Statement by the City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille

Statement by the City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille
Note to editors: This is an extract from a lecture by Mayor De Lille, honouring
the late Barry Streek, at the Cape Town Press Club last night, 4 September
Good evening, goeie naand, molweni, as-salaam alaikum, shalom.
Thank you very much for inviting me here today.
It is a great honour to deliver a lecture in memory of my friend and former
colleague, Barry Streek.
As Barry knew, I have great respect for the press.
And this is not just because it is a good rule of thumb not to irritate people
who have barrels of ink at their disposal to write what they wish.
It is because we fought hard for freedom of expression.
As I look around this room today, I see many people who remember all too
well the limitations on speech under the previous regime.
You had to phrase things in a particular way and hint at certain allegations to
try and unmask the truth.
Things are a bit different today but in some ways there is an uncanny similarity
to days gone by.
The work of the fourth estate must be one of the best living legacies of our
constitutional order.
And despite some recent attempts to curtail freedom of expression and the
power of journalistic inquiry, the light of truth still shines in South Africa.
And as long as it shines, our democracy remains illuminated and protected
by the business of the people and the business of the State taking place in
the full light of day.
The lack of dark corners to retreat to, dark corners which have been denied
shape by the press, has carried us through some difficult times.
I cast my mind back to a recent history that remains unresolved, one of great
personal significance.
I am referring to the Arms Deal of course.
If it was not for the press, then I am frankly not sure I would be standing here
today after exposing corruption in Parliament.
If there were dark corners in which that corruption could be hidden from the
public, then I too might have been dealt with quietly and conveniently.
Public pressure on the issue, driven by the press, kept me safe in the full light
of day.
And in our current state of affairs, I would fear for the work of the public
protector if the issue of Nkandla was not kept on the front pages relentlessly.
As we have learnt all too well and too painfully in recent days, the only hope
we have of executive accountability is by keeping the issue alive in our
The duties of the president and his ministers under the constitution must be a
real factor in our daily conversations if we are to ensure that those in power
eventually account to those who put them there.
And in this, members of the press are the only people who can take the
message to the electors of this country that there is a duty due to them and
this state in which we live.
I for one hope that you are unrelenting in that role. It is the best hope we
have of forcing action on those who would risk a constitutional crisis rather
than take ownership of their actions and their errors.
But in defending this role, we cannot dress it up in ill-fitting clothes.
We cannot act that everything reported in the press is content of integrity
that cannot be questioned.
As the press knows, nothing is beyond question.
Freedom of expression, whatever that expression might be as long and as it
does not incite harm, is a virtue in and of itself in a liberal democracy.
But in order to give real value to this freedom, we need a strong, experienced
and highly skilled press corps to help strengthen our democracy.
And while South Africa is lucky to have some of the finest journalists in the
world, I am sure many of you will share my concern about the growing
‘juniorisation’ of newsrooms, often as a result of commercial pressures.
Due to this situation, too many journalists these days spend their lives behind
computers, not out on the streets talking to the people and attempting to
understand what is the actual driving force behind political and other
This leaves them ill-equipped to see through the fog of daily political
discourse, nor are they fully able to understand the complexities of
And all too often they have to resort to an over reliance on single source
journalism, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to being hijacked by the
narrow interests of a particular political clique.
These shortcomings have been illustrated in the face of the recent illegal land
invasions, illegal protests and acts of violence that have been taking place in
the city.
Quite rightly, these issues have been front page news.
What is not right is the lack of analysis that seems to accompany them at
times. There is often a superficial acceptance of the supposed motives of the
And there is all too rarely a condemnation of the illegality of these actions.
Are there legitimate grievances out there?
Are there frustrations?
Are there people who want to protest against government?
But we should not accept that because these legitimate feelings exist, they
are always the motivations of those who claim them for their purposes.
For as a constitutional democracy, we need to ensure that all rights are
exercised responsibly and with the due regard to the rights of others.
Section 17 of the Constitution makes it very clear that everyone has the right
to protest, but this must be done peacefully and unarmed.
I have fought all my life for the rights of freedom of assembly and association,
and I remain to this day a jealous defender of these foundational
constitutional freedoms.
But equally I believe we need to stand firm when these rights are abused or
misused, and when illegal and violent actions threaten to undermine the
fabric of our democracy.
We need to state categorically that such actions are a threat to the rule of
law and ensure that they are reported as such.
You have all heard the claims that I have made about a campaign of
ungovernability in this city and I don’t need to repeat them.
Suffice it to say that having lost at the ballot box, forces hostile to this
government have decided to use every device at their disposal, including
violence and manipulation of the poorest in our society, to advance political
And that agenda is to disrupt the record of the City of Cape Town.
We are proud of our record as a municipality and have made our pledge to
voters, and to all residents, that we can provide them with the best and
cleanest government with the resources at our disposal.
And what is more, we will do so while carrying out a transformative agenda
of achieving reconciliation through redress.
That is our promise.
And it is that promise that elements within Cape Town want to make it seem
that we are breaking.
This is not always the ANC directly, though the provincial and city leadership
of the ANC has shown that they are not above the crudest and most racially
divisive tactics to try and score the dirtiest of political points.
And where even some measures might be a bridge too far for them as a
political party, they have their useful fronts in Ses’Khona and others.
These are not conspiracy theories.
Look at the evidence.
Day after day in the past 10 days, there have been illegal land invasions,
illegal protests or violent attacks.
They are always coordinated and always directed for maximum impact.
The same instigators are witnessed at each scene and the same methods are
The same strange demands that seem to have little to do with service
delivery are manufactured for each event.
It is a ruthless campaign that has destruction as its goal.
But time and again, I see these motives unexamined in the media.
There is no condemnation of illegality and little examination of ulterior
Instead, there are some reductions that are all too easy to make.
The first is that the claim of conspiracy is political posturing itself and therefore
the government is also somehow culpable in the messiness of the protests.
The role of ANC front organisation Ses’Khona has, I believe, been especially
The media in general have not sought to explore nor understand the central
role they are currently playing in destabilising Cape Town.
For example, while the recent evictions in Lwandle received almost blanket
coverage, there was little or no attempt to critically understand what caused
the situation.
The reality is that Ses’Khona were at the heart of these events.
We have affidavits from a number of people which detail how Ses’Khona
actively encouraged people to invade the SANRAL land, on the premise that
they would then ‘sell’ them individual plots for up to R4 000.
This is an extraordinary abuse and exploitation of some of the most vulnerable
members of our society.
Not content with this abuse, Ses’Khona has inexplicably blocked the majority
of people displaced by the Lwandle evictions from moving into the
alternative accommodation that has been provided for them.
As a result of their interference, only 30 of the more than 234 structures
provided have been occupied.
Yet, seemingly this power abuse, where the poor are used as political pawns
has escaped meaningful media investigation.
Nor has the media adequately examined why the Lwandle evictions are the
subject of a Ministerial Inquiry, when they have been other similar large-scale
evictions in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – free from any national
government intervention or opprobrium.
Nor did the media critically examine the composition of this Inquiry, which
with its preponderance of ANC members makes it clear that this is nothing
more than a political ‘hit squad’, interested only in discrediting the DA-run
City and provincial governments.
What is also disturbing is that there appears to be little investigation into the
almost continuous threats of violent action made by the leadership of
We have video evidence of Andile Lili, in his brand new car, in Philippi
actively encouraging people to invade to privately owned land.
This as you are no doubt aware led to violent clashes in recent weeks
between law enforcement agencies and the land invaders.
Then just this week Ses’Khona leader and ANC City Councillor Loyiso Nkohla
publically threatened to destroy the MyCiTi N2 Express service.
The key questions are then not asked.
Why, for example, is the ANC not asked whether they condemn these
statements from one of their sitting Councillors and what action they will take
against him?
Why have there been so few arrests and, even more critically, convictions as
a result of the voilent disruptions we witness in Cape Town?
Why is the ANC so prepared to embrace the Ses’Khona leadership?
Is it because they are useful element of their ungovernability campaign,? Or
are they afraid that they may take away ANC support if they run as
Ses’Khona candidates in the 2016 local government elections?
In the face of such serious threats and obvious abuse of poor and vulnerable
communities, it behoves the press to explore these dynamics and try to
ensure that residents more fully understand the political and other dynamics
at play in the city.
We can be under no illusion: the current situation in Cape Town is serious.
We are on an almost daily basis faced with up to five or more illegal violent
disruptions, which are placing an enormous strain on our law enforcement
and other resources.
We know that much of this violent activity is centrally controlled and
The City of Cape Town for its part is determined to work with the provincial
and national government as well as the SAPS to ensure that we control the
situation and that we protect the rights of law abiding residents.
We would hope that the media will help ensure that there is proper analysis,
and that these issues are fully illuminated, so that they are not kept in dark
corners where they are judged anew each day with little context and
examination and often accepted at face value.
Now I know that members of the press sitting in front of me today know that
they are not angels. Nor for that matter are politicians!
Nor are they infallible.
They are imperfect agents helping our society progress by using the freedom
of expression to report on our state of affairs.
And in so reporting, they do not have a responsibility to do anyone any
favours; quite the contrary.
But there is an opportunity to use the freedom of expression to help our
democracy mature by bringing the truth to light – even if that truth goes
against received wisdom.
In conclusion, I don’t ask you to uncritically make the City’s case at the
expense of everything else.
But perhaps there is room to go beyond the need for comment alone to
explore the deeper truths of what is happening in our society, as some of you
do most admirably.
And perhaps in so doing, we can not only give life to the glorious rights of our
democratic order.
We can use those rights to help that democratic order grow and succeed.
I for one will be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you to vigorously
protect the independent space you require to fulfil this essential role.
In so doing we will all do our part in honouring the extraordinary legacy of
Barry, who was a true newsman, and a warrior in the fight for press freedom
and social justice.
Thank you, baie dankie, enkosi.