DA leader Mmusi Maimane is in talks with Mayor Patricia de Lille (pictured) over an out-of-court settlement, with Western Cape premier Helen Zille as the intermediary, City Press has learnt.
However, Maimane is getting pushback from senior leaders in the party who believe the DA should not admit to wrongdoing.
The DA was dealt another blow this week in the ongoing saga with a full Bench of the Western Cape High Court ruling in favour of De Lille, who was dismissed from the party. The damning judgment also nullified the party’s federal legal commission, saying that it was illegally constituted.
City Press understands that the party’s federal executive spoke by teleconference on Wednesday evening following the judgment and that members were bitterly divided over whether or not to appeal the high court judgment.
There is also a strong sentiment in the party that someone’s head should roll over the party’s dismal handling of the De Lille matter, which has negatively affected its standing with voters.
Provincial leaders have also told City Press that the ongoing matter has led to a crisis of funding, with investors waiting to see which way the wind will blow.
Zille told City Press via email yesterday that she did not want to say anything on the talks between herself, Maimane and De Lille.
Sources close to the premier and mayor say that the two have worked closely together over the years and that both have been placed in the same boat by the party, which did not follow due processes in disciplining them.
A member of the federal executive told City Press that the deputy chairperson of the federal council, Natasha Mazzone, had spoken out of turn when she suggested outside of court, immediately after proceedings, that the party would appeal.
“She was speaking out of turn. Where have you ever heard of someone coming out of court and immediately having an opinion on the judgment? Generally you need to go through the whole judgment first along with a legal professional and apply your mind. This is especially after you have lost in court. What Mazzone was saying outside of court was not the party line at all, it was her personal opinion,” the member said.
“If you appeal this nonsense, it can take more than two years. This court outcome gives us a chance to withdraw and try to save face. Let’s withdraw and apologise and move on with life and specifically attend to our election campaign because we are far behind.”
However, another executive member in favour of appealing the judgment told City Press that failing to do so would be “catastrophic”.
“We will wait for a legal opinion but it can’t be avoided. Remember that the judgment has implications for the federal legal commission. The party would have to overturn all decisions made by the commission. So it is probably more about that than it is about Patricia at this stage.”
High-profile matters handled by the commission include the sanctions against Zille, which saw her banned from party activities, and the disciplinary hearing against former youth leader Mbali Ntuli over an alleged social media post, as well as action taken against MP Dianne Kohler Barnard for sharing a Facebook post which praised PW Botha.
Federal executive chairperson James Selfe confirmed with City Press that the teleconference did take place, but said that he would not “disclose subject matters of the executive discussions”.
On the status of the commission, Selfe said:
“The party has suspended the activities of the commission pending a legal opinion from an independent senior counsel about the appealability of the judgment. The commission in any event is reconstituted after every congress, and will be so reconstituted at the next meeting of the federal council.”
The chairperson also came to the defence of Mazzone, who has been the face of the party in the De Lille matter. “Her statement was valid and considered. The statements of senior office bearers of the party do not require the sanction of other bodies. I have deliberately played a less prominent role because I believe in empowering my deputies by delegating to them substantive responsibility,” said Selfe.
In a memo authored by Selfe and sent to all DA public representatives, seen by City Press, the party clarifies its position on the high court judgment. “It is our respectful view that the court misinterpreted the DA constitution and the commission rules. That is also the view of independent senior counsel which the party has contracted to assess whether or not it should appeal the judgment.”
The federal executive of the party would be guided by formal legal opinion in deciding the next course of action, Selfe said.
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