Water crisis: Cape Town council curtails De Lille's powers

Executive director for water affairs Gisela Kaiser to report to Ian Neilson and Xanthea Limberg

Water crisis: De Lille's powers limited, tariffs to be introduced

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town voted on Friday to both limit mayor Patricia De Lille's powers to handle the drought crisis, and to introduce punitive tariff measures for residents.

A special council sitting on Friday was due to address the introduction of punitive tariffs for residents falling within certain usage limits.

This, after it withdrew the proposal to introduce a controversial water levy earlier in the day.

Before voting took place however, De Lille was seemingly blindsided by an amendment brought by deputy mayor Ian Neilson.

In the proposed amendment, De Lille's statutory powers would remain the same, but her powers to deal with the drought unilaterally would now be shared by the mayoral committee as a whole.

Reporting lines will also change, with executive director for water affairs Gisela Kaiser reporting final outcomes to Neilson and mayoral committee member for water affairs Xanthea Limberg.

The role of executive director in the mayor's office, Craig Kesson, was thus also diminished.

Before voting, De Lille raised objections with the amendment, admitting she had not been consulted.

She said that in ordinary process, an amendment first needs to go through support staff, who then deliver it to the city manager.

"The city manager then puts the amendments before the council. I'm questioning the process, because due process was not followed, and that it is reviewed.

"Lastly, I have not been consulted as the executive mayor," she said, to noise from the ANC caucus.

The ANC also rejected the proposed amendment to limit De Lille's powers.

"It has nothing to do with the proposal before us," ANC councillor Xolani Sotashe said.

"The DA FedEx is taking a decision on behalf of the council. What you read here, is exactly what [DA leader] Mmusi Maimane suggested to the public last weekend.

"We are not going to allow a situation where a political party takes a decision, and here where we are sitting as councillors, we become robbed of authority."

In the end, 125 councillors voted for Neilson's amendment, while 57 voted against it, and three abstained.

Earlier in the day, the proposed introduction of a drought levy was scrapped after the proposal was withdrawn.

Council members debated the proposal following strong public backlash to the idea since it was mooted on Sunday.

Opposition and ruling party councillors said a U-turn on the proposal should be strongly considered following the public's input, some of which included 55 000 inputs from one website alone.