Is this the end of De Lille's political career?

2018-05-08 15:46
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Gallo images/Getty images)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Gallo images/Getty images)

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It's official. Patricia de Lille and the DA's divorce papers have been filed. Reasons are cited as "irreconcilable differences". The marriage lasted less than eight years. A protracted court battle is now expected, as De Lille readies to "clear her name" and restore her honour.

What the struggle veteran and career politician will do after that, is still anyone's guess. The rumour mill has been working over time ever since she was seen at the EFF's memorial event for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Given her PAC background, the EFF might not be a bad home ideologically for De Lille. But, with only one seat in the provincial legislature, the EFF doesn't have anything to offer her in the Western Cape.

De Lille's other option is to join the ANC, but the party is in disarray in the province, and joining them could be a huge blow to De Lille's reputation for taking the ruling party on for its corruption.

"I don’t know if she would be effective if she joined either the EFF or the ANC," says political analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela. "She had been a member of the PAC and left to start the Independent Democrats (ID), before they merged with the DA. If she joins another party now, it might look like she's a person who has no principles, and just goes where she's enticed to. She might lose credibility.

"Right now, people have sympathy with her. She's fighting for a principle in clearing her name. If she were to join another political party, she might lose that. So, I don't think she will go elsewhere before the court case is finalised and she has the moral high ground after she defeated the DA legally."

The DA will no doubt be glad to put the entire De Lille saga behind it. But the poor way in which they handled it will hurt them in the public eye.

Gareth van Onselen, head of politics and governance at the Institute of Race Relations, says the party would have made sure to poll the possible impact of losing De Lille on their support base.

"After the motion of no confidence in her, the DA sent around SMSes to their supporters to explain the process and what happened. That costs a lot of money, and it's borne out of insecurity about how this will affect their support. The party is very worried about how this will play out," he says.

Van Onselen doubts that it will affect their majority vote in the Western Cape, although support for the party might dip below 60%.

'This whole political morass is bad for the DA'

But the saga would've lost the DA a lot of the goodwill and sentiment it had built up with its tremendous efforts to expose and bring to book former president Jacob Zuma on allegations of fraud and corruption.

"Many had started to admire the DA for all the good fights it put up against Jacob Zuma. It portrayed itself as the party of constitutionalism. Even those who are not DA supporters had good things to say about the party. They were winning support in votes, but also in general sentiment. With Zuma gone, Cyril Rampahosa in power and their internal mess, all of that will now begin to disappear," says Mkhabela.

One also has to question the political management of the DA. They had several ways to resolve the issues with De Lille. They chose the way of disciplinary action, but when De Lille said she wanted a public hearing, they refused.

"If they were afraid she would say something embarrassing, they could gone with a closed mediation process. She would've probably agreed to a private arbitration, chaired by someone neutral. But they so badly wanted to get rid of her, that they couldn't see it," says Mkhabela.

What does all of this mean for the DA in Cape Town? And is this the end of De Lille's political career?

"Undoubtedly this whole political morass is bad for the DA. The public cannot understand when politicians engage in mudslinging. By doing this, the DA reduced the complexity of the De Lille matter to politics, with the result that people now cannot make sense of it, and cannot make a moral judgement on who is right and wrong," says Van Onselen.

As far as De Lille goes, she might be inclined to start her own party or even revive the ID. That would cost a lot of money and would have to be done very fast in order to be ready for the 2019 elections, but certainly can be done.

Read more on:    da  |  patricia de lille

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