A special council meeting on Friday, the 19th of January, will determine whether Cape Town city councillors back a controversial drought levy – which will be based on residential properties worth more than R400 000 and commercial properties worth just R50 000. The meeting will also decide whether Mayor Patricia de Lille should be stripped of her authority over the water crisis

Friday is not D-Day for Patricia de Lille, but the way that Democratic Alliance councillors vote on the water levy – a proposal which she announced last November – will be an indicator of how much support she has in her caucus.

Significantly the provincial MEC in charge of water Anton Bredell, in his capacity as provincial chairperson of the Democratic Alliance, has opposed the water levy as it is based on property values – not on water usage  or savings. He has been joined by Councillor Grant Twigg – known to be an opponent of the mayor – whose metro executive has also opposed the surcharge.

Although the Cape Messenger has put questions to Premier Helen Zille about the provincial government’s stance on the water levy, these were referred to Bredell’s office. Bredell has subsequently announced – in his party capacity – that his provincial executive was against the levy.

While the DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that De Lille would be stripped of her powers over water, this has to be done by resolution of the council. Here again, it will be significant how this pans out. The DA chief whip Shaun August is a De Lille backer. He may insist on a three-line whip to get the water levy through.

The council special sitting on Friday is likely to be turned into an internal war in the DA. August may well call for a three line whip to oppose the stripping of De Lille’s water powers. What is clear is that the caucus is deeply divided over the issue of the mayor’s future.

Although the special meeting will discuss the allegations of maladministration brought by the DA against the mayor, D-DA is expected for De Lille only on the last Thursday of January – which sees the monthly meeting of the council – when a motion of no-confidence is being brought by the African National Congress.

eNCA reported that the DA says it has “no plans” to bring a motion, but it also won’t oppose a motion of no confidence. The mayor is accused of squashing reports on corruption and maladministration. She has virulently fought back – saying she has a record as a corruption fighter.

It is not clear how this will pan out. If DA councillors are given a free vote on the issue – something which they asked the ANC to do when a motion of no confidence was tabled in the national assembly against President Jacob Zuma – De Lille may just lose the vote.

Even if the vote of no confidence fails – but with significant numbers of DA councillors opposing her – the mayor’s position will be weakened.

If she survives that vote, however, she will remain in office until at least the end of February – when the DA federal legal commission reports back on charges brought against her for bringing the party into disrepute.

The De Lille saga in the City of Cape Town could turn out to be a lengthy affair.

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