The grounds on which the DA has finally fired Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille from the party are so technical that they are ludicrous.
To say that De Lille effectively fired herself when she said on a radio talk show that she would "walk away" once she had cleared her name is also disingenuous. The entire country knows that the DA fired De Lille because it no longer wants her as mayor.
After all, this is about their fourth attempt. Even the addition of a clause to the constitution that makes possible "the recall" of DA leaders, which it appears was written particularly to deal with her, has not done the trick. De Lille was ready to challenge the validity of the clause in court, which the DA had intended to apply retrospectively. Realising this flaw, the DA resorted to the "she fired herself" argument.
What the DA has done to De Lille is bad for the DA and is bad for the country.
In any case, if her undertaking was to walk away once she had "cleared her name", then this is not something she has yet had the opportunity to do. This is a big part of the problem. What she did wrong and the reasons why she had to go are yet to be explained. Yes, there are disciplinary charges laid, which presumably will no longer be pursued, but no proof of wrongdoing has been provided. Instead, DA MPs have participated in the distribution of a faked letter from the auditor-general alleging that she misused public funds.
It stinks as much as the Browse Mole and the hoax e-mails used in the ANC’s internal faction fights. It is as short-sighted a move as was the ANC’s perpetual decision to keep Jacob Zuma in office for reasons it believed were good for the party although bad for the country.
What the DA has done to De Lille is bad for the DA and is bad for the country. The DA has held itself up as a beacon of democracy and governance; it has tried to persuade us that it is a party of integrity and principle; daily it has called the ANC out on ethics and morality; it promised the electorate that it was different.
But over the past year, as it has wrestled to get rid of De Lille, the party has compounded our self-serving political culture, in which public representatives vote not on the basis of what the people they represent want but with their stomachs.
Like the ANC, the DA is now a party of government. With that has come power, status and political careerism. The DA has wasted no time in dissolving the mayoral executive committee and has already told people to pack up their offices. Councillors have been promised new jobs. De Lille spoke in her press conference on Tuesday about one who she claimed had already popped into the subcouncil offices to check on the office furniture.
The DA has promised it will finally take us into its confidence and release the details of the charges against her. But if these are no longer going to be pursued and therefore proved or disproved, then the DA will compound the unfairness that it has heaped upon her.
It may be the case that De Lille has done things that warrant her removal as mayor of Cape Town. If so, the DA has the ability to remove her. It could vote her out in council in a vote of no confidence; it could recall her on the grounds of things she has said and done since the new constitutional clause was adopted; or it could do what it really should have done in the first place: hold a full disciplinary hearing in Cape Town’s city council.
As none of these mechanisms for due process was followed, the public has in the end been left with the overwhelming sense that she has been wronged.
As De Lille is popular and has a record of strong integrity, the DA will pay to some extent at the polls for its folly.
There is also, as always in the Western Cape, the race factor when it comes to voting, and De Lille did have a strong following in the coloured communities.
Worse though than the damage it has done to its own support, the DA has ruined what was a good reputation.