Adriaan Basson

De Lille's U-turn exposes sham 'political settlement'

2018-10-24 11:30
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. (Photo: Conrad Bornman)

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DA leader Mmusi Maimane should have known better.

"Political settlements" only work when you are willing to sacrifice facts, evidence or even the rule of law in exchange for political expediency. 

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille's imminent U-turn on her deal with Maimane to resign as alderman in exchange for the party dropping the disciplinary charges against her will expose the "political settlement" for what it was: a sham.

Maimane wanted the DA's "De Lille problem" to disappear and made a political calculation when he agreed to let her go unblemished in exchange for her resignation letter.

It is common knowledge that Maimane's Cape Town colleagues were furious with him. For months they were trying to hold De Lille accountable for alleged wrongdoing with the appointment of a city manager, the protection of senior city managers implicated in corruption and other indiscretions.

These charges were not merely bar talk by disgruntled party members; it was the findings of an in-depth forensic investigation by a reputable law firm. The report has not been set aside or challenged in a court of law.

Of course, it didn't help the DA's cause when the national leadership introduced parallel legal action against the much-loved De Lille, including charging her for statements she made on a radio show. It made her seem like the victim of bullies who were hell-bent on finding anything against her that would stick.

Had the national leadership allowed the Cape Town process to follow its course, we would have known by now whether De Lille was guilty of disciplinary offences or not. 

Now we are back to square one. The deal is off, after another forensic report by the law firm surfaced, and De Lille will again play victim while the DA's PR machine will frantically look for a new explanation why they are backtracking on Maimane's deal. 

My understanding is that the DA's Cape Town caucus will again push for a motion of no confidence, disciplinary hearing and criminal charges against her. De Lille will say this is further proof that she is being victimised. 

South Africa has a sorry history of political settlements where the rule of law was sacrificed to achieve political gain. The most prominent example was the ill-advised decision by the former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, not to charge former president Jacob Zuma with corruption alongside his financial advisor Schabir Shaik in 2003.

Years later, it emerged that a political decision was made not to charge Zuma if he agreed to leave politics. We all know how that worked out for the ANC.

In no way can Zuma and De Lille be compared; this is not about the individuals, but about the principle.

The DA claims to be the party at the forefront of fighting corruption and maladministration in all its ugly forms and faces. How can its national leader instruct the Cape Town caucus not to pursue the factual findings of a credible forensic investigation? 

This will be tantamount to defeating the ends of justice and DA councillors in Cape Town had every right to insist that due process be followed until a competent panel rules on the veracity of the charges.

De Lille should not be worried about facing a disciplinary or criminal investigation. If she is innocent, like she claims, she will be vindicated and fully justified to continue in her role as mayor. 

"Political settlements" have no place in democratic institutions that claim to champion the rule of law.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanBasson

Read more on:    da  |  jacob zuma  |  mmusi mai­mane  |  patricia de lille
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