FOR the woman at the helm of the city, it’s been a difficult year – but not as tough as her first.
This year marks the halfway mark for mayor Patricia de Lille and in a reflection on this year, two themes stand out for her.
One, she simply shrugs off the attacks on her, and critics calling her a “dictator” or an “iron fist” leader.
Two, she says she still has a lot of work to do and will stand for a second term, if she is asked to do so in 2016.
At 62, De Lille shows no sign of quitting and says she is as driven as ever. She says she is enjoying her favourite stint in politics on local government level.
Speaking to the Cape Times, she said: “At the beginning of the year, I knew that we were coming to mid-term and the first thing I did was to look at what are the outstanding issues. I set myself some goals and targets and looked at where I need to push so that mid-term I would know we are halfway to our target.”
One of the city’s biggest successes this year was achieving a 92.9 percent spend on the capital budget, a first for the municipality. This was followed by receiving a clean audit from the Auditor General despite strong attempts by the ANC to slam the city’s expenditure as a sham and accusing it of cooking the books.
De Lille hailed the short- term job creation for people through the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) as the city created 37 000 jobs as another success.
Other problem areas were sanitation, housing and electricity provision.
De Lille also made headlines with insiders taking issue with her leadership, saying she ruled with an iron fist and a had a “street fighter” leadership style.
She said: “Opinions are like backsides,we all have them.”
“I am not really bothered by all these adjectives. I am used to it after more than 40 years in politics. What I do know is that I want to get the task done.”
Asked what her leadership style was, she replied: “It’s all about delegating but for me it is very difficult to delegate and to trust that a task will be done but in an organisation like this you have to delegate. What people don’t like is when I call and follow up on what I’ve asked to be done.”
De Lille said her officials often thought they had an entire year to complete a task.
“I know the urgency of any instruction because we are here to serve people. I know that people are suffering and have to deal with poverty and inequality. It is painful for me to see how our people are suffering.I want to get things done.”
She said city officials were comfortable and earning good money but that many residents had yet to taste the fruits of democracy.
That De Lille works hard is not disputed. Even opposition councillors have often said so after disagreeing with her in council. The avid golfer, does not get much down time and only plays golf on a Sunday morning.
De Lille says she spends very little time with her family but that she “works on their nerves” when she is home.
“When I am home, my husband and son don’t know how to handle me because I play pophuis (doll’s house), I pack things out. I love cleaning and washing and my husband and son absolutely dislike it because then I move things around.”
In her downtime she also reads and visits her elderly mother. “She still keeps track of what I am doing, she always calls and tells me to slow down a bit and make time for myself but I don’t do it.”
De Lille works around 14 hours a day but said she was far from ready to retire.
“I have been at all three spheres of government and local government is the most challenging – and I enjoy it. Five years is nothing in government and at the end of my term, if I am asked to do another term, I will certainly consider it. The time is just so short to get things done. “
De Lille was also greatly respected as a politician by Nelson Mandela. She said all leaders had to continue Mandela’s “selfless” leadership style.
“We are at a crossroads where we must reflect and see whether we want to go back to racial hatred, discrimination or do we want to go forward with the journey of Mandela’s – of reconciliation and redress. Those are the values of Mandela that I will internalise in the governance of the city.”
De Lille wants to continue to improve conditions in line with the five pillars of the city: a caring, inclusive, opportunity, safe and well-run city and will drive her staff harder to deliver.