The De Lille issue is not about colour

2018-05-20 06:06
Patricia de Lille (Mayor of Cape Town) speaks during the City of Cape Town’s Rondebosch East land claim handover ceremony. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

Patricia de Lille (Mayor of Cape Town) speaks during the City of Cape Town’s Rondebosch East land claim handover ceremony. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

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Tebogo Khaas’ analysis of the Patricia de Lille matter (“DA after the De Lille saga”, City Press, May 13 2018) reveals the danger inherent in identity politics.

Our sad history of legislated racialism has left us with the unfortunate habit of groupthink, in which we approach political and electoral issues as members of a race or ethnic group, rather than as free-thinking individuals. This has not served South Africa well in the past, nor will it do so in the future.

Khaas’ resentment of the DA’s attempts to remove De Lille as mayor of Cape Town is centred on the fact that De Lille is a black woman. Had the mayor been a white man, it would have been an entirely different story, yet this shouldn’t be the case.

For the sake of the people they serve, public servants should be judged on performance, not race – there must be one set of rules for everyone. I urge Khaas and all South Africans to make the effort to view the De Lille issue through a nonracial lens.

Any DA public representative who does not adhere to the DA’s high standards of clean and efficient governance will be removed. Surely all South Africans want all political parties to take this position? Are we not united by our fervent desire for an honest, capable government?

Here we have a mayor who has ceased to perform her mayoral duties to the high standard we should all demand of our mayors. Even before considering the litany of her specific wrongdoings, her dysfunctional leadership style is reason enough for her to be held to account. Too many of her councillors, of all races, find her to be autocratic, secretive, high-handed and obstructive to the functioning of council. Had the mayor been a white man, there would have been little resistance to his removal. Her poor handling of the drought crisis alone should be grounds for disciplinary action.

Now add to that the long list of specific, serious allegations of maladministration against De Lille and you have a situation in which it would be irresponsible to turn a blind eye. These allegations are detailed on the DA’s website.

An external legal investigation by the law firm Bowman Gilfillan found that De Lille’s actions constituted gross misconduct, gross dereliction of duty and conduct that amounted to deceiving council.

The Auditor-General’s report downgraded Cape Town’s audit status, finding that “leadership did not exercise adequate oversight responsibility”, and an internal investigation concluded that action had to be taken.

Khaas and many others seem to expect the DA to ignore these reports because De Lille is a black woman. And this is somehow in the interest of advancing black aspirations? No.

Black aspirations will only be advanced when South Africans of all races unite in demanding clean, honest and functional governance.

When a mayor attempts to influence official appointments, when she blocks investigations into financial irregularities, when she insists that the daughter of a close friend be appointed to the stadium management board regardless of unsuitability for the role, when 70% of the caucus loses confidence in the mayor and when a city’s financial management is questioned by the Auditor-General, the political party involved must hold that mayor to account, regardless of race.

De Lille’s disciplinary process has been drawn out precisely because the DA has followed due process, which takes time.

In South Africa’s proportional representation system, it is critical that political parties are both able and willing to hold poor performance to account. And this needs to be able to happen in a way that does not affect service delivery.

If the De Lille matter results in greater legal clarity around the mechanism for parties to hold public representatives to account, then it would ultimately have served to deepen our democracy.

Our country needs to grow a culture of accountability that is entirely nonracial. The aspirations of the black majority will be best served if South Africans are unwavering in their demand for capable and honest leaders. No individual should be above this social imperative.

- Mazzone is the deputy chair of the DA’s federal council

Read more on:    da  |  patricia de ­lille

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