Like a woman and a man in a loveless marriage who decide to stay together for the sake of the children, so, too, Patricia de Lille and the Democratic Alliance (DA) agreed to stay together in the best interests of the party … and of the elections next year.
After months of fractious wrangling between De Lille and the disciplinary structures of the party, as well as with her caucus in the City of Cape Town, she agreed to step down as mayor from October 31. She will, however, remain a member of the DA.
Both she and party leader Mmusi Maimane acknowledged in a joint statement that the fight between them has “gone on for too long and has sapped the energies and attentions of both parties from our core work”.
De Lille said afterwards she would devote her remaining three months in the position to dealing with unfinished business – including tackling the pressing issue of land invasions in the city. At the same time, she said she had not made any decisions about her future.
The settlement – because that is what it was – was interesting because it saw the DA agreeing to stop disciplinary processes against De Lille, but saying that inquiries into aspects of her conduct would continue, in the name of the party’s commitment to “clean” governance.
Clearly, having De Lille remain on board is crucial if the party is to convince the rest of the country that it is not dominated by a clique of conservative white men, Maimane’s leadership notwithstanding.
De Lille is essential to the DA retaining the coloured vote in the Western Cape – the reason it is in office there and in Cape Town in the first place.
Clearly, too, De Lille does not see her political home anywhere else.
Let’s hope we don’t see a final divorce.