Recapping DA’s 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad' year in the Western Cape

Published Dec 31, 2018


Cape Town - This year proved to be the annus horribilis for the DA-led City of Cape Town as they stumbled from one crisis to the next. First they nearly drowned in the water crisis, then there was the blow-out between former mayor Patricia de Lille and mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith over security upgrades at the house. 

Jason Felix gives a blow-by-blow account of how it unravelled for the DA:


The year began with De Lille having to explain why she must not be suspended after an internal DA investigation. This was launched after Smith wrote a lengthy complaint about De Lille’s management style and De Lille’s decision to close down the Special Investigative Unit headed by Smith.

Several motions of no-confidence were started against her and fights with the party leadership were open and blatant. The water crisis was also at the highest point and interventions such as droughts charges were vehemently opposed by the DA and ratepayers.

De Lille lost the confidence of her party, but stumbled on as mayor with limited powers.


The water crisis worsened and Day Zero appeared imminent. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille stepped in to help co-ordinate efforts to avoid a crisis. DA leader Mmusi Maimane also stepped in, but was heavily criticised as he holds no executive role.

The DA took another swipe at De Lille with no-confidence motions which failed. At the same time, a Gauteng businessman, Anthony Faul, laid charges against her for bribery, alleging she had tried to solicit a R5 million bribe, but nothing came of that case.


De Lille’s disciplinary process kicked off, but she demanded that it be made open to the public.

While the disciplinary process of De Lille was another headache for the DA, Maimane continued his intervention in the City’s water crisis.

Law firm Bowmans started its forensic investigation into allegations of corruption at the City.


Ratepayers were shocked when massive water increases of 26.9% were announced. The introduction of a R150 electricity levy was also mooted for properties with a value of R1million and more. The DA also introduced its recall clause which it said was not aimed at De Lille. And while this was ongoing, more spats between JP Smith and De Lille became public.


Maimane gave his councillors in the City orders not speak on the issue of De Lille, while she headed to court to declare the DA’s recall clause unconstitutional, fearing it would be used against her. Later in the month, however, it was used against her and they managed to remove her for a few days. Soon after being removed as a DA member, she apparently expressed her intention to resign on a radio show. She interdicted the City from appointing a new mayor. She won the case and was back in the driving seat.


After the DA lost in court, the party’s Cape Town caucus came up with ways to curtail De Lille’s powers. Lengthy court cases and hearings ensued for most of July. But despite all the court appearances, deputy mayor Ian Neilson announced that Day Zero was a thing of the past.


De Lille got some of her powers back following an intervention by the provincial government. After the very public spat, another DA mayor, Mark Willemse of George, also dug in his heels after he was ordered to resign as mayor. He was asked to resign because the DA didn’t want him there.


De Lille announced that she would be resigning in October, but the MyCiTi bus tender scandal worth about R128million also came out, rubbing further salt into her wounds.


Several candidates announced their intention to take over from De Lille. They were Brett Herron, Heinrich Volkwyn from Gauteng, Sharna Fernandez and Dan Plato, who eventually won the contest to don the mayoral chain.


An investigation into the upgrades at De Lille’s house vindicated her of any wrongdoing. But the report was stalled from going to full council, to De Lille’s frustration. This did not stop her from resigning outside the Western Cape High Court.


Dan Plato was inaugurated as the City’s new mayor. He immediately announced that there were plans to change his mayoral committee and the management team of the City, and an overhaul of the oversight body. His plans were approved a few weeks ago.


Plato announced lowered water restrictions for ratepayers. In his first few days he visited several areas on “listening tours”.