IFP courtroom drama

2010-11-08 00:00

ONCE more, with an election on the horizon, a courtroom drama is being played out in KwaZulu-Natal.

The sense of the dramatic is heightened as one of the players played a part in a previous case.

He is President Jacob Zuma’s senior counsel Advocate Kemp J. Kemp.

This time he is represents IFP chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, who is appealing to the court to stop the party from firing her and to get the IFP to hold its much delayed elective conference.

Magwaza-Msibi has thrown down the gauntlet and stated openly her intention to challenge long-standing leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for the presidency.

It is hard to believe that over a year ago Magwaza-Msibi was a leading light in the IFP. Prior to the 2009 election, she was a candidate for premier of the province.

At the time she sang her party’s praises, saying that her leadership position was proof that the IFP was not a masculine and conservative party.

What went wrong and what does this mean for local government elections in KZN?

According to party insiders, Magwaza-Msibi stands accused of having had secret meetings with the ANC.

Whether this indeed happened or whether it was a rumour started by her detractors is hard to say. Being close to the ANC seems to be an anathema to the IFP.

Two previous premiers were purportedly removed for the same reason. Frank Mdlalose and Ben Ngubane went on to serve as ambassadors abroad. Ngubane is currently the chairperson of the troubled SABC board.

Buthelezi is touting IFP secretary-general Musa Zondi as his successor.

Insiders believe he feels Magwaza-Msibi will do what National party leader Martinus van Schalwyk did and hand the party on a platter to the ANC in a trade for a senior government position.

The bruising battle has seen Magwaza-Msibi removed from the position of mayor of the Zululand District, the largest municipal district in the province and, in her time, considered one of the best run councils in KZN.

She was sent off to become a member of the KZN Legislature.

She has a very vocal support base. Just how large is hard to tell because rumour has it there are many silent supporters within the party who are biding their time.

Some senior party members who have come out in support of her have been expelled from the party. They have gone on to form the “Friends of VZ.”

The letters “V” and “Z” stand for Magwaza-Msibi’s first names Veronica Zanele.

The IFP chairperson was to be disciplined and dismissed from the party for not controlling her supporters.

To avoid this fate, she stayed away from the IFP general council meetings where her hearing was to have taken place.

She has always denied setting up or having any control over the “Friends of VZ.”

Magwaza-Msibi’s case is to be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday, November 12. Whatever the outcome, it will no doubt impact on the local government election barely six months away.

The stage looks set for an ANC takeover. President Jacob Zuma remains hugely popular in his home province.

This could well be the first time since democratic elections were held in the country that the ANC could dominate local government in KZN. In the 2006 local government election, the ANC won 30 municipalities as opposed to the IFP which took 32.

Waiting in the wings is the Democratic Alliance. Party leader Helen Zille has indicated that the DA will be fielding candidates in every ward. However, the DA is an urban based party and has yet to make an impact in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Buthelezi is well aware of the threat and in his online newsletter blames Magwaza-Msibi for the party’s declining fortunes.

In his latest missive he accuses Magwaza-Msibi of “driving away votes” from the IFP.

What of Magwaza-Msibi? She may win her case and get the IFP to hold its elective conference. She may also make Buthelezi’s worst nightmare come true by displacing him as leader of the IFP.

But will she hand over the IFP on a silver platter to the ANC? At this stage it is hard to tell.

There is speculation that if Magwaza-Msibi does not get elected as the IFP’s new leader she may start her own party.

The political landscape is littered with failed break-away parties and the lady herself has denied that she will do this.

Magwaza Msibi is a charismatic women. There seems no chance she will be thrown out into the wilderness; she has a following and is respected as a politician.

Perhaps, as in the last courtroom battle which paved the way for Zuma to become president of the country, the way is being prepared for another presidential hopeful.

However, a worrying underlying concern is the fallout from this power struggle.

We live in a province where previous elections have been marred by violence. Nobody wants to see history repeat itself.

Isn’t it time for real leaders to stand up or stand down!

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