Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille Picture: Mary-Jane Mphahlele/IOL Politics

Cape Town - The removal of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille from the Democratic Alliance (DA) was akin to illegal subterfuge, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

Arguing for De Lille, Dali Mpofu, senior counsel, said the DA failed to remove her through a no-confidence vote or through a disciplinary process and took a "shortcut".

"What they are doing is to find a root towards her removal as mayor. Having failed with a legal way to do so, they have to go through illegal subterfuge... that would lead to her removal as councillor, that would lead to her removal as mayor," said Mpofu.

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De Lille maintains the DA in April adopted the recall clause, which leads to the automatic cessation of party membership, in a bid to oust her, and has labelled it the "De Lille clause".

Mpofu said her right to freedom of expression when she told a radio talk show host she would resign if her name was cleared was infringed, so was her right to be elected and hold office.

"If she enjoys the [support of the] majority of council, her vested rights to hold office must remain intact. they cannot be unjustifiably removed," he said.

"The Constitution as it stands now says that it doesn't matter if your husband, your uncle, your party doesn't want to you to be a mayor any more, it doesn't matter. What matters, the council that voted you in, the citizens that voted you in, are represented."

In February, De Lille narrowly survived a motion of no confidence in council. The party had instituted disciplinary proceedings against her, but abandoned them when they used the new clause to strip her of her membership after she told a radio talk show host that she would leave the DA once her name was cleared. 

De Lille does not dispute the contents of the interview. However, her legal team contends the manner in which the interview was interpreted was wrong. Mpofu argued she was not stating her intention to leave the party, but was referring to her position as mayor.

"The reason why we say this is really based on mala fides [bad faith] and an attempt really to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, the court, herself because those two methods [to remove her from office] have been tried and they both failed for various reasons."

Last month, De Lille won round one of her court battle after she was reinstated as mayor until the current court matter is finalised.

African News Agency/ANA