The key question is who follows Daisy de Melker when she leaves office as Mayor of Cape Town? Please forgive The Cape Messenger editor’s licence to call Patricia de Lille “Daisy”, but it is a name he long ago dubbed her – because she has a knack of choosing male advisors who somehow get given the heave-ho after a spell. One must hasten to add that they are not, however, poisoned.
Politics at the top is always a dangerous environment. Patricia de Lille is not a natural member of the Democratic Alliance, long having been associated with liberal free market economics and a reduced role for the state in governing human affairs. Her true political homes were the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and then her own Independent Democrats.
But she saw – and snatched – a great opportunity to transport herself to power by joining up with Helen Zille (who was key to drawing her into the DA). Daisy was perfect for the post. Zille needed someone charismatic and black – or almost black in Daisy’s case – to take over the Cape Town city government’s reigns. So De Lille was appointed to the Western Cape government for a spell, waiting to take over from an unknown Dan Plato. Plato, now an MEC, was keeping the mayoral seat warm for De Lille.
But for all accounts the relationship between Zille and De Lille is now frosty. The cosy working breakfasts on a Monday morning are over, so it seems. They have parted ways.
Enter JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security. For some reason Daisy doesn’t like him one bit. That is the corridor gossip at city hall, anyway. He is reported not to like her very much either. Anyway, to cut a long story short, his special investigations unit, a city mechanism, investigated the security upgrade at her home. She allegedly then shut the unit down.
The spat is now a matter of an internal DA probe, which will report back soon. Both have been suspended from DA party activities – although JP Smith was allowed to stand for office at the provincial elective conference. He was elected one of three deputy provincial chairpersons. One commentator noted that De Lille and Smith are suspended from party activities over the mini-Nkandla spat – regarding the security upgrades at De Lille’s home – but they should, in fact, be suspended from the city government while the investigations are taking place. But that is another matter.
It is not certain whether De Lille will survive this latest attack on her reputation. She does have a strong city following, but that may not be enough to protect her. She has appeared to have squashed the investigation into the upgrade – always a bad thing in the eyes of the media. And the political knives are out for her in the party.
Daisy may survive this one. But meanwhile a number of candidates are rearing their heads to replace her as mayor. Mayoral committee member for water (and a few other things) Xanthia Limberg, herself a former Independent Democrats supporter (a party previously led by De Lille), is believed to have ambitions to fill her shoes. But she is understood to be “too close” to JP Smith. So she may be out of the running.
Then there is Anda Ntsodo, the Eastern-area-based mayoral committee member. De Lille herself calls him a “mini-mayor”. Significantly he stood down as a candidate for the DA provincial leadership last weekend. One insider said that a deal has been struck with him. A promise that the party would put him up for mayor allowed him to withdraw from the provincial race. He would have drawn votes away from the (narrow) victor Bonginkosi Madikizela. As Madikizela won by ony 16 votes (one insider said it was only six) over Lennit Max, Anda could have spoilt Madikizela’s route to power.
Then there is JP Smith himself. In favour of him is that he was recently elected chairperson of the DA city caucus. He beat Shaun August, the chief whip – who is a De Lille man. August, an Afrikaans-speaking coloured person, was also elected a provincial deputy chairperson last weekend. Against Smith is that he is a white male, a particular identity which is a no-no in the current South African political environment. For this reason Brett Herron, the public transport mayoral committee member and a former Independent Democrat politician, is likely also not to be in the mayoral headlights. He is just too white.
But these are the candidates on whom to keep a watchful eye. Street fighter Daisy de Lille may hang on for a few more years, but these are likely to be the candidates who put their heads above the parapet when her successor is being sought.