CAPE TOWN - Ousted Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has vowed to launch a court challenge against the Democratic Alliance's decision to boot her out of the party after months of open political warfare.
De Lille told a media briefing: "I am ready to fight", even as deputy mayor Ian Neilson was shifting into the position she has held for seven years.
The DA said Neilson would serve as acting mayor but it would move with speed to elect a permanent mayor to provide stability to a local government shaken by the row with De Lille.
Natasha Mazzone, the deputy chairwoman of the DA's federal council, earlier told a media briefing the "cessation of her membership" was the result of the mayor breaching section 126.96.36.199 of the party's constitution. It stipulates that a member ceases to be a member when he or she "publicly declares his or her intention to resign and/or publicly declares his or her resignation from the Party”.
De Lille did just this when she said in an interview late last month that she was "ready to walk away", Mazzone said.
Mazzone quoted from an interview with 702 Radio on April 26 where De Lille told Eusebius McKaiser that she would resign from the country's second biggest party as soon as she had cleared her name in a bitter dispute with its leadership.
"I’ve said it many times before, Eusebius, you know, the writing’s on the wall that people don’t want me for whatever reason... I will walk away," De Lille was recorded as saying in the interview.
On Tuesday, she dismissed the DA's grounds for tearing up her membership as a disingenuous "hook" and said the courts would have the final say.
Now the party has forced me to return to the courts, which I will do on Friday, 11 May 2018 at 10h00. As I speak, my lawyers are sending the court papers to the party; the city manager and the IEC (Electoral Commission of South Africa). We will show on Friday that this so-called automatic cessation clause is not constitutional and it was unfairly applied to me."
James Selfe, the chairman of the DA's federal executive, conceded earlier that he did not think De Lille, a seasoned politician, would go down without a fight.
"I would like to think that the saga ends today, but somehow I doubt it."
The clash between De Lille and the DA leadership began last year when colleagues at the city council aired maladministration and corruption allegations against her. Two of her allies in the city administration lost their jobs following an internal investigation but De Lille has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and has so far launched three court applications against the party's efforts to sanction her.
She has also repeatedly accused the DA of trying to oust her to frustrate efforts to bring about greater social equality in the city, earning a stinging rebuke from Selfe who told media the claim was nonsense.
But on Tuesday after the party ousted her, she reiterated the accusation.
De Lille said the decision to kick her out was a victory for conservatives within the DA.
"If they think it's a victory today, it's a victory for the conservative people in the DA who don't want to see transformation in the City of Cape Town."
De Lille has in recent weeks sought to force the DA through the courts to give her access to documentation that informed its decision, on February 14, to charge her with misconduct after a separate political investigation, headed by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.
Mazzone said on Tuesday it had hoped the disciplinary process would be concluded within two months but that De Lille had chosen to challenge the process repeatedly by "introducing a number of interlocutory matters, including that the hearing be open to the public and that it should be conducted by independent persons".
It has been expected for some time that the DA would fire De Lille. On top of the damage the corruption allegations has inflicted on the party's promises of clean governance, her at times highly unpopular handling of the city's severe water shortage risked alienating voters.
African News Agency/ANA