The situation with Patricia de Lille and the DA in Cape Town has been very poorly handled from the start and it just seems to be getting worse. Airing of dirty laundry in the media always leaves a bad taste in the mouth and this series of events is no exception.

It all started in September 2017 when de Lille shut down the city of Cape Town’s Special Investigations Unit. This started a public spat between JP Smith and de Lille with allegations of nepotism and tender irregularities amongst others. This was the beginning of the saga which has since escalated to include a very public anti de Lille media campaign and a no confidence vote (which failed). Following the DA Federal committee meeting the rules were tweaked to allow de Lille to be recalled, more media mudslinging followed and ultimately this week the DA has effectively booted de Lille from the party.

Now, the point I would like to make is the following. Regardless of anything, this was poorly handled by the DA, full stop. This is not a hindsight opinion, it felt very contrived from the beginning and was unpleasant to witness. In my corporate experience dealing with HR issues almost daily this matter should have stayed in house for a lot longer than it did, to say the least.

At the point where the first contravention was suspected to have occurred, an investigation needed to be launched, an enquiry held, privately, allowing both sides to present their cases and a finding given. To date I don’t think this has occurred, which is alarming.

Instead what has appeared to happen is that for whatever reason the DA decided the enquiry route would probably not result in a dismissal. Apparently a decision was taken by top leadership that de Lille needed to go, perhaps over time the relationship with her has deteriorated and they felt they needed to get rid of her. The evidence against her was not strong enough to dismiss her and so the route decided upon (bizarrely) was to stage a very public anti-de Lille media campaign in the hope that she would resign in embarrassment and disappear into the wilderness.

My question to the world is who came up with this idea? Patricia de Lille has shown us all over the course of her career that she will never “go quietly”; she was always going to fight this. How could the DA decide to take the route of a very public internal spat at a time when the ANC has started to recover from the Jacob Zuma disaster? If anything this was a time when the DA needed to entrench its image and retain the gains of the past decade of Zuma rule. This very spectacular implosion and series of own goals has definitely weakened the DA image in the Western Cape and could serve to hurt them in the national elections next year.

The question then to be asked is how does one deal with a situation where as an organization you decide you no longer like your public figurehead in a particular region and would like to remove them as painlessly as possible. Sometimes the answer is to make the best of the situation for the time being and hang on until the next elective conference; this is not a monarchy, positions in government are not a god-given right, people can be replaced.

Time will ultimately tell how damaging this series of events will turn out to be but it most definitely could and should have been handled better, for the sake of the party and the individuals involved.