A clash of personalities, bickering and infighting is tearing the DA-led City of Cape Town apart, with reports that things are so bad that shouting matches and heated confrontations between the mayor and her high-ranking political officials are becoming the norm.
The battle lines are drawn between the “old DP liberals” and mayor Patricia de Lille, according to a range of DA members and city staffers, who spilled the beans on condition of anonymity.
Others cited De Lille’s headstrong leadership style and her frankness over issues of redressing past injustices, as being at the root of the problem.
There’s even talk that a possible reshuffle is on the cards as a result of the tensions.
DA insiders say the internal drama has been simmering for some time, but was ramped up when De Lille began tightening her grip on the city’s affairs.
The city’s executive directors are apparently also walking on eggshells after several failed to see their contracts renewed in recent months, further adding to the tension.
Even opposition parties in the city are happy to anonymously concede that the mayor is one gutsy woman for taking on the so-called DA liberals. One DA member said it was no secret that these “liberals” were holding secret meetings, battling against a tide of things not going their way.
“The clashes are mainly over opposition by a select few towards redress involving under-developed areas in the city, and technical differences relating to systems, procedures and policies,” another DA member said.
When questioned on the issue, provincial DA leader Theuns Botha said he was unaware of any divisions or factions.
“I have not heard anything as yet, but I’m sure it’s merely healthy debate. We are very happy with the mayor’s performance,” he added.
De Lille refused to be drawn, saying she wouldn’t comment on allegations and rumours.
But other high-ranking party members and city staffers were happy to finger the “liberal” mayco members as the main culprits giving De Lille grief.
The first signs of cracks came recently when mayco member JP Smith vehemently opposed the city’s plan to overturn regulations banning commercial activity at Cape Town Stadium.
“While the entire incident was downplayed in the media, it was actually a shouting match of note,” a highly-placed official said.
De Lille then gagged Smith, ordering that only mayco member for tourism, events and marketing, Grant Pascoe, could speak on the issue.
“Smith has been ranting and raving ever since,” the official said.
During the most recent council meeting, Smith allegedly got into a furious argument with Speaker Dirk Smit, in full view of the entire council.
“It was a tense affair as JP questioned a decision on a safety and security issue taken prior to the meeting, in the DA caucus, which he was not aware of,” a source said, adding that the item was discussed during a closed session.
De Lille had to convene another caucus meeting, which confirmed the first decision.
“But Smith wanted his way, and even after the matter was finalised and the Speaker moved on to the next point, Smith again raised the issue.”
Insiders said Smith was shouting at the Speaker from his chair. When the meeting ended, he was seen approaching the Speaker pointing and waving his hands in the air.
“The Speaker was clearly fed-up, and again declared the meeting over, before walking out of the council,” a source said.
Approached for comment, Smith said he could not discuss the incident because it had taken place during an in-committee meeting, which meant he was bound by council rules.
On allegations of infighting, he conceded he was often outspoken: “I try to be blissfully unaware of claims of infighting and factionalism. I am engrossed and devoted to making my directorate shine.”
Several councillors from across the political divide said it was no secret that not all was well in the city’s DA camp.
“The liberals and the ‘old Nats’ have never seen eye to eye, but now it seems they are also trying to find fault with the mayor,” one said.
Even veteran city politicians conceded that unhappiness among certain DA councillors was reaching boiling point. The party could well be headed for a major showdown before its provincial conference in October, they suggested. - Weekend Argus