Johannesburg – Divisions within the City of Cape Town's DA leadership have become much clearer, just days ahead of the DA's federal executive meeting where Mayor Patricia de Lille's future may be decided.
On Friday, several sources within the City's leadership spoke of their feelings about whether she should be booted out or not.
Some feel De Lille has not been given a fair chance to answer to several serious allegations levelled against her by colleagues, while others feel she has brought the allegations on herself through her actions.
The DA's Federal Executive Council (FedEx) will meet on Sunday "to thoroughly engage with all aspects of the allegations against De Lille", as Federal Executive chairperson James Selfe has put it.
De Lille had to provide reasons why she shouldn't be axed as mayor to the FedEx, following a report by what has since become known as the "Steenhuisen Commission" - a subcommittee headed by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.
Tensions within the party
The subcommittee was tasked to look into tensions within, and the political management of, the City of Cape Town. Apparently several allegations were made against De Lille.
News24 previously reported that a confidential report, commissioned by the City and by independent investigators from Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys, alleges that De Lille may be "guilty of gross misconduct" for covering up certain alleged irregularities.
The confidential report, dated December 29, also contains fiery allegations about top officials in the DA-governed city.
The party's national spokesperson, Refiloe Ntsekhe, told News24 on Friday that a decision may be reached on Sunday after the meeting.
"So what's going to happen now, they've got the report, they are reading through it as the federal executive of the Democratic Alliance and then on Sunday we'll be sitting to deliberate over what should now happen based on her response to the report," she explained.
She was speaking at the Tembisa leg of DA leader Mmusi Maimane's People’s Forum Tour on Friday morning at the Sam Hlalela Community Hall in Ekurhuleni town.
"We will still try to make sure that the process from the DA perspective is there, that's why we are not even talking about the details that are contained within the report that was submitted to the FedEx."
Ntsekhe said De Lille had been given an opportunity to respond to why she should not be removed as the mayor, something which she had exercised by seeking legal advice on the report. Last week De Lille said the report contained errors.
On Friday morning, News24 sent a message to De Lille, asking whether she would like to comment on Sunday's federal executive meeting.
She did not reply.
It became apparent by Friday afternoon that members of the DA's caucus in Cape Town were divided on whether De Lille should go.
News24 understands that many DA councillors are unhappy about the statement released by DA Western Cape Metro region chairperson Grant Twigg on Wednesday, wherein he said that De Lille had lost the confidence of the party's Metro Executive and recommended to the DA Federal Executive and the DA City of Cape Town caucus that De Lille be removed as mayor.
Twigg said that the Metro Executive also recommended that the DA caucus not support the city's proposed drought levy, which was proposed by the caucus.
A prominent DA councillor, speaking to News24 on condition of anonymity, said Twigg had "jumped the gun" on both counts.
The councillors not supportive of Twigg's statement feel De Lille should be afforded an opportunity to have her side of the story told.
The public participation process regarding the drought levy only closes on Monday, and a decision can only be made after consideration of public comments.
There is a view among councillors and staff that the machinations against De Lille are an attempt by the party's recently elected provincial and regional leadership to assert their authority on the party, coupled with jostling for positions.
De Lille's assertions that these allegations are an attempt to get rid of her, to make way for recently appointed Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, are shared by some councillors.
Madikizela has publicly denied that he has his eye on the mayoral chain.
At this stage, it is unclear to what extent the caucus is split, or what will happen next.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens on Sunday," said a councillor.
De Lille has been labelled as a bully by some in the party and is accused of corrupt practices and nepotism.
A source in the party's federal executive - which is tasked with deliberating over the matter - told News24 that De Lille needed to go.
"People are already saying she must go, that her membership should be terminated."
The FedEx member said there had also been suggestions that the she should be moved to the provincial legislature, however this option was allegedly rejected because it was seen as the "typical ANC solution to problems".
"I don't think that would work, she's done wrong and must just leave. We cannot be like the ANC where they shift those responsible for any wrong doing," said the source.
Text messages from the embattled Cape Town mayor directing some members of the party to give her preferred candidates higher ratings for jobs in the municipality have also been submitted as evidence to the task team headed by Steenhuisen.
The source said some councillors were afraid to be seen coming forward to give evidence in the "Steenhuisen Commission" out of fear of victimisation, while others broke down as they relayed their stories under De Lille's leadership.
'She just lawyered up'
"They cried about the bad treatment they have been getting from her as mayor. She is even accused of telling some during caucus that they ask stupid questions in council," said the source.
Another senior DA leader, with close knowledge of the workings of the task team, told News24 that De Lille had put the political party in a difficult position.
The source said an open invitation had been sent to all party members in council, with some defending the mayor's actions, while others spoke out against De Lille's rival JP Smith.
"There were some serious allegations made against her. What was clear is that there was a breakdown of comradery in the caucus," said a task team member.
"All I know is that there will be robust discussion on this matter on Sunday," added the member.
De Lille is said to have refused to meet with the task team, rather sending her responses through lawyers.
"She just lawyered up. Why would she do that if she had done nothing wrong," asked one source.