Judges in the South Gauteng High Court are not as convinced of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) guilt in the Patricia de Lille matter and have reserved judgment in order to consider the evidence.
What this De Lille vs DA case is about
The case being heard by the South Gauteng High Court, as reported by Times Live, involves how the DA portrayed the De Lille matter during their electioneering campaign.
During their campaign, the DA referred to the fact that they had fired her for corruption.
After complaints, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) found that the DA was in breach of the electoral code and ordered them to issue an apology to De Lille. Which they still have not done.
Patricia De Lille reacts after judgement in DA vs. IEC case was reserved: DA are blue lies pic.twitter.com/7gxyhlQeJS
— Mshengu (@Mshengu_1) June 3, 2019
The DA believes the use of ‘fired’ in this context is fair and that the findings of the IEC are not binding, so they shouldn’t have to apologise anyway.
De Lille and her legal team, on the other hand, maintain what the DA did was tantamount to defamation and that they should be forced to apologise or the courts risk neutering the power of the IEC.
“To say you have fired someone is an objective statement of fact, it can either be true or false and in this case it is false,” said IEC advocate Steven Budlender.
“Let me be clear on what the DA argument is and what it is not. The DA accepts that the IEC is entitled to pronounce that they breached the code but it says the IEC has no binding power to do so. Our submission is that the DA case is simply wrong as a matter of principle.”
They used the example of how former president Jacob Zuma almost rendered the office of the public protector toothless when he repeatedly refused to do as instructed.
While the DA also used a Zuma example to strengthen their case, showing the courts were happy for the opposition to say Zuma stole money during the Nkandla saga when the accusation was merely that funds had been improperly used.
“The word ‘fired’ must be seen within the context of what was happening,” DA’s lawyer, Advocate Ismail Jamie SC.
“In the DA vs ANC case about the Nkandla report [the DA said] the president stole the money… that was far more insulting and, as a matter of fact, we all know that the Nkandla report did not say that the then president stole the money… It said other things such as payments that were not proper according to the rule but it did not say Zuma stole the money.
The De Lille story so far
The very public falling out between De Lille and the DA over the last couple of years has been ugly, to say the least.
The party tried to oust her as mayor of Cape Town in early 2018 over her decision to close a special investigation unit operating in the city but she survived the vote no confidence.
She did, however, lose her party membership a couple of months later over comments made in an interview with Radio 702. This resulted in her losing her job as mayor, as she was no longer a member of the ruling DA.
At this point, the courts got involved and by June she was reinstated as mayor.
De Lille and the DA eventually parted ways with an agreement that she would resign as mayor and the party would drop all internal charges against her.
Unfortunately, this quite clearly was not the end of the spat between them.
The DA is probably not exactly ecstatic about the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa has subsequently named her as his minister of public works and infrastructure either.