IN FOCUS | De Lille - 'I have no enemies in the party'

2017-02-03 10:43
(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille looks you straight in the eye when you ask if she had a falling out with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and whether that was the reason for her resignation as the DA’s leader in the province.

She seems annoyed by the question.

“Why should I fight with Helen? I’ve got respect for Helen. With Helen what you see is what you get,” she says. “It’s all fabricated.”

It is Thursday afternoon and in the aftermath of a media storm unleashed this week when De Lille announced she was stepping down as Western Cape leader of the DA to focus solely on her task as mayor of the party’s longest run metro.

Sitting in her plush office on the sixth floor of Cape Town's civic centre, she says she's glad the week’s over, because half of what she was confronted with was “absolute rubbish”.

“I think initially people thought I had left as mayor. I even got a call from Archbishop Tutu who said he nearly fell off his chair. But then all the speculation started." 

And that’s exactly what it was: speculation. Or as she put it bluntly, “hulle lieg man!”

If in-fighting in the DA was really the reason she resigned, she's never going to say so. The veteran politician seems unmoved by the mention of such rumours. Sure, there must be people who don’t like her, but if you're in politics for people to like you, you’re in the wrong profession.

“I don’t have enemies in the party. I’ve never been part of any faction. My secret to surviving in politics for over 45 years now is to be on your own. Never be part of any faction. That’s the secret to my survival,” she says. “There’s absolutely no in-fighting and even if there was, I never run away from a fight. I fight the fight and have it out. I want people to believe me when I say that.”

In her letter of resignation to DA leader Mmusi Maimane she writes that the two thirds majority support she received in Cape Town in last year’s local election made her anxious about whether she will be able to do it justice.

Before her official resignation she had long discussions with him about how she could add more value to her job as mayor, and also help the mayors of the DA’s newly won metros if she didn't have to also lead the party in the Western Cape. 

She will now focus all her attention on her much punted new organisational development and transformation plan (ODTP). One of the major challenges she will have to tackle with this is providing affordable housing to the city’s poorest.

The eviction of illegal tenants from private property by developers is becoming a major headache for the city, with a court case brought by tenants of a private property in Bromwell Street in Woodstock being just one of many that’s reportedly in the pipeline.

In this case the city offered tenants emergency housing in Wolwerivier near Mamre after they were served with eviction notices. The residents are, however, refusing to move to Wolwerivier and say they would battle to get transport from there, get to clinics and hospitals, and get their children into new schools. Judgement on the matter is still outstanding.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the city be judged for what’s happening in Bromwell Street,” says De Lille. “Where private property belongs to you in terms of the Constitution you can do with it whatever you want. If you want to sell it to developers who want to build high houses, you can. We as a city can only balance gentrification with city owned land. And we can only give housing to those who qualify in terms of the Constitution.”

She adds that the city has at least five ongoing projects to develop affordable housing in inner city areas such as Bellville, Parow and Claremont.

The 6 ha of land underneath the unfinished bridges in the Cape Town foreshore has been put in the market for affordable housing. Another development in Maiden's Cove is also in progress, where money that is leveraged from the land will be used for affordable housing.

The city also recently bought about 680 ha of land in Somerset-West, the only piece of open land left between Somerset-West and Khayelitsha, where they're planning a big housing development.

As for the dispute over the Tafelberg school site in Sea Point, if the Western Cape Province will sell that property to the City of Cape Town, De Lille says she will build affordable houses there.

“If the province is prepared to sell that property to us, I will build affordable houses there. But it’s not my call. I would like to see it happen, but it will be up to province,” she says.

Another area De Lille will be focusing her energy on in the coming months is Cape Town’s extended water crisis. She admits that they were caught off guard with the drought and that it’s no longer good enough to wait for it to rain.

“Currently we’ve only got 20% usable water. Even the little bit of rain we had recently is not enough to be usable. I want to make sure that we never get into this crisis situation again,” she says.

“We’ve been persuading people to help and people have responded very positively. But there are about 20 000 citizens who have just been abusing water. We know the names and addresses of the 1000 worst ones and we will now engage them, and the next step is to name and shame them.”

She’s also taking the Minster of Energy to court to allow Cape Town to buy renewable energy from independent energy sources so that the city can be energy secure with 20% renewable energy by 2020 and just briefed Adv Wim Trengrove on the matter. 

One thing’s for sure. Patricia de Lille is not going anywhere.

“Politics is in my blood. I sleep, eat and drink politics. I enjoy it because I’m a loner and I can do whatever I want. I’m also not a fence sitter. If I make up my mind, my yes is my yes, and my no is my no.” 

Read more on:    patricia de lille  |  da  |  city of cape town

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