Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

Op-ed: Patricia de Lille and the question of self-interest

Patricia de LilleColumnist Sibongile Zulu questions Aunty Pat’s political approach.

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Patricia De Lille – the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure. I know I was not the only, who did not see that one coming.

First came the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), then it was Independent Democrats (ID), then the Democratic Alliance (DA), then GOOD and now serving in (African National Congress) ANC dominated cabinet.

Who is Patricia De Lille really looking out for?

Is she that disgruntled by the state of our opposition parties, which is why she keeps moving from one party to another? Does she lack principles? Has she been trying to find a political home? Is she just going wherever the wind blows? Or she is just opportunistic and solely motivated by what she wants?

All of the aforementioned parties have vastly different political ideals that are often in tension with each other: you have Pan- Africanism, Social Democracy, Liberalism and whatever GOOD was meant to be, plus a lifetime of anti-ANC credentials under-belt.

I know people change their moods and political leanings all the time and it is completely within her rights to choose which party or cabinet she wants to represent.

However, when one does this as frequently as Patricia De Lille, one has to wonder whose interest does she really have in mind? The public and the electorate or is this just the Patricia De Lille show?

Welcome to the de Lille show

I think it is the latter. There is nothing wrong with having political ambition and opportunism is not inherently a pejorative; there is a time and place for it.

However, when it comes to being a parliamentary representative, whereby you campaign on one message and gain support and two seats in the National Assembly based on that, one has to wonder what is actually motivating factor. Patricia De Lille should be applauded for her brand of hypocrisy.

Her new position

In her new appoint, De Lille will be the custodian of all fixed properties that are owned by the state.

This is a perfect opportunity for her to address some of the spatial legacies of Apartheid. Indeed, after her party won two seats in the National Assembly, de Lille expressed her enthusiasm about being a member of the opposition, emphasising her commitment to addressing the legacies of Apartheid spatial planning and injustices. She said:

 “We continue to occupy towns and cities characterised by radical spatial injustice as if we have accepted that apartheid separation is normal… as if it is normal for the poorest people to live furthest from their places of employment and pay the highest commuting costs… as if it is normal that all desirable land in all desirable neighbourhoods should be considered ‘unsuitable’ to house poor people of colour… as if societal integration is not of fundamental importance.”

However, on the downside, it is difficult to see how the minister can maintain the commitments she had made to the electorate about providing a robust opposition and addressing the above-mentioned issues, without compromising her portfolio.

GOOD, like the South African Communist Party (SACP), will likely be neutered and will have to compromise greatly on their promises, if they are to grow. 

There have been suggestions that her appointment to Cabinet could be a strong statement from President Ramaphosa to the Zuma faction; De Lille was one the individual who exposed the alleged Arms Deal Corruption in the 90s (De Lille has since been accused of corruption herself).

While this could be true, it is a move that signals the president’s commitment to rooting out corruption within the ANC. I think her appointment is nothing but a move that stemmed from the tumultuous relationship she has with the DA and self-aggrandizement.

We should have seen it coming. 

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