'Bullying, nepotism', leaks – and all the other ‘dirt’ on De Lille

12 January 2018 - 07:12 By Aron Hyman
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Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

The DA inquiry into divisions in the party’s ruling caucus in Cape Town heard a string of accusations against mayor Patricia de Lille ranging from nepotism and intimidation to defeating the ends of justice.

The investigation‚ launched in late September under the chairmanship of parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen‚ was sparked by a lengthy dossier submitted in July by mayoral committee member JP Smith to party leader Mmusi Maimane and federal executive chairman James Selfe.

Two months earlier‚ De Lille had submitted a formal complaint about Smith to Dirk Smit‚ the Speaker of the city council‚ alleging he had contravened the councillors’ code of conduct and demanding an investigation.

The documents‚ which depict rampant interpersonal conflict in the executive corridors of Cape Town’s Civic Centre‚ are among dozens leaked to TimesLIVE from within the DA as the party’s federal executive prepares to meet on Sunday to decide on De Lille’s future.

Asked to comment on the contents of the documents‚ De Lille said on Thursday: “My responses to the allegations were submitted to the federal executive as requested. It is well known that the matter will be discussed by fedex on Sunday.

“If submissions have been leaked‚ this is in contravention of the confidentiality of the process while it is under way. I have refuted most if not all of the allegations made against me. Fedex will now consider the matter on Sunday and they will have to communicate on this.”

Smith also declined to comment on the contents of the documents.

The federal executive will consider the report and findings of the Steenhuisen commission‚ as well as the report of attorneys Bowman Gilfillan‚ who investigated a number of allegations against senior council officials and De Lille.

TimesLIVE also has a copy of the Bowman Gilfillan report‚ which recommends further investigation of De Lille for allegedly ordering a cover-up when city manager Achmat Ebrahim wanted to act against city transport commissioner Melissa Whitehead.

On Friday‚ Ebrahim and Whitehead are due to submit reasons why they should not be suspended pending their disciplinary hearings recommended in the Bowman Gilfillan report.

A week ago‚ De Lille submitted her dossier — said to encompass five lever-arch files — arguing why the federal executive should not fire her as mayor. She claims the DA is ignoring due process in its determination to oust her so that DA provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela can take over as mayor.

Madikizela was elected as leader after De Lille resigned from the post a year ago.

Smith’s 30-page letter to Maimane and Selfe‚ dated July 12‚ made allegations about De Lille’s “misconduct” under 17 headings‚ beginning with “Lack of professionalism: abusive and insulting behaviour” and ending with “irregular leases and property transactions”.

Among his claims about De Lille were allegations that she:

- Routinely insulted‚ abused and belittled councillors and officials in meetings‚ sometimes reducing them to tears;

- Showed favouritism to former members of the party she launched and led before a merger with the DA‚ the Independent Democrats;

- Centralised decision-making in her office‚ rendering the mayoral committee irrelevant;

- Ran a bloated office‚ with far more than the six staff members she was permitted;

- Indulged vanity projects and luxuries among members of her faction;

- Made nepotistic appointments involving councillors’ children and spouses. “The mayor’s sister‚ Veronica Paulse‚ is employed in the office of Councillor Brett Herron‚” said Smith.

- Defeated the ends of justice by preventing officials taking legal action against by-law violations;

- Failed to deal with the water crisis during her first term as mayor;

- Orchestrated leaks to the media before decisions were taken;

- Overruled advisory bodies; and

- Intimidated staff. Smith said in one “ridiculous” instance De Lille forced city officials to depose affidavits admitting they had told him about derogatory statements De Lille had made about him in his absence.

Smith also said the restructuring of the city council spearheaded by De Lille — the Organisational Development and Transformation Plan — had been an expensive disaster “used to settle historic scores‚ with excellent officials driven from their jobs”.

He characterised it as “an ambitious over-reach which is seeking to extend the endless tinkering and fiddling with systems that council has been subjected to over the last five years to a level that is causing a greater degree of institutional paralysis and service delivery delays and problems”.

Smith said he was aware that by submitting his dossier he may be committing political suicide. However‚ “the constant bullying and victimisation has led to an environment in which nobody is willing to be a whistle-blower on the corruption and toxic culture in the city council”.

In her May complaint to Smit about Smith‚ De Lille accused the mayoral committee member for safety‚ security and social services of a physical altercation with a community member from Imizamo Yethu at a public meeting shortly after last March’s devastating fire in the Hout Bay community.

She also accused him of gossiping‚ and of having made an unfounded allegation that she bullied officials. 

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