21 October 2018

South Africa: It Wasn't Going to Change - De Lille Reflects On DA City Breakup

Her battle with the DA was like an abusive relationship, Patricia de Lille says. And the best decision when caught in such a situation is to walk away, "because it's not going to change".

In an interview with News24 this week, the outgoing Cape Town mayor said, at a recent engagement with abuse survivors, she commended their bravery for leaving their abuser.

"I said to them: 'You walked away, facing all the risks. You didn't know where you were going to go to. But you were very brave.' And I said that's why I made the same decision."

With less than two weeks left in the mayoral seat, her last day being October 31, De Lille is upbeat. She is running two diaries - one containing her official engagements and tasks, the other called "please do before you go".

While she'll miss her 16-hour workday, the 67-year-old firebrand believed her decision to resign was best.

"I did it on the basis that my brief in life is that I am a servant of the people. It's certainly not to continue to fight with dirty politics. It's draining; it's a waste of time. It's childish; it's novice politicians you are fighting."

Public infighting

Following a lengthy and ugly battle with the DA, De Lille and party leader Mmusi Maimane announced her resignation in September. This comes after a year of public infighting, which eventually saw her quit as mayor, and the DA dropping all internal charges against her.

"This fight for the past 18 months has been the real lowlight of my whole life, my whole career in politics. Fortunately, I am not a sissy. I could be strong," she said.

"In a patriarchal society, women are just to accept things and let bygones be bygones. No, not me. I built up a reputation in this country. My name has become synonymous with fighting corruption. And here out of the blue some novice politicians - early childhood development politicians like I call them, special needs politicians - accuse me of being corrupt?

"I woke up one morning and said: 'You don't know me.' Do you know the song, If you don't know me by now, you will never know me? That was exactly my experience with the DA. They thought they knew what they were coming after. I pick my battles, I don't just fight for the sake of fighting."

She won three court cases against the DA within the space of a year and points out she had yet to be found guilty of any wrongdoing.

Her court battles could have ruined her financially, De Lille admitted. She had dug into her pension to cover the R600 000 legal bill and considered herself lucky that the court ruled in her favour, including costs.

"To me, it was money well spent. Your integrity, your name - those things are priceless. You can't buy it. I'm now in the phase of clearing up my name, one by one."

Her first target is Anthony Faul.

Vow to sue

She recently announced she would be suing the entrepreneur for R1m for defamation after the National Prosecuting Authority made the decision not to prosecute after considering evidence in bribery allegations levelled against her.

She also vowed to "sue the hell out of" anyone who she believed had smeared her name during her fractious battle with her party this year, joking that she would use the money to "build up my kitty for my retirement one day".

De Lille is the longest serving mayor, and described her tenure as "CA1" as an enjoyable yet enlightening experience.

"It wasn't like Parliament, where you wonder: 'What am I going say today? Who am I going to fight with today?' I came here every morning and said: 'What am I going to do today?'

"You actually see the impact of what you are doing practically, how you improve the lives of people. How we have increased access to basic utility services to become the best metro in SA... we are tops in the country. Having led such a team where people are so dedicated and committed to be part of [building] this city has been an experience I will never forget."

In her last month as mayor, she has been travelling across the city and has spoken to over 2 000 people as part of what she calls her "accountability roadshows".

"I said: 'Listen, I am here to account. This is what I've done for the past five years, this is what is in the budget for you in this coming year. You have to hold your councillors to account, even if I am not there.' I went even further and said that if [their councillors] are not doing what they said they were going to do, I will be the first to mobilise [them] and we will go and toyi toyi at the city."

She would give her replacement Dan Plato "the benefit of the doubt" to continue the work she did during her seven years in office, pointing out that he would be "inheriting a city which is well run".

It was ironic that she had replaced him in 2011, she mused, but said they had been working well together to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Book

Once she hands over her mayoral chain, De Lille said she would focus on writing about her experience and planned to launch a book early next year.

"I have taken notes every single day of this journey, with the bends in the road, to share it with other people because it should never happen to anyone else, ever."

Foundations across the country have already approached her, De Lille said, but she had not yet decided if she ready to completely step out of politics.

"I will take off a week or two after November 1. I told my family I will then discuss the next phase of my life with them. Once I have made my final decision I will certainly take South Africans into my confidence.

"My future is still in my hands. I can just say: 'Watch this space,'" she laughed.

Retirement, however, is off the cards for at least another 10 years, De Lille insisted.

"I am not ready to retire now, not at all. I still need to still keep busy. I think people who retire so early just go and sit and die at home."

Source: News24

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