The DA was right to hold De Lille to account

Patricia de Lille.  (Photo by Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Adrian de Kock)
Patricia de Lille. (Photo by Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Adrian de Kock)

Mmusi Maimane

Yesterday Patricia de Lille resigned as mayor of Cape Town, as per the agreement I made with her in good faith in August. I realise it has been a difficult time for the people of Cape Town. It is important now that we draw a line in the sand and focus on the future, on improving peoples’ lives, and on building an inclusive, sustainable city.

I have always maintained that De Lille has made a valuable contribution to South Africa. Nevertheless, as mayor she stands accused of doing some inherently wrong things, as detailed in a 2000-page report (read a summary here) by independent legal firm Bowman Gilfillan.

The city council has now laid charges against De Lille, based on the findings of this report, which clearly shows how De Lille’s conduct systematically broke down good governance in the City of Cape Town by manipulating city processes and protecting the wrongdoing of city officials.

It recommends that De Lille be criminally charged for, amongst other things, interfering in city tenders. She did so by interfering in the legal obligation of the former city manager, Achmat Ebrahim, to institute legally required disciplinary action against officials suspected to have violated the law.

According to the report, she actively shielded and defended officials implicated in criminal acts relating to the BYD bus tender for new MyCiti buses, in which processes were fraudulently manipulated to illegally favour one bus provider.

Similarly, in the Volvo chassis matter, as mayor she chose to ignore an irregular payment of almost R50 million and shield consequential action against it. De Lille’s level of interference is best summed up by her own comments that "this matter is going nowhere".

She has been charged under section 119 of the Municipal Systems Act, which states: "119(1) A councillor who attempts to influence the municipal manager or any other staff member or an agent of a municipality not to enforce an obligation in terms of this Act, any other applicable legislation or any by-law or decision of the council of the municipality, is guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years."

As a party we pride ourselves on accountability. We have always upheld the principle that everyone is equal before the law. Good, honest government is a guiding principle for the DA. We will not compromise on that. No matter the consequences, we take a zero-tolerance approach to any form of corruption, misconduct or maladministration. There is really no other option for a party that puts people first, as we try to do.

There is a simple adage which says: "Do the right thing, even if it’s hard." In the case of Patricia De Lille, the DA has done just that. And believe me, it has been hard. But after all, principles only count when they are tested.

Her conduct as detailed in this 2000-page report would not be acceptable in any DA government, because it violates our non-negotiable principle of good, honest government. I am proud of the DA government in Cape Town for opening an investigation into these claims and for doing the right thing in taking the difficult action against De Lille.

That an independent investigation has found against De Lille vindicates the DA in its determination to seek accountability. But I want to be clear that even had the report found in her favour, which it did not, launching an independent investigation would still have been the right thing to do.

We believe the law should take its course. De Lille has repeatedly expressed a desire to "clear her name" but like Zuma, she has consistently delayed and obstructed the process of achieving "her day in court". Over the past year that this saga has played out, De Lille has done her best to confuse and conflate matters in the public mind – both directly and through her many proxies.

Most recently, she has claimed that a second Bowman Gilfillan report contains conflicting findings. This is nonsense. There is a golden thread that runs through both reports which describes how she consistently manipulated city processes and protected the wrongdoing of city officials.

These people are also being held accountable. Melissa Whitehead has been suspended and is the subject of a disciplinary process. Brett Herron has been charged. De Lille has aggressively and publicly defended them both for their actions and has simultaneously attacked the whistle-blowers who brought their and her misconduct to the fore. Other implicated officials will be dealt with in terms of the relevant city processes.

History will prove the DA did the right thing even when it was hard. The governance breakdown in Cape Town under De Lille has cost the City dearly, resulting in fatally flawed and compromised tenders, the cancellation of which has exposed the City to serious legal and financial risk. So, I am relieved that she no longer holds the reins in Cape Town. I do, however, wish her well in her future endeavours.

We now enter a new era under Mayor Dan Plato, who will refocus council on the fight against crime, on building an inclusive city, and on speeding up service delivery for all.

As a party, the DA remains deeply committed to good, honest governance. The latest employment figures, released yesterday, show that we are delivering in the Western Cape, where 95 000 new jobs have been created in the past year and where broad unemployment has dropped by 1.5 percentage points, even as national unemployment has reached all-time-high records.

We are now focused on election 2019, to bring our offer of good, honest governance to all South Africans.

- Maimane is leader of the DA.

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