Advocate Dali Mpofu, Mayor Patricia de Lille, and advocate Johan de Waal walk to court. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Under-fire Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille’s request for a secret ballot in a no-confidence vote against her, is now in the hands of City of Cape Town Speaker Dirk Smit, the Western Cape High has ruled.

Last week, De Lille had filed an urgent application to have a motion of no confidence in her held by secret ballot. 

She argued that councillors would be victimised should they vote in open support of her. 

High Court Judge Robert Henney said he could not make such an order as it would breach the separation of powers. 

He ordered Smit to exercise his discretion and decide on whether or not the motion of no confidence should be conducted by secret ballot. 

“I don’t however agree with the argument of Mr Mpofu (De Lille's lawyer) that the my order would not breach the separation of powers. The Speaker should exercise his right to make that decision and act in accordance with the law,” Henney said.

Henney also said De Lille had every right and made a good case.

“There were many elements of this case that I did not agree with and felt uncomfortable. One is that Ms Suzette Little sought advice from Mr. James Selfe. That was the very same person that initially gave a clear instruction to caucus members on how they will vote,” he said. 

He also ordered that the DA tell its members that they were free to vote in line with their consciences.

Patricia de Lille speaks after the Western Cape High Court ruled that the Speaker in the city council should decide on whether or not a vote of no confidence should be held via secret ballot and that councillors should not fear reprisal for their votes. Video: Jason Felix/Cape Argus

The motion against De Lille will be tabled on Thursday at a special council meeting. 

Last month, the DA’s federal executive authorised its City caucus to table a motion of no confidence against De Lille in the council.

The grounds of the no-confidence motion is based on the allegations of maladministration against De Lille. 

The DA needs 116 votes for the motion to pass and should it succeed, De Lille would have to resign and her mayoral committee would be dissolved. 

The City Council would need to elect a new mayor within 14 days. It is expected that deputy mayor Ian Neilson will take charge in an acting capacity.

The ANC in the council had previously tabled a motion of no confidence in De Lille, but withdrew it at the eleventh hour citing that they did not want to be part of the removal of De Lille “via the backdoor.”

De Lille said she went to court to ensure that councillors had the freedom to vote as they wish.

“I have been around in the community and the support is strong on the ground. I have been to several meetings and there is solid support, whether the council members will take their cue from the people on the ground. That is entirely up to them. But I have created the space where they now don’t have feel intimidated or fear that there will be reprasels for them after the vote. That's why I came here,” she said. 

The DA has been ordered to pay some of the cost.

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Cape Argus