The De Lille dossier

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Willemse mo­ment”, in which the mayor was stand­ing up against any sen­ti­ment in the cau­cus that coloured and black peo­ple — the “ex-ID peo­ple” — were less com­pe­tent than the white coun­cil­lors.

De Lille read Bry­nard’s SMS to the cau­cus and a shout­ing match en­sued. Bry­nard claims De Lille called her a “Nat mur­derer”, not be­cause she was a mem­ber of the Na­tional Party but be­cause she is Afrikaans and white.

No one re­mem­bers ex­actly what was said but every­one re­mem­bers the mo­ment.

For De Lille’s crit­ics, the mayor han­dled it badly; too vi­cious in con­fronting Bry­nard. She lost con­trol, they say.

But the “wa­ter­shed mo­ment” for her crit­ics was when De Lille claimed the DA’s two-thirds ma­jor­ity was down to her, cau­cus chief whip and close ally Shaun Au­gust and Her­ron’s ef­forts.

De Lille’s sup­port­ers say Bry­nard pro­voked the state­ment and De Lille im­me­di­ately noted the con­tri­bu­tion of the rest of the cau­cus in the party’s vic­tory. Her crit­ics, how­ever, say the dam­age had been done.

Bry­nard left the party, cit­ing di­vi­sions, to join the Cape Party.

But there would be more drama. In April last year, there was heated de­bate dur­ing a cau­cus meet­ing about a pay­ment to the V&A Wa­ter­front. The city’s fi­nance de­part­ment had ap­proved the pay­ment of R9-mil­lion for mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices but most in the cau­cus were un­con­vinced. It had come in as a late item on the coun­cil agenda and it is al­leged that few were per­suaded by the mer­its of the pay­ment.

The cau­cus broke away from coun­cil to meet.

An at­tempt was made to reach a con­sen­sus by de­bate. De Lille then called for a vote but Au­gust and as­sis­tant whip Rose Rau could not count the hands wav­ing in front of them in the tiny meet­ing room.

Rau then called for a di­vi­sion, say­ing it was nec­es­sary be­cause the vote could not be tal­lied.

So the room split. Cau­cus mem­bers moved to ei­ther side of the room to in­di­cate their sup­port or op­po­si­tion to the pay­ment.

From one end of the room, the mourn­ful strains of Sen­zeni Na could be heard. The cau­cus di­vi­sions had been laid bare.

De Lille was forced to send the Wa­ter­front pay­ment back for more in­for­ma­tion. It was later in­cluded in the DA’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her con­duct.

The Steen­huisen com­mis­sion

Dur­ing the course of the last year, Selfe vis­ited the cau­cus and told them that, be­cause of the vol­ume of com­plaints the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive was re­ceiv­ing, a sub­com­mit­tee led by MP John Steen­huisen would hear sub­mis­sions from the cau­cus.

The M&G has spo­ken to some of the coun­cil­lors who tes­ti­fied.

De Lille still does not know the names of the coun­cil­lors who made sub­mis­sions. She went to court to or­der the DA to put its record of ev­i­dence on the court record. The party has stead­fastly re­fused to re­lease the names of coun­cil­lors or any ev­i­dence it has ac­crued against De Lille.

For some of those coun­cil­lors, it was the Wa­ter­front is­sue cou­pled with De Lille’s elec­tion vic­tory claims that led to the sub­mis­sions to the Steen­huisen com­mit­tee.

Her au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­er­ship style — al­legedly re­fer­ring to peo­ple as “stupid” and bul­ly­ing op­po­si­tion to her views to sti­fle dis­sent — was also cited.

“She’s a strong woman,” a pro-De Lille coun­cil­lor said.“If a man had called some­one stupid, would it be an is­sue?”

An­other claimed some pre­vi­ous may­ors “were 10 times worse” but never re­ceived the treat­ment she had.

But her crit­ics say they had been vic­timised. “We were la­belled as try­ing to stop trans­for­ma­tion in the city. We were told we had to be left be­hind be­cause we were stupid and use­less,” one coun­cil­lor said.

On the other side, De Lille’s sup­port­ers say they have been ha­rassed and threat­ened by col­leagues who have lost con­fi­dence in the mayor. Their own at­tempts to lay charges with the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive have come to nought. Thirty-eight of them signed a let­ter im­plor­ing Maimane and Selfe to take ac­tion.

Their com­plaints never formed part of the Steen­huisen re­port. De Lille sent a com­plaint about a voice note in­di­cat­ing moves to get deputy mayor Ian Neil­son “in the hot seat” but the com­plaint was al­legedly never taken up.

Some of her sup­port­ers are mem­bers of the “black cau­cus”. They say they have been side­lined and De Lille tar­geted for chal­leng­ing the “old guard”. They al­lege that her crit­ics are de­ter­mined to hold on to their po­si­tions. They con­cede that there are black coun­cil­lors who sup­port her.

“They are the safe blacks,” one coun­cil­lor says. “The ones who the party can ma­nip­u­late.”

The fac­tion­al­ism had still to reach its zenith. That would come in Fe­bru­ary when De Lille faced her first mo­tion of no con­fi­dence.

The UB40s and the 107s

De Lille sur­vived the mo­tion with the sup­port of the op­po­si­tion par­ties in coun­cil. In her own cau­cus, just 39 peo­ple voted against the mo­tion, 107 voted against her.

A lit­tle while later, the names of the 39 were leaked and posted on a Face­book page called Hand­sOf­fJPSmith. The 39 named them­selves the UB40s — they laugh when asked whether it is be­cause of the band. They named their op­po­si­tion in the other fac­tion the 107s. The num­ber refers to the num­ber of votes but it is also the emer­gency num­ber for city ser­vices.

The fac­tion­al­ism has been viewed as a spat be­tween De Lille and Smith but Smith has de­nied the claim, say­ing he does not en­joy such sup­port from the cau­cus.

“I’m not a like­able per­son, I’m a hard worker. I don’t have cock­tail par­ties in my of­fice, I don’t have braais. My col­leagues are my col­leagues and never my friends,” Smith said.

“I don’t have that in­flu­ence.”

In May, De Lille’s mem­ber­ship was ter­mi­nated but the West­ern Cape high court ruled that she be re­in­stated in June.

A lit­tle over a month later, the cau­cus was ready to do bat­tle again. An­other mo­tion of no con­fi­dence had been tabled in coun­cil and the lines were drawn be­tween De Lille’s sup­port­ers and crit­ics.

Then, in a sur­prise move, Maimane told the cau­cus that De Lille would face a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing and the mo­tion was with­drawn.

With the prom­ise of a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing, coun­cil­lors read­ied to tes­tify be­fore the party’s dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee. But then the prom­ise was bro­ken: De Lille had de­cided to re­sign, and the charges were dropped.

Her crit­ics be­lieve their names have been tar­nished. Her sup­port­ers say the same. A hear­ing would have al­lowed the SMS to be en­tered as ev­i­dence. It would also have al­lowed those al­leg­ing racism to air their griev­ances.

“Of course she re­signed, she’s been bul­lied con­tin­u­ously and her name has been drawn through the mud,” one of her sup­port­ers says.

“It’s got to a stage where ser­vice de­liv­ery is­sues have been af­fected. In the last two years we haven’t been able to make a dif­fer­ence like we should,” says an­other.

Some hope De Lille leav­ing will unify the cau­cus, oth­ers — on both sides — are more bit­ter than ever be­fore. Only time will tell whether the price of the deal was worth the cost.

Dis­puted: Pa­tri­cial de Lille asked that theSMS at the cen­tre of the bat­tle be au­then­ti­cated

Soured: Cape Town mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille fought a long bat­tle against a fac­tion of her own party, which in­cluded go­ing to court. The bat­tle is over but every­one is blood­ied. Photo: David Har­ri­son

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