‘People want what is different’

2011-01-21 00:00

THE adage “united we stand, divided we fall,” was amply demonstrated during Wednesday’s by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal when the division-plagued Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) lost two of its previously-held wards out of four that were contested.

The ANC won previous IFP wards in Estcourt (ward 3), and Umlalazi in Eshowe (ward 12) and went on to retain ward 10 under Umzumbe municipality. The IFP only managed to retain its ward under the KwaHlabisa Municipality.

If Wednesday’s by–elections — the last before the country holds municipal elections, probably in May — could be used to gauge the effects brought about by internal squabbles within the IFP, the province’s opposition party should start preparing itself to lose a lot of wards and possible municipalities to its arch-rivals, the ANC, during the coming municipality elections.

The IFP is divided into those who support its national chairperson Zanele “VZ” Magwaza-Msibi for leadership of the party and those who want current leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi to continue leading the party. During the by-elections, candidates who supported Magwaza-Magwaza-Msibi stood as independents thereby splitting votes that could have gone to the IFP.

In ward three of Estcourt for instance -— a ward that was comfortably won by the expelled IFP Umtshezi mayor, Maliyakhe Lymon Shelembe during the 2006 elections — ANC candidate Bongani Dlamini won with 810 votes, while IFP’s Mtshengiseni Zulu got 667 votes, and independent candidate Sihle Mbhele got 627.

In a statement issued by ANC provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala yesterday, he said the victory gives the ANC confidence “that we will be able to maintain our municipalities while advancing into places where we have never won before. Our major focus now is on the forthcoming local government. We call on all people to get IDs and register during the February fifth and sixth registration weekend …Your voice is important and it will determine the future,” Zikalala said.

IFP national organiser, Albert Mncwango, applauded the fact that the IFP captured more votes than the “independent” candidates “who in all but name, represented a breakaway party IFP national chairperson is contemplating. All KaMagwaza-Msibi has managed to do in Estcourt and Eshowe was to hand these former IFP strongholds to the ANC without seriously challenging the IFP through her own breakaway candidates.

“While the IFP is pleased with the by-election result in Hlabisa where it trounced all other candidates, it is distressed by the results in Eshowe and Estcourt,” Mncwango said.

Expelled Umtshezi mayor Shelembe said, the results were “impressive” as it showed that his expulsion led to the IFP losing votes.

“The fact that the independent candidate got so many votes while he did not have a manifesto or campaigning tools and resources, shows that people want what is different other than the IFP or the ANC.”

Shelembe acknowledged that most of his supporters voted for the independent candidate.

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