De Lille resigned due to 'dictatorial DA'

Patricia De Lille is out as the provincial leader of the DA in the Western Cape, less than a year after her election to the position.

Firstly, the resignation of an elected leader naturally causes tremendous disarray in any political party. This is simply because one does not get elected at a conference by a majority of delegates, after having lobbied those delegates as the best person to represent their interests into the future, and then decide outside that conference, to have an epiphany about just how great you will be if you remained in your current role and forgo your newly elected position.

In many instances, it takes tremendous force, and a swamp so deep you feel you cannot clean it up without drowning, to let down the hundreds of delegates and thousands of members who showed confidence in you.

De Lille’s resignation follows what has been a cruel and abusive trend in how the DA has been dealing with dissidents. It is no secret that some of the DA's federal decisions have been inconsistent with De Lille's own vision of running the City of Cape Town and by extension the party. Consequently, in the time she has been in office, she has refused to present arguments in defense of some federal executive orders, and has not been convinced about their appropriateness.

Last year, interesting rumours emerged of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille seeking to contest De Lille for the party leadership in the province. Was De Lille surprised? She probably knows Zille as an ideological bomb thrower; a reckless, power-hungry misguided pseudo-liberal. Zille, in turn, most probably considers De Lille as temperamental, unpredictable and someone who wants to be remembered as the leader who did the most for the party (being seen as a rebel would hamper those ambitions).

Here are the facts that we know so far:

De Lille defied the DA Federal Council by appointing Shaun August as a Chief Whip of Council, ignoring a preference of the Federal Council.

She defied DA leader Mmusi Maimane by reappointing Loyiso Nkohla when she was told not to do so.

She wanted to boot out Mayco Member JP Smith with no apparent reasons.

De Lille's Mayco set-up is seen by Federal Council as a reward to her loyalists and a consolidation of power by former ID people.

Her attempts to remove Grant Twigg as a sub-council chairperson elected in a constitutional meeting of sub-council was seen as a direct attack on the constitution of the DA.

Her resignation – barely a year after her energetic election and without a reason that would persuade critics – puts the DA in a very difficult and defensive position.

The inability to have a succinct and rational explanation for her resignation literally embarrasses her party, and particularly its leader, Maimane, who is proving very weak on defining himself as a strong and independent leader. Her resignation comes across as partly forced and abusive and it makes everyone who is aspirant in the DA's upward mobility vulnerable and unsure.

In the DA's run to sustain the Coloured support, they are doing a very bad job and those who consider themselves 'principled supporters' may well rattle the cage sooner rather than later.

De Lille is no push over, that we know. What then has happened that now effectively means she is at the end of her promising political career?

Let’s go back to who De Lille is. She is a career politician with a great appetite to compete. On 14 March 2011, she beat Grant Pascoe, Shehaam Sims and incumbent Dan Plato to become the DA's mayoral candidate in Cape Town ahead of the 2011 local government elections.

Before that she had been the founder and the leader of the Independent Democrats, formed in 2003 during a floor-crossing window and fall-out with the PAC. So she certainly does not lack appetite to compete or ambition to get to the next stage. She has done that since the beginning of her political career in the South African Chemical Workers Union, where she started as a shop steward and eventually became regional secretary, before being elected to National Executive Member in 1983.

It is this drive and ambition that makes her resignation all the more suspicious and inconsistent with her marching forward career. This abrupt and sudden resignation has laid bare the growing discord and dissent surrounding the federal executive orders which are governed almost dictatorially. All DA black leaders have at some point complained and questioned this federal authority, which is always accusing members of betrayal and insubordination. If indeed the DA has fired (forced resignation) De Lille because she stood for principle, this may well be the beginning of the end of the party.

The black supporters who the DA has absorbed, who are not conservative when their rights are trampled over, are going to introduce a new culture of protests on the streets if the DA continues to make these irrational decisions and a rift between the conservatives and the new recruits will ensue.

The lesson for De Lille and other DA black leaders is that having your own convictions can be costly in a party like the DA. If one is properly grounded in their convictions, those convictions become their foundation, which allows them to stand firm, to address unpopular opinions, cut through the emotional and murky waters and Lord willing, do the right thing and lead others to follow in doing the right thing.

So is it worth it? How does it feel to stand at the post event reception like the outcast leper?

Many die hard supporters of the DA have already found her resignation politically indefensible.

- Yonela Diko is a spokesperson for the ANC in the Western Cape.

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.

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