An explosive report by the DA’s top structure has stopped short of calling for Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s head, but says that “the instability in the City of Cape Town poses a clear and present danger to our electoral prospects in 2019”.
“…this instability in the political and administrative arenas coupled with the effects of the drought could present a toxic mix that causes a massive electoral blowout at the polls in 2019.”
The 34-page report written by a team led by the party’s chief whip at Parliament and federal executive committee member, John Steenhuisen, presents a picture of chaotic city management, nepotism and a climate of fear allegedly engendered by De Lille’s leadership style.
The subcommittee heard submissions from a wide range of councillors and it concludes that “the city of Cape Town is in a state of crisis and turmoil, both politically and administratively. Open warfare has broken out amongst councillors in the DA caucus, with some even threatening to move motions of no confidence against the mayor.”
The report finds that “it has become clear that whilst the mayor is extremely hard-working and dedicated to the city, her leadership style since the last election has become extremely problematic for the successful functioning of both the administration and her caucus”.
“It would appear that since the electoral success of the last DA campaign, that the mayor believes that she, rather than the DA, is the driving force behind the success.”
An outburst in which De Lille said her “brand” had won Cape Town “negates and discredits the incredibly hard work of every DA leader, candidate, volunteer and activist who worked so incredibly hard in the Cape Town campaign”, the report said.
The investigation also found that “it is also clear that the mayor does not recognise the fact that she is, in reality, a DA mayor, heading a DA administration. As such she is accountable to the Democratic Alliance party structures for what happens in the city administration. This accountability is especially important as South Africa does not have directly elected mayors, mayors are elected on a party ticket.”
The committee also criticised De Lille for “lawyering up” in her engagements with it “instead of engaging with the subcommittee in a collegial and professional manner”.
Here are the key findings from the report titled “Report of the subcommittee established to inquire into the tensions in the city of Cape Town”.
Jobs for pals
Allegations of nepotism are dotted through the report. The appointment of an underqualified member of the Cape Town stadium board caused consternation. Limia Essop appears to be the daughter of a close friend of the mayor’s, the report finds. In addition, it says that Essop is involved in a company that trades with the city.
Another example is the employment of Benjamin Rossouw at the city as he is the son of a councillor. “There appears to be a large amount of related party-employment practices undertaken. This is an extremely unhealthy situation as it has the potential to expose the party to charges of nepotism and cadre deployment, something we’re extremely critical of the ANC for. Additionally, it poses risks for conflicts of interest that may arise within the workplace.”
A third example relates to a contract with a water-device-management company that allegedly contracts with De Lille’s sister.
Pat’s too powerful and too feared
The mayor has concentrated too much delegated power in her own office, the report finds. “The delegations have essentially concentrated an overwhelmingly large amount of the delegated authority in the directorate of the mayor. This overcentralisation of power in the mayor’s office is the exact antithesis of the DA model of decentralisation of power. This is an extremely unhealthy situation for any organisation, least of all democratic institution such as a municipal council.
“The delegations have created a situation where the mayor clearly believes that she holds all the power in the city and does not need to take the views and opinions of certain mayoral committee members, officials or indeed members of her own caucus seriously…”.
The report finds that the powers and functions of subcouncils have been significantly reduced by De Lille.
In addition, it notes that “the mayor’s confrontational and adversarial style also extends to officials. Councillors and members of staff have described how officials are shouted at in front of other councillors and officials. They are told that they are incompetent, not up to the job and that they are lying to the mayor”.
Caucus members complain of being belittled, humiliated and set upon if they ask a question that is not to the mayor’s liking. Some have indicated that their contributions are labelled as “stupid”.
The Cape Town council chief whip, the caucus chairperson and the speaker are all critiqued for divisive leadership and practice.
A Black Caucus is sowing resentment and suspicion within the caucus environment and is not helpful for building caucus cohesion, the report finds.
The role of bureaucrat Loyiso Nkhola has caused seething tension in the city.
Employed by De Lille, Nkhola enjoys bully boy status, says the report, and the committee raises a concern about the house he lives in, which belongs to a private developer.
“It is unclear why this arrangement exists, but given Mr Nkhola’s proximity to the housing function in the city it may well constitute a potential conflict of interest and warrants further investigation.”
The Special Investigative Unit and JP Smith
This is the most public of the tensions that led to the investigation into De Lille. Her administration sought to limit the power of the city’s special investigative unit (SIU), which reported to councillor Jean-Pierre “JP” Smith, who in turn sent a dossier to the DA’s top structure, its federal executive committee.