QUESTIONS have arisen about Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s personal role in official reports on the arrest of a motorist – her husband – despite a possible conflict of interest.
Her husband, Edwin, was arrested on Friday for reckless and negligent driving.
Soon after his arrest in Pinelands, De Lille told the Weekend Argus her husband had had a stroke. It is understood this served as an explanation as to why he may have been driving in the manner which led to his arrest.
Since the arrest city officials have refused to comment.
The Cape Argus yesterday submitted formal questions to Kylie Hatton, the city’s manager of media in the new integrated strategic communication and branding department; to Paul Boughey, head of the office of the mayor; and to Solly Malatsi, De Lille’s official spokesman.
The following questions were asked:
l What led to the arrest of the mayor’s husband?
l What action has the city taken against the motorist?
l Will the city’s actions be free of any actual or perceived interference or pressure on officials involved?
l Is the city happy that due process has been followed, strictly “by the book”, thus far?
l Will the city’s electronic surveillance resources be used in prosecuting the motorist (ie, the city’s freeway camera system)?
In response, Hatton referred the questions to Malatsi, who quoted De Lille in reply.
She refused to answer the questions, instead saying: “I thank the police for stopping him under that health condition and the law must take its course. All evidence about his health condition will be put before the court and we must respect the independence of the courts.”
Not only did De Lille refuse to answer the questions formally submitted by the Cape Argus, but she refused to explain why the city’s administration had refused or been ordered not to answer the questions, as is routine.
Normally, on matters pertaining to roads, direct comment is made by the city.
Instead, the mayor has commented on a matter involving her husband.
De Lille and the city’s administration were also asked to give an assurance to the public that the matter would be dealt with without fear or favour.
This question was asked because while it will be for the police to investigate and the courts to adjudicate, it will be City of Cape Town employees who will carry the burden of testifying, or submitting evidence based on what they witnessed leading up to the arrest of De Lille’s husband.
But there was no response to this request from the city or De Lille.
A source in Cape Town with intimate knowledge of the workings of the city’s administration said De Lille’s actions were “outrageous” for at least four reasons.
First, because it was highly irregular for the mayor to comment on traffic violations, as opposed to the usual city officials or the politician who heads that department.
Second, that it was “discourteous and plain wrong” for the mayor, having taken on the communications on the matter herself, to refuse to answer Cape Argus questions.
Third, that it was deeply inappropriate for De Lille to be answering questions pertaining to charges against her own husband.
And fourth, that it was disingenuous for De Lille to claim that it was in the hands of the courts when she knew full well that any case would rely heavily on the co-operation of city officers.
The source said: “This is ‘spin city’ gone mad. It’s outrageous.”
The “spin city” allegation pertains to recent moves within the administration to put communications in the hands of politicians instead of politically neutral officials, as reported in the Cape Argus earlier this year.