CAPE TOWN - Lawyers for ousted Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille would argue in court on Friday that she should be allowed to retain the job until June, when her legal challenge to the validity of her removal from office will be heard.
The argument rests on the serious implications it would have for both sides in the long-running dispute between De Lille and the Democratic Alliance should the Cape Town High Court find in her favour next month and rule that he removal, in terms of the party's so-called cessation clause, had been illegal.
It would mean that any decision taken by a new mayor and new mayoral committee member appointed in the meanwhile, would become invalid, with severe consequences for the functioning of the local government.
"Firstly, it will mean that there in fact never was a vacancy in the office of the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor unlawfully exercised her powers and functions in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 or 1998 (the Structures Act).
"Secondly, it will mean Applicant’s Mayoral Committee (Mayco) should never have been dissolved and any meetings or advice or decisions of a newly constituted Mayoral Committee would be unlawful. There is no guarantee that the “old Mayco” can simply be reconstituted in five weeks from now. Some may have moved on to other positions."
If, on the other hand, the court ruled against De Lille and she were then forced to vacate the post, the consequences would be far less dramatic, the heads of argument filed by her lawyers submit.
It concedes that there is hostility between De Lille and her political foes in the city council, but adds that this has been the case for a long time
"It is so that there are tensions, even severe tensions, between her and her political opponents in her own caucus. But this has been the case for at least a year and it cannot be said that it rendered governance by the city dysfunctional. Another five weeks will make no difference."
De Lille will be represented by Dali Mpofu SC in court on Friday, in the latest application she has filed to oppose the DA's efforts, initially to sanction, and now to remove her.
Her lawyer foresee that the main application, in which she challenges the basis for her removal, will be heard on June 18-19.
The party earlier this week invoked a clause in its constitution which stipulates that a member ceases to belong to it once he or she has made public an intention to resign from the party.
Its federal executive argued that this applied to De Lille because on April 26 she said in an interview with Radio 702 that she planned to quit the DA once she had cleared her name. The party has accused her of misconduct after a political investigation headed by its chief whip John Steenhuisen found that the council was riven by tension under her leadership, and scheduled a disciplinary process.
She has been accused of a dracanion leadership style, and of seeking to protect colleagues implicated in corruption.
De Lille has fought back in highly public fashion, and accused the party of targeting her because of her efforts to reverse an apartheid legacy of social inequality and spatial planning.
The claim heightened tensions with the DA leadership but she repeated it in the wake of her axing.
De Lille argues that the cessation clause was invoked as an excuse by a party ready to try any means to get rid of her. In earlier approach to the court, she demanded that the party give her full access to the evidence on which it based disciplinary charges.
African News Agency/ANA