The fight for Zululand

2014-04-13 15:00

For the leader of a three-and-a-half-year–old party untested in the brutal?–?and costly?– arena of national and provincial elections, National Freedom Party (NFP) president Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is pretty ambitious.

The ANC, a former ally, has taken off the kid gloves after the breakdown of the parties’ relationship in most of the 19 KwaZulu-Natal municipalities they jointly govern.

So the NFP may be hard pressed to take the 1?800?000 national target vote it has set for itself for May 7.

The NFP took 1.2?million votes in KwaZulu-Natal during the local government elections and entered a post-election agreement with the ANC to oust the IFP in a number of its strongholds.

However, the arrangement has crumbled in a number of municipalities, with municipal level leaders backing the IFP instead. This has led to a series of mini-revolts around the province.

The governing party, the NFP’s coalition partner in the Zululand District Municipality where Magwaza-Msibi is entering her 17th year as mayor, on Friday staged a march led by NEC member Bheki Cele against her administration.

The crowd accused her of corruption and poor service delivery even though Zululand has an ANC deputy mayor and several executive committee members.

Magwaza-Msibi concedes that the three-way battle for Zululand with the ANC and IFP will be a tough one, but is confident her party can dislodge the IFP as the official opposition in KwaZulu-Natal and take about 28 seats nationally through pockets of support in other provinces.

She is the NFP’s premier candidate for KwaZulu-Natal and its presidential candidate nationally and is likely to end up in the National Assembly after May.

“It will be a very difficult battle but there are too many people out there who support us and what we stand for,” Magwaza-Msibi told City Press this week.

The ANC march, she said, was an indication of the extent of the breakdown in relations between the two parties.

“The ANC is also running Zululand so this is, in effect, a march against themselves. I am in my 17th year as mayor here and there has never been a qualified audit or a single cent that has been sent back to treasury. They know this. This is just election politics. But I wonder how we are going to be able to work with them until 2016?”

She is also acutely aware of the potential for increased political violence in the run-up to May 7.

The latest round of killings at the KwaMashu Hostel, the scene of tit-for-tat killings between the IFP and the NFP, has now claimed the life of an ANC leader in the hostel.

NFP members have been attacked several times, allegedly by ANC members, at Umzumbe on the south coast. In Shongweni, west of Durban, ANC members burnt NFP vehicles and stopped Magwaza-Msibi from addressing residents. Tensions have also been high at Umlazi where hostel residents supporting the IFP are now split between the two parties.

“Both [the IFP and the ANC] thought we would collapse after the elections and disappear because of a lack of funds and because we are a new party. It didn’t happen. We are a threat to the ANC and the IFP. That is why there is violence. They thought we would dissipate and die and our members are instead making progress. They are getting threatened by that,” said Magwaza-Msibi.

The battle to stay relevant

The two decades of democracy in South Africa have not been kind to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The party, which has slid from ruling KwaZulu-Natal in 1994 to winning only 18 of 80 seats in 2009, faces an uphill battle to reverse its electoral misfortunes.

These worsened in the 2011 municipal poll, in which the party took only 17% of the vote in the province.

Rocked by the exodus of supporters of former national chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi to the breakaway National Freedom Party (NFP) in January 2011, the party also lost control of the municipalities in its heartland north of the Tugela River in 2011. It now runs just three rural local municipalities, Hlabisa, Ulundi and Msinga.

Throughout, its president, Mangosuthu Buthelezi (85), has remained at the helm and has seen off a series of younger pretenders to the throne.

Deputy national chairperson Albert Mncwango, who runs the party’s campaign machinery, believes it has stemmed the flow of party activists to the NFP.

He says they are starting to return, regretting their “emotional” decision to follow Magwaza-Msibi. “We concede that we have experienced a downward trend.”

“When the NFP was formed, some of our members thought it was a good thing to join then. Over time, people have realised it was a waste of their vote and are coming back. This gives us a great deal of hope.”

Mncwango also believes IFP voters who cast their ballot along ethnic lines and “voted for [President Jacob] Zuma’’ in 2009 have experienced a similar kind of buyer’s remorse and will dump the ANC on May 7.

“In 2009, a lot of our people voted on ethnic lines. Zuma exploited that to the fullest. I doubt that he can do that now. The ANC is in the soup. People everywhere are expressing disappointment about the way in which the ANC is running the country. We are hoping to capitalise on this among traditional ANC voters,’’ said Mncwango.

The IFP, which is currently the official opposition in KwaZulu-Natal, will be happy if it holds its ground and “filled with some jubilation” if it betters either tally, he said.

The party, which has taken decent numbers of votes in Gauteng and Mpumalanga since 1994, is contesting every province, eyeing its national total closely.

Before this, however, the IFP will have to stop the further erosion of its Zululand base and consolidate its other areas of support in the province.

“We are encouraged by the fact that we took back the ward [Zuma] lives in during the last by-election. If the people of Nkandla can make that kind of political about-turn, then we are hopeful,’’ he said.

Five key IFP promises:

.?Create a special corruption court and retry corruption cases.

.?Depoliticise key appointments to the judiciary, the police and public administration.

.?Overhaul the prison system, introducing hard labour and more stringent parole conditions.

.?Carry out an audit of state land, using this to address land redistribution while lowering taxes, which inhibits the profitability of commercial farms.

.?Revise labour law to create greater flexibility.

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