De Lille, Smith suspension an embarrassment - analyst

2017-10-04 18:30
Patricia de Lille (Netwerk24)

Patricia de Lille (Netwerk24)

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The DA has suspended City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and councillor JP Smith from the party after allegations and counter-allegations of corruption and the misuse of funds came to light. Political analyst Daniel Silke explains the move and what it means for the DA politically.

How can the DA suspend members from the party but leave them in their official positions? Is this in the best interest of the citizens of Cape Town?

One has to make the distinction between the party and the jobs these high placed officials perform at the expense of the rate payers. In order to ensure continuity of service they have to function on a day by day basis to service the rate payers. And so they’re suspended from political activity for the investigation into allegations to take place while not undermining the cohesiveness of the party itself. It’s an attempt to freeze them out of the politicking that goes on behind the scenes, especially ahead of the provincial conference where a new provincial leader will be elected.

It’s quite controversial to suspend the mayor of Cape Town. Why would the DA take such a step?

The actions taken and what we’re seeing is an emergency patch up. It’s a stop gap until a fuller investigation can take place. It’s ultimately embarrassing for a party, especially for a party with such a degree of local public support to have top position holders suspended. It smacks of deep rooted dissent and illustrates an inability by the national leadership of the party to tackle internal clashes in a timeous manner.

Why do you say it’s an embarrassment for the DA?

The animosity between De Lille and JP Smith has been going on for months now and reflects very poorly on the national leadership of the party in not adequately seeing the warning lights in what is the DA’s flag ship province and city. If any political party fails to crack the whip provincially, then the national leadership has to step in and take control. Otherwise the animosity festers and becomes worse and ends up being extremely damaging to the party as we’ve seen in the ANC.

Aside from being embarrassing, how will this impact on the DA’s political power?

The DA loses a degree of political ammunition in terms of the way it criticises the ANC’s squabbles if it’s fighting at a high level in its own ranks. It makes it quite difficult to have credibility when criticising Jacob Zuma, and it undermines the broader DA message.

With everything going on in the ANC, this is the DA’s moment to shine and so it really is very bad timing. The party is only lucky there is no upcoming election.

Last year De Lille resigned as leader of the DA in the province. Is she being isolated politically and does this speak of factional battles in the DA?

I don’t think the DA has actually explained that decision of De Lille to resign adequately. For most voters in Cape Town there is confusion about why that event happened. It’s critical that her position is clarified. She either remains a party functionary or she will effectively find herself very isolated and neutered politically. It does look as though there are elements looking to neuter her politically. This might be the final period in her service to the DA.

It was previously reported that De Lille and Western Cape premier Helen Zille had a fallout. Could this have anything to do with her gradual isolation?

It’s a funny situation, where the latest developments with De Lille almost parallels Helen Zille’s situation in a way – both finding the latter part of their careers mired in various forms of political controversy. It will be a test of mettle for DA leader Mmusi Maimane at a national level, who is now faced with a serious crisis in the City of Cape Town. It will require very decisive and tough leadership to bridge the divide in the party.

Perhaps for both this is the twilight years of their careers and in both cases the divisions and the controversy have effectively curtailed any future aspirations they might have. They both attained commendable and highly responsible positions. 

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