The rise of Patricia de Lille through the ranks of the DA’s leadership aristocracy was swift and seemingly unstoppable, with many predicting a top position for her in national government should the faltering ANC be voted out of power in 2019.
In the last local government elections on August 3, 2016, she led the DA to a decisive, two-thirds majority over the old enemy, the ANC, in the battle for the city of Cape Town.
Her next term as executive mayor of the city would be eventful, she vowed. She promised to tackle apartheid spatial planning, and to work much closer with residents and their representatives in rundown townships such as Gugulethu, Nyanga and Philippi, and the even more rundown informal settlements of the city.
De Lille’s triumph in 2016 was, in many ways, her greatest moment. It earned her praise from internationally renowned local government experts.
Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, described her as “one of the world’s best mayors”.
“Anyone who is interested in the future of Africa’s cities can learn from the wisdom of Mayor De Lille,” he said.
Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, spoke about how, “with motivated and dynamic leadership, cities can lead the way on the most important issues”.
But on Tuesday, De Lille fell.
After a bitter fight, after weeks of backstabbing by her opponents, and after an almost laughable inability by the DA to handle the claims and counter-claims that flew around her, it cancelled her membership on the grounds that she had gone contrary to its constitution by saying on radio that she would quit after clearing her name.
De Lille is not perfect. She made many mistakes, but we also acknowledge that she is tough and that she stood back for no one - certainly not a rich, white old boys’ club - when she believed she was right.
Although the DA included maladministration and corruption in a long list of things that she was supposed to have done wrong, De Lille was confident she would successfully defend all those charges.
We believe by getting rid of her in the way it did, the DA took the coward’s way out.
We hope voters will remember this in the 2019 polls, and thereafter.