De Lille back in court to hear her fate - how we got here

2018-06-27 05:20
Patricia de Lille speaks to the media in the Western Cape High Court. (Adrian de Kock/Netwerk24)

Patricia de Lille speaks to the media in the Western Cape High Court. (Adrian de Kock/Netwerk24)

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Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille will on Wednesday hear her fate in her application to have the DA's decision to cancel her membership set aside.

The Western Cape High Court will deliver judgment in De Lille's case at 09:30, after both parties argued their cases over two days earlier this month.

The embattled mayor took the DA to court after the party's leaders "determined" that she breached one of its constitutional clauses during a radio interview in April where she said she would "walk away" upon clearing her name of the various allegations levelled against her.

De Lille had asked a full bench to rule on whether the cancellation of her membership for those comments, and therefore her removal from the Cape Town city council as mayor, was unconstitutional and procedurally flawed.

Her counsel, Dali Mpofu, SC, argued before the courts earlier this month that her removal was in bad faith, and was ultimately not about her membership, but her continuing to be mayor.

Her comments on radio were in any case "conditional", and many other party members had made similar comments in the past, he contended.

The DA's counsel, Sean Rosenberg, SC, countered by saying De Lille was very aware of the party's various clauses, and set in motion the termination of her membership herself by "publicly declaring an intention to resign".

The so-called "cessation clause" was in the party's constitution to protect it from "disloyal" members, and it was within the court's ambit to decide whether De Lille's words represented an express intention to quit, he contended.

'Feeling positive'

De Lille told News24 on Tuesday that she was feeling "positive" ahead of the court ruling. She had great respect for the independence of the judiciary, and was quietly confident that her legal team had put forward a strong argument in her favour.

She was also still prepared to take her case to the country's higher courts if necessary, she repeated. She would also be returning to court on Thursday for a different aspect of her case: her ongoing review of an internal party report into her conduct.

DA deputy federal council chairperson Natasha Mazzone told News24 on Tuesday that the party would wait for the court judgment before commenting, as it did not think it proper to pre-empt the judges' decision.

Mazzone assured Capetonians that service delivery remained a top priority and that the City remained committed to creating and encouraging a flourishing environment in the metro.

De Lille returned to her position temporarily on May 15 after the court granted her interim relief pending the full review of the DA's decision. The court's ruling will determine whether she will return permanently or not.

The breakdown in De Lille's relationship with the DA has stretched over a long and arduous 18 months.

Here is a timeline of the key events that have led to this point:

January, 2017: De Lille steps down as the party's Western Cape leader in a surprise move. She says the decision was made so she can focus on her role as Cape Town mayor.

July, 2017: Mayoral committee member JP Smith sends a 30-page letter to DA leader Mmusi Maimane and federal council chairperson James Selfe highlighting grievances in the DA's Cape Town caucus under De Lille.

September, 2017: De Lille comes under fire for shutting down the metro's special investigating unit. This after a number of allegations, including that she approved irregular security upgrades to her home, are levelled against her.

October, 2017: Maimane requests an internal party probe into Smith's allegations against De Lille. It would be chaired by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.

October, 2017: JP Smith accuses De Lille publicly of making irregular security upgrades to her home in Pinelands. De Lille fires back. Both De Lille and Smith are placed on special leave from party duties by Maimane.

November, 2017: Allegations of corruption against transport commissioner Melissa Whitehead and others in the city council also become public, following an affidavit filed by former city director Craig Kesson. De Lille is accused of covering up Whitehead's alleged indiscretions.

December, 2017: A confidential council report compiled by law firm Bowman Gilfillan is tabled in council alleging prima facie evidence of maladministration in the City, including the allegations against Whitehead, De Lille and others. At the same time, the internal party report compiled by Steenhuisen is finalised, highlighting widespread dissatisfaction in the caucus under De Lille.

December, 2017: De Lille is suspended from party duties pending a disciplinary hearing into her conduct. She denies all the charges against her and requests that her disciplinary hearing be made public. 

January, 2018: The DA's federal executive formally charges De Lille who then takes the "Steenhuisen report" on review.

January, 2018: The DA Cape Town caucus passes an internal motion of no confidence against De Lille, paving the way for a formal motion in the city council. Her powers to handle the City's drought crisis are also curtailed by council.

February, 2018: De Lille survives the motion of no confidence in the city council by one vote, after around 40 DA councillors side with other opposition parties who want De Lille to account to the council. 110 councillors vote against the motion, while 109 vote for.

March, 2018: De Lille's disciplinary hearing fails to get out of the blocks after the parties disagree on the chosen chairpersons of the hearing's panel and whether it should be conducted in public. De Lille fights for a public hearing, while the DA maintains it is a private matter between member and party. It is postponed indefinitely after one chairperson recuses himself.

April, 2018: The DA congress amends its constitution to include a "recall clause" to order members to resign from executive posts if they have lost the confidence of their caucus.

April, 2018: The DA Cape Town caucus votes again in an internal motion of no confidence against De Lille, paving the way for her to either resign or have her membership ceased via the new recall process. De Lille indicates intention to challenge the legality of the recall clause.

April 26, 2018: De Lille gives an interview to Radio 702 talk show host Eusebius McKaiser. After being pressed, De Lille says the writing is on the wall for her in the party, and that she would "walk away" after clearing her name. De Lille contends later that she meant she would resign as mayor, not from the party.

May 3, 2018: The DA federal executive sends a letter to De Lille saying it has determined that her membership has ceased due to the comments in the interview. She had breached clause by declaring publicly an intention to resign. She is given 24 hours to respond.

May 7, 2018: News24 reports that senior DA members shared a forged auditor general document claiming adverse findings against De Lille. The members in question say they had no idea it was a forgery. The party says it fell victim to fake news, and an "internal probe" is proposed. De Lille says she will lay a criminal complaint.

May 8, 2018: The DA federal executive announces the decision that De Lille's membership has ceased. She is therefore automatically removed from the Cape Town city council and deputy mayor Ian Nielson takes on the position of acting mayor.

May 15, 2018: The court grants De Lille interim relief in her bid to review the federal executive's decision to remove her, pending a full review. She is returned to her position in the interim and the "status quo" is maintained.

May 31, 2018: The Cape Town city council strips De Lille of all her powers except her ability to call mayoral committee meetings and conduct ceremonial duties.

June 4-5, 2018: The two parties head to court to argue the merits of her removal from the party, and the council, in full. Judgment is reserved.

June 27, 2018: The Western Cape High Court is due to deliver its judgment on whether the DA's decision to remove De Lille was lawful, and whether or not she can return to her position permanently.

Read more on:    da  |  city of cape town  |  patricia de ­lille  |  cape town  |  courts

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