Patricia de Lille with her advocate‚ Dali Mpofu. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Patricia de Lille with her advocate‚ Dali Mpofu. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The DA’s automatic-cessation clause was “ridiculous and irrational” and threatens freedom of expression and association, the High Court in Cape Town heard on Monday.

As Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s battle with the DA continued in court on Monday, her legal representatives said that the party sought to oust her using illegal means.

De Lille, whose membership of the DA was terminated in May, launched a two-part court challenge. In part A of her application, De Lille sought to interdict the city from declaring a mayoral vacancy and to retain her party membership pending conclusion of court processes.

In part B, she sought to have the DA clause on “automatic cessation” of party membership declared invalid.

She was successful in the first part of her application.

The saga has damaged the DA brand amid speculation that some members are considering forming a breakaway organisation ahead of the 2019 elections.

Dali Mpofu, for De Lille, argued in court on Monday that the DA sought to remove the mayor by “unlawful means” without affording her a disciplinary hearing to ventilate the charges against her.

“The DA want to intentionally jeopardise her rights and continue to vilify her in the public eye,” said Mpofu. He said the clause limited De Lille’s right to freedom of expression, association and to hold office.

“If your removal from the party of your choice can be so easy, that threatens your right to freedom of association.”

Mpofu said that the matter was political and did not belong in the courts.

In May, De Lille returned to her office after the High Court in Cape Town ruled that it was in the best interests of service delivery for the city’s residents to avoid “musical chairs” in the council by maintaining the status quo pending the conclusion of court processes.

However, the court noted that De Lille’s relationship with the opposition party “has all but come to an end”.

De Lille approached the court to challenge the DA’s decision to rescind her membership after she told radio station 702 that she would leave the party after clearing her name.

She asked the court to restore her party membership pending the application to set aside the DA’s “automatic-cessation clause”.

Under the clause, membership ceases once a party member publicly declares his or her intention to resign and/or publicly does so.

Johan de Waal, also for De Lille, said the DA’s decision to cancel her membership was an overreaction and disproportionate. It was akin to killing a fly with a hammer, he said.

Furthermore, said De Waal, De Lille was given very short notice — 24 hours — to respond to the serious decision to rescind her party membership.

This, he said, was irrational and went against the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.