Punch-ups at NFP vote

2011-11-21 00:00

NATIONAL Freedom Party members came to blows at their first KZN elective conference in Ladysmith yesterday.

The meeting, at the Mnambithi Indoor Sports Centre, was postponed indefinitely after the fighting erupted over a dispute about registration fees for the conference.

Police had to intervene to maintain order numerous times.

Just before voting started, some districts and constituencies complained that hundreds of delegates were left out because they failed to pay R50 registration fee.

Most of those who were complaining were from three districts; eThekwini, Zululand and uThungulu (Empangeni).

Delegates from other districts complained that some delegates were allowed to register even though they did not have receipts for their fees.

Delegate Sbonelo Khoza from uMlalazi (Eshowe) constituency under uThungulu told the meeting that a number of their delegates, who had hired taxis to attend the conference, were left out because they did not have money to pay registration.

“We were not aware that we had to pay to be part of the conference. If we had been told in time we would have collected the money,” Khoza said.

Another uThungula delegate, Philani Gwamanda, said the playing field was not level as some delegates were allowed to register without paying.

When delegates were still registering their complaints, a certain group surged forward and exchanged blows with officials before police intervened.

NFP national administrator Herman Oosthuizen said it was impossible that some districts were not told about the registration fee.

NFP national organiser Bonga Nzuza, who arranged the conference, said some people deposited their registration fees in the NFP bank account beforehand and were allowed to participate. A special meeting of the NFP national working committee (NWC) was convened and decided that only delegates with valid receipts would be allowed to participate.

All delegates were then ordered to vacate the hall and re-enter after producing receipts.

However, the situation again dissolved into taunts, insults and blows, with police again stepping in.

Two former IFP mayors, Vikizitha Mlotshwa from Okhahlamba (Bergville) and Bobby Ntombela from kwaHlabisa, were contesting the provincial chair, and their supporters were especially vocal.

Some NWC members, including the former leader of the IFP in the Zululand district, Mpiyakhe Hlatshwayo, were not in favour of elections going ahead.

While delegates were still being counted back into the hall, lights were switched off and delegates had to use their cellphones to illuminate their way.

Some delegates also complained that pamphlets with NFP logos were being distributed to delegates advising them how to vote.

Bheki Gumbi, NFP Gauteng chairperson and the conference’s presiding officer, said the tensions over registration fees led to the postponement of the conference. A report will be presented today to the NWC meeting and a decision on rescheduling the conference taken.

He said yesterday’s developments will not affect the party’s national conference scheduled for next month in Pietermaritzburg.

skhumbuzo.miya@witness.co.za

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