The federal council of the Democratic Alliance has made it clear that its councillors in the City of Cape Town will have a vote of conscience in Thursday’s vote of no confidence in Mayor Patricia de Lille. This could well mean there will be further turmoil in the City – and a sizeable minority of the councillors have demonstrated that they support de Lille. The stage now looks set in that De Lille could win a vote of confidence with the help of opposition parties

If this indeed transpires – and De Lille wins the backing of a cross-party group of councillors to stay in power – it will mean that she will either have to rule as a minority faction of the DA or form a multi-party coalition government. Neither of these options will be particularly stable as the ruling DA would be split down the middle.

However, there is a strong change that De Lille could win. In a recent caucus vote, 84 DA councillors voted against her, but 59 supported her. A further ten either abstained or spoilt their vote. If all the opposition parties stand with her – as they are expected to – she could well cobble together a winning vote – that is, the vote of no-confidence would be defeated. Significantly, the federal executive chairperson James Selfe said: “However they (the councillors) vote … there will be no consequences for that.”

Effectively reinstated as mayor, De Lille would then, most likely, remove all her internal DA opponents in the mayoral committee, including JP Smith, who holds the security portfolio and Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member in charge of the fight-back campaign over the water crisis. Also in line for axing would be Ian Nielson, the deputy mayor.

It would be a political mess of note. It is likely that it could end with a municipal-wide election in the City of Cape Town.

However, if De Lille loses, Neilson looks set to become mayor, and it is then likely that key De Lille lieutenants including mayoral committee members Brett Herron and Suzette Little – who is also the caucus chairperson – would lose their mayoral committee jobs.

Either way, Thursday’s vote of no confidence is set to make it a politically bloody day.

Both national leader Mmusi Maimane and federal executive chairperson James Selfe made it clear that the decision to remove the Mayor was in the hands of the councillors of the City of Cape Town.

Noting that the Mayor had made an urgent application to the Cape High Court to force a secret ballot, a free vote and seeks that the federal and provincial leadership of the DA should not influence the process of her dismissal, federal executive chairperson Selfe said:  “We have given the unequivocal assurance to the (City) caucus that their vote is free … and that however they vote there will be no consequences for that.

As far as the secrecy of the vote goes, there is a different process to the rules of the national assembly, said Selfe. In terms of the rules of the City of Cape Town, the council, “voting takes place by show of hands or by electronic means or as the council decides. There is no discretion for the Speaker to decide how the vote takes place. Therefore, it is premature… for a decision to be made until the council meets on Thursday.” A decision would be made at the council meeting on Thursday on how the voting would proceed, reported Selfe.

It is difficult to understand the third element of the interdict of the mayor, said Selfe. “It is not specific (clear) against whom the mayor is requiring compliance,” argued Selfe.

Selfe acknowledged that “it is probably too early to tell” what impact the De Lille ousting saga had been on the Democratic Alliance, but he said that when the details of any matter were explained, supporters tended to understand the action taken by the party.

Maimane, at a press conference in Cape Town this morning, said that mayor had been charged and the mayor had been stripped of her leadership over fighting the water crisis. He agreed that her removal as mayor had been “protracted” but the stumbling block was that it was up to the council of the City of Cape Town to remove the mayor.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress has led Maimane a dance. When the DA changed course, recently, and opted to support an ANC-supported no-confidence vote in De Lille, the ANC decided to withdraw its motion, arguing that it was not willing to foster factional battles within the Democratic Alliance. That had effectively delayed the action to remove De Lille.

Maimane acknowledged that a DA motion of no-confidence needed a 10-day notice period. Thus, this motion was only being dealt with by the City of Cape Town council on Thursday.

Asked why the DA had taken so long to resolve the matter of removing De Lille, Maimane explained that it was not up to the party to remove her as mayor – it was up to the city council of Cape Town. Pressed on why the DA simply didn’t just cancel her membership – and thereby force her removal – he said that would be unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, De Lille announced that she had garnered the legal support of Advocate Dali Mpofu, who just happens to be national chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, to support her legal bid on the secret ballot.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday 13 February at the Western Cape High Court at 10 a.m. She reported that the application sought an order to ensure that all councillors in the City of Cape Town were free to vote, in secret, according to their consciences "either in favour or against the motion of no confidence against me".

She said in a statement that it seemed that "the Backroom Boys' Club" were so pre-occupied with bullying tactics that they failed to see the hypocrisy between this matter and when the DA fought for a secret ballot along with the United Democratic Movement with the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma. De Lille explained that "in order to ensure consistency, we are using the same legal counsel to ensure that the same legal principle is tested". That team was led by Mpofu.

De Lille said when her team wrote to the DA caucus chair, Suzette Little, earlier this month requesting that the caucus be given a free vote, she responded that Selfe advised that all caucus members "are bound by the caucus decision (to support of a vote of no confidence) even those who did not vote".

De Lille said she had been accused of being vexatious and had been asked to withdraw the court action "but I am going ahead because ... only the court can ensure fairness".

The mayor said only a secret and free vote would be fair.


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