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No sign of Christmas truce as more charges laid in DA v De Lille slugfest

Patricia De Lille.
Patricia De Lille.
Image: David Harrison.

The Germans and the British managed a Christmas truce on the Western Front in 1914 but it seems the war between the DA and former member and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille is way too serious to contemplate such frivolity.

The show must go on with or without festive spirit.

In the umpteenth round of the punch-up‚ Cape Town councillors Xanthea Limberg and Angus McKenzie laid criminal charges against the former mayor at the Cape Town police station on Friday.

Limberg claims that De Lille tried to interfere in the appointment of former city manager Achmat Ebrahim two years ago. Limberg was a member of the interview panel.

On Tuesday‚ this publication saw a report purported to be from a digital forensic laboratory which was "instructed to create a forensic image‚ extract data and determine if the specific SMS message exists on the mobile phone of Ms Limberg".

The report contains a message allegedly from De Lille’s cellphone‚ dated September 28 2016. It reads: "I want to keep Achmat so score highest. Thanks."

Speaking outside the police station‚ Limberg said: "De Lille can be deemed to have attempted to corrupt a process that is independent and transparent and she then impeded the credibility of the process to fill the most senior position within a municipality‚ that being of the city manager.

“De Lille has made accusations that there were allegations made without evidence and that … is not the case. And so today I am doing my duty as a citizen of South Africa to put the record straight‚ to put the truth out there and I am asking that De Lille‚ if she deems herself not to be guilty in this regard‚ to also ensure she provides necessary evidence in respect of handing her cellphone over or giving access to her phone records."

Limberg denied that she had a grudge against De Lille. She also maintained the SMS was authentic.

"I have never personally attacked Patricia de Lille. The only issues that I have raised with regards to my concerns pertains to Patricia de Lille as the former executive mayor. It has never been about factions‚ it has never been about personal gripes and I have never stooped down to the level of personally attacking her‚" said Limberg.

She added: "I don’t have the ability to manufacture an SMS. I have opened myself up in handing over my cellphone‚ many‚ many months ago. I wouldn’t have done that if it was false."

McKenzie said: "There is a question that De Lille has avoided for months‚ a basic question on whether she sent an SMS or not. We cannot be seen not to be doing the right thing. The right thing is for charges to be laid and if De Lille continues to not tell us‚ the investigating authorities will have to find out whether or not it is the case.”

But De Lille scoffed at the charges and described the DA as "schizophrenic".

"They speak with forked tongues‚" she said. "Under oath‚ James Selfe [the DA federal chairman]‚ after I went to court to compel them to give me the evidence‚ said the DA cannot give the evidence on all the Steenhuisen allegations because all the DA’s internal meetings are private and confidential. You have to be circumspect of how these people use you [the media]."

She said: "Xanthea [Limberg] was a member of the interview panel and in terms of the city procedures and the law everybody must sign a declaration that it was a fair and transparent process. She signed that declaration‚ so she must answer why did she sign it and now she is changing her story."

Last week De Lille sent out a statement saying that she intended to "lay charges of fraud against certain DA members of Parliament based on a fake and forged auditor-general signature on a report that was distributed by these individuals".

The fake report‚ which was shared on social media‚ listed procurement breaches allegedly committed by De Lille in the MyCiti bus service. Initially‚ De Lille had given MPs Mike Waters and Brownynn Engelbrecht‚ Sheehana Kagee‚ the DA’s deputy provincial chairman in KwaZulu-Natal and Henk Hugo‚ a DA branch executive‚ an ultimatum to apologise or face a lawsuit.

On Thursday‚ De Lille claimed victory over the DA after the party abandoned the findings and recommendations of the Steenhuisen report. The report was compiled by a team headed by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen last year which probed tensions within the DA caucus in the city. The report accused her of interfering with the appointment of the municipal manager. De Lille took the report on review in the high court in Cape Town.

But the DA‚ in agreement with De Lille’s council‚ abandoned the findings and recommendations of the report – the agreement was made an order of the court this week.

"The Steenhuisen report made unsubstantiated and sweeping findings against me. Findings that committee was not entitled to arrive at given that the committee had adopted an informal style without the opportunity for the veracity of the gossip and allegations to be tested through cross-examination‚" said De Lille.

“The committee conducted itself like an apartheid-era kangaroo court. It failed to grasp the most basic principles of a fair and just process and exposed the DA as paying lip-service to their value of “fairness’. This closes another chapter in a year of DA dirty tricks against me. They have slandered my name‚ attempted to ruin my hard-earned reputation and worked day-and-night to remove me from office based in part on the Steenhuisen findings. In the end those findings could never be substantiated and they abandoned them.”

Natasha Mazzone‚ the DA’s deputy federal chairperson‚ said the party had decided to end internal disciplinary process against De Lille in the interest of the people of Cape Town. She said the DA has always stood by the findings of the Steenhuisen report.

“It abandoned same with regards to De Lille only to obtain finality for the party and the City of Cape town‚” said Mazzone.

“The tactics used by Ms De Lille in an effort to cover up corruption has been revealed in the Bowmans report which confirms the Steenhuisen findings.

Some of these findings were further confirmed by the two Bowman’s reports which found she failed in her duties and covered up corruption.”

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