Patricia “Kortbroek” de Lille

by The Editor

After a lifetime of anti-ANC sentiment and on the back of a political career that, ultimately, was only ever a small rickety temple to her own ego, Patricia de Lille has whitewashed a library full of contempt for the ANC, by joining the ANC Cabinet. She is a modern day Marthinus van Schalkwyk. And so, to her should go the title “Kortbroek”, which came to define his particular brand of expediency.

Patricia “Kortbroek” de Lille

By: Gareth van Onselen

31 May 2019

Marthinus “Kortbroek” van Schalkwyk defined the template for craven self-interest. The former NNP leader sold so many people out, he might as well have been an auctioneer. In the end, once he had wrought as much damage as he could to the opposition, he meekly folded the NNP into the ANC in 2004, and lived out his days on a fat Cabinet salary and an empty soul, which he had bargained away at a knockdown price sometime before, along with everything else.

But there is now a modern day pretender to his throne: Patricia de Lille. After a lifetime of anti-ANC sentiment, and on the back of a political career that, ultimately, was only ever a small rickety temple to her own ego, she too has whitewashed a library full of contempt for the ANC, by joining the ANC Cabinet. Aided by a small band of believers who, really, were always just as susceptible to the ANC’s hegemonic embrace, she is deserving of the title “Kortbroek”, for so long held by van Schalkwyk.

Admittedly, the term was initially a reference to van Schalkwyk’s child-like appearance but it soon enough become synonymous with his political trademark: entirely self-serving and opportunistic politics. If the shoe fits. Patricia “Kortbroek” de Lille. Has a nice ring to it, if you into that sort of thing.

What to say about de Lille’s particular brand of hypocrisy? It is breath-taking in its scope and a thing of wonder in terms of how fundamentally two-faced it is. And, you must appreciate, this is with van Schalkwyk as competition, a man who would eat his own hand, if there was a well-paying one-handed man job on offer.

You could list all the poison de Lille has spewed about the ANC over the years if you wanted. Thousands of quotes and condemnations of a party that, it seemed, she had nothing but disdain for. The corruption, the authoritarianism, the mismanagement and delivery failure. Hundreds of thousands of words. But what would be the point? You could do the same thing for van Schalkwyk. It matters little to either of them. Hypocrisy is not a problem for them. It is simply a means to an end. On that front: mission accomplished.

If you believed them, you are the sucker. They always made it quite clear they come first. And you have got to give it to them: both were able to turn a couple of political twigs into a fire just large enough to keep them perpetually warm. But just them, although they would always have you believe they had just built the biggest bonfire imaginable. In the background, the band of believers, shivering in the cold, would convince themselves all were taken care of.

It didn’t matter what the fuel was: pan-Africanism, social democracy, liberalism, those few flickering flames would burn a myriad different colours. So long as de Lille was warm. Today the flames burn green, gold and black, infused with African Nationalism. GOOD, the final iteration of de Lille’s egomania (and best of luck working out what ideology underpinned that particular collection of ramshackle policies), is dead. Her very last fire-lighter, as she has burnt just about everything else she can find.

There are so many different kinds of de Lille out there today. Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Mzwanele Manyi, all of them have, at one stage or another, used the ANC to fashion some small church to themselves. De Lille is just beginning her new journey. For the others, it all ended badly. Usually in court. And, on the steps outside, they would proclaim victory, whatever the result.

It’s bit like De Lille and the DA. She has never had to account for that SMS she sent, seemingly instructing an independent selection panel how to vote. All that legal bluster worked a charm. She will fit in just great into the ANC. That sort of thing seems standard practice in the party. The DA really must have been irritating, in the way it kept demanding she explain herself. The ANC doesn’t do accountability either. A match made in heaven.

As for the ANC, well, whatever. The party literally proposed a motion of no confidence in de Lille, as Cape Town mayor. Now it has her in its Cabinet. The two deserve each other. Expediency, wrapped in contradiction inside self-interest. The perfect political Turducken.

But do spare a vote for those people who voted for de Lille, in the ID, in the DA, in GOOD.

Here is what de Lille said when merging the ID with the DA in 2010:

“This event today must merely be seen as the first step in the important task of consolidating the opposition and offering voters a true alternative government.”

That’s really why people voted for de Lille, as they do all opposition parties – for an alternative. It’s an important word that, alternative. In a country mentally and politically dominated by a single party, which resists anything other than a single, hegemonic way of thinking, it is not easy offering something else, to hold your ground, and to stand separately and with brave conviction. It was too much for de Lille. She was, ultimately too weak even to keep up the pretence. In the final analysis, she laid down her arms – and the idea of an alternative – and joined the bigger army.

She will claim she still fighting, from the inside. All the deserters do. They have to say that. And to believe it. It’s either that or actually look at the picture of Dorian Grey they keep in the attic. Odd though, if that is truly the best strategy to provide an alternative – to mesh with the problem itself – that is never occurred to them from the start. Not the brightest people, deserters. Strangely, infiltration only registers as the best way forward when they no longer have a well-paying job.

All strength to de Lille. She will keep turning twigs into barrel fires and her small band of fundamentalists will keep telling each other they are warm and safe. It’s a way of life. Sad, that South African politics seems always to reward the expediency in the way it has de Lille. Suppose that is true the world over. But it still doesn’t sit well.

Then again, maybe it is the way forward. Maybe everyone should join the ANC. Those that support de Lille think it’s the best idea ever. A government of national unity, to rule the seven Kingdoms. Just like Game of Thrones. So long as you are the Hand of King, or Master of Coin or Public Works. But, make no mistake, there can be only one King. De Lille, as ever, has done the sums. Best to serve the King, rather than oppose him.

Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) is the head of Politics and Governance at the South African Institute for Race Relations and the Editor of Inside Politics (@insidepols)

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