Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille dons her mayoral chains again tomorrow, but faces the spectre of a text message hanging like an albatross around her neck as she prepares for a second round against the DA in 10 days' time.
The Western Cape High Court on Tuesday ruled that there were procedural irregularities in her ouster from the official opposition and returned her to office pending full arguments on May 25.
The fight between De Lille and the DA is becoming like the rivalry between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather – it hogs the headlines, is an epic battle and it's likely the parties will go the full rounds.
For De Lille, the judgment is a huge victory, but one tempered by the revelation in the Mail&Guardian of the text message she sent to a councillor in which she asked for former city manager, Achmat Ebrahim, to be favoured in job interviews. "I want to keep Achmat so score him highest," De Lille is alleged to have texted to Cape Town councillor Xanthia Limberg.
De Lille has put up a fight against the DA's attempts to get her out of city hall and her win means that the party cannot get back to business as usual. The DA is months away from a make-or-break election campaign in which it wants to become a party of government by winning three elections.
Instead, for all of 2018 and for much of 2017, the party has been embroiled in an all-out brawl with the feisty mayor with whom it has fallen out. Although the text message is serious, it cannot be raised in court (except tangentially) as the party did not oust De Lille for this message but instead chose to terminate her membership based on an interview she did with Talk Radio 702.
In the interview, De Lille said she would "walk away" once she had cleared her name. The meaning of "walk away" is now likely to form the basis of great legal scrutiny as the party interpreted it to mean she would leave the DA while De Lille said meant she would hang up her chains, not quit the party.
The DA has commissioned two investigations into De Lille's conduct but it did not use any findings from the two reports to throw Patty from the bus. The two reports are substantial and detailed. One is by parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen and a second by the law firm Bowman Gilfillan.
Neither report finds evidence of corruption or self-enrichment by De Lille, but they do reveal that the management of the Cape Town city council was tortured and chaotic. The DA positions itself as a party of good governance.
Ebrahim, the city manager, did not sail a happy ship and there are important findings made about how poorly the My Citi bus rapid transport system was managed, as was a Foreshore Freeway development project. In this context, the text message from De Lille to Limburg is important but it is unlikely to form part of the next round in the epic match between De Lille and the DA.