De Lille fights back at attempt to unseat her

Back against the wall: Mayor issues lengthy rebuttal of corruption allegations

30 November 2017 - 07:19 By Aphiwe Deklerk and Dave Chambers
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. File photo.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. File photo.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille faces a motion of no confidence after allegations of misconduct and possible corruption in her government.

But she is refusing to go down without a fight, issuing a 5477-word rebuttal on Wednesday of a 42-page affidavit accusing her of ethical and legal shortcomings.

The ANC, the official opposition in the city council, said it would table the motion at next Tuesday's council meeting after the executive director in De Lille's office, Craig Kesson, signed an affidavit accusing the mayor of attempting to bury a report on alleged corruption in the MyCiTi bus rapid transport system.

ANC leader in the Cape metro Xolani Sotashe said De Lille should also face disciplinary action.

"We are calling for the removal of the executive mayor from office," he said.

De Lille already has her back against the wall after the DA placed her on special leave from party activities following a public spat with mayoral committee member JP Smith.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Sotashe used Kesson's affidavit and reports submitted to a special council meeting last week to conclude that De Lille deliberately withheld information and forensic reports from the council.

The reports raised accusations and counter-accusations of misconduct by city manager Achmat Ebrahim, Kesson and Transport and Urban Development Authority commissioner Melissa Whitehead. On Tuesday the council will decide whether to suspend the three.

De Lille said on Wednesday that senior counsel had advised her that Kesson's "disclosure of false information purportedly under the legislation which he invokes is a criminal offence".

His affidavit was "either a politically motivated attempt to embarrass me or an attempt to contrive protection as a supposed whistleblower", she said, adding: "His accusations against me are untrue. I have been notified that other individuals aggrieved by Mr Kesson's false affidavit have independently reported the matter to the statutorily designated authority."

De Lille went out of her way to defend Ebrahim and Whitehead. The city manager, she said, "is a very senior and widely respected public servant. He has an unblemished career of 40 years in the city."

Whitehead "has had her long career recently crowned by receiving the 2017 International Transport Strategy Award.[which] celebrates the city's response to eradicate apartheid spatial planning".

Kesson had been an executive director for just more than a year and emerged from his probation period a few months ago. Since then, "he has expressed suspicions against many other city officials, politicians and departments. The chief financial officer, Mr Kevin Jacoby, referred to Mr Kesson's 'temperament' and objected to his autocratic approach."

De Lille admitted she had planned to recommend the suspensions of Kesson, Ebrahim and Whitehead pending investigations into them.

"I thought the water crisis justified the most expeditious investigation, which would be facilitated by suspension," she said. In the event, legal advice was that only Kesson should be suspended.