JP Smith's investigating unit had 'nefarious objectives', De Lille insists

MMC for safety, security and social services JP Smith and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Supplied)
MMC for safety, security and social services JP Smith and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Supplied)

Cape Town – Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille has insisted that mayoral committee member JP Smith was using the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which she controversially shut down last year, for political gain.

"The powers of investigation which the SIU appears to have accorded to itself, [were] impermissible and contrary to law," she has said in a submission.

"Alderman Smith used the SIU contrary to the purpose that it was created for. Moreover, he acted with the intent to undermine his political opponents and this amounts to a serious abuse for his own political gain."

However, a subcommittee chaired by DA parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen and which was tasked with investigating De Lille's leadership and growing divisions within the City of Cape Town caucus, found that De Lille's clipping of the unit's wings was "a shame".

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

De Lille detailed her version of what had transpired with the SIU in a submission, dated January 5 this year, to the DA's federal executive chairperson, James Selfe. 

She has been at the centre of several allegations and claims about her conduct. Many of the claims have been levelled at her by colleagues.

In December, the DA's federal executive suspended De Lille from all party activities, pending investigations into her actions. The city council may also debate a motion of no confidence against her this week.

De Lille's submission details why she should not resign as mayor and why the DA should not proceed with a motion of no confidence against her.

In September last year, News24 revealed that De Lille had ordered the shutting down of the unit, now called the safety and security internal investigations unit, which then underwent a mandate and name change. 

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

This, in turn, shed light on the intense infighting rattling the city.

Earlier this month, News24 reported that the subcommittee chaired by Steenhuisen recommended that the SIU revert to its former name.

At the time, Smith had said: "While the name is of little consequence, the ability to help win the fight against gangs, drugs and organised crime is something that we cannot afford to lose, especially while the criminal justice system under national government is achieving such poor conviction rates."

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

The report by the subcommittee found that residents of Cape Town were caught in a "turf war" between De Lille and Smith over the unit's shut down.

"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," the report found.

Members of the SIU, which was created about five years ago, had investigated matters including gang violence, xenophobic attacks, corruption within the city council if a specific department requested this, as well as illegal protests and wildfires linked to arson.

The murders of councillors and illegal firearms were other matters investigated by the unit.

However, when its name and mandate changed around August 2017, the members' functions were narrowed. 

'Sweeping allegations'

In her submission, De Lille said it was unfortunate that the subcommittee had not sought legal advice and, instead, made "sweeping allegations on this matter which does not only fall outside its mandate but also outside the committee's competence".

"I regretfully also have to record that the subcommittee failed to investigate the nefarious objectives of Alderman Smith and his (mis)use of the SIU to further those objectives," she said. 

De Lille said it was with these factors in mind that the City had "refined" the SIU's mandate "to bring it in accordance with what the law allows".

"This was a necessary and prudent decision," she said.

"The SIU, albeit with a refined mandate, continues to operate and [has] not become the victim of a turf war between myself and Alderman Smith."

De Lille questioned why there was "very little in the line of adverse findings" against Smith.

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