Mayor Patricia de Lille, centre. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Mayor Patricia de Lille, centre. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

In hard-hitting court papers‚ Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has accused the DA of lying to SA and to the High Court as part of the party’s bid to get rid of her.

She also accused the party of "disrespecting" and "abusing" court process.

In an affidavit filed on Monday, she also asked that the DA be ordered to pay a punishing legal costs order if and when she won her latest court battle against it‚ so as to "send a strong message" to "other political parties … not to abuse the law and the courts to fight their political battles".

De Lille has taken aim at the party’s leadership‚ branding the DA federal chair James Selfe as dishonest in his claims of how the decision to terminate her DA membership was made — and claiming the entire process to remove her was "rubber stamped" without any real debate.

Effectively‚ she said in the affidavit that the DA is trying to use an "unlawful shortcut" — by summarily terminating her membership — to force her out of the party‚ rather than subjecting her to the disciplinary inquiry she is entitled to.

De Lille is quoted in a recent City Press column by Natasha Mazzone, deputy chair of the DA’s federal council, as making it clear the party’s "real issue" with her is a disciplinary one. However‚ De Lille points out that Mazzone had stated in a radio interview that the disciplinary charges against her had lapsed when the DA terminated her membership following her radio interview with [radio] 702’s Eusebius McKaiser.

Just more than a week ago‚ the High Court in Cape Town ruled that De Lille should retain her DA membership pending the conclusion of her review application to challenge the party’s "automatic cessation clause". The party used this clause to terminate De Lille’s membership‚ on the basis that she had stated in the radio interview that she would resign from the party — once she had cleared her name.

De Lille said this statement did not amount to a resignation from the party and denied that her relationship with the DA had "irretrievably broken down". She has also questioned why the membership of DA shadow minister of communications Phumzile van Damme was not terminated after she stated that she would resign from the party if it did not engage white privilege and black poverty. The DA maintained that Van Damme’s statement "may or may not legitimately fall" within the ambit of its "automatic cessation clause".

De Lille said the DA and some of the party’s local and federal leadership have shown bad faith‚ in 'an inadvisable attempt to get rid of me by using underhand and deceptive means'

In papers previously filed at the High Court‚ Selfe said it was "manifestly urgent" that a DA official occupying public office — who indicated they wanted to resign — be removed as soon as possible. He stated that "if a person has declared their intention to resign‚ it is vital that the person’s membership is ended as soon as possible"‚ adding that such a person was "extremely dangerous to the party’s interest‚ particularly if they occupy public office".

These statements make it clear‚ De Lille argued‚ that the DA should have acted "urgently" against Van Damme — but did not because "the party doesn’t want to get rid of Van Damme‚ but they want to get rid of me".

De Lille said the DA has made multiple contradictory and confusing statements over the termination of her membership‚ and has argued that its fight to justify the use of its "automatic cessation clause" is legally unsustainable. "That being so‚ there can be no logical explanation for the DA to continue to oppose this application." 

In her scathing affidavit‚ De Lille said the DA and some of the party’s local and federal leadership have shown bad faith‚ in "an inadvisable attempt to get rid of me by using underhand and deceptive means‚ including attempts to mislead the public and this honourable court".

She said the DA has tried to present its decision to terminate her membership of the party as innocent‚ and not the result of "the relentless vendetta and determination to get rid of me" — a stance she said "insults the intelligence" of the court.

According to De Lille‚ the DA had shown "disrespect" towards the judges who ruled that her membership should not be terminated until her challenge to the "automatic cessation" clause had been decided.

Judge Patrick Gamble‚ who heard De Lille’s case with Judge Monde Samela‚ stated in that ruling: "We are genuinely concerned for the harm her loss of office has for the people of Cape Town. The city has lost the services of its first citizen and members of the mayoral committee."

De Lille argued that the DA’s reported comments following that ruling — including deputy mayor Ian Neilson referring to her as a "lame duck" mayor and a DA statement that maintained the ruling was "not in the best interests of Cape Town" — demonstrated clear disrespect towards the court. She also criticised the party for releasing a series of statements and pamphlets that‚ she said‚ are misleading and distorted what the court had ruled through "spin doctoring".

DA hits back

The DA, however, has hit back at De Lille’s legal bid to retain her party membership. “She has publicly stated that she has no desire to remain a member of the DA‚ other than to further her own personal aims‚” Selfe stated in an affidavit filed at the Western Cape High Court. “She has violated the DA’s rules that clearly prohibit public declarations of an intention to resign. Yet she seeks urgent review relief in order to remain a member of the DA.”

The High Court has already ruled that De Lille should retain her DA membership pending the conclusion of her review application, due to be heard on Friday, in which she challenges the party’s “automatic cessation clause”, used by the party after her radio interview.

De Lille has accused the DA of trying to use an easy “unlawful short cut” to “get rid of me”‚ rather than pursuing a potentially difficult disciplinary inquiry process against her. But Selfe disagrees and is adamant that the DA acted lawfully when it terminated De Lille’s membership. “Membership of any organisation depends on two things: loyalty to the organisation, and compliance with the organisation’s rules. People have no right to insist on belonging to organisations to which they are not committed‚ and whose rules they have violated. Membership of political parties is no different.”

According to Selfe‚ while De Lille has argued there needs to be a “good reason” to remove her from office‚ “the only reason needed to justify her loss of office is her loss of membership of the party”. He denied her argument that she can only be removed through a vote of no confidence or a fair disciplinary inquiry.

He said De Lille’s statement that she intended to resign from the DA once she had cleared her name was bound to cause damage to the party, with other parties potentially asking De Lille to join them as “this may, in turn, influence other members of the DA to consider their future with the party”.

“Relatedly‚ other political parties may also capitalise on such statements through, for example, arguing that the DA is an undesirable political home‚ and is divided and weak,” said Selfe.

He claimed that the cessation clause De Lille is now seeking to challenge has been regularly used by the DA to terminate the memberships of ordinary party members and public office bearers‚ and denies it is being selectively used to target her as a “political dissident”. He said De Lille is seeking “explicitly to place herself above the party”.

“She argues that because she enjoys political support‚ and occupies the office of mayor‚ she is not subject to the same rules that apply to other DA members.”

De Lille, in turn, said the DA has dishonestly tried to present its decision to terminate her membership of the party as innocent‚ and not the result of “the relentless vendetta and determination to get rid of me” — a stance she said “insults the intelligence” of the court.

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