Melanie Verwoerd

Someone please save the DA from itself

2018-01-17 08:12
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (File, Netwerk24)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (File, Netwerk24)

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Enoch Powell famously said: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

Watching the ongoing shenanigans of the DA in Cape Town, it seems that Patricia de Lille is going to be the next casualty in the world of South African politics. 

Let me say upfront that I, like most Capetonians, don’t exactly know or understand what the truth behind all the drama is. Depending on who you talk to De Lille is either a saint or a corrupt, cantankerous dictator. 

When speaking to one side in this affair they make you believe that De Lille is guilty of gross maladministration or even corruption. The other side is quick to mention that she has always been fearless in her fight against corruption, pointing out how she exposed, among others things, the arms deal years ago. They argue this is just a classic case of powerful men trying to get rid of a very popular and successful (female) politician. 

My guess is, as always, that the truth is somewhere in between. 

What we do know is that Cape Town is running out of water – fast. (That is if we can believe a word that these guys are saying.) We have about 100 days left until our taps run dry. Unless we have heavy rains before then, by April we will need to collect water from trailers at collection points, with the army standing guard to prevent violence and rioting. 

With this Armageddon-like scenario looming logic would dictate that our elected representatives at the City of Cape Town would use every ounce of energy to prevent, or at least alleviate this crisis. 

But no! At a time when our Mother City faces most probably the biggest crisis in her history, the DA are fighting amongst themselves on a scale that would impress even the ANC. 

Of course corruption should be dealt with, but from what I can gather from reading the DA’s statements and speaking to insiders in the council, it seems that it has a lot more to do with De Lille’s management style. She has been accused of being divisive (a not-so-rare occurrence in politics), abrasive and of not being very cooperative with the provincial government. 

Now, that might all well be true, but if it is, it surely did not arise in the last few months. Why was it not dealt with earlier? More importantly: Why choose now, with Day Zero looming, to cause all this instability? 

Not only does De Lille now have to focus on preparing her defence against these charges, but she is no longer allowed to manage the water crisis. Undoubtedly this whole drama will also distract and affect the morale of the staff who have to ensure the running of the city. One casualty has already been the city manager, who resigned earlier this week. 

The DA wanted to also reassure us that their federal executive will be dealing with the De Lille matter in the next 60 days. I suppose that will leave a whole 40 days for them to refocus on the fact that the citizens that they are supposed to be serving will have no water to drink or to flush their toilets with. 

Of course, it is not the first time that the DA has had to be rescued from itself. Over the last 12 months, the party should have been able to just sit back and watch the votes rolling in – courtesy of the Zuma-led ANC. Instead, they had a Helen Zille crisis of epic proportions which had many supporters turning away in disgust. 
The DA needs to be very careful. They must not take the loyalty of their supporters – particularly in Cape Town for granted. There is widespread unhappiness about the water crisis levy that has been proposed and a sense that not enough had been done to prevent this crisis. 

If the De Lille and water situations are not handled correctly the voters will punish the DA at the voting booth and so they should. 

With Ramaphosa now set to become president, many of the disaffected ANC voters who crossed over to the DA will move back to the ANC. 

And so, if the DA wants to retain control of the Western Cape they better get a grip on this situation… fast. 

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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


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