DA's internal disagreements over drought levy 'healthy' – Western Cape chairperson

Cape Town – It is a sign of a healthy democracy when a political party debates controversial issues within itself, the DA's Western Cape chairperson Anton Bredell said on Friday afternoon. 

This followed shortly after he objected to the City of Cape Town's controversial drought levy – two days after the DA's Cape metro executive also rejected it.  

In a telephonic interview with News24, Bredell said the DA would openly disagree with any government, even one controlled by the DA itself.

"We need to be able to publicly discuss issues to ensure that we make the best decisions for all South Africans," Bredell said.

"We need to differentiate between party and state. In my ministry (the Western Cape department of environmental affairs and development planning) there are a lot of issues we differ on with the city.

"If there are controversial issues, I am saying let's debate it. We should never underestimate each other, we can only learn from one another, which is ultimately good for democracy."

Also read: DA executive shoots down party's own drought levy proposal

Drought levy 'unfair'

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Bredell said the DA in the Western Cape had written to City of Cape Town manager Achmat Ebrahim to state its objection to the proposed water levy "in the strongest possible terms". 

The statement was released through the DA's central emailing list. 

"The DA Western Cape does not support placing the residents under financial strain in an attempt to generate a greater income for drought disaster relief at the expense of our people," Bredell said in the statement. 

"It would be unfair to add a water levy with most residents already bearing the brunt of the country's economic state, we simply cannot expect them to pay more."

Public comment for the drought levy is set to close on Monday. 

On Wednesday, the party's Cape metro chairperson, Grant Twigg, called on DA councillors to vote against the City of Cape Town's proposed drought levy.

Budget deficit

A day later, Mayor Patricia de Lille maintained that the drought charge was necessary to bridge the City's revenue deficit resulting from residents' water-saving efforts. 

She said the City was projected to incur a budget deficit in the region of R1.7bn for the 2017/18 financial year. 

"Without this vital income, the city will not be able to undertake the basic operations required to provide water and sanitation services to the people of Cape Town," De Lille said. 

The drought charge will be a temporary additional charge based on existing property valuations, subject to approval by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. 

The City is yet to answer questions from News24 directly relating to the majority party's opposition to the proposal.

The DA's criticism of its own proposed drought levy is the latest indication of ongoing tension in the City's caucus. 

De Lille's fate to be decided

After Twigg called for De Lille's removal on Wednesday, De Lille hit back saying there was a "rush" to dispense with her to make way for DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the party's federal executive chairperson, James Selfe, criticised DA members for "ventilating their thoughts" about De Lille through the media.

Also read: City of Cape Town saga - Will De Lille survive the weekend?

DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said the party would not comment on the ongoing tension in the City until the party's federal executive meets on Sunday.

The fate of De Lille's future as Cape Town mayor is set to be discussed at that meeting.