One reason Patricia de Lille has gone so far in politics – and why she is so popular – is that she speaks her mind and doesn’t back down from a fight.
As the executive mayor of Cape Town, she faces the biggest battle of her political career, defending herself against charges by her party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), that her conduct as the city’s number one citizen has, among other things, brought the party into disrepute.
Over the past few weeks, the mud has been slung back and forth by opponents and supporters of De Lille, who herself has repeatedly asked for a chance to answer the allegations against her and to clear her name.
In effect, the move by the DA to charge her will allow De Lille to get her “day in court” and the people of the city – and of the rest of the country – will be able to see what has been going on in the ranks of the DA.
That has not been easy up to now because the process has not been transparent and has been made even more opaque by the accusations being levelled by both sides.
The DA has done the sensible thing in allowing De Lille to continue as mayor without suspending her, although that level-headed gesture has been partly negated by the fact that De Lille has had some of her powers curbed, even before answering to allegations that she was abusing those powers.
This is a painful exercise for the DA but the positive side is that, unlike the ANC, it has shown itself prepared to tackle the uncomfortable issues in those areas where it governs.
It’s going to be a bloody and unpleasant fight and we hope that the party itself is not damaged by it – because what this country needs most is a healthy opposition.