Next Thursday Patricia de Lille will either achieve the greatest political upset in Cape Town City politics since democracy in 1994, or she will be escorted out of the Civic Centre, having been stripped of her chain of office. This week she went to the high court seeking an urgent application to allow members of the Democratic Alliance caucus a "vote of conscience" in the no-confidence motion. What is certain is that Thursday will be a day full of drama.
It is possible that De Lille will defeat a vote of no-confidence next Thursday, the 15th of February, if her caucus is given a free vote. It is understood that the federal executive of the governing DA has ordered a three-line whip - to ensure a vote of no-confidence is passed against the embattled mayor.
If she does, indeed, win her court action, she can count on at least 59 members of her caucus to side with the opposition to help her win the vote. These 59 councillors supported her in a caucus vote recently. That would throw the Democratic Alliance administration into disarray - as she would immediately be able to reconstitute her mayoral committee. If this occurs, she could - and indeed, is likely to - remove Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson - who recently took over the water crisis responsibilities from the mayor - and JP Smith, the mayoral committee for Safety and Security.
There will be others, too, who could face dismissal if De Lille wins on Thursday.
What would happen after that is not certain. However, the DA would have a divided caucus. A minority faction would be in control of city government. It might lead to national government stepping in by placing the city under administration, although this technically would have to be carried out by the provincial MEC charged with responsibility for local government - the DA's Anton Bredell. Ultimately it is likely that fresh municipal elections in Cape Town would be held. That would give the minority faction time to form a new political group to fight the elections.
However, if she loses, she will be stripped of her mayoral chain - it is not certain if she will be wearing it. She will then be escorted from the mayoral chamber. This is the normal procedure involving someone who has been stripped of their employment - in her case it will be the stripping of her political appointment as mayor.
The Democratic Alliance will be hard-pressed to support a three-line whip, given that it put up a fuss recently when President Jacob Zuma faced a no-confidence vote. Party leader Mmusi Maimane demanded that the African National Congress governing party be given a vote of conscience. In the end, Baleka Mbete, the Speaker, allowed this vote of conscience. However, President Zuma still won the vote - albeit more narrowly than before.
In a tweet on Thursday, De Lille said she did not wish to avoid facing a motion of no confidence. "I am seeking the assurance that it will proceed in a constitutional and fair manner, especially considering that I have not been treated fairly by the DA throughout this process,” she said
The table below shows the strength of the political parties in the Cape Town city council. The DA has 154 seats out of 231. If De Lille can retain the support of at least 59 councillors in the DA caucus in a vote of conscience, she can win a vote with the help of the ANC and smaller parties. She could end up with as many as 136 councillors backing her, with something like 95 of the DA councillors voting against her.
However, if there is a three-line whip for the DA caucus, she will lose by something like 150 plus votes to 77.
|Party||Name of Party||Number of Seats|
|ACDP||African Christian Democratic Party||3|
|AIC||African Independent Congress||1|
|ANC||African National Congress||57|
|CMC||Cape Muslim Congress||1|
|COPE||Congress of the People||1|
|DIP||Democratic Independent Party||1|
|EFF||Economic Freedom Fighters||7|
|PAC||Pan African Congress of Azania (PAC)||1|
|UDM||United Democratic Movement||1|
This statement was released, Friday, by James Selfe MP, DA Federal Council Chairman:
The DA has written to Patricia de Lille to invite her to withdraw the application regarding the upcoming Motion of No Confidence (MONC), tabled by the City of Cape Town Caucus against her.
Her application displays a lack of appreciation for the law and the relevant facts, as placed on record by the DA.
The application insists that the members of the DA Caucus be allowed to vote on the MONC in accordance with their conscience. The DA has already made it clear that this will be the case and that every Councillor is free to vote with his or her own conscience.
On the matter of a secret ballot, while the DA does not believe it is necessary given that members have the freedom to vote with their consciences, the decision on this matter must be made by the Council itself. Until such time that this decision is made and voted on, any challenge is premature.
Mayor de Lille’s final prayer in her application, that the DA federal and provincial executive be interdicted from ‘influencing’ Caucus members, has no legal basis and disingenuous, to say the least. Not only has she has failed to cite specific officer bearers she wishes to interdict, making her prayer unsustainable, she has failed to acknowledge that the DA has been clear that no threats or disciplinary action will be taken against Caucus members regarding their vote.
Should Mayor de Lille persist with her application, the DA will seek a punitive costs award for abusing the court's process with pointless and unfounded litigation.
It is in the best interest of the people of Cape Town that this matter is resolved in an open and democratic manner and for this reason, we hope that Mayor de Lille reconsiders her current course of action.