The days of Patricia de Lille as Mayor of Cape Town may be drawing to an end following a controversy over City of Cape Town upgrades to her private Pinelands home. Today the party announced that she and her nemesis JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, have been placed on special leave by the national leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane. The Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly has been following developments
An urgent meeting was called by Maimane last night with De Lille and Smith. Party spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said they were asked “to account for their actions”. Following the meeting, Maimane placed the Mayor – who was elected for a second term as mayor of Cape Town in August last year – and Alderman Smith on special leave from DA activities in the Cape Town Metro “until such time as a DA federal executive investigation can be concluded”.
Placing the Mayor and the alderman on special leave during the investigation means that neither will be able to attend DA caucus meetings, interact with caucus members or others who may testify before the committee or attend party meetings. This leave does not affect their candidacy for provincial elected positions, nor does it affect their work in government. They should also not address the media on this issue until the conclusion of the investigation.
The trouble began in August when De Lille attempted to shut down an internal City of Cape Town special investigations unit which has been fighting corruption, crime and xenophobic violence in the city. This followed a report by the unit that irregular security upgrades had been done on her Pinelands home.
Smith is believed to have leaked the special unit documents to the press, but what is known is that he made a submission to Maimane himself on the security upgrade matter.
De Lille and Smith have been known to have been at loggerheads for some time. Smith recently beat a De Lille-backed candidate for the chair of the city council DA caucus. He also won a fight to retain his Safety and Security portfolio in the mayoral committee earlier this year – although De Lille wanted to shift him out of the portfolio.
Van Damme said the leader had already set up a special sub-committee of the federal executive in order to investigate “the political management and governance situation in the City of Cape Town. It would report back to the full federal executive as to what further action was required. It is chaired by John Steenhuisen MP, the parliamentary chief whip. It is scheduled to begin its hearings today, 3rd October.
Significantly Maimane said in the statement made in the media that allegations from both the Mayor and Alderman Smith “are now a subject of the investigation by both the panel … and the city itself”. These statements have been “inaccurate and are prejudicial to the investigation”, van Damme said on behalf of the leader.
This matter has boiled over after months of infighting in the Democratic Alliance city council caucus. There appear to be two factions – one surrounding JP Smith, who is broadly leader of the liberal faction. He himself comes from the Progressive Federal Party, Democratic Party tradition of the party. Former members of De Lille’s Independent Democrats – a party she led and merged into the DA – form the leadership corps of her faction in the city.
Smith is popular in party circles and has fought valiantly for his position in the party. He is believed to be particularly popular among coloured voters in the Cape Flats area – although he is himself a white man.
De Lille has defended the upgrades. She said she paid for the private upgrades, but the security upgrades were undertaken at her Pinelands home in terms of national legislation. The speaker of the city council has said that the security upgrades were paid for by the city. It is not known at this stage how much these upgrades cost the city.
If the DA decides that this matter is illegal – in the way that the Nkandla upgrades were illegal – it could mean the end of the mayor’s career in the DA. It would mean that she would be pushed out as mayor and as a councillor, and from the DA itself. That is only if she is found guilty of an illegal act.
See earlier story by the editor on the De Lille ‘Nkandla’ saga:
Note to Readers: Please find attached a soundbite by the DA National Spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme MP.