Patricia de Lille (left) and DA leader Mmusi Maimane address a media briefing in Cape Town on August 5 2018. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BRENTON GEACH
Patricia de Lille (left) and DA leader Mmusi Maimane address a media briefing in Cape Town on August 5 2018. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BRENTON GEACH

Despite the amicable tone of Sunday’s announcement by DA leader Mmusi Maimane that Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille is stepping down from her position, a key legal battle remains in play.

Maimane said that after months of wrangling, all internal disciplinary charges against De Lille had been dropped and she would step down as mayor at the end of October.

De Lille, who was elected mayor in 2011, remains a DA member.

The party, which prides itself on good governance, has been unhappy with her leadership style and the loss of the City of Cape Town’s clean audit status in the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

The DA still intends to challenge a ruling handed down by the high court in Cape Town in June, which set aside its decision to strip De Lille of her party membership and found that the DA’s federal legal commission was improperly constituted.

Patricia de Lille has resigned as Cape Town mayor after months of infighting in the Democratic Alliance between certain party members.

The second aspect of the ruling has potentially far- reaching implications, as it means that previous decisions taken by the federal legal commission are open to challenge.

"The appeal is still going ahead," Maimane said on Sunday. He did not explain why the charges against De Lille had been dropped, and emphasised that the agreement reached with her related only to internal party matters. It did not cover a separate investigation by the City of Cape Town.

The process to elect a new mayor would get under way immediately, and De Lille would ensure that there was a smooth handover, Maimane said.

Lack of evidence

Taking to Twitter a few hours after the cordial media conference, De Lille struck a more combative tone, and said that the charges against her had been dropped due to lack of evidence.

"I want to assure South Africans that I did not make a deal with the DA. I took the personal decision to resign because I could no longer take the consistent abuse. It was very difficult decision and I trust that everyone will understand," she said on Twitter. At the media conference, De Lille said she would be seeking a court order this week to formalise the fact that the charges against her had been withdrawn.

She said she would spend the next few months focusing on land issues in Cape Town.

"0ur country is facing some massive challenges.… What our country needs now more than ever, is for its leaders to put their differences aside and work even harder to address [the] historical imbalances in our society."

She would not be drawn on her plans for her future.

The ANC in the Western Cape described the agreement between De Lille and the DA as "illicit", and said it enabled the DA to impose a mayor who had not been chosen by voters.

"This arrangement will not change facts on the ground. The polls are showing massive decline in DA support and that [the] ANC is fast closing the gap," ANC Western Cape caucus leader Xolani Sotashe said.

"This is driving the DA [in] desperation to settle the De Lille matter even if it means covering the allegations of corruption and nepotism they accuse her [of]….

"Our major concern has been the governance crisis in Cape Town as this DA infighting has compromised service delivery; underspending budgets for vital houses and infrastructure; water mismanagement and the resultant protests across the city and province," Sotashe said.