Fighting back: Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille addresses a media conference in Cape Town after she was ousted as a member of the DA. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Fighting back: Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille addresses a media conference in Cape Town after she was ousted as a member of the DA. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Patricia de Lille claims in court papers that she is the victim of DA factionalism.

The Cape Town mayor, whose membership of the DA has been terminated by the party, has instituted a two-part court challenge, which will be heard in the High Court in Cape Town on Friday. She wants to interdict the city from declaring a mayoral vacancy and is seeking to have the DA clause on "automatic cessation" of party membership declared invalid.

In her court papers, De Lille says: "The leadership’s burning desire is to replace me as mayor with someone from the [councillor JP] Smith faction."

De Lille and Smith had been fighting about an investigation of renovations done at the mayor’s house.

That fight triggered events that led to the DA effectively expelling her on Tuesday. The renovations saga has been dubbed "the DA’s own Nkandla".

De Lille argues in her legal papers that the DA had no interest in getting rid of her as a member and its leadership indicated it would arrange for her to serve in another high office, for instance as an MP.

DA federal council chairman James Selfe confirmed in February that the party was "trying to settle [with De Lille], but obviously not at a cost".

The DA announced on Tuesday that De Lille’s party membership was terminated automatically after she said in a radio interview that she would leave the party after she had cleared her name.

In the court documents, De Lille traces the start of her woes back to 2016, shortly after the local government elections when the DA regained control of the City of Cape Town by winning a two-thirds majority of the popular vote.

At the time, says De Lille, her political opponents, led by Smith, "persuaded the party’s national leadership ... that it is necessary to get rid of me as mayor of Cape Town ... and more importantly the person who is — for all intents and purposes — the decision-maker, Mr James Selfe, the chairperson of the federal executive council".

"This I believe is partly motivated by political differences … partly because of personality clashes and criticism of my leadership style — a perception among some is that I behave in an autocratic manner. But mostly because of the political ambitions and aspirations of said Smith and his group.

"In their efforts [to get rid of me], the party, Selfe and his enforcers — primarily Glynnis Breytenbach — have come up with the most fantastical claims against me.

"I am not wedded to the position of mayor, but I took a principled position to deal with the party’s allegations against me in public in a bid to clear my name.

"Considering that my name has been smeared in public, it must be cleared in public."

De Lille says the DA seemed reluctant to proceed with her disciplinary hearing in public because it knew the charges against her would not stick. She argues in her application that the DA clause and its rules on the automatic cessation of membership are procedurally unfair and contrary to the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

It would also be unfair according to common-law rules of natural justice and public policy, she says. "The DA contends that I publicly declared my intention to resign … I deny that I made such a public declaration, and I also contend that this clause is contrary to section 16 of the Constitution, the right to freedom of expression, the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and public policy. Also, as with the recall clause, the right conferred by the automatic expulsion clause was not exercised ‘boni viri’ [with the judgement of a fair-minded person] but to avoid having to conduct a disciplinary process against me," De Lille says.