What’s the difference?

Mayor Patricia de Lille File photo

A provincial elective conference took place over the weekend in Goodwood, Cape Town.

Attended by 1 000 or so delegates, it elected a new provincial executive committee.

One of those elected was a new provincial leader of the party, a post contested by two delegates.

The loser has decided to appeal the outcome of the vote, noting that he has evidence of voting irregularities during the ballot.

The party has responded to his assertion, saying that it will look into the matter, although in its view, all processes took place “above-board”, and the loser’s own inside agent signed off the voting results.

Meanwhile, two high profile party members, involved in an unseemly public spat, did not attend the conference, voting instead beforehand by means of a special ballot.

Both had been suspended from party activities, pending the outcome of an investigation into their messy disagreement.

Sounds familiar? Well, contrary to assumption, this was not an ANC elective conference. It was the DA’s Western Cape provincial elective conference, at which the top slot was contested by Bonginkosi Madikizela and Lennit Max.

Mr Madikizela, who is the MEC for Human Settlements in the Western Cape provincial legislature, has been acting provincial leader since Janaury, when City of Cape Town executive mayor, Patricia de Lille, stepped down to “focus her efforts” on running the City.

Mr Max is a former provincial police commissioner, and like Mr Madikizela, a member of the provincial legislature. This was his fourth unsuccessful tilt at the top job.

No stranger to controversy, Mr Max was embroiled in a public spat two years ago with Helen Zille, accusing her of “using and discarding black DA officials”.

According to news reports, Mr Madikizela won by a narrow margin, only 16 votes, and immediately after the announcement of his win said that in the lead-up to the conference: “There were a number of things which were said and should not have been said.”

Appealing for unity, he went on to say: ““We must put our differences aside. That is why it is so important to emphasise that message. Some of our supporters are feeling despondent. It is something that we need to deal with. They are disillusioned.”

The two senior party members suspended from party activities, are none other than Ms De Lille, and Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith.

The drama unfolded after Ms De Lille shut down a special investigations unit (SIU) in Mr Smith’s protfolio about 10 days ago, which it is alleged uncovered irregularities in the funding of building work being done at the mayor’s private residence, which includes security upgrades recommended by the SAPS, as well as structural improvements to the house.

Mr Smith apparently connected the allegations and rumours “heard from others” about the work done at Ms De Lille’s home to her shutting down of the SIU, which had uncovered the irregularities, and this all eventually landed on DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s desk.

And, as they say on info-mercial TV, there’s more.

Ever the opportunist, the ANC leapt on the bandwagon, and in a breathtakingly hypocritical and disingenuous statement, accused the DA of condoning the abuse of public funds for improvements and security upgrades to the private home of Ms De Lille.

As the fallout continued, it fell to City speaker Dirk Smit to contain the blaze by issuing a statement on the Sunday pointing out that the security upgrades paid for by the City were being done in accordance with recommendations flowing from a SAPS security assessment, and that all other improvements were paid for by Ms De Lille.

The imbroglio descended into farce, when last Thursday, ANC Dullah Omar region leader, Xolani Sotashe, along with about 10 other members of the ANC “visited” Ms De Lille’s home to ostensibly check if there was a Nkandla-style “fire-pool” and to urge her to “pay back the money”.

But it gets worse. Subsequent to this “visit” by the ANC “delegation” Mr Smit released a further statement, noting that because the security upgrades had been exposed on social media during the ANC “visit”, they would no longer be effective, and would probably have to be replaced, at ratepayers’ expense.

That the ANC will ask the public protector to investigate the upgrades to Ms De Lille’s private residence was welcomed by the DA, presumably because it is anticipated that nothing irregular will be unearthed.

The stark parallels with the Nkandla saga are inescapable.

Granted, there was no chair-throwing at the DA’s elective conference, but the factionalism in the party was, nonetheless, on public display.

What is unclear at this time, is who is pulling whose strings in the De Lille-Smith war, and why.

And all of this begs the question: is the DA any better than the ANC when it comes to factionalism, and can it be trusted in the lead-up to 2019?