New Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille claims she had no idea what was in store for her when she received the call from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The surprise inclusion in Ramaphosa’s cabinet has proven herself to be somewhat of a phoenix in the South African political landscape.
Less than 12 months ago, her career seemed to be circling the drain as infighting within the Democratic Alliance saw her membership with the party revoked and she was removed as mayor of Cape Town.
However, as fate would have it, in an inspirational tale for anyone who feels like they have been treated unfairly at work, she was able to join the national government before the party that axed her.
De Lille surprised by the call
Speaking to Cape Talk after the announcement she claimed she did not know why the President had requested to see her, despite the fact that all anyone else in the country was talking about on the day was who Ramaphosa would elect to his cabinet.
“I’ve always said I can serve my country in any capacity and when the call came yesterday from the President to come to see him, around two or three in the afternoon, I didn’t know what was waiting for me,” she told morning presenter Kieno Kammies.
All jokes and false modesty aside, though, the infrastructure department has been notorious for the level of corruption running through it in recent years.
De Lille was instrumental in bringing to light corruption in the now infamous arms deal. The fact that she is not a member of the ruling African National Congress seems to suggest Ramaphosa is serious about turning the department around.
Getting down to business
Aunty Pat is taking that duty seriously, even though getting used to the bureaucratic structure of national government is something she will need to figure out quickly.
“I think our country is in a dire straight and all of us must take it as our responsibility,” she added.
“I know a lot about the [public works and infrastructure portfolio]. I used to serve on the infrastructure coordinating committee when I was still mayor of the City of Cape Town.
“It was clear that even after the CSIR report came out, the backlog of infrastructure and also of maintenance and repair of other infrastructure.
Despite the volume of work De Lille is optimistic about what she can bring to public works, even if she isn’t fully familiar with the national government bureaucracy chain yet.
“So I will familiarise myself with the current status. But I think there are great opportunities for that department to create conditions conducive for the economy to grow by making sure the proper infrastructure is in place.”
“People are saying we need to hit the ground running – I think we need to sprint with all the work that is there and I’m taking it one thing at a time.
“We’ll get briefings about what comes next. You know we are dealing with a hell of a bureaucracy also and I’m not familiar with that side of it.”