DA vs De Lille: Electoral Court best place to hear telemarketing case, judge rules

2019-04-26 14:39
patricia de lille
Good leader Patricia de Lille confers with her legal team and Good secretary general Brett Herron after Friday's court proceedings. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Good party leader Patricia de Lille's application to the High Court in Cape Town to interdict her former party, the DA, from saying that they fired her as mayor after alleged corrupt activities at the City of Cape Town, has not been granted. 

However, Judge Robert Martin did, much to De Lille's joy, on Friday uphold the Electoral Commission of South Africa's (IEC) ruling that the DA was untruthful in their telemarketing material when they said that they had fired De Lille.

Last week, the IEC ordered the DA to "cease and desist" from saying that De Lille had been fired as mayor of Cape Town, and ordered the DA to publicly apologise to De Lille within three days.

The DA has applied to the Electoral Court to review the ruling. This matter will be heard soon, according to De Lille, probably before the May 8 elections.

Last month, De Lille complained to the IEC about the DA telemarketing, alleging that the script that call centre personnel used stated that she had been fired and was guilty of wrongdoing.

READ:Maimane says De Lille telemarketing case will end up at Electoral Court

When canvassers are asked about infighting and De Lille, they are allegedly asked to respond: "We fired Patricia de Lille because she was involved in all sorts of wrongdoing in the City of Cape Town. The DA doesn't allow corruption and will take action against anyone, even our own members". De Lille announced that she was leaving the DA on October 31 last year – the same day she resigned as mayor of Cape Town as per agreement with the party after months of acrimony. She subsequently founded Good.

The IEC found that the DA had made a "manifestly false statement" by saying that De Lille had been fired, and was therefore in contravention of the electoral code.

They found that the allegations of wrongdoing and corruption against De Lille "constitutes an opinion or comment on the basis that these allegations are yet to be verified and therefore cannot be said to be false".

Electoral Court

On Friday morning, Martin said the matter was whether the South African electorate was being misled by the DA's statements, which could affect the freedom and fairness of the elections, placing it in the domain of the Electoral Court.

"The most appropriate forum to hear both legs of this dispute is not this court," Martin ruled.

He said it could create a situation where the High Court and Electoral Court come to opposing rulings. 

"Therefore this court will adjourn this matter without establishing a date. There is no order as to costs whatsoever."

While Martin delivered his judgment, De Lille sat in the public gallery next to Good secretary general Brett Herron, surrounded by orange clad supporters, taking notes with a stern expression.

After the ruling, De Lille conferred with her legal team in the courtroom before addressing about 40 people in orange Good T-shirts on the steps of the court building. 

"I'm so happy this morning," she said.

"The judge recognises that the Independent Electoral Commission, the IEC, is a Chapter 9 institution, and therefore the decision by the IEC stands!" she said, to cheers from the orange-clad supporters.

"If the DA wants to review the decision, they must go to the Electoral Court." 

"So, as Good, we stand by the findings of the Independent Electoral Commission that the DA is a bunch of blue liars!" 

"They are a bunch. Of blue. Liars!" she said to more cheers. "And we continue to say it until they go to court to review the IEC decision."

"I came here to enforce the IEC decision. I wanted an interdict so that they can stop using that script. 

"It is the DA's right to take the decision on review, and that is what they are doing now," she told reporters.

Review

"What the victory for me here is today, that while they are seeking a review of the IEC decision, the decision of the IEC stands, until such time as a court review it, and for me, that is good enough. It's good enough because they don't want to apologise, that's why they're going for a review.

"For me, the victory here today is that the IEC is a Chapter 9 institution, their decision stands, that the DA lied."

The DA also felt vindicated by Martin's ruling.

"The Western Cape High Court has today confirmed that the matter brought before it by Patricia de Lille was not urgent and postponed it indefinitely, as it is best considered by the Electoral Court, and has vindicated the DA's position throughout," said Mike Moriarty, the DA's principal representative on the IEC's Party Liaison Committee.

"De Lille has tried three times to bring an urgent motion before the High Court and all three attempts have failed.

"We stand by our position that Ms De Lille jumped before she was pushed and that she faces criminal charges for a variety of wrongdoings during her tenure as mayor.

"We are glad she is no longer part of the DA. We are focused purely on delivering change that builds One South Africa for All and will not be distracted by this one-person revenge project."

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections.

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