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Cape Town - Grant Pascoe – the DA chairman in the Cape Town metro and leader of the party’s biggest Western Cape constituency, Mitchells Plain – has blamed party leader Helen Zille for his decision to join the ANC.
“She (Zille) is not sincere with the coloured people. If you disagree with the leader, you are then vilified and ousted,” Pascoe said on Monday.
“You could dare not disagree with the leadership and it wasn’t the same DA any more. Under Tony Leon you could disagree and he would take it on the chin. But there are many people who feel the way I do in the DA and they are the people (the DA) should be worrying about.”
Pascoe said Zille served the interests of the party’s whites over coloureds and blacks.
Zille said Pascoe’s defection to the ANC was “truly not a big deal”.
The new ANC recruit, who commanded a strong following among DA members, became the first high-profile Cape Town politician to quit his party as the elections approach.
Pascoe said he did not regret his decision, had pondered it for some time and had not been offered anything by the ANC.
Pascoe, who earned his political stripes in Mitchells Plain, said he was concerned about the way “his” constituency was being treated.
“We are good enough for votes but not good enough for services.”
Pascoe said the city’s customer satisfaction survey, by an independent consultant, showed satisfaction levels had dropped significantly in the traditionally coloured areas of Mitchells Plain and Klipfontein.
“This is what I have been picking up too. Coloured people are feeling more and more aggrieved.”
Reasons cited for their dissatisfaction was that they felt they could not trust the DA-led administration. “That’s what I have been experiencing. There is no real commitment to change,” he said.
The survey has yet to be released by the city council.
Pascoe denied accusations that he was under investigation for claims of corruption by the municipality.
“There were no such allegations against me. I was overseas when the city made an announcement of an investigation. I was not investigated.
“I can confirm that KPMG, who conducted the investigations, took my laptop and other equipment in my office. Their only reason for doing it was to investigate who was responsible for the leakage of the information about the city’s intention to develop a new logo.
“Nothing was found against me,” Pascoe said.
Zille said that some DA members left because they were not on the candidates’ list for elections, faced disciplinary action or had financial problems.
As news broke about Pascoe’s defection, Zille retweeted his old tweets of him criticising the ANC.
She said it was interesting that some politicians easily moved from one party to the next.
“It is not like moving from one bank to another. It is a whole new value set that goes with it.”
Zille did not think it would be a significant blow to the DA.
She said DA members who left for the ANC would soon be aggrieved with their new party and become “serial defectors”.
“Sometimes I am not surprised that people are so cynical about politicians,” she said.
The ANC’s deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, said Pascoe had joined as an ordinary member and would assist the ANC’s efforts to try to win back the Western Cape.
DA provincial leader Ivan Meyer said Pascoe had faced demotion.
“He knew that things weren’t going well in his portfolio, and that he was going to be sacked imminently,” Meyer said.
He said Pascoe often missed important meetings and had made no meaningful contributions to his constituency in Mitchells Plain.
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said Pascoe’s preparation for meetings was poor or non-existent, resulting in his inability to contribute meaningfully.
Pascoe did not have the courtesy of informing her he would join the ANC.
“I can only assume he has chosen to find a new political home due to his inability to live up to the standards required of DA public representatives,” she said.
De Lille said Pascoe’s political management of his portfolio was “exceptionally poor”.
Pascoe said De Lille should be the last person to speak to him about performance as she had been “handed a lifeline and given the mayorship on a platter”.
“She had the support of a good mayco team who did a good job. Everyone who worked with me knows the job I did and my record speaks for itself,” he said.
De Lille said Pascoe would be informed of his immediate dismissal from the mayoral committee.
Stellenbosch University political analyst Amanda Gouws said the departure of a senior DA leader in the metro pointed to division in the party.
“It is too late for him to get on any candidates’ list. It showed he must have felt strongly about something to join the ANC at this time.”
Gouws did not think Pascoe’s departure would have a major impact on the DA’s support in Mitchells Plain.
Pascoe started his political career in Mitchells Plain in the late 1990s and joined the Democratic Party in 1999.
In 2001, he became a ward councillor for Westridge after winning a by-election on a DA ticket.
ANC leader in the council Tony Ehrenreich said: “This is another indication of people who are concerned about the community of Cape Flats leaving the DA.
“This DA continues to show their neglect of the Cape Flats while doing everything to ensure they maintain the white privilege and apartheid-gained advantages.” - Additional reporting by Anél Lewis
Cape Times and Cape Argus