REVEALED: The DA's scathing findings against power-drunk De Lille

Cape Town – A high-level investigation into embattled Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille by the DA paints a picture of an erratic and vindictive megalomaniac who "clearly has something to hide".

News24 has obtained a copy of the report compiled by chief whip John Steenhuisen, MP Patricia Kopane, Gauteng leader John Moodey and councillor Karen Smith. The report forms the basis of the DA leadership’s decision on the weekend to discipline De Lille for misconduct. 

De Lille has vowed to fight back and clear her name.

The report's findings include that:

• The residents of Cape Town were the big losers in a "turf war" between De Lille and councillor JP Smith over the shutting down of the city’s special investigations unit (SIU);

• De Lille pushed for a family friend to be appointed to the board of a municipal entity;

• A close family member of De Lille's may have benefitted from a controversial city tender;

• De Lille believes she, rather than the DA, was the driving force behind the party's successful 2016 election campaign, and

• De Lille is prone to bullying councillors who do not agree with her, calling them "stupid".

The Steenhuisen panel believes that instead of trying to get to the bottom of tensions, De Lille planned to punish DA members who made submissions against her to the commission.

Tensions between Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, and De Lille boiled over in August 2017 when she controversially ordered the shutting down of the SIU, which he headed.

'CT residents are victims of a political turf war'

The report has found that: "The SIU and the citizens of Cape Town, have clearly become the victims of a 'turf war' between the mayor, speaker (Dirk Smit) and (JP Smith).” 

In August 2017 the DA’s federal executive mandated Steenhuisen to head up a subcommittee to look into tensions and political management in the City of Cape Town. Councillors were invited to make submissions on the matter in both writing and in person.

It is this report on this subcommittee’s work, which the City has not released to the public, which details several shocking findings about De Lille’s conduct and deep-rooted problems threatening to cripple the DA’s Cape Town caucus - described in the document as the party’s "flagship municipal government".

The report accuses De Lille of abusing her power as mayor to ensure the appointments of those she favours.  

De Lille, according the report, did not seem to recognise that she is a DA mayor heading a DA administration.

'Toxic mix' threatening DA’s 2019 election prospects 

It concludes that the infighting rattling the City of Cape Town threatened to derail the party’s 2019 electoral prospects.

"This instability in the political and administrative arenas coupled with the effects of the drought could present a toxic mix that causes a massive electoral blowout at the polls in 2019," it said.

On Sunday DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that De Lille should be formally charged and investigated by the DA’s federal legal commission.

This followed months of mounting tensions between senior City officials and numerous shocking claims being levelled against De Lille.

READ: UNPACKED: The 8 main accusations against De Lille

The report said that instead of engaging with the subcommittee in a helpful manner, De Lille "chose instead to lawyer up".

"This subcommittee has been treated to a barrage of lawyers' letters which have been most unpleasant and unhelpful."

'De Lille wanted retribution'

The report said De Lille’s behaviour was not that of "a leader who genuinely wants to get to the heart of the conflicts".

"The impression is distinctly drawn that the mayor seeks copies of the submissions in order to effect retribution against those who have chosen to share their concerns with the subcommittee…

"Instead the subcommittee is left with the distinct impression that the mayor clearly has something to hide."

In September 2017 the intense infighting rattling the City started making its way into the public arena when News24 revealed that De Lille ordered the shutting down of the SIU.

The report said that based on submissions, it appeared the SIU had operated successfully for years.

But suddenly in August 2017 De Lille had ordered that it be shut down and that its name and mandate change.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Murder, irregularity claims surface after De Lille 'shuts down' City of Cape Town investigative unit

The report said De Lille ordered an investigation into the unit, but it was not clear what prompted this.

"What is clear however is that (Dirk Smit) appears to have become somewhat agitated about what he felt were investigations being undertaken by the SIU against councillors,” it said.

The City’s executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman denied that the unit had ever investigated councillors.

Further accusations were made that its members were gathering background information, relating to criminal records, on council candidates.

The report said Smith had said he had sought this information, however, not via the SIU, but rather via the police.

'A shame'

"It is a shame to the subcommittee that in the current environment of increased gang related violence and lethargy from the (police leadership) to properly resource the policing function in the (City of Cape Town) and the province, that a team that appeared to have success in fighting crime and exposing corruption and criminality has been radically curtailed."

It said the decision to alter the SIU’s scope needed to be relooked at by the full mayoral committee and DA caucus.

READ: De Lille's controversial Cape Town investigating unit 'shut down' could be reversed

The report said divisions in the caucus were centred around Smith and De Lille and that their relationship "has broken down irretrievably". 

Smith, it said, served as a councillor for 17 years and safety and security were his passion.

"His zealotry towards his portfolio is recognised by his detractors and supporters alike," the report found.

"This has led to him becoming virtually indistinguishable from his portfolio."

Smith recommended for Parliament

It said Smith had perhaps occupied the same portfolio for too long and it could be time for him to move on to a new challenge.

The report recommended the party consider approaching him about a "strategic swap" to the National Assembly or provincial legislature caucus.

Appointments, apparently made on either De Lille’s orders or influence, were detailed in the report.

One such appointment was that of former ANC councillor and poo thrower, Loyiso Nkohla. 

Nkohla was previously a leader of Ses'khona People’s Rights Movement – an organisation which made headlines in 2013 when members threw human faeces at the Cape Town International Airport, as well as other locations, to highlight the need for better sanitation in impoverished areas.

In 2016, he joined the DA. This move was frowned upon by some in the party.

'Nkohla’s increasing role is disturbing'

The report said the subcommittee was disturbed to hear about "the increasingly central role" Nkohla played in the City’s administration.

"It remains unclear how Mr Nkohla was employed in the city, but what is beyond dispute is that his entry into the city administration was facilitated by the mayor," it said.

After concerns from the public and within the DA, Nkohla was moved to mayoral committee member for water, informal settlements and waste services Xanthea Limberg’s offices, to apparently fill the role of a community liaison officer.

"The mayor indicates in her submission that this was 'approved by Cllr Limberg'. This does not however seem likely, as Cllr Limberg has indicated to the subcommittee that she was in fact most uneasy about this arrangement."

Limberg, according to the report, had very little control of Nkohla and was not sure of what work he was doing.

Nkohla 'mandated by De Lille'

It said Nkohla had often been heard saying: "I act with the mandate of the mayor". The report said he used this phrase particularly when he did not appear to be getting his way.

It found that he was allocated a council vehicle and he had ignored the City policy that these vehicles may not be taken home.

The report also said there was evidence showing Nkohla resided in a property rented out in the name of a house developer who was based in KwaZulu-Natal.

"It is unclear why this arrangement exists, but given Mr Nkohla’s proximity to the housing function in the city it may well constitute a potential conflict of interest and warrants further investigation…

"It remains unclear why he is allowed to wield so much influence within the city and why he appears to enjoy the ongoing patronage and protection of the mayor."

'De Lille shortlisted close friend’s daughter'

The report also detailed the appointment of Limia Essop to the Stadium Management Board, a municipal entity to manage Cape Town stadium.

It said De Lille had, during shortlisting, inserted Essop’s name.

The report found this was problematic because Essop "appears to be the daughter of a close friend of the mayor’s of long standing".

It also said motivation for her inclusion on the shortlist and the proposal for her to be on the board was her "so-called 'legal experience'".

But the report said this was "farcical because as at the time of the interviews Ms Essop was still completing her legal qualification".

Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson halted Essop’s appointment. When De Lille confronted him about this, she said she was expanding the board.

"This appears to have been done specifically to accommodate Ms Essop," the report said.

De Lille 'manipulated' City manager interview panel

Another appointment detailed in the report was that of City manager Achmat Ebrahim.

It said the subcommittee had a copy of an electronic message sent to a member of the interview panel on September 28.

The message said: "I want to keep Achmat so score him the highest".

"This is a most irregular and cynical manipulation of the interview process and flies in the face of accountable governance," the report said.

"If decisions around appointments such as this are open to such blatant instruction by the mayor, the subcommittee can only wonder how many other employment interview processes are similarly manipulated."

Ebrahim, it emerged on Monday, resigned on Friday - the same day he was meant to provide to the City council reasons as to why he should not be suspended.

'Black caucus'

Another issue rattling the City of Cape Town caucus was, according to the report, the existence of a so-called "black caucus" within it.

"It does appear from several interactions that there have indeed been meetings at various locations of black members of the caucus," it said.

"Proponents have styled these meetings to the subcommittee as 'non-DA ward' meetings, ostensibly to discuss strategy of the party in these wards and communities."

The report said it appeared the frequency of these meetings increased in the run up to the metro regional elective contest, as well as the Western Cape provincial congress.

It said the subcommittee established that on at least two occasions provincial, including leadership, figures, outside of the caucus, were present at these meetings.

"Such outside mobilisation by persons who are not members of the caucus should cease as these meetings are sowing resentment and suspicion within the caucus environment."

'Arena of acrimony'

The City of Cape Town’s caucus, according to the report, was the largest DA caucus in South Africa and consists of more than 150 councillors. 

"The caucus, however, has become an arena of massive contestation, acrimony and abuse."

It said members of the caucus felt that the Chief Whip, Shaun August, "is too closely linked to" De Lille.

Smit, the report said, was also seen as being aligned to De Lille.

"Councillors have indicated that the speaker refers to various members of the caucus as 'die liberales (the liberals)'. If this is indeed the case then it is deeply inappropriate."

It said as speaker, Smit was meant to take steps to ensure all councillors, regardless of affiliation, were protected and heard.

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