Cape Town - While local government will not be the focus of the polls this year, it is possible that a third of the City of Cape Town’s top political structure could take up positions within provincial and national government, creating a leadership shake-up in the DA-led metro.
Political parties have yet to finalise their party lists, but it is understood that four of the 11-member mayoral committee have been nominated to stand for election this year.
Rumours have also been doing the rounds that mayor Patricia de Lille will be redeployed to the Northern Cape, where the DA is expecting a victory in the provincial polls. De Lille, who has been the city’s mayor since 2011, has been pipped to take over as premier of that province. But De Lille has repeatedly denied the move, saying categorically she has a mandate to lead the city for her full five-year term.
In an interview with the Cape Argus last year, De Lille said she had already done a stint in provincial government and that five years as mayor of Cape Town was not enough. When asked this week, De Lille said: “I have a mandate from the residents of Cape Town to deliver a caring, safe, inclusive and well-run city. That is my primary focus for now.”
De Lille has been widely criticised for her leadership style, which some say is too unyielding. There have also been reports that her relationship with DA leader Helen Zille, who is likely to remain Western Cape premier should the DA retain its majority in the province, was terse at first.
The party formed by De Lille in 2003, the Independent Democrats, will cease to exist when voters go to the polls, having completed its merger with the DA and brought to an end a process that started in 2010 to create a stronger opposition to the ANC.
De Lille said she would not be drawn into speculation of possible changes in her leadership team post-elections. “If there is a need to review the composition of the political leadership of the city as a result of the upcoming national elections, we will deal with it then.”
Councillors are keeping their aspirations close to their chests. De Lille’s deputy, stalwart Ian Neilson, indicated last year he would not be leaving the city council. Neilson, who also heads up the city’s finance portfolio, has considerable experience of local government issues and has been part of huge projects such as the 2010 World Cup and long-term successes, such as the city’s strong credit rating and unqualified audits.
Lungiswa James, mayoral committee member for health, said there was “a possibility” she would be nominated to stand for election. “I am saddened, but this is a political decision for my constituency.” James said she felt there was still more she could do at the helm of the city’s health directorate. She joined mayco in 2011.
Other mayoral committee members rumoured to be marked for movement are rising political star Garreth Bloor, who heads the economic development portfolio, Ernest Sonnenberg of utility services and Tandeka Gqada of human settlements. None responded to queries about their possible list nominations.
The ANC have also not revealed much about their councillors’ possible moves. ANC firebrand Tony Ehrenreich said the lists had yet to be finalised but he would do whatever the ANC and Cosatu required.
Keith Gottschalk, head of the University of the Western Cape’s political science department, said the election results on provincial and national level would not change much in the city, as the DA already ruled without a coalition. But controversial issues such as Princess Vlei would be important to watch ahead of the 2016 municipal elections.
“The movements of personalities will not affect policies,” he said of possible changes to the city’s executive.
All eyes would be on the provincial polls and whether the ANC could reverse its loss of support in the Western Cape and regain the votes it had in 1999, he said.