More battles ahead if Patricia De Lille wins this one
If mayor retains DA membership, internal inquiry will resume
Patricia de Lille is bracing herself for a DA disciplinary process and more court battles even if she wins her fight to retain her party membership and the Cape Town mayoral chain.
Maladministration and nepotism charges against her became moot when the party fired her last month. But this week, DA federal council deputy chairwoman Natasha Mazzone told the Sunday Times the disciplinary process - which was itself mired in litigation - will resume if De Lille's court application succeeds.
De Lille said she would welcome the opportunity to clear her name. "If the DA is prepared to agree to an open hearing before an independent person [a retired judge, for example] ... the matter can be concluded within a month," she told the Sunday Times.
"My name has been smeared in public with untested allegations and it must be cleared in public. But the party is not prepared to agree to this basic demand."
De Lille said she also expected the DA to open up new fronts in its war to unseat her. "The party is running concurrent processes against me in order to weaken me financially. To this end, further, separate processes are likely to be initiated against me either by the [City of Cape Town] speaker or the party," she said.De Lille was embroiled in a two-day battle with the DA in the High Court in Cape Town this week. She is challenging the "cessation clause" invoked by the party to terminate her membership.
In her fight with the DA and its Cape Town caucus, De Lille has faced a raft of accusations and made several visits to the high court. And she may soon be there again to challenge the outcome of a new probe into claims that she tried to bury a report on corruption allegations.
Law firm Bowman Gilfillan is investigating claims by former municipal manager Achmat Ebrahim that De Lille instructed him not to tell the council about suspected tender irregularities involving suspended transport commissioner Melissa Whitehead.
In January, the mayor dismissed an initial Bowman Gilfillan report as defamatory. She said it contained "highly prejudicial 'findings', 'conclusions' and 'recommendations'". She said the law firm refused to amend the report and she would seek legal advice.
According to deputy mayor Ian Neilson, the second report is due in a week. But De Lille said while she and her lawyers had met the investigators, they had not yet made final submissions.Neilson said the investigation was looking into Ebrahim's claim that De Lille stopped him reporting allegations about Whitehead to the council. "And there were some issues around the contract for electric buses."
De Lille said the council was spending hundreds of thousands of rands on an investigation even though there was "no corruption; no extra amount was paid; no prejudice to anyone. A contract was amended, by mutual consent."
Ebrahim, a city official with more than 40 years' experience, resigned in January after he and Whitehead were asked to submit reasons why they should not be suspended. Whitehead is facing disciplinary action.
Craig Kesson, a director in De Lille's office, alleged in an affidavit to the council in November that the mayor had asked a top manager in her office to bury a report on allegations that R43-million in MyCiTi bus fares had been "misappropriated". Kesson also criticised Whitehead for her role on the original evaluation committee for the Foreshore Freeway Precinct, and said there were irregularities around payments for bus chassis. At the time, De Lille said she would seek legal advice about Kesson's allegations.
City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo said this week it was difficult to estimate how long Whitehead's disciplinary inquiry would take.
"The city will be communicating the outcome of the proceedings once it has been concluded," he said.
The DA laid criminal charges against De Lille earlier this year after businessman Anthony Faul claimed she had solicited a R5-million bribe from him.
Hawks spokesman Captain Philani Nkwalashe said the investigation into Faul's complaint was almost complete.
De Lille, who denied Faul's claims in February, said they had marked a low point in her relationship with the DA.
"Party officials laid this charge based on ridiculous allegations about events that occurred 5½ years ago ... then rushed off to the media so as to ensure maximum damage to my reputation," she said.
The mayor said she complained to the DA two weeks ago about deputy chief whip Mike Waters, who she claims was involved in spreading a faked auditor-general report that defamed her. "Needless to say, there has been no response. "