Patricia de Lille received her primary education at the Methodist Primary School and thereafter went to finish her schooling in 1969 at Bastiaanse Hoerskool.
In 1974 , Patricia de Lille worked as a laboratory technician for Plascon Paints and remained there for 16 years. During this time, she became involved in Trade Union politics and was a member of the South African Chemical Workers' Union (SACWU). She started off as a shop steward and soon was SACWU's regional secretary. She then went on to the National Executive Committee of SACWU and was also the regional chairperson of the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) in the Western Cape. Politically NACTU was to the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) what the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is to the ANC.
In 1989, she was elected into the National Executive Committee of the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM), a wing of the PAC. When the PAC and other political organisations were unbanned in 1990, she was appointed as foreign secretary and relief and aid secretary of the party. During the CODESA negotiations, Patricia led the PAC delegation and after the first democratic elections, she was appointed as a member of parliament. Between 1994 and 1999, she was the chairperson of the Transport committee and the chief whip for the PAC in parliament. She also served in various portfolio committees including Health, Mineral and Energies, Trade and Industry, Communication, the rules committee and the codes of ethics. Ironically, de Lille used the very same rule of floor crossing that she fiercely opposed in parliament to break away from the Pan Africanist Congress to form her own political party, Independent Democrats in 2003. She retained her seat in parliament. After 2004 general election and 2006 Municipal elections ID improved its representatives in all sphere of governments.
In 2004 she was elected a chancellor of the Durban Institute of Technology (DIT). She has been vocal on other sensitive issues such as corruption, HIV/AIDS, women and child abuse, children in prison, xenophobia and poverty, Patricia serves on the boards of the following organisations.
At the launch of FXI’S new book, Patricia de Lille was a guest speaker, and this is what she said. “The right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion is intrinsically tied to the right of freedom of expression and freedom of association. Inevitably, then, encroachment on any of these rights implies a systematic erosion of a host of other rights. While some argue for the necessity of a limitation of rights clause to enable some sort of control, others present an equally strong argument against the clause’s capacity to erode existing rights. No doubt both arguments speak to the propensity for abuse. Yes, we need to prevent abuse, but how will we know when the limitations we set are in themselves abusive?”
Her political views can be seen in her works. Patricia de Lille has fought injustice for more than 40 years through her involvement in politics. She is known for her role as a trade unionist in the struggle for equality and as the initial whistle-blower on the infamous Arms Deal in 1999. In 1988 Ms de Lille was elected Vice-President of the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU), the first woman to do so.
In a keynote address delivered at the launch of FXI’S new book, Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille argued that South Africa as a nation had yet to give life and form to the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights, including that of freedom of expression. “At the moment we are not really very sure about the extent and degree of freedom or accountability of these rights. ...We need to begin to clear the waters so that we can be certain of how free we truly are,” she said.
“At the moment we are not really very sure about the extent and degree of freedom or accountability of these rights. ...We need to begin to clear the waters so that we can be certain of how free we truly are.”
“How far is far enough? What is too far?”
“I really always wanted to serve my people... being an activist in the struggle against Apartheid, and having been part of political activism then, I always had this vision that you know one day when we are free, when we attain our freedom things will be better, and I wanted to serve my people.”
“There is absolutely no way, that any government can do it alone. [I have always made it clear] that we do need partnerships, that we do need the private sector, that we do need civil society."
"When my opponents attack me, I don't go crying in a corner like a little sissy and say, 'Oh you know they’ve attacked me, I'm a woman.' I just wait for the next opportunity and return the punch. That’s how I behave in Parliament and obviously, not everybody likes it."
She was once described by Nelson Mandela as "a strong, principled woman" and his "favourite opposition politician."
He is married, and has two children