After months of infighting, Patricia de Lille will finally get her chance to answer for the various allegations levelled against her – an exercise that will either clear, or damage, her name moving forward.
De Lille and the Democratic Alliance reached an agreement late on Wednesday night ahead of a planned motion of no confidence in the Cape Town city council on Thursday.
The DA agreed to speed up the embattled Cape Town mayor’s disciplinary proceedings, while also granting two of De Lille’s oft-cited requests: to provide her with the evidence used to compile the party’s internal “Steenhuisen report” against her conduct and to have the hearings open to the media.
In exchange, the party would withdraw its motion of no confidence against her in council, and the status quo will remain until the proceedings are concluded.
De Lille told journalists in her offices late on Thursday following the marathon council meeting that she was very happy with the outcome.
“At last now we are going to proceed with a proper disciplinary hearing. That is what I asked for all along. I also owe the country, to give them my side of the story, and my ultimate aim is to clear my name.
“A lot of untested allegations have been put out in public without evidence, and for the first time now it’s going to be tested, so I’m very happy about that.”
De Lille said she had a frank conversation with DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Wednesday evening.
Without giving too much detail away, she said they both came to the same conclusion, that the best way forward was to finish the disciplinary proceedings initiated against her.
When asked if she considered the outcome a victory, she answered: “I feel very relieved.
“I wish we could have done this more than six months ago, we would not be where we are today.
With a sense of sanity having prevailed, one could ask the question, “what took so long?”
“There have been various factors,” DA deputy federal council chairperson Natasha Mazzone said frankly on Thursday evening.
“Some include points in limine that were raised in the first disciplinary hearing; there was the court case that happened as well, so there have been extenuating circumstances.
“This particular issue has been dragged out for a long time, and it’s caused a lot of confusion and a lot of unnecessary tension.
“We are of the opinion that this is the way to resolve the matter as speedily as possible, and in as pleasant way as possible and in as transparent way as possible.
“We believe in holding mayor Patricia de Lille to account.”
Mazzone told News24 she was not personally in the meeting with Maimane and De Lille, but had “no doubt that it was cordial, and a consensus-based meeting”.
As for the possible outcome, and party’s confidence in its case, Mazzone said they did not want to pre-empt the process.
“The charges against the mayor are well known, and the media is going to get the opportunity to hear the answers to these particular allegations. I’m quite sure the two parties made this agreement in good faith, and the disciplinary hearing will happen in good faith too.”
When quizzed on the possible damage the issues could further have on the party’s public image, she replied the party was not worried.
“We believe in accountability and transparency. We ask the national government to do this, and so we must expect this of ourselves too.”
The charges against De Lille will now have to be reformulated by a new federal legal commission panel, after the Western Cape High Court’s ruling earlier this month found it was improperly constituted.
There will then be a pre-trial conference in the coming weeks, that will deal with technical issues, and provide De Lille with the evidence she requested.
De Lille’s lawyers will then be given a chance to prepare her defence for the disciplinary in full, which will be conducted over three days in August.
De Lille had the last word, admitting that they don’t all have to get along, but they do have to work for the City.
“We all have to work together. I’ve always put the City of Cape Town first, and I expect those councillors [who are unhappy with me] to also do so.”[source: News24]