The Western Cape High Court has declared that the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) decision to terminate Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s membership is “unlawful and invalid”.
The court reinstated De Lille as a member of the party and as mayor following a scathing judgment on Wednesday morning. Judge Andre Le Grange read the summary judgment and court order which was agreed upon unanimously by a full bench of judges.
The court found that the DA did not follow due process when it decided to terminate De Lille’s membership in May. Le Grange said that the DA improperly established a selection panel which decided De Lille’s fate in the party’s federal legal commission. It did not give De Lille a fair chance to submit evidence to mitigate her being stripped of her membership, Judge Le Grange said.
The court found that the DA therefore violated its own rules and constitution.
“Such noncompliance [is] material and not trivial as the DA said,” Le Grange said, reading the summary judgment.
“It follows that the cessation of Ms De Lille’s membership cannot stand,” he continued.
A cost order was awarded against the DA, making the party liable to pay the costs for counsel in both this application and De Lille’s initial interim relief application which sought to interdict the party’s decision.
De Lille will remain in her position as mayor. In reaction to the judgment however, she said she is willing to “submit myself to an open disciplinary hearing.” De Lille described the judgment as a “victory for the people of Cape Town” and for the Constitutional rights of South Africans.
“As all political parties we must learn from this lesson to treat our members with respect,” she said.
The party initially decided to cease De Lille’s membership in May after she made comments during a radio interview where she indicated she would resign after clearing her name of corruption allegations which the DA has levelled against her. The party maintained she intended to resign as a member, which triggered the cessation of membership clause envisioned in the DA constitution. De Lille argued that she had no intention to resign as mayor.
The court said that it is not in its ambit to decide on the interpretation of De Lille’s comments but it could decide on procedural noncompliance.
The DA has indicated that it is unable to work with De Lille calling its relationship “irretrievably broken”. The council in Cape Town has also stripped De Lille of her mayoral powers, with all decision making powers in the city government now under the council’s purview.
But De Lille said that she will remain a member of the party until it finds “a legal way” to remove her.
The DA’s federal executive deputy chairperson Natasha Mazzone said that the party would appeal the judgment.
“We believe that our federal executive and our FLC are properly constituted,” Mazzone said. “We need to look at the judgment, we need to see how far-reaching it is… if needs be that’s why there will be an appeal.” (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)