and De Lille were at pains to be all smiles.

See how the news broke on Sunday morning here: Patricia de Lille to resign as Cape Town mayor in a deal with Maimane

DA national leader Mmusi Maimane on Sunday announced the “mutual agreement” he and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille have struck: “(She) has agreed to resign the office of the mayor, effective 31 October 2018.”

The announcement of De Lille’s resignation came a day before the scheduled start of the disciplinary proceedings against her in open hearing. And there’s been some spin that the DA would have been embarrassed by those proceedings. But those disciplinary proceedings are now canned; as part of the mutual agreement, all charges against De Lille have been withdrawn. What has not been canned are any possible charges that may arise out of whatever council investigations may unfold into actions.

But De Lille told Daily Maverick, there was nothing that would arise from such city probes, and if there were she would deal with such. Sunday’s announcement was a party matter – the party could not talk on behalf of the city, given the separation between party and state. And so De Lille stayed on message: “It’s been 10 months of a lot of pressure… I have cleared my name,” she said.

Sitting next to Maimane earlier, the outgoing Cape Town mayor had said the fight between herself and the DA could not go on forever. “I’ve always maintained I’m innocent and the allegations have been proven against me… Now the charges have been dropped and withdrawn, I can get on with my life,” she said adding later: “I’ve cleared my name and I’ve decided to step aside and look into the future”.

Patricia De Lille and Mmusi Maimane announce a “mutual agreement” at a media briefing in Cape Town, Sunday 5 August 2018. Photo: Marianne Merten

But for now, that future means wrapping up as Cape Town mayor with eyes on the last day in office on 31 October 2018. “I remain committed to investing whatever little time I have to complete this project (building a better city) and contribute towards the transformation of the city”.

If the DA’s intentions go according to plan, then there would be a smooth transition as the search for a new permanent mayor is also getting underway in the coming weeks. Maimane indicated there were no names at this stage, but the intention was not to have an acting mayor succeeding De Lille.

It’s not clear what De Lille may do from 1 November 2018. She spoke of thinking about her future but indicated no decision had been taken. “For the first time, I can apply my mind. I continue to be a member of the DA.” For Maimane, the situation was a little more clear-cut: “The mayor is not resigning her membership of the DA… Her role is dictated to by the constitution”.

And the DA national leader was quite clear this mutual agreement with De Lille was “drawing a line in the sand” to end the party’s difficulties. “This agreement is an opportunity to close a difficult chapter in our history and to open a new one. We will continue to put the people first in all we do,” said Maimane. “This is an opportunity for the City of Cape Town DA caucus to take stock. To regroup and to unite.”

His comments are an acknowledgement of the damage the over eight months saga with De Lille had taken on the DA. From court cases to two motions of no confidence in De Lille – she won by one vote at the start of the year, and the July one was withdrawn – and various attempts to haul De Lille over the coals on charges that seemed at one stage to have conflated issues of party and city administration.

Party infighting reached fever pitch amid Day Zero hype, when the city warned the taps would run dry. De Lille was relieved of responsibilities, as Maimane stepped in to lead the water-saving fight amid questions why a national politician – both MP and party leader – would effectively violate the separation of responsibilities. Maimane subsequently argued as national party leader it was his duty to ensure the party functioned effectively.

De Lille soldiered on. She took the DA to court over attempts to get her sacked. This included stripping her of her membership a short time after the DA national congress in April had adopted the so-called “De Lille clause”, the sacking within 48 hours of a public elected representative in executive office like mayor, who had lost the confidence of the party. De Lille won that case at the end of June, triggering the second motion of no confidence scheduled for mid-July, but ultimately withdrawn at the 11thhour.

The ANC in Cape Town described De Lille’s departure agreement as “a sweetheart deal” that would not change the fact that “the polls are showing massive decline in DA support and that ANC is fast closing the gap”.

ANC Caucus Leader Xolani Sotashe, in a statement on Sunday, said the party would continue to focus on service delivery issues. “Our major concern as the ANC has been the governance crisis in Cape Town as this DA infighting has compromised service delivery, underspending their budgets for vital houses an infrastructure, water mismanagement and the resultant protests across the city and province.”

As is the case with political solutions, the details of this DA deal are not immediately apparent. What led to that withdrawal of the no-confidence motion in council, or what discussions took place among whom.


What became clear on Sunday was that the talks with De Lille were an initiative by Maimane, who a couple of hours before the public announcements briefed the DA federal executive, a key decision-making body. It is understood there was an increasingly pressing need to resolve the saga, given its negative impact as the DA’s own polling numbers, which according to at least one insider, are definitely and clearly down. 
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