De Lille goes to war over house upgrade ‘sensationalism’

Nkandla homestead, KwaZulu-Natal

Cape Town mayor Patricia  de Lille has had some “security” work done on her Pinelands home.  The opposition African Christian Democratic  Party wonders if this is her Nkandla moment, and insists that her office is short on answers. The mayor has issued a statement accusing her Democratic Alliance colleague JP Smith of dragging “my name through the mud for the sake of sensationalism”. She later retracted that part of the statement.  The Cape Messenger investigates.

It is the sort of story that makes one’s political opponents stand up and question what is going on. First, a story was leaked to News24 that Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille had ordered that a special investigating unit – under the authority of her nemesis Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith – be shut down.

It is this unit that reported the security upgrade at the mayor’s private home. Smith apparently made a submission to national Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane expressing concerns about the clipping of the unit’s wings.

A DA federal executive special committee has been established to investigate the order from De Lille’s office that the City of Cape Town’s special investigations unit be shut down.

Caryn Dolley of News24 wrote that the shut down move has unearthed “shocking claims that some city councillors may have been involved in a murder”.  The unit’s mandate was changed in August after De Lille instructed that it be shut down. While the mayor did not confirm the Dolley article, it said it had emails showing she ordered the unit’s shut down.

Responding to the mayor, the city manager was reported to have said the unit’s mandate had been altered and the unit’s name changed. The unit has been in existence for some four years.

The unit apparently cannot now investigate gang violence, xenophobic attacks and most importantly in this context of the Cape Town “Nkandla” scandal, corruption within the city council. A number of newspapers, including Die Burger and the yellow press, have referred to De Lille’s Nkandla-style changes to her homestead. Die Burger wrote a story under the headline: ‘De Lille moet se oor DA-Nkandla’ (De Lille must be open on DA’s Nkandla).

It is a well known internal Democratic Alliance secret that JP Smith and De Lille are at loggerheads. Smith was threatened with losing his portfolio earlier this year – but he fought to retain it. He also defeated a De Lille-backed candidate for DA city council caucus leader.

According to News24, Smith’s submission included suggestions that there was an involvement “of councillors” in the death of DA ward councillor Xolile Gwangxu – who was shot dead in Philippi in June this year.

Regarding the Nkandla suggestions. Smith is reported as saying in the submission to Maimane that the head of the unit had informed him that unit members had witnessed “irregularities in relation to the mayor… that building work outside of the security policy of the city had been undertaken at her home at the expense of the council”.

The Speaker of the city council Dirk Smit has defended the construction work at the mayor’s home. He said the work was paid for in her personal capacity. Security work was paid for by the city, he acknowledged, but this was in line with provisions of national legislation. In an article in the Citizen, Smit, a DA member who crossed the floor some years back from the Freedom Front Plus, was quoted as saying that the story of so-called irregular upgrades quoted “faceless, nameless sources in the safety and security directorate’s internal investigations unit”.

Grant Haskin, a former deputy mayor at a time when the African Christian Democratic Party was in coalition with the Democratic Alliance, says the defence of the mayor isn’t good enough. “The Speaker’s response is clearly hurried and very thin on details. Crucially it gives no explanation why this information couldn’t be disclosed in 2014 when I first asked about these security upgrades.”

Therefore, it raises these further questions:

Why can the city not answer my questions?

Why did it take an internal allegation for any admissions to be made at all?

What was and still is being hidden?

Haskin, a former member of the provincial legislature who now leads the ACDP caucus in the city of Cape Town, said he would be writing to the Public Protector, the Auditor General, and to the city’s Public Accounts Committee, asking them to investigate this allegation in respect of their mandate.

“Ultimately the public must not be in the dark any longer on this matter – it is a matter of extreme public importance.”

The City of Cape Town’s media desk has issued the following statement (late on Monday afternoon)

STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE

This morning I briefed my lawyers about the malicious and defamatory remarks made by Mayoral Committee Member JP Smith and some members of the Internal Investigations Unit in the City’s Safety and Security Directorate to advise me on an appropriate course of action.

In the past week, various news articles have made reference to so-called ‘irregular’ security upgrades at my house done by a supplier appointed by the City following a risk analysis report by a special unit within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Regarding renovations at my house, these were paid for by myself and I am prepared to make the proof of these payments made by myself known as part of the proper legal processes.

We all know that crime fighting is the responsibility of the SAPS under National Government. JP Smith wants to play cowboys and crooks by releasing all kinds of statements that the Metro Police is responsible for fighting crime.

The task of the Metro Police Department in terms of legislation is enforcement of by-laws and regulations, traffic laws, and crime prevention.

I have also spoken to the DA party leadership reminding them that there is a separation between party and State and that this is an operational matter. I expressed my dissatisfaction to the party leadership, Mmusi Maimane and James Selfe about how JP Smith is dragging my name through the mud for the sake of sensationalism.

Issued by: Office of the Executive Mayor, City of Cape Town

Media enquiries: Zara Nicholson, Spokesperson for the Executive Mayor – Patricia de Lille, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 4998 or Cell: 079 416 5996, Email: zara.nicholson@capetown.gov.za

Late on Monday night De Lille retracked the last paragraph of the statement:

STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE

UPDATE: Note to editors – please see update in the final paragraph:

This morning I briefed my lawyers about the malicious and defamatory remarks made by Mayoral Committee Member JP Smith and some members of the Internal Investigations Unit in the City’s Safety and Security Directorate to advise me on an appropriate course of action.

In the past week, various news articles have made reference to so-called ‘irregular’ security upgrades at my house done by a supplier appointed by the City following a risk analysis report by a special unit within the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Regarding renovations at my house, these were paid for by myself and I am prepared to make the proof of these payments made by myself known as part of the proper legal processes.

We all know that crime fighting is the responsibility of the SAPS under National Government. JP Smith wants to play cowboys and crooks by releasing all kinds of statements that the Metro Police is responsible for fighting crime.

The task of the Metro Police Department in terms of legislation is enforcement of by-laws and regulations, traffic laws, and crime prevention.

After consultation with the DA leadership this evening, I retract the following statement: I have also spoken to the DA party leadership reminding them that there is a separation between party and State and that this is an operational matter. I expressed my dissatisfaction to the party leadership, Mmusi Maimane and James Selfe about how JP Smith is dragging my name through the mud for the sake of sensationalism.

Issued by: Office of the Executive Mayor, City of Cape Town

 

Media enquiries: Zara Nicholson, Spokesperson for the Executive Mayor – Patricia de Lille, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 4998 or Cell: 079 416 5996, Email: zara.nicholson@capetown.gov.za

 

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