De Lille weighs her options: ‘I am not ruling politics out at all’

Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille in court in May this year Picture: Adrian de Kock
Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille in court in May this year Picture: Adrian de Kock

Former mayor not ruling out politics amid speculation about revival of her old party

Moments before Patricia de Lille called time on her relationship with the DA on Wednesday, a large media contingent stood at the ready on the staircase leading up to the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, speculating on what hand De Lille would play next.

“But where are her supporters? There is no one here,” a woman stops to ask. “I think she must go,” she offers her two cents’ worth.

“You know, meisie, I was in exile in Lusaka. It was terrible for me to leave the ANC but I did it, because they forgot about us coloureds. I joined the EFF, but they are racist and they just wanted voting cattle. I can never be used like that. I left two months ago,” she says.

We are joined at this point by another street analyst who says: “It’s true that the ANC forgot us coloureds, but I’ll still give them a chance.”

The woman disagrees. “No, it’s obvious now that we need a party just for coloureds. That is the only party I will vote for.”

The man, taken aback, responds: “No, you can’t say that. It’s wrong, it’s racist.”

It’s then that “Aunty Pat” arrives and is immediately mobbed by flashing camera lights and a flurry of questions.

“Just give me a chance,” she pleads.

“Start your own party,” someone shouts from a growing crowd outside the court.

Exactly a week ago, in the comfort of her then mayoral office, De Lille recalled her decision to allow the Independent Democrats (ID) to merge with the DA.

Many are speculating now that her exit signals the resurrection of her party.

READ: De Lille bows out, calls on Maimane to take control of DA

“I wanted to become the first woman to run a party,” she said, looking back to 2003, when she formed the ID.

“People said, ‘She is mad, how can she open a political party before elections?’ Anyway, I proved them all wrong. I was eager to see how South African voters would respond to a woman leader. South Africans, as usual, rose to the occasion and I got the support.”

Did she compromise too much when she joined forces with the DA?

“No, I am always connected to the bigger picture. I believed then and I still believe today that you need to build that alternative [a political party which is an amalgamation of opposition parties]. I still believe there is not a strong enough political party that can take on the ruling party.”

The ID was absorbed into the DA officially in 2014 with De Lille having taken up the position of Cape Town mayor in 2011.

“It was such a humbling experience. To think that it was in this Cape Town where I started my political career – throwing stones, toyi-toying, marching every year with the opening of Parliament –and then coming full circle to actually serve the people of Cape Town. We won the elections with 61% in 2011.”

A poster from that election year has recently been revived on social media.

Helen Zille, Lindiwe Mazibuko, Mmusi Maimane and De Lille are seen smiling with a caption above their faces which reads: “Your vote can make history.”

On the edited social media version, Mazibuko and De Lille are crossed out and a question mark hovers over Maimane, indicating that he might be the next to go.

Full of praise for Mazibuko, De Lille said she had admired her work in Parliament even before they belonged to the same party.

She says at the time of Mazibuko’s departure she was not aware of any tensions between her and Zille, learning of the differences between the two leaders only later.

So was Mazibuko pushed out?

“I can only speak for myself. My personal experience [was] that there are a few people who have been in the DA for many years who really feel that you are either with them or against them.

“I served on the highest structures of the party and I recall one day when I was getting into a lift with Mmusi. I supported Mmusi fully when he became the leader. For me it was progress because Mmusi is very articulate, he is an orator and all of that.

“I got into the lift and I said to Mmusi: ‘There are some people in the party who feel that they want to rule this party until Jesus comes and that all of us who come in are just visitors.’ ”

READ: De Lille wants Maimane to take charge and speak for himself

The former mayor said she believed that there was a possibility that Maimane would be the next to go and that his lack of leadership in the party would be his downfall.

Outside the high court she referred to the party as being “rudderless, leaderless and without substance or direction”.

But what will she do next?

“I’ve got a number of offers from civil society. I have also said at a political level I am prepared to serve my country in any capacity because of my belief that, especially, young people are not involved in politics and women are not fully represented in politics. I will decide in the next two weeks what I am going to do. I am not ruling politics out at all.”

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