Patricia de Lille: I fought for principle, not position
In the past week, I have repeatedly been asked the same four questions about my decision to resign as the mayor of the City of Cape Town. I would like to answer them and provide clarity.
I came from the trenches; I have a long career of fighting for justice in this country – long before it was popular to do so.
All my life, ever since I was very young, I have been fighting. I made many sacrifices to myself and my family during the fight for democracy in our country. Everything that I fought for was always for the benefit of my people and my country. I come from a generation where everything I did was a fight for
People are in politics for different reasons, but for me, I continue to fight to address the inequalities that our people live under.
I have to keep reminding myself that my fight is for our country and our communities, not for my personal benefit.
So if I’m in that process where people want to fight with me, they can do so, but I will continue to fight for the people.
So here are the key questions I have been asked and my responses:
Resignation after fighting
I have been fighting all along for a principle and not for a position. I always maintained and said publicly that I am not married to any position. My main fight was to clear my name.
Once the DA approached me and offered to withdraw the charges, I was satisfied that my name would be cleared and I decided to step aside so that I could get on with my life and decide on my future.
In terms of the following principle, I have cleared my name and it is this: any person in South Africa is innocent until proven guilty.
It was not my responsibility to prove my innocence, it was the responsibility of the DA to find me guilty based on evidence. Now that the DA has withdrawn the charges, I have been proven innocent.
I did not run away from a disciplinary hearing – I have always said that I was prepared to subject myself to a fair disciplinary hearing that must be open to the media because the untested allegations were made in public, my name has been smeared in public and I wanted an open hearing so that my name could be cleared in public.
It was also very clear from the beginning that there were some people in the DA who were out to destroy me and my reputation. They fabricated all sorts of allegations about me, which they could never prove. In fact, I had to go to court to get the evidence, which I still do not have.
At some point, I also had to realise that the energy and time that I was spending on proving my innocence was affecting the work that I needed to do.
I also could not stand the abuse from some members in the DA any longer. The constant attacks on me when I was innocent were draining my energy and it was difficult to focus on putting the people of Cape Town first. This was the main reason I took the position of mayor in the first place – to make a real, meaningful difference in the lives of the people of Cape Town.
There is really no point in fighting forever at the expense of the people. As leaders, we must rise above our differences and put the people first. If that means having to make a personal sacrifice and walk away from a position, I am prepared to do that. My fight was about principle and not a position.
I did not walk away from the disciplinary committee. In fact, my lawyers wrote to the DA and informed it that they would be attending the pre-trial hearing to make preparations. I was ready and prepared to attend the first sitting scheduled to start this past Wednesday. The DA approached me and requested that I reconsider proceeding with the disciplinary committee.
Once the DA decided to withdraw the charges, it cleared my name and gave me an opportunity to move on.
Secret deals and offers
There was no secret deal. I stand to gain nothing from this decision. I was offered a position in the Western Cape provincial legislature and I declined that. I was offered a position in the National Assembly and I also declined that. All I wanted was to clear my name.
Now that I have cleared my name, I can take time to decide what I want to do in the future. I am a patriot and I love my country. I still have energy to serve the country because the struggle for freedom was not about enriching a few people. I want to spend time to make sure that more people taste the fruits of our new democracy.
All leaders in the country must take note that the patience of our people is running out, and we must never take our people for granted or underestimate their intelligence.
Finally, I want to thank the thousands of South Africans who sent me prayers and messages of support This is what gave me strength during this battle.
My struggle to claim my rights was to illustrate to all women in South Africa especially that we should not allow bad things to happen to us. By claiming my rights in the Constitution, I have illustrated that, unless we actively claim these rights, they remain words on paper.
- De Lille is the outgoing mayor of Cape Town