The face of the IFP’s future?

2010-03-03 00:00

SHE is currently well known as the darling of the youth and the enemy of the old guard within the ranks of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the official opposition party in the KwaZulu- Natal Legislature.

Some of her supporters, who are leaders in the party’s youth wing, the IFP Youth Brigade and its student wing, the South African Democratic Students Movement (Sadesmo), have been expelled or suspended from the party for singing her tunes in defiance of directives from leadership not to do so.

This is Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, the first woman national chairperson of the IFP and the outgoing mayor of the Zululand District Council.

Although she is now the hot candidate to take over leadership when party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi retires, fewer than five years ago Magwaza-Msibi suffered an embarrassing defeat when she contested the deputy national chairpersonship of the party during its last elective conference in 2005.

She was defeated by Stanley Dladla who has since retired from politics.

A year after this humiliating defeat, Magwaza-Msibi was nominated unopposed by the IFP’s National Council to replace Ziba Jiyane, who left the National Council to form the National Democratic Convention (Nadeco).

It was the youth brigade and Sadesmo that were instrumental in her defeat, since they favoured Dladla.

The election of IFP candidates through the secret ballot system of voting was being conducted for the first time since the party’s establishment in 1975.

The youth were opposing almost all candidates who were nominated by the National Council and a proposal was also made for members of the National Council to be elected directly by membership instead of being appointed by Buthelezi as was the norm.

During the start of the IFP’s national conference held at the Mandleni- Matleng Youth Camp in 2006, Magwaza-Msibi wept uncontrollably as Buthelezi called her to the podium to take her place on his right as the second- in-command in the party leadership.

According to the IFP constitution, the position of national chairperson is second to the presidency and should anything compel the president not to continue his or her term of office, the national chairperson leads the party until the national­ conference is held.

Shortly after the dismal performance by the IFP at the polls in April last year, the youth wing advocated a party leadership change.

They even suggested that heads must roll if the party wants to win back the province and do well in the local government elections next year.

Since Buthelezi made it clear during the 2005 conference that he is not going to stand for re-election, the Youth Brigade and Sadesmo nominated Magwaza­-Msibi to take over the reins. On the other hand, the party’s old guard nominated current general secretary Musa Zondi for the same position

Lobbying has seen IFP members divided into camps, with some blaming the old guard, including Buthelezi, for the dwindling party support.

The struggle between Magwaza-Msibi and Zondi is said to be the main reason the IFP postponed its elective conference, which was supposed to take place in July last year. However, the party said that it was postponed because members had not renewed their membership.

Magwaza-Msibi’s sudden popularity among the youth triggers questions as to how she won their favour all of a sudden­.

Is it because of her aggressive election campaigns which saw her canvass support for the IFP even in traditionally African National Congress strongholds such as the Transkei and the Free State?

Other analysts credit her popularity to her tireless work as the mayor of Zululand, a position that she has held for the past 10 years.

She was recently stripped of this position by the National Council which deployed her to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.

In October last year, she announced that she would decline nomination for the party’s presidency after reports of tensions between her, Buthelezi and the National Council.

Deputy IFP spokesperson Thulasizwe Buthelezi said that Zondi and Magwaza-Msibi have been urged to work actively to rally behind the president of the party and promote unity within the party at constituency level ahead of next year’s local government elections.

Despite Buthelezi’s insistence that he will not stand for re-election, the National Council has urged him to stand for the position to maintain unity in the party.

KwaZulu-Natal political analyst Dr Nompilo Sithole attributed Magwaza- Msibi’s sudden popularity with the youth to lack of change in the party.

“She is indeed energetic and charismatic, but the youth is using her to bring change to the party. For so long no change has been happening in the leadership. The youth will use anyone who is energetic­ and hard-working to be the agent of change. It’s a strategy they are using to force change,” said Sithole.

Regarding the lack of support from most veterans in the party, Sithole said: “Anyone who forces change on the current [IFP] leadership will face a formidable­ wall of senior people who subscribe to different ideas. It will be difficult­ for her to go it alone. She definitely needs support from some party veterans if she wants to succeed. The youth must help her with influencing the party’s senior leaders.”

Another independent political analyst, Protas Madlala, said that Magwaza-Msibi’s role during the election campaigns brought her the important youth loyalty.

“The IFP is a traditionalist party, but its young membership wants a dynamic and active leadership, which are the qualities [that] she’s got. She is a very open person and relates to anyone, despite their political background. She is a modernist but she respects tradition.

“The problem is that the IFP is still a traditionalist party. The youth have got no role in a traditionalist party anywhere in the world. They [traditionalist parties] believe that positions are for men and older people, not the youth,” Madlala said.

As the day for the IFP conference — which is expected to take place in May — draws closer, it remains to be seen whether there will be changes in the IFP leadership.

Buthelezi recently said that he is still consulting his family and friends before making a final decision to stand.

BORN and brought up at Makhosini, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is the fifth child of MaKhuzwayo Francisca and the late Siqheke Magwaza who died in the nineties.

“I love people with a sense of humour,” she says. “I am a workaholic and my great passion is to help needy people. This stems from the fact that I was born in a poor rural area where I had to travel a long distance to school,” she said.

“I hate people who gossip because such people don’t grow. I love my family and it’s a pity I don’t spend enough time with them.

She is married to Mandla Msibi, a senior official in the provincial Department of Education.

“The support I get from my husband is amazing. Since I don’t spend a lot of time at home, he is the one who looks after the home,” she said.

Magwaza-Msibi has two children — a boy and a girl – and she also looks after her husband’s children from previous relationships.

She holds a BA degree from the University of Zululand, a diploma in further education in management from the University of Natal and a diploma in local government from the University of Durban-Westville. She is a qualified teacher with a primary school teacher’s diploma from the KwaGqikazi College of Education, which she received in 1987. Before making politics her full-time occupation, she occupied three principal posts in KwaZulu-Natal.

She was appointed as the first mayor of the Zululand District Municipality in 2000 after the first local government elections in the new dispensation.

Having joined the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as a teenager in 1975, Magwaza-Msibi grew up within the IFP. She first served as branch chairperson in 1976. Thereafter, she joined the executive committee of the Youth and the Women’s Brigade 13 years later (1988). This was followed by the deputy chairperson’s position of the Youth Brigade (1998-2003) and later she became the national secretary of the Women’s Brigade.

Prior to this, she had occupied several senior administrative positions in the local and town councils, and played a leading role in numerous community projects. In 1995, she was the only woman on the executive board of the Nongoma Transitional Local Council. The following year (1996) she became chairperson of the Emakhosini sub-region, which comprised Ulundi and Babanango.

Other positions she has held include being a member of the executive committee of the Zululand Regional Council, deputy chairperson of the Zululand Regional Council (1997), chairperson of the Zululand Council, executive member of the Association of Regional Councils, executive member of the KwaZulu-Natal Local Government Association (Kwanaloga), chairperson of the Association of Regional Councils and an executive member of the KwaZulu- Natal Gender Equality Executive.

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