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6 Questions Answered About The Patricia De Lille Saga

Western Cape premier and Democratic Alliance, South African main opposition party, leader Helen Zille(not in picture) and Cape Town mayoral candidate for DA Patricia De Lille take questions during a meeting at the University of Cape Town on May 10, 2011, 8 days before South African municipal elections in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa has seen an increase in community protests against a lack of basic municipal services such as running water, electricity and housing, with voters threatening to boycott the polls. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

The past 18 months saw a battle royal in the DA in Cape Town, which reached a turning point on Wednesday when Patricia de Lille resigned as mayor and DA member amid a criminal investigation against her.

De Lille resigned. So this is the end of the saga, right?

Not quite.

De Lille’s battle with the DA will continue in the court.

De Lille resigned on Wednesday, but at the same time lodged an application asking the court to review a report by law firm Bowmans, which recommended that she be criminally investigated.

The report was adopted by the City council last Thursday and Cape Town speaker Dirk Smit laid the charges against De Lille on Tuesday as the report recommended.

So, the matter isn’t over, insofar as De Lille will face off with the DA in court – she named them as a respondent with the City of Cape Town. Then there is also the matter of the criminal investigation.


De Lille has also stated that she will “sue the hell out” of individuals who have besmirched her name, and this would include some DA members.

If her tweets are anything to go by, De Lille is still in a fighting mood.

What next for Aunty Pat?

It seems unlikely that De Lille will leave public life altogether. She said on Wednesday she’s going to take two weeks off to consider her future.

Apart from De Lille, eight people resigned as DA councillors, including now former Cape Town chief whip Shaun August and mayoral committee member Brett Herron.

They were members of De Lille’s Independent Democrats (ID) and moved with her to the DA in 2010.

Talk on the streets is that plans are afoot for the ID to be resurrected.

“Give me two weeks, then we will talk,” De Lille said in response to speculation that the ID could be revived after she announced her resignation.

However, De Lille added that she had not “made any commitments to anyone”.

Present at her media briefing Wednesday on the steps of the Western Cape High Court was August and another former ID member, Rodney Lentit.

Why is De Lille criminally charged?

The report by Bowmans, that De Lille wants reviewed, found that former City manager Achmat Ebrahim and De Lille’s failure to report alleged misconduct to the City council, amounted to a failure in their duties as stipulated by the Municipal Systems Act’s (MSA) disciplinary regulations.

The report recommended that council consider the appropriate sanction against De Lille and states that the MSA records: “A councillor who attempts to influence the municipal manager or any other staff member or an agent of a municipality not to enforce an obligation in terms of this act, any other applicable legislation or any by-law or decision of the council of the municipality, is guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.”

The allegations relate to the awarding of a bus chassis contract and, after questions were raised, De Lille allegedly told Ebrahim: “This is going to go nowhere.”

Ebrahim told Bowmans there was a direct instruction from De Lille not to bring the matter to council.

But didn’t the DA say they’re going to drop the charges against De Lille?

Yes, but the charges the DA agreed to drop against De Lille in August have nothing to do with the charges emanating from the Bowmans report.

The dropped charges come from an internal DA investigation, and are about De Lille’s alleged contravention of the party’s constitution.

The charge laid against her by Cape Town speaker Dirk Smit follows a resolution of the Cape Town City council, and had nothing to do with the DA’s federal structures. It wasn’t their charge to drop, put simply. It is a council matter.

What is the deal with the two Bowmans reports?

One report investigated whether De Lille prevented Ebrahim from reporting allegations of misconduct to the council and whether De Lille failed to present a dossier with allegations to the council.

This report is titled Investigation into allegations involving the executive mayor alderman Patricia de Lille. It is 34 pages long.

The other report’s goal was to investigate allegations of misconduct made against senior councillors and administrators.

It investigated 10 “work streams”, some of which contain more than one allegation. This report is titled Investigation into allegations of misconduct at the City of Cape Town – Phase 2. This report is 299 pages, but totals 1 998 pages when the addenda, containing emails and documents pertaining to the allegations, are included.

This report’s several recommendations included that De Lille, mayoral committee member Brett Herron and suspended transport commissioner Melissa Whitehead be charged. Whitehead is a central figure in much of the alleged misconduct.

The 34-page report found that De Lille sought to influence or persuade Ebrahim from presenting an allegation of misconduct to the City council, but nothing in law prevented him from doing so.

The report then goes on to state that De Lille did not preclude him from bringing the matter to the council, and that there is no failure on De Lille’s part to bring the matter to the council, as it was Ebrahim’s duty.

The 299-page report found Ebrahim and De Lille’s failure to report the matter to the board was a failure of their duties in respect of the Municipal Systems Act’s (MSA) disciplinary regulations.

De Lille says the two reports were contradictory – “one of which cleared me and the other recommended that I be criminally charged”.

“What I am challenging right now is how the same company, Bowmans, conducting the same investigation, on the same charge can come to two different conclusions,” she said on Wednesday.

What now for the DA?

With just about seven months to go before next year’s elections, the DA has to repair a lot of reputational damage. The Western Cape is the party’s electoral stronghold, and as the most populous part of the province, it will need the metro’s votes.

Many Capetonians are less than impressed by the whole affair, and people who previously draw their crosses behind the DA on the ballot without blinking, will now think twice.

The DA, with its mayor-elect Dan Plato at the helm, will have to run the City properly, clean up the current mess and foster unity in its caucus, which was a battlefield the past 18 months.

Furthermore, the party will have to shake off the notion that it is a party serving “white interests”.

As councillors loyal to De Lille left the party the past week, they cited racism in the party as a reason. De Lille herself described the allegations against her as “racist bully attacks”.

Whether it is true or not that the DA is a racist party, hardly matters.

In politics, it is perception that counts. The DA denied their former councillors’ allegations of racism, saying it was odd that they served in the party without complaining about racism until allegations of corruption emerged.

Whatever the case, just denying that racism exists doesn’t solve the DA’s perspective problem. It not only will have to get the optics right, but it will also have to show that they truly are a party for all South Africans, as they claim, by getting it right where it matters most: Delivering services to everybody.


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