Aunty Pat is finally ‘free’ – but is that freedom with an EFF?
Now that she's completed her 'long walk to freedom', the very special Patricia de Lille can only go up
It’s been a long walk to freedom for Patricia de Lille.
Just to be clear, those aren’t my words. It would take a very special kind of person to associate Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison, or lifetime of public service, with the 18 months of accusations, denials, name-calling, smoke-blowing and general contempt for the citizenry of Cape Town that has played out between De Lille and the Democratic Alliance.
Fortunately, Ms De Lille seems to be a very special kind of person.
Speaking to the press this week as she said her final goodbyes (not to be confused with her final goodbyes, which were the other day, or her final goodbyes, which were the other other day), De Lille said, “I am determined to clear my name and I have been successful with three high court judgments in my favour already. So it is my long walk to freedom. After 18 months, I am free from oppression.”
I suspect some of her former colleagues are feeling exactly the same way.
Her fans, also, are full of fresh enthusiasm and energy. As De Lille resigned, probably definitely for realsies, many were urging her to join the EFF or to revive the Independent Democrats.
To be fair, donning a red beret and calling for economic collapse in our lifetime wouldn’t be too big a leap for De Lille, who first hit the headlines in the early 1990s as one of the PAC’s two dozen remaining members. It was there that the young radical called for “One settler, one bullet!”, expressed outrage that vigilante bombers Pagad were being investigated by police, and, in parliament, shouted at an ANC MP, “I wish someone could rape you one day!”
Of course, we all say stupid stuff when we’re young. I’m sure that these days De Lille would be much less dogmatic than she was in 1993, for example, when she pronounced that if the PAC won the coming elections, her party would reject power-sharing and say, “To hell with whatever they agreed in the negotiations”.
That specific promise was, oddly enough, never tested: the PAC won just 1.25% of the national vote and soon they weren’t even sharing the time of day with each other, let alone executive power.
Fortunately, when God closes a door, he opens a window for floor-crossing, and the Independent Democrats were founded. In the 2004 election, De Lille scooped 1.7% of the vote and the future seemed bright, in a fantastically dim sort of way.
But five years later it was clear that the heady days of a whole percentage point were over: in 2009, the ID won just 0.92%. De Lille did what any self-respecting left-wing radical anti-racist would do: she joined the party that had publicly invited abandoned National Party voters to swell its ranks.
And the rest is revisionist history.
So where does Patricia de Lille go next? Well, the only way is up. And who knows, with the right team and a whole new set of principles, she might crack 2%. In politics, anything can happen.