Day of reckoning in Cape of political storms

05 October 2017 - 07:33 By The Times Editorial
Patricia de Lille.
Patricia de Lille.
Image: Lerato Maduna/Gallo Images

After 10 years at the helm of the City of Cape Town, the smart money said the DA would be in power for decades after it won 66.61% of votes in August 2016. A year later, disgruntlement has set in, and it may be about to take root and flourish.

Emboldened by her crushing victory, mayor Patricia de Lille set about restructuring the municipality and making enemies, chief among them the man dubbed the sheriff of Cape Town, safety and security boss JP Smith.

A difficult private relationship has now exploded into public conflict at what could turn out to be the worst possible time for De Lille. Having stepped down in January as DA leader in the Western Cape to “dedicate myself to service delivery”, her successor is to be elected on Saturday.

The favourite, by virtue of his incumbency as acting leader, is housing MEC BonginkosiMadikizela, whose rival is De Lille ally and MPL Lennit Max. Should Madikizela win, talkwill turn to ways of lifting his public profile, and De Lille’s role in the Smith matter could be a gift horse for the DA leadership.

Appointing Madikizela as mayor would kill two birds with one stone. As well as elevating
the MEC, it would remove De Lille and heal the rift between Smith and the mayor’s office — Smith is part of the Madikizela faction. But would it be a smart long-term move?
The coloured vote, vital to electoral success, in general stands loyally behind De Lille and
will not easily transfer its support to Madikizela.

White voters feel taken for granted by the DA and are critical of the way De Lille’s administration has managed the water crisis. Black voters, such as those in Marikana who gave Police Minister Fikile Mbalula a rock star’s welcome on Tuesday, remain staunchly ANC. Months after its less than sure-footed handling of the Helen Zille tweet crisis, the DA leadership faces a complicated day of reckoning in the Cape of political storms.