Cape Town council reduces De Lille's powers to 'ceremonial'

Mayor's powers delegated to mayoral committee, with final oversight held by the council

'I'll see you in court' - Cape Town council reduces De Lille's powers to 'ceremonial'

The City of Cape Town council has agreed to reduce executive Mayor Patricia de Lille's role to "ceremonial", delegating her powers to her mayoral committee, with final oversight held by the council.

Council met for its last sitting on Thursday before the June recess, to discuss a number of items, including that of De Lille's powers now that she has returned temporarily.

The Democratic Alliance said two weeks ago that De Lille, upon being reinstated to her position by the Western Cape High Court temporarily, would only serve in a ceremonial capacity.On Thursday, council passed a motion that agreed to designate "all delegations and legislative authority, including sub-ordinate legislation, conferred on the Executive Mayor", with the exception of an appointment of a mayoral committee (Mayco), and with "certain provisions" for the exercise of "ceremonial duties".

"Given the current state of affairs as observed by the court, and noting that ongoing legal processes may continue for some time, a new structure of power is required under the circumstances in order to ensure more effective service delivery than that which pertains in the status quo.

"This structure of power is in the interests of ensuring effective service delivery during a state of flux that is legally permissible," the motion, tabled by deputy mayor Ian Nielson, read.

The motion passed by 137 votes to 50. Two councillors abstained.

The ANC and EFF rejected the proposal. The ACDP said it supported the move in principle, but not for short-term interests while the matter was before the courts.

The recommendations were:

"All designated authorities are to be decided by a consensus of the Mayco; if there is a lack of consensus, the requested authority must be escalated to the Council," the motion read.

In the case of ceremonial duties, the Executive Mayor will conduct ceremonial duties after a consideration by the Mayoral Committee and by consensus. Without consensus, it would be escalated to council.

"All travel requests, local and international, made by the Executive Mayor, must be considered by the Mayco by consensus; if there is a lack of consensus, the matter should be referred to the Speaker for approval.

In such cases, the Speaker must submit a consolidated report of such decisions to the next Council meeting for noting.

The City Manager will be instructed to design and implement supporting business processes to facilitate the logistics of decision-making per the recommendations.

'We will see each other in court'

DA deputy caucus leader JP Smith told News24 before council that the move was supported by a vast majority of the DA caucus.

The new system will work "in perpetuity", he said.

"We've learnt a very hard lesson what happens when the mayor gets too much power, and just because it's a DA mayor, it doesn't protect you from the problems," he said.

De Lille, however, fired back in council, saying she reserved her rights in the matter.

"I must remind councillors that service delivery does not take place in boardrooms, but on the streets. This is going to severely hamper service delivery.

"If this is the route the council wants to take, [so be it].

"As I've said, I reserve my rights, and we will see each other in court." At this the ANC councillors erupted into applause.

'Backdoor' move 'nothing to do with service delivery'

The ANC in Cape Town meanwhile claimed the DA was trying to change the mayor's powers "through the backdoor".

"This has absolutely nothing to do with service delivery and the interests of the poor, but more to do with their promises to special interest groups working behind the scenes," ANC caucus leader Xolani Sotashe said.

"How can a mayor report to her mayoral committee?" added ANC councillor Thembelani Sakathi.

EFF councillor Andrew Arnolds said the changes were "unconstitutional", and violated the Municipal Structures Act. De Lille must fight the changes "tooth and nail," he said.

"There's a fighter there that's gonna deal with you. You can expect another court case to come," he warned.

ACDP councillor Grant Haskin said the party supports the move in principle in the long-term, but said council could not risk the wrath of the High Court after it reinstated De Lille on the basis of the "status quo" remaining temporarily.

High Court to sit next week

ALJ councillor Ganief Hendricks said they intended to go to court to charge anyone who votes for it with contempt of court.

Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson, who tabled the motion, countered, saying the city's legal opinion said any power of the mayor can be delegated, with the exception of the appointment of a mayco, and the mayor's ceremonial duties.

He also said there was nothing in the court order relating to how council should operate.

Sotashe added that he believed all the councillors who supported the move should face a costs order if the court rules against the motion.

The Western Cape High Court meanwhile is due to sit on Monday to rule on De Lille's application to intervene in the party's decision to cease her membership.

The ruling will dictate whether De Lille can permanently return to her position, albeit ceremonially.

De Lille meanwhile was due to address the media after council adjourned on Thursday.