Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has placed Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and mayoral committee member JP Smith on “special leave” after a public spat  resulted in the two being investigated by the party.

Maimane met with de Lille and Smith, the mayco member for safety and security, on Monday night after the two hurled allegations at one another following de Lille’s announcement that she had ordered the City of Cape Town’s special investigations unit (SIU) to shut down. 

But now, after meeting with the DA’s leader, Cape Town’s own mayor will be unable to attend DA-events or interact with the local caucus in the city she is meant to be running.

“Following that meeting, Mr Maimane has placed Mayor de Lille and Cllr Smith on special leave from DA activities in the Cape Town Metro until such time as a DA Federal Executive investigation can be concluded,” DA spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said in a statement.

Last week, de Lille’s shut down of the local SIU was locally reported on in the Cape.
Smith, who was responsible for overseeing the unit, said that de Lille had closed it behind his back.

“The mayor and speaker undertook these actions in secret and without any consultation with me,” he said according to New24

The City had last week accused the SIU of going beyond its mandate to investigate only within the safety and security directorate. Smith alleges that de Lille had asked him for updates on an investigation into the death of DA ward councillor Xolile Gwangxu, who was shot dead in Philippi East.

Smith replied that he would ask the SIU, but he later found out it had been shut down.

“The mayor must have been aware that she had shut down the SIU and that they were no longer able to undertake this investigation and that her instruction had halted the investigation,” Smith reportedly said in a submission on the SIU closure, which was sent to Maimane.

“Presumably she was testing me to see if the SIU was still operating. Her request was therefore in extremely poor taste if she thought that the murder of councillor Gwangxu was a suitable subject to test or taunt me.”

On Monday, de Lille said she was consulting her lawyers about Smith’s “malicious and defamatory remarks”. She alleged Smith was overstating the responsibilities of the SIU.

“We all know that crime fighting is the responsibility of the SAPS under national government,” she said.

“JP Smith wants to play cowboys and crooks by releasing all kinds of statements that the metro police [are] responsible for fighting crime.”

The DA Federal Executive (FedEX) has been investigating in-fighting in the Cape Town caucus. Maimane has convened a special subcommittee which is chaired by DA FedEx chairperson John Steenhuisen. The subcommittee is set to begin hearings on the “political management and governance situation” in the Cape today.

The subcommittee will report back to the FedEx. De Lille and Smith will be placed on “leave” until the FedEx concludes its investigation.

“Placing the Mayor and the Cllr on special leave during the investigation means that neither will be able to attend DA caucus meetings, interact with caucus members or others who may testify before the committee or attend party meetings. This leave does not affect their candidacy for provincial elected positions, nor does it affect their work in government. They should also not address the media on this issue until the conclusion of the investigation,” Van Damme said.

Both the FedEx and the City are investigating the allegations made by Smith and De Lille.