There's no way back for De Lille‚ DA lawyer tells judges

DA is adamant that its relationship with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille is broken beyond repair.
DA is adamant that its relationship with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille is broken beyond repair.
Image: Dave Chambers

Despite Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s spirited fight to reclaim her blue T-shirt‚ her relationship with the DA is irrevocably broken‚ the High Court in Cape Town heard on Tuesday.

The beleaguered mayor is challenging the constitutionality of the party’s so-called “cessation clause”‚ which the DA invoked when it terminated her membership last month.

Her declaration during a Radio 702 interview with Eusebius McKaiser on April 26 broke the camel’s back. The contested clause says: “A member ceases to be a member when he or she … publicly declares his or her intention to resign … from the party.”

De Lille has been at pains to explain that she intended to resign from her mayoral position‚ after clearing her name‚ and not from the party. But the DA’s counsel‚ Sean Rosenberg‚ would have none of it.

He told a full bench of judges it was clear that at the time of the interview relations between the party and De Lille were strained. “The relationship between party and member had irrevocably broken down‚” he said.

“Anyone is aware that these are parties intending to part from each other. The only reason for staying and fighting is to restore her name and she is not going to restore her name by resigning … she will retain her name by staying and fighting the disciplinary process.”

Rosenberg said the interview characterised “the mischief which the clause is designed to weed [out]”.

The controversial clause was meant to “protect the party from disloyal members‚ particularly members who occupy high positions”.

Rosenberg said the party had charged De Lille with “serious charges of maladministration and nepotism” but she had “stonewalled” the disciplinary process by lodging several lawsuits. As a result‚ the disciplinary process could take a “number of years”.

In the interchange that compounded De Lille’s woes‚ McKaiser asked her: “Am I hearing you saying the following? And if you can‚ please take us into your confidence. If I hear you‚ you are saying‚ ideally I want to clear my name‚ Eusebius‚ that’s why I am going to court and if I win this battle and when I win it because I know I’ve done nothing wrong‚ then the morning after I have won the case then I will resign from the DA.”

De Lille responded: “I will walk away. You summed it up correctly.”

In court papers‚ De Lille accuses the DA of double standards. She said the party did not invoke the same clause when MP Phumzile van Damme said she would resign “unless the party honestly engages with white privilege and black poverty”.

“[The clause] is triggered even if a member subjectively does not want to resign but objectively‚ whether as a result of a mistake or an altered state of mind‚ expresses an intention to resign publicly‚” De Lille's papers read.

“[The clause] also violates the rights of every adult citizen to stand for public office and‚ if elected‚ to hold office. Contrary to the view of the DA‚ it was not simply the party that was elected in 2016 in Cape Town with a two-thirds majority. [De Lille] was running as the party’s mayoral candidate and accordingly effectively stood for office during those elections.”

As an elected public representative‚ she could be removed from her position only through a vote of no confidence or a guilty finding in a fair disciplinary process.

“Both are absent in the present case‚” the court papers state.

The case continues.

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