Party digs in its heels on for­mer mayor

Mail & Guardian - - News - Ra’eesa Pather

Although the Demo­cratic Al­liance made Pa­tri­cia de Lille an of­fer to keep her coun­cil seat open for 90 days, the party has now said it will not al­low her back on its benches.

The party has been em­broiled in an ugly feud with the erst­while mayor of Cape Town in its at­tempts to re­move her as mayor. This week the party ex­pelled her from the party on the grounds that she vi­o­lated its ces­sa­tion clause, which re­scinds a party mem­ber­ship if a mem­ber pub­licly de­clares their in­ten­tion to re­sign.

De Lille ap­proached a court to sus­pend the DA’s de­ci­sion. In an an­swer­ing af­fi­davit fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son James Selfe said De Lille’s ap­pli­ca­tion was base­less.

The first part of De Lille’s ap­pli­ca­tion, to be heard on Fri­day, seeks to in­ter­dict the DA, the city man­ager and the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC). De Lille has asked the courts to al­low her to re­main in the DA for a month longer so that her name can be cleared.

But Selfe said it was not pos­si­ble for De Lille to be granted the in­ter­dict because these ac­tions took place prior to her court papers be­ing filed. The only thing she could hope to achieve with an in­ter­dict was to pre­vent the IEC from fill­ing her va­cancy.

“The ap­pli­cant is not seek­ing to pre­serve the sta­tus quo but to re­verse the hands of time to when she was a mem­ber of the DA,” Selfe said.

On Wed­nes­day, the party of­fered De Lille a set­tle­ment agree­ment in terms of which her coun­cil seat would re­main va­cant for 90 days to “avoid the need for un­nec­es­sary and costly lit­i­ga­tion”. She would re­main ex­iled from the party, an act­ing mayor would con­tinue in her stead, but her seat would be left va­cant. De Lille de­clined the of­fer.

In her found­ing af­fi­davit, De Lille said she sought to in­ter­dict the party’s de­ci­sion to re­move her so that she could clear her name through the party’s dis­ci­plinary pro­cesses and a court ac­tion she has lodged.

But Selfe claimed that, if De Lille re­tained her mem­ber­ship, the gov­er­nance of Cape Town would be racked by in­sta­bil­ity.

“The DA will be sad­dled with a person who does not want to be a mem­ber, but who oc­cu­pies a coun­cil seat in the DA’s name,” Selfe said.

“The city will have a mayor who lacks the sup­port of her cau­cus and who, hav­ing just been re­placed by an act­ing mayor, may again be re­moved from of­fice when part B is de­cided.”

The first part of De Lille’s ap­pli­ca­tion deals with the ur­gent in­ter­dict, and the sec­ond sec­tion chal­lenges the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the DA’s mem­ber­ship ces­sa­tion clause, and ar­gues that it vi­o­lates the Pro­mo­tion of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Jus­tice Act because it breached her right to “nat­u­ral jus­tice”.

e Lille said in her court papers that the DA ap­plied the clause un­fairly to her because it re­lied on a state­ment she made dur­ing an in­ter­view with Ra­dio 702 host Euse­bius McKaiser and had mis­in­ter­preted it.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view in April, McKaiser asked De Lille if she would re­sign from the DA once she had cleared her name. De Lille said she would “walk away”.

The DA said the in­ter­view showed her in­ten­tion to re­sign, trig­ger­ing the ces­sa­tion clause but De Lille re­torted that she was re­fer­ring to her res­ig­na­tion as mayor. She said the clause vi­o­lated her free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

But Selfe, in the court papers, said De Lille had failed to make a sub­stan­tive ar­gu­ment on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the clause. He also ar­gued that po­lit­i­cal par­ties are pri­vate en­ti­ties and their mem­ber­ship is­sues can­not be de­ter­mined by the Pro­mo­tion of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Jus­tice Act.

“Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are not pub­lic bod­ies; they are pri­vate bod­ies. While they on oc­ca­sion ex­er­cise pub­lic pow­ers, they do not do so when they de­ter­mine their own mem­ber­ship. That is a quintessen­tially pri­vate func­tion that can­not be sub­ject to [the Act],” Selfe ar­gued.

The ap­pli­ca­tion to chal­lenge the ces­sa­tion clause will be heard on a date de­ter­mined by agree­ment with Judge Pres­i­dent John Hlophe. De Lille has other cases pend­ing. Her first DA dis­ci­plinary hear­ing was in­sti­tuted because of al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the Steen­huisen re­port, which was com­piled af­ter a sub­com­mit­tee of the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive, led by John Steen­huisen, made al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, ill-leadership and cor­rup­tion against De Lille. The fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive adopted the re­port and in­sti­tuted dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

In early April, a month be­fore her mem­ber­ship was re­scinded, the party in­sti­tuted a sec­ond dis­ci­plinary hear­ing against De Lille on a charge that she did not prop­erly ad­ver­tise a job post. Both dis­ci­plinary hear­ings were in­def­i­nitely post­poned fol­low­ing com­plaints by De Lille that mem­bers of the pan­els were not fit to judge her case, and that the process should be open to the pub­lic.

De Lille has taken the Steen­huisen re­port on re­view in court but the case was post­poned to al­low her to make an in­ter­locu­tory ap­pli­ca­tion that her team has yet to lodge. A week ago, De Lille’s le­gal team drafted papers to com­pel the party to sub­mit the full record to the court of the doc­u­ments it used to make the al­le­ga­tions it con­tained.

But, with her mem­ber­ship ter­mi­nated, the in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary hear­ings may not be valid because she is not a mem­ber of the party. Her court ac­tion re­gard­ing the Steen­huisen re­port may also be sus­pended because she un­der­took the ap­pli­ca­tion as a mem­ber of the DA.

De Lille told the court in her lat­est ap­pli­ca­tion to in­ter­dict the DA that she was be­ing un­fairly dis­ad­van­taged because she would now not be able to chal­lenge the al­le­ga­tions against her pub­licly.

“Apart from los­ing my job, it will mean that I will not be able to con­tinue with the two court cases against the DA because I act in those cases as a mem­ber of the DA. It will fur­ther mean that I will also not be able to de­fend my­self in the dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against me and clear my name in pub­lic. The rea­son for this is that a party can­not dis­ci­pline some­one who is no longer a mem­ber of that party,” she said in her af­fi­davit.

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