Court ruling on Patricia de Lille’s fate could usher in a historic first for Cape Town
Some say important work is being left undone ahead of the city’s budget vote; others say councillors and committees are cracking on
The City of Cape Town could have its first mayor who is not backed by a political party.
The Cape Town High Court will on Tuesday give its decision on an urgent application brought by former mayor Patricia de Lille‚ which could put her back in the position from which she was fired by the DA last week.
The DA announced its decision to remove De Lille last week following a radio interview.
She said in the interview that she would quit the party once she had cleared her name of various allegations, including nepotism and protecting individuals who were at the centre of a storm over tender irregularities involving major infrastructure projects.
In the meantime‚ since De Lille launched her application on Tuesday last week‚ Cape Town’s highest executive leadership body‚ the mayoral committee‚ has been in limbo pending the court’s decision.
Acting mayor Ian Neilson’s spokeswoman, Piera Abbott, said Neilson had decided not to appoint an interim mayoral committee as he was waiting for the court’s decision‚ but she said this was affecting the city’s ability to deliver services to residents.
"There are definite implications‚ certain decisions need to be made — most importantly, obviously, our budget because that’s supposed to be tabled to council at the end of May‚" said Abbott.
"We need a mayoral committee to approve that budget and recommend it to council‚" she said.
The ANC has accused the DA of having effectively taken over the city and running it from its offices in Johannesburg.
ANC Western Cape spokesperson Yonela Diko said the DA had acted unconstitutionally when it removed De Lille.
He said the ANC wanted the council to investigate the various allegations against De Lille and other council members.
"The bigger lesson for the councillors in the city is the importance of separation of party and state‚ or of party activities and council. Council is the highest decision-making body in the municipality‚" he said.
"What was missed here was a lot of decisions were taken disregarding council‚" said Diko.
"The feeling now is that the DA has effectively taken over the council, which is made up of ANC‚ EFF‚ and other parties‚ which means the functioning of the municipality is happening elsewhere and not in council."
Diko said this had constitutional implications.
Council speaker Dirk Smit said technically De Lille could take up her seat without being a member of any party — but it would be the first time something like this had happened.
Smit said the portfolio committees‚ subcommittees‚ and councillors were continuing with their work‚ especially with Cape Town’s budget vote coming up at the end of the month.
The mayor and mayoral committee "only have certain powers and responsibilities", he said.
The broader work "lies with the council and committees. Those continue every day‚ and the officials and the top structures are continuing 100%‚" he said.
De Lille would not say what her next wove would be when contacted on Monday‚ saying only that she "will respond after the judgment"‚ and that she "respects the judiciary".
If she is reinstated as mayor‚ the court would also in effect have forced the DA to accept her membership of the party, until a high court hearing on the DA federal council’s decision to end her membership, which is expected to take place on May 25.
DA federal executive committee chairman James Selfe said the "question in law" was whether a court could force a public benefit organisation like a political party to accept a member.
But if she became mayor again, De Lille would be able to reconstitute her mayoral committee — some members of which have been at bitter odds with her — although she would not have the support of her own caucus to take any decisions.
"If she wins she will be restored as a member of the DA and as mayor. Theoretically she could reconstitute her mayoral committee but this requires the concurrence of the federal executive‚ temporarily pending the outcome of the review application to be heard on May 25‚" said Selfe.