THE IFP took its election campaign to the back yard of President Jacob Zuma at Nxamalala, Nkandla, yesterday in an apparent attempt to test the waters in Zuma’s village ahead of a major rally to be addressed by IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi next Sunday. Yesterday, the IFP, under the watchful eye of the police, launched four branches and welcomed about 200 members from the ANC and the NFP. Apart from showcasing its new members, the party dished out food parcels containing 10 kg rice, milk powder and tea bags. The IFP’s electioneering in Nkandla happened two weeks after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, were blocked by ANC members when they went to hand over a newly built house to a destitute family living near Zuma’s homestead. That incident involving ANC members against their EFF counterparts prompted the ruling party last week to commit to free political activity and ordered its regional leaders to ensure similar incidents did not happen again in KwaZulu-Natal. Yesterday, the IFP event went ahead without incident despite taking place about one kilometre from Zuma’s controversial homestead. As early as 10 am, about five police vehicles were at the sports ground where the rally was held. Later, a tent was packed with more than 2 000 people. Six other police vehicles, including a water canon, were initially posted near the police station. A handful of ANC members — in their yellow T-shirts with Zuma’s face — were spotted at a shop a few kilometres away from the IFP event. IFP national chairperson Blessed Gwala said they went to the village to inaugurate four branches in the IFP-controlled Ward 14. The IFP took control of the municipality from the ANC-NFP coalition last year after it won a by-election in Zuma’s home ward. “We welcome ANC members who joined the IFP, as well as NFP members who were hoodwinked some time back and have returned to the IFP,” Gwala said. He said the IFP was reclaiming its position in KZN and national politics. “I can tell you that we are going to go throughout the country. We are going to every corner to make sure that the IFP wins the elections [in KZN].” Gwala said the ANC could not repeat yesterday what it had done to the EFF two weeks ago. “The ANC can’t make such an open blunder because we are in an open society and the constitution of the country is clear that all political parties can campaign anywhere.” He insisted that the days of political intolerance were over. Local ANC leader Sibongiseni Bhengu said the IFP was welcome to campaign in Nkandla. “As the ANC, we don’t have a problem with that. People can campaign anywhere because they have a right to do so,” Bhengu said. “The ANC [in Nkandla’s Ward 14] has its own activity to conduct door-to-door campaigning ahead of February 8 and 9 to encourage people to register and also recruit new membership,” he said. Bhengu also said their records showed no ANC members in their branch had defected to the IFP. The NFP was not immediately available for comment.