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Patricia de Lille’s political future might not be so murky after all, if the African National Congress (ANC)’s glowing endorsements are anything to go by. Adding fuel to the speculation is her hugging President Cyril Ramphosa, welcoming him to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival over the weekend.

“There was vocal resistance against it, but in the end an amendment to make it easier for the Democratic Alliance to sack errant high profile office bearers – like Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille – passed with very little opposition at the party’s federal congress on Sunday.”

– Carien du Plessis Daily Maverick 6/4/2018

By a single vote and with the enthusiastic support of opposition parties, Patricia de Lille remains the Mayor of Cape Town and the leader of a party in that municipality with which she is at war.

At its Federal Congress in Tshwane at the weekend, the Democratic Alliance (DA) approved a ‘recall clause’ which would enable it to remove from office senior executives in whom the party had lost confidence.

James Selfe, DA Federal Council chairperson told media representatives that the clause would not apply retrospectively, but De Lille nevertheless let it be known that she would seek legal clarification.

She once again repeated her claim that the DA is deliberately seeking to sully her reputation and will meet her own party in court next month when she will seek to nullify a report about her which was compiled by John Steenhuisen, the party’s chief whip.

Any employee who brings his or her organisation into disrepute risks dismissal and there can be little doubt that she has done so and done so with relish.

Of all the advocates available, she chose the EFF’s Dali Mpofu to represent her when she took her own party to court and she routinely smears the DA with apartheid-era epithets like ‘baasskap’.

Anticipating the inevitable denouement she is already, if the Cape Argus is correct, cosying up to the ANC – and the attraction seems to be mutual.

Anti-white antipathy

In a previous article, I looked at the strong anti-white antipathy which characterised her early years in parliamentary politics and in this article I look at the role she played in the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Among the singular characteristics of the Mbeki era, aside from his attempts to cover up the ANC’s arms deal sleaze – ask Andrew Feinstein, he’ll tell you – and his continual support for the Operation Gukurahundi war criminal, was his stance on HIV/AIDS. According to a Harvard University study, and a local study, his resistance to the provision of state-provided anti-retroviral drugs saw more than 300 000 people, mainly poor and black, die protracted, painful but avoidable deaths as their immune systems slowly collapsed.

They died as a sottish kleptomaniac and liver transplant queue jumper urged them to eat madumbis lightly drizzled with garlic oil, and the world looked on with contempt.

They weren’t the only victims. It is estimated that more than a million children lost one or both parents as a result of the contemporary aversion to ARVs and tens of thousands were born with the virus which would guarantee their early demise if they were denied access to state-provided ARVs.

I wrote about this in the context of the SABC and its evil failure to use its reach and influence to inform its millions of radio listeners and its television audience of the lifesaving potential of anti-retroviral drugs such as nevirapine.

As the appalling enormity of this scourge became apparent, it also became obvious that whoever could research and produce an effective vaccine would become not only famous but very wealthy.

The Mbeki mantra at the time was the ‘African Renaissance’, so a lot of your money and mine was accordingly spent on developing toxic local concoctions like Virodene. Other snake oils on offer at the time were ‘Africa’s Solution’ from Tine van der Maas, ‘Comforter’s Healing Gift’ with which Mbeki acolyte and SABC board member Christine Qunta was involved, and ‘Ubhejane’.

So what was the contribution, if any, of Patricia de Lille to combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic?

A Sunday Times obituary by Chris Barron for a leading HIV/AIDS researcher, Dr Mariёtte Botha – who died a year ago – provides useful insights into the character of Patricia de Lille, how destructively she has wielded the power and influence afforded her by her high political profile and how adversely she fed into the Mbeki narrative about the alleged toxicity of ARVs.

What is not irrelevant is that, to the best of my knowledge, neither Mbeki nor De Lille has ever unequivocally apologised for their role in seeking to demonise, obstruct or prevent the provision of drugs which would curb mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDs and help stabilise the immune systems of those already infected.

The compromises which realpolitik demands saw De Lille’s Independent Democrats (ID) subsumed within the DA in 2010 and her appointment as Mayor of Cape Town the following year.

Implacable imperatives

In 2018, realpolitik again imposes its implacable imperatives. The DA faces an inevitable election backlash should the party not sever its connection with a politician whose imperious hauteur  along with other concerns – not to mention her association with the EFF through Dali Mpofu and her gift to the ANC by equating her own party with apartheid evil – increases voter alienation by the day.

She was in the right place at the right time when the PAC was given a dossier of allegations about arms deal corruption and the party chose her as the person best placed to raise the matter in Parliament – something that significantly raised her profile.

How, though, will history judge her, given her antipathy to white South Africans continually expressed in the early part of her career, her noxious role in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, her opportunism when, contrary to her promises, she took the ID into a short-lived coalition with the ANC in 2006, her current divisive role as Mayor of Cape Town and her apparent rapprochement with the ANC prior to next year’s general election?

In 2006, De Lille assured her ID voters that she would side with the DA but then teamed up with the ANC, outraging her followers who subsequently abandoned the ID en masse.

If, in the months to come, she links up with the ANC again, will it not prove that political expedience rather than political ideology is what motivates her – much as was the case with Marthinus van Schalkwyk?

De Lille’s war of attrition against the party which rescued her from political oblivion in 2010 and its inevitable denouement could well see her follow a previous Cape Town mayor, Peter Marais, into political obscurity.

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Ed Herbst started his news career as a photographer with the Natal Witness in 1968 but quickly switched to reporting while retaining an interest in photography. He joined the SABC in its Pretoria news office as a camera reporter in 1977, one year after television was introduced in South Africa. In 1978 he was seconded to the SABC’s Windhoek office for six months to cover the run-up to the country’s UN-monitored election and was then posted to the SABC’s Sea Point news office. He asked for early retirement in 2005 because of pervasive SABC corruption, news censorship and unaddressed abusive treatment of staff. From 2007 to 2009 he was employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality but became a pensioner when personal circumstances forced him to retire. He now writes without remuneration for local websites about the interface between media and politics. He is writing a book on media capture after 1994.