The Democratic Alliance is at war with itself in the Western Cape. It has emerged that the party’s backroom boys are behind the plot to oust Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille who – borrowing a campaign slogan from former DA leader Tony Leon – promised to “Fight Back” to keep her job. The group are also behind the undermining of the authority of the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille
Little by little, the story behind the bungled ousting of De Lille is coming out. A group of internal coup plotters in the party is led by Democratic Alliance chief executive officer Paul Boughey. One source close to the Western Cape DA leadership said simply: “These guys simply run… or try to run… the whole show. The city, the province (the Western Cape government). Mmusi (Maimane) is simply a stuffed shirt that they point in various directions and give him a script to read.”
Central to the political fight and mission to get rid of De Lille is the matter of the water crisis. De Lille is seen to be in the way of the national leader, who in January took charge of the “Day Zero” campaign. He reported that the mayor of Cape Town (and the other mayors of course as well in the province and nationwide) report to him as the party’s national leader.
Therefore, he argued, he had the right to take charge and take away the mayor’s responsibility to her voters. Maimane has put it bluntly: He believed that De Lille had messed up the water campaign.
While internal DA sources can’t be identified for obvious reasons, one key outside source close to De Lille is Simon Grindrod. Grindrod served as an Independent Democrats councillor and mayoral committee member in the coalition government when Helen Zille was mayor. He left politics and parted ways with De Lille ten years ago, but he has been like a crusader fighting for her political virtue.
This is what he says about the Boughey control over everything that happens in the City of Cape Town. Referring to the electoral victories in 2011 and 2016 led by De Lille, Grindrod said: “It would be ridiculous to suggest De Lille was solely responsible for these significant victories. On the contrary, the DA made sure from the first day of her candidacy that an impressive team of handlers were managing her. Paul Boughey, now DA CEO, was installed as her gatekeeper and Chief of Staff (at the City of Cape Town). Ian Neilsen, the Executive Deputy Mayor since 2009, had for many years been embedded as Mayco Member for Finance where he oversaw City budgeting and spending. The DA, understandably, ensured they had absolute control of the finances, policies and messaging of their Mayor and her administration. Indeed, as central party control intensified under Maimane, every decision and media release had to be approved by headquarters to ensure compliance with policy and branding.
This is what the other key source confirms: “Actually the people calling the shots are Paul Boughey and Jonathan Moakes (the former chief executive officer and now chief of staff for Mmusi Maimane), the party’s pollster. Did you know that Boughey was furious that (Cape Town Deputy Mayor) Ian Neilson announced the deferral of D-Day (Day Zero) to May (from April).”
Day Zero is the day that the City of Cape Town is expected to run out of water to supply the residential and business taps. This source is right. Maimane wanted to announce this good news – it certainly wasn’t Neilson. Significantly Maimane forgot Neilson’s surname when they jointly addressed a press conference on the water crisis last week….
This source went on: “Mmusi’s handlers are really calling the shots. Mmusi is simply a stuffed shirt that they point in various directions and give him a script to read from… The fact of the matter is that Boughey and Company see (Western Cape Premier) Helen Zille as their major problem and are desperate to deny her any advantage from a higher profile as she manages the (water disaster). They are trying to over-ride the legitimate role of public representatives.”
This, noted this source, also applied to Patricia de Lille. “It is quite outrageous that the DA federal executive (led by James Selfe) lays down a three-line whip for how the Democratic Alliance caucus in the City of Cape Town must vote. This referred to the upcoming February 15 vote of no confidence being brought against De Lille. The source continued: “A city caucus in the United Kingdom, France or the United States would never stand for that.”
Notably, De Lille told the Cape Messenger she was looking at the legality of forcing the DA’s caucus – which represents 66 percent of the council – being forced to vote against her. She says she is consulting her lawyers on this matter. If a vote of conscience is allowed – such as the DA demanded of the ANC when President Jacob Zuma faced a vote of no confidence in the national assembly late last year – De Lille could win the vote. The minority parties and a sizeable chunk of the DA caucus are behind her now. She could well garner a majority in the council if a “conscience” vote is allowed.
De Lille is fighting back in a big way. She said the DA had now spread the story far and wide that she was corrupt and had tried to garner a R5 million bribe. “I have now been informed by the SAPS that a criminal complaint has been laid against me by the federal leadership of the Democratic Alliance pertaining to an alleged solicitation of a bribe from a Mr Anthony Faul in January 2013.”
Denying ever having done so – although acknowledging that she did meet Faul about a plan to provide firefighting equipment to the city – she said the DA had “rushed off to the police with the allegation and immediately …went on a concerted campaign of distributing the message to all and sundry that I am corrupt. With the motion of no confidence against me to be debated next week Thursday the 15th of February 2018, the timing of this latest effort to discredit me is most unfortunate”. De Lille said she had never taken any money from anyone.
She went on. “My lawyers tell me that it is an abuse of the criminal justice system to lay a complaint against someone for an ulterior purpose… in the present instance my political demise. I do not buy Mr Selfe’s explanation that he acted because the party is obliged to report the matter to the police.”
All that can be said of the showdown next Thursday at the Civic Centre is: The show is not over until the fat lady sings. De Lille is not fat, so it will not be for her to announce that the show is over.
And, indeed, if the bungled attempts of removing De Lille in the last four months are any indication of what will happen in that hallowed hall, the De Lille show may just go on.