Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille says when she said she would resign during a radio interview, she was referring to her job as mayor and not her position as a member of the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Her utterances during the interview with Cape Talk and Talk Radio 702’s Eusebius McKaiser show have come under scrutiny in the Western Cape High Court today, where she is challenging the party’s decision to rescind her membership.
The party argues De Lille automatically stopped being a DA member when she told the radio show she planned to resign.
The latest court battle comes just as the Cape Town City Council voted to downgrade De Lille’s mayoral powers to merely ceremonial duties.
The court will judge whether De Lille must remain a DA member or not, thereby determining whether she stays on as mayor.
The judge must decide whether De Lille in effect automatically resigned as a DA member on radio.
The DA said that according to its rules the comments automatically ended her membership but De Lille said her comments were taken out of context.
“I’ve listened earlier to the clip of (DA federal executive chairman) James Selfe. He’s entitled to his interpretation of the threat clause, the automatic cessation. I’m entitled to my interpretation of the automatic cessation. And if you have two different interpretations that’s when you turn to the courts to help you to decide and rule on which interpretation is right or wrong,” she said.
Although specifically asked in this interview whether she will resign from the DA, De Lille’s lawyer Dali Mpofu has told the court she meant she would quit as mayor once she has cleared her name, EWN reports.
He says she did not mean she would walk away from the DA as interpreted by the party.
Mpofu says misunderstandings happen in radio interviews all the time.
Challenged by Judge Mark Sher as to why De Lille would resign as mayor if the DA cleared her of malfeasance, Mpofu joked that De Lille was not being “charged with stupidity”.
He says she’s free to take any decision about her future that she wants.
When grilled about the nature of De Lille’s words on Radio 702, Mpofu said it was important to note what De Lille had said, rather than what talk show host Eusebius McKaiser had said, News24 reports.
McKaiser was clear that he was asking if she would leave the party upon clearing her name.
However, De Lille’s answer, that she was walking away “from there” and from “that position”, showed she meant she would leave her position as mayor, and not the party.
Her future thereafter, in any case, was “unclear”, which she admitted in the interview, showing there was a lack of actual intention to leave the party outright, Mpofu argued.
De Lille had also said that she would only “walk away” after clearing her name, showing that what she was proposing was conditional.
Other party members had made similar conditional statements about resignation prior to the incident, like DA leader Mmusi Maimane and MP Phumzile van Damme, but were never determined to have resigned from the party, he said.
De Lille’s legal team has argued the DA has overreacted by wanting to terminate her party membership.
Advocate Johan de Waal says the party has been unable to prove the harm in her statement in a radio interview that she planned to resign once she has cleared her name.
Her legal team has argued that she has not been given a fair opportunity to defend her utterances in the radio interview.
De Waal says 24 hours is not in line with natural justice principles outlined in the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
De Waal has also questioned the DA’s consistency in applying its cessation clause, and why it has not been used in the same manner against other members.
“Where’s the harm, where’s the disloyalty? The same with Ms De Lille and Ms [Phumzile] Van Damme? She said: ‘Unless you get your act together on this issue of white privilege, I’m going to resign.’ Where’s the disloyalty?”
The DA will be responding to the arguments tomorrow.
De Lille also plans a court challenge to the stripping of her mayoral powers.
– Citizen reporter