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Patricia de Lille at the BDS stall

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When the now former mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, visited the BDS South Africa stall at the Cape Town Ramadaan and Lifestyle Expo at the beginning of the week, the organisation quickly claimed her support with a tweet pinned to the top of its Twitter profile. It said: “Thanks to DA leader and Cape Town Mayor @PatriciaDeLille for stopping by the BDS stall yesterday #FreePalestine #BoycottApartheidIsrael”.
by TALI FEINBERG | May 10, 2018

The tweet included three photos of a smiling De Lille trying on a keffiyah (Palestinian headscarf), but it did not clarify her views on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The Cape Board of Deputies felt it was an innocent interaction: “In her capacity as mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille was free and even obligated to engage with all groups in the city. We draw no inference of support for the BDS movement from the fact that the then mayor stopped at a stand while attending the Cape Town Ramadaan and Lifestyle Expo.”

DA councillor Errol Anstey agreed, saying that in his personal opinion, “the mayor was under attack by her own party, and as a result she was going to every possible event around Cape Town, and showing her face to the people”.

He added: “She obviously went to the Ramadaan exhibition and was probably spotted by BDS, whose members saw an opportunity to score political points and started to speak to her.

“There is no reason why she should not greet the person. And BDS is not her fight, nor is she linked to any side. She is merely a bystander caught up in a situation.

“Since becoming mayor, she has engaged with more Jews than ever. For example, she has become friends with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg,” he adds.

When questioned if De Lille is an official supporter of his organisation, BDS South Africa director Muhammed Desai avoided declaring so, rather saying: “BDS South Africa welcomes all the support it gets from political leaders and members of the public, regardless of which political party they, or in this case the mayor, is from. We appreciate that Mayor Patricia de Lille took the time to visit our stall.”

Using photos of politicians to advance its cause has been a strategy used by BDS SA in the past, such as when then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was photographed having stopped to chat at a BDS stall at the ANC’s fifth National Policy Conference, which took place from June 30 to July 5 last year. Once again, BDS SA posted it on Twitter on July 2 for all to see, as if Ramaphosa was somehow a supporter.

“I don’t think the DA and Patricia de Lille have been ‘singing from the same song sheet’ for quite some time, and any action of hers doesn’t reflect on the stance of the DA,” said Thomas Walters, deputy chairperson of the DA Federal Council.

Indeed, the conflict between the Cape Town mayor and her party all came to a head on Tuesday, when the DA informed her she was no longer a member of the party, and that her position as mayor would therefore cease.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson was appointed acting mayor, in accordance with the Municipal Structures Act, and the DA will have to establish a new mayoral committee to govern the City of Cape Town.

“The only thing I can say about De Lille’s departure is that it was done in terms of an incredibly fair process,” said DA MP Michael Bagraim.

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