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26/04/2018 12:07 SAST | Updated 26/04/2018 13:50 SAST

Patricia De Lille's End Shouldn't Come As Too Much Of A Surprise

She was dumped by 70 percent of her caucus. Not 50-percent-plus-one, but an overwhelming majority. That says something.

Patricia de Lille campaigning for the Independent Democrats in 2004.
Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Patricia de Lille campaigning for the Independent Democrats in 2004.

ANALYSIS

Patricia de Lille is seemingly gearing up for a scorched-earth last hurrah before she exits the DA, which she inevitably will.

The governing party in Western Cape and the city of Cape Town has made it abundantly clear that it wants the former PAC firebrand and leader of the now-defunct Independent Democrats out on the street. But she won't go without a bang, it seems.

She posted a video on Twitter on Wednesday night, just before her own caucus booted her, wearing boxing gloves and throwing air-punches to show that she's serious. And she has said she'll use the full extent of the DA's internal processes to fight her dismissal. But it may already be too late.

The De Lille-DA marriage was always fraught, and the fact that it has ended in acrimony shouldn't really be a surprise. De Lille's party, the ID, was almost wiped out at the 2009 general election, garnering just under 163,000 votes, which was barely enough for two seats in the National Assembly. The DA's grand project at that point, under leader Helen Zille, was to consolidate the support of all minor opposition parties in anticipation for a big electoral push in 2014.

When it became clear, even before the election that year, that the ID was going to suffer massive losses, the DA saw an opportunity to co-opt and absorb the ID's structures, some of which were pretty effective in "coloured" areas in Western Cape especially.

And although her party was on a hiding to nothing, the De Lille "brand" wasn't anything to scoff at. She had been celebrated as the one of the original whistleblowers in the arms-deal scandal, and the "De Lille Dossier" that she produced in the National Assembly — containing startling allegations of impropriety and illegality — was a highlight of her public life.

She was also a revered figure in some sectors of the coloured community, and the theory was that she would obviously assist the DA in further solidifying the party's support in Western Cape — by then a dead loss for the ANC.

For De Lille, whose party was a key component of Zille's very fragile coalition in Cape Town, the overtures from the DA were a godsend. She not only had some leverage with her brand, but she also seemingly displayed commitment to the opposition project by helping the DA govern the city; and the DA was a larger platform.

When negotiations started about merging the parliamentary caucuses, there was major discord among ID MPs. De Lille was, if not over-eager, certainly very keen to use the floor-crossing legislation to establish a beachhead in the DA. But some of her colleagues, who believed in the role of the ID as a minority party and thought it could play a constructive role in Parliament, were angry at her for abandoning the party and its structures for a leadership position in an opposition party.

Grumblings around the parliamentary precinct back then were that De Lille, always very aware of status, title and position, was merely angling for a snazzier office and better view, and that ID policy positions — some very different to the DA's — were being shafted too easily.

Her ignominious end in the DA, now surely only delayed by process and procedure, is the result of slow erosion. There have been two investigations; one an internal DA probe and the other by law firm Bowmans' integrity department. Both were critical of De Lille's management of the DA and city's affairs, with findings of misconduct and neglect of duty being made against her. She has contested both reports and their findings, and has been vocal in alleging the existence of a witch-hunt against her.

Although the reports haven't made any Nkandla-style findings against her, it's pretty clear that all was not well in the city administration or the affairs of the DA. De Lille, who replaced Zille as executive mayor shortly after she became premier, seemingly enjoyed the trappings of power, the authority of the mayoral chain and the pomp and the ceremony. But that also started to alienate many within her own caucus and leadership team, leading to clashes with senior bureaucrats and screaming matches with others.

De Lille might jump ship to the ANC or the EFF — it will be her fourth political party since 1994 if she does. But a personal brand will only take you so far.

In the end, 70 percent of her caucus voted to remove her. Not 50-percent-plus-one, or a tie-breaking vote by the speaker — it was an overwhelming majority. And that in itself tells a story.