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'Final Round' of bruising De Lille battle to play out in High Court

'Final Round' of bruising De Lille battle to play out in High Court.
'Final Round' of bruising De Lille battle to play out in High Court.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille will face off against the Democratic Alliance in court on Monday in a battle that will determine if and how she is removed from power.

De Lille’s advocate Dali Mpofu seems geared for that crucial court battle‚ tweeting on Sunday: “Just landed at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International Airport! Here for the DeLille DAnce tomorrow...Auntie @PatriciaDeLille are you ready?? This is the 3rd and Final Round...Let's go!”

The conflict between De Lille and the DA has become somewhat of a public relations nightmare for the party‚ which she has accused of lying to South Africa and the High Court in a desperate bid to get rid of her. De Lille says the DA has dishonestly tried to present its decision to terminate her membership of the party as innocent‚ and not the result of “the relentless vendetta and determination to get rid of me” – a stance that she says “insults the intelligence” of the court.

The DA‚ in turn‚ argues that De Lille cannot force it to “remain in a relationship with it…when it is clear that the parties’ relationship has irretrievably broken down”.

At the heart of the latest legal dispute between the DA and De Lille is her comment‚ made during an interview with 702 host Eusebius McKaiser‚ that she would “walk away” from the party once she had cleared her name following various allegations of wrongdoing made against her.

The party used this comment as a basis to invoke a “cessation clause” in its Federal Constitution to revoke De Lille’s DA membership‚ on the basis that she had publicly expressed an intention to resign.

“She has publicly stated that she has no desire to remain a member of the DA‚ other than to further her own personal aims‚” DA Federal Chair James Selfe has stated in an affidavit filed at the Western Cape High Court.

“She has violated the DA’s rules that clearly prohibit public declarations of an intention to resign. Yet she seeks urgent review relief in order to remain a member of the DA.”

The High Court has already ruled that De Lille should retain her DA membership pending the conclusion of her review application in which she challenges the party’s “automatic cessation clause”.

Effectively‚ De Lille says‚ the DA is trying to use an “unlawful short cut” – by summarily terminating her membership – to force her out of the party‚ rather than subjecting her to the disciplinary inquiry she is entitled to.

According to De Lille‚ the remarks she made on McKaiser’s show did not amount to a resignation from the party. She further denies that her relationship with the DA has “irretrievably broken down”. But that is not how the DA sees it.

According to Selfe‚ while De Lille has argued that there needs to be a “good reason” to remove her from office‚ “the only reason needed to justify her loss of office is her loss of membership of the party”. He denies her argument that she can only be removed through a vote of no confidence or a fair disciplinary inquiry.

He says De Lille’s statement that she intended to resign from the DA once she had cleared her name was bound to cause damage to the party‚ with other parties potentially asking De Lille to join them – “and this may in turn influence other members of the DA to consider their future with the party”.

“Relatedly‚ other political parties may also capitalise on such statements‚ through for example arguing that the DA is an undesirable political home‚ and is divided and weak‚” he says.

Whatever the outcome of this case‚ the stakes in this ugly legal battle are very high.

In an affidavit filed at the court‚ De Lille has asked that the DA be ordered to pay a punishing legal costs order if and when she wins her latest court battle against it to “send a strong message” to “other political parties…not to abuse the law and the courts to fight their political battles”.

The DA‚ in turn‚ will be hoping to prove that it did not use legally problematic shortcuts to get rid of a political problem – and salvage some credibility from a stand-off that has already left the party bruised.

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