Patricia de Lille. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Patricia de Lille. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Disciplinary cases in the DA that could be managed politically should not be dealt with by the party’s federal legal commission, the federal council says.

The federal legal commission, which acts as the DA’s disciplinary committee, had to be reconstituted at a federal council meeting at the weekend after a high court judgment — which set aside the party’s cessation of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s membership — found that the federal legal commission was not properly constituted.

De Lille’s case, as well as that of Knysna mayor Mark Willemse, who refused to resign as mayor after he was voted in without the party’s mandate, are examples of cases that could initially have been solved by political intervention, rather than the protracted disciplinary and legal processes they have become.

Analysts say the way the party has dealt with these cases could negatively affect voter sentiment. The De Lille matter, in particular, could have a strong effect in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, where she has a strong support base.

Electoral stronghold

The Western Cape is the DA’s electoral stronghold and the party has set its sights on retaining the province after the 2019 national elections.

The DA has also indicated that it aims to become the biggest party in the Northern Cape and Gauteng and form provincial governments in both.

DA spokesman Solly Malatsi said the federal council had observed that there were many cases that were brought before the federal legal commission that were mainly related to political management rather than discipline.

"In light of this, it [the federal council] recommended that instead of every case that related to political management being referred to the federal legal commission, chief whips of caucus and provincial chairpersons should be capacitated to resolve such incidents through political management to allow the federal legal commission to deal with disciplinary matters."

Federal legal commission chairwoman Glynnis Breytenbach and her deputy, Werner Horn, would continue to head the commission, which was now made up of 60 members.

Meanwhile, the party says it will appeal against the De Lille judgment.

Federal council chairman James Selfe said the court papers would be lodged soon. "We would appeal the procedural aspects. That is the fact that members whose membership have ceased are entitled to advance mitigating circumstances and that, despite the fact that we have reconstituted the federal legal commission, the previous federal legal commission was correctly constituted," Selfe said.