CAPE TOWN, June 6 – A full bench of the High Court in Cape Town will make a ruling before the end of June on whether a clause in the Democratic Alliance (DA) constitution used to strip Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille of her party membership was unlawful.
The court sat for two days hearing arguments from De Lille’s legal representatives and those of the DA.
In summing up his arguments, Dali Mpofu, senior counsel for De Lille, said the DA was looking after its own sectarian and selfish interests instead of those of the country and the people of Cape Town by not affording De Lille an opportunity to defend herself against misconduct allegations related to her job as Cape Town mayor in a disciplinary process, choosing instead to take a “short cut” to terminate her party membership.
“If she did all these horrible things, then why give here a free pass?” Mpofu asked.
“It should be more important for the people of the country, let alone Cape Town, whether De Lille has done all these things…”
Mpofu said the DA wanted the allegations to continue hanging over De Lille’s head.
He asked the court to rule against the DA, saying the party was more interested in “saving face in the public” than ensuring that the truth about the alleged maladministration against De Lille be revealed.
“This is a matter where a message should be sent and a punitive costs order should be made.”
Earlier, Sean Rosenberg, senior counsel for the DA, said a disciplinary inquiry was no longer needed as De Lille’s departure from the party was a “foregone conclusion”.
He argued that even if the DA had erred procedurally when terminating De Lille’s membership, she still ceases to be a member of the party as she had publicly declared her intention to resign and in doing so breached the cessation clause .
“Her fate would be sealed,” he said.
Rosenberg also addressed De Lille’s meaning during the radio interview, arguing that contrary to De Lille’s insistence that she meant to resign as mayor once her name is cleared she in fact intended to resign from the party as her relationship with the latter had “irretrievably broken down” and that there was no intention to mend fences.
De Lille will hold on to the mayoral chain for now, albeit in a ceremonial role following a council decision last week that reduced her powers, until the court makes its determination.
Judgment has been reserved in High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday, where Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille is trying to hold on to her mayoral chain by taking on the political party which put her in office.
De Lille’s lawyers argued her automatic termination as a Democratic Alliance (DA) member, which would result in her losing her mayoral post, was unfair and the clause used by the party to give effect to her termination was unlawful and should be set aside.
The DA argued that it has a right to make its own rules, insisting that De Lille publicly stating in a radio interview in April that she would resign only once her name is cleared meant that she was disloyal to the party.
The DA abandoned disciplinary proceedings against her in connection with alleged misconduct after they invoked the clause leading to her membership termination.
The 24 hours given to Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille to respond to the termination of her party membership to the Democratic Alliance (DA) was enough for her to make her case, the high court in Cape Town was told on Tuesday.
Sean Rosenberg, for the DA, disputed De Lille’s argument that the 24 hours given to her after she was informed her membership of the party was terminated was unfair and unreasonable.
“There’s nothing to suggest in this case that the …24 hour period was inadequate. We submit it was not inadequate given the relevant simplicity of what needed to be decided,” said Rosenberg.
“Given the issue, the confined nature of the issue, determined on these facts, 24 hours was not unreasonable.”
Rosenberg argued De Lille did not ask for more time to respond and was therefore not entitled to it.
De Lille was informed in May her membership had been terminated as a result of a clause in the DA Constitution which stated that publicly declaring one’s intention to leave the party meant automatic termination of membership. In April, she told a radio talk show host she would leave her position once her name is cleared.
While De Lille’s lawyers argue she meant she would leave her position as mayor, Rosenberg said listening to the context of the radio interview it was clear she intended to leave the DA given that her relationship with the party had “irretrievably broken down”.
Furthermore, he said De Lille had no intention to mend the relationship and her only wish was to clear her name.
Asked why a disciplinary hearing could not be instituted to clear her name, Rosenberg said it was a “foregone conclusion” that the mayor would leave the party and a disciplinary inquiry was therefore not needed.
While De Lille won her first court battle against the DA when she was reinstated as mayor last month, the current matter will determine whether she holds onto the mayoral chain beyond June.
The intention of the clause in the Democratic Alliance (DA) constitution used to terminate the membership of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille was to protect the party against disloyal members, the high court in Cape Town heard on Tuesday.
“We would submit that it’s fairly plain that the purpose of the clause is intended to ensure public commitment,” said Sean Rosenberg, arguing for the DA in a case where De Lille is seeking to have the clause which terminated her membership declared unlawful and set aside.
Rosenberg said De Lille, having in a radio interview in April declared her intention to leave the party, should have foreseen the “inevitable consequences” of her actions.
“Having run on the DA ticket, she cannot claim she is entitled as matter of right to remain in that position as an individual notwithstanding her intention to leave the party.”
De Lille’s lawyers claims she was talking about her intention to resign as mayor and not from the party and that there were conditions attached, namely that she first clear her name.
Rosenberg disputed this, saying that reading the context of the transcript of the interview, it was clear she intended to resign from the party and not from her mayoral post.
Last month, De Lille won round one of her court battle after she was reinstated as mayor until the current court matter is finalised.
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