Beyond the DA, what are De Lille’s political options?


Clyde Ramalaine 

JOHANNESBURG- Patricia De Lille, the DA mayor of the City of Cape Town has vowed to continue her fight to prove the DA acted in an irrational manner when it expelled her from the party.  Her seeking of relief in the High Court on the which will hear her appeal today confirms she is not taking this lying down. It is clear the DA has committed of comedy of errors and was clutching at straws from the start.

Their meandering and manifold reasons for relieving her of her membership which we are now told is primarily informed by a statement De Lille made, confirm that each of the previous levelled claims was either drummed-up or vacuous, to say the least. There is also clearly going to be repercussions for the DA for this act which plays out in the typical race dilemma with the Coloured vote as the epicentre. De Lille became the object of the full attack of the DA which always includes the useful tools from incompetency to corruption charges.

The DA’ obsession with black ace politics in this season has seen it pushing for a Bonginkosi Madikizela candidacy in replacement of De Lille. Madikizela himself is a former ANC and UDM member and is currently the elected leader of the DA in the Western Cape. One does not have to be a De Lille fan to see the DA acted in a short-sighted and desperate fashion in its desire to get rid of her.  If it uses her statement as the sole and primary reason for relieving her of her membership without following due process, it will need to explain how on the basis of what it had initiated and executed a failed vote of no confidence, levelled accusations of corruption against, advanced incompetence on her part and at the same time expected her to remain of no public opinion as it pertains her political future within the DA. However, let us leave that for the court and judiciary to pronounce on.

The question De Lille is confronted with is what her political choices are going forward. To appreciate her the political options and ultimate choices we must ask what can benefit her, who is her current supporting constituency and how they can benefit. Ultimately, we must ask in what form and with who she may partner to teach the DA a lesson.

De Lille is a popular leader in the Western Cape, she is the first Mayor to attain a two-thirds majority. Under her leadership, the DA secured a significant margin of victory. You, therefore, cannot discount De Lille as a factor. The question is can you overestimate her? Off course in politics, a week is a long time and personal interest often outweighs the greater interest of causes. Her popularity is clearly underestimated by the DA.

De Lille’s constituency beyond all doubt is anchored in those with a denotation of Coloured for an identity. He support is stronger in particular in the Metropolitan Western Cape community. We all know the DA is not as popular in the rural hinterlands of the Western Cape. De Lille’s constituency comprises those who increasingly have become despondent with the DA’s white privilege centredness that is a reality in the City of Cape Town. The recent water crisis which we hear more and more was an engineered crisis centred on an elaborate salination deal with Israel in which the DA would have secured a +R600m war-chest kitty for its 2019 election campaign, has not helped the poor in the Cape metro who already feel marginalised. The elitist agenda and white interest the reason for the DA existence does not sit well with the poor who are black defined in Coloured, African and Indians.

The DA’s obsession to deal with De Lille became a Coloured fight, meaning the average self-identifying Coloured self and or other defined groups that make up this apartheid epithet for identity interpreted the DA’s action against De Lille with intend of replacing her with Madikizela as a direct attack on the Coloured people, who had thus far delivered the DA in successive victories since the ANC lost. Let us also agree when the ANC won the Western Cape it was also because of that constituency. De Lille is therefore considered the evidence of the disrespect the DA has towards this constituency despite the fact that it was loyal to the DA. This constituency can and will punish the DA. De Lille has this angry constituency on her side, for now, willing to punish the DA and hurt them where it matters most.

There are those who automatically assume De Lille will join the ANC, others assume she may even join the Economic Freedom Fighters. The question remains, what are the implications for De Lille’s choice for the ANC. The DA’s failed vote of no confidence in her was opposed by the ANC and the Patriotic Alliance, the latter’s vote ended up being the deciding vote that saw her survive the DA-led motion.

Joining the ANC, may not be as good a choice for her. Unfortunately, as much even some in the Western Cape and National ANC assume, the ANC can directly cash in with her walking into the ANC, the constituency that supports De Lille will be lost if she ventures such a move.  The ANC is today less of political home for Coloureds than it ever was since 1994. We know that the ANC has equally failed to take this constituency serious its many bad choices and known insensitivity interpreted in direct side-lining if not punishing this constituency when it comes to electing and appointing leadership from national to provincial cabinets has painted the ANC in the same vein as the DA. Secondly, the ANC does not inspire or show any change of heart and therefore is not trusted by this constituency regardless to how some politicians in the Western Cape may in this season simplistically approach this matter for their own personal political future gain. De Lille will lose the coloured constituency if she dares to join the ANC because the joining the ANC will not answer the cries of her supporting constituency.

Can De Lille’s choice for the EFF deliver a significant difference or her maintenance of the current support she has from the Coloured constituency that is deeply angered with the DA, and do not trust the ANC? The EFF is not in truth as real a presence as it claims. It remains a 6% party with more strength in Gauteng than anywhere. If the ANC is not trusted the EFF is less trusted for a multiplicity of reasons. The EFF shares strategic relationship with the DA that secured the DA political power and leadership in among others three metros Tshwane, City of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. The EFF in its clear apartheid narrow defined African focus policy footprint inspires no hope of ever representing this constituency. Also, the EFF despite all the noise and media space afforded has hitherto not been trusted to lead any municipality as can be seen from the August 2016 local elections performance. The EFF failed to be trusted at a time when the ANC was at its weakest. The EFF, therefore, is no home for the Coloured vote.

In the end, what may be the better option for De Lille? De Lille must find a way to revive her ID Party. When she came into an Alliance with the DA it was because she had a party that contested national elections. Her relationship with Helen Zille and the DA forced her to kill her own party as she was chained by a mayoral position. Perhaps a very important lesson for De Lille, who placed her personal interest above those entrusted her to lead.  The DA having politically shared in affairs and romantically dated half of SA political parties is a master at getting negotiating deals that work for it. After all, it lives up to its name of being an alliance, the only difference is the DA expects those it has affairs with to lose their identity and be subservient to it. De Lille had to give up her ID identity to fit into the DA. De Lille now is confronted with the reality of having to revive her party. Whether Aunty Pat has the energy to do it is another subject, but it does not look like she has any other option if she at least wants to remain popular with her supporting constituency.

She faces the stark challenge of having to revive her party and rebuild it with the hope of entering into a coalition with probably the ANC where she may be able to bargain in the interest of the constituency that continues to support her.  The ANC should also be wise to appreciate De Lille is of better use, not as a member but a coalition partner. In so doing she may be able to have a win-win situation where she gets what she as a politician at personal level may hope for, serve the interest of her primary constituency bargaining for their interest and equally punish the DA thus teaching her former party a political lesson.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation