Will ‘VZ’ succeed?

2011-01-31 00:00

IT has been a week of non-communication, miscommunication and even disinformation.

The Sunday newspapers carried stories about the communication bungle over former president Nelson Mandela’s health.

It seems the root cause was friction between the family, the government and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The problem was eventually sorted out, resulting in Friday’s televised broadcast to the nation.

Finally knowing what was going seemed to have had a calming effect after the near hysteria that swept across the nation, and it put an end to the flurry of misinformed tweets and SMSes doing the rounds.

While all of this was going on, we here in the kingdom by the sea were caught up in our own drama. Former Inkatha Freedom Party chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi announced the formation of the New Freedom Party.

One of the first missives journalists received from the IFP was a copy of an allegedly confidential ANC memo that had been anonymously faxed to the party.

The badly written memo gave rise to suspicions that it could be nothing more than mischief-making.

According to the memo, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) had taken a decision to bring Magwaza-Msibi into its fold.

It went on to say that “although the NEC is scaptical (sic) about it, because this might cause a recipe for violence between the two parties in the province, Mrs Magwaza-Msibi has accepted being appointed as MEC”.

Of course all the protagonists mentioned in the memo denied its authenticity.

IFP leader Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi continued the theme in his weekly newsletter. He hints of knowing more about the collusion between his party’s erstwhile chairperson and the ANC.

He writes, “Throughout this saga I have been castigated for pointing out that some leaders in the ANC are involved in fomenting the IFP’s ructions, and even bank-rolling the activities of the ‘Friends of VZ’.

“But this is not idle finger-pointing, nor is it a ploy to distract attention from our problems.

“We have concrete evidence, which I took to the president of the ANC in July last year, and then to the deputy president in August.”

It has yet to be seen whether the IFP leader will reveal the evidence he sent to President Jacob Zuma. One thing to be said about Buthelezi is that he has a way with words.

Take the following comment in his newsletter: “With a beauty contestant’s practised look of surprise, Magwaza-Msibi announced on Tuesday that she never, in her wildest dreams, thought she would be launching her own party.

“Except that it was already registered with the Independent Electoral Commission on October 29, 2010, just a day before Magwaza-Msibi was scheduled to appear before a disciplinary hearing.”

Well said, but one wonders when the IFP will stop the finger-pointing and take a long hard look at itself.

At issue now is whether Magwaza-Msibi’s NFP, South Africa’s latest splinter party, is likely to succeed.

This has given rise to heated debates in our office.

One of my colleagues is wildly enthusiastic over the new party, another sees it going nowhere.

My position is one of cautious optimism in the hope that South Africa’s multi-party democracy can be enriched.

Let’s give Magwaza-Msibi a chance to prove herself, I say, much to the irritation of my cynical colleague.

He believes she’s had her chance. She was tasked by the IFP to grow its membership before the 2009 national election and failed dismally because the IFP garnered fewer votes than before. Perhaps fewer people were prepared to join a party that had hardly changed for decades.

The debate stretched to look at splinter parties formed in disillusionment that got nowhere. It went on to raise the question of whether Magwaza-Msibi’s support base comes from the ranks of councillors wanting to extend their terms in office and whether this is yet another example of a party structured around a personality rather than policies.

One thing is certain, a test of the NFP’s standing will be the forthcoming local government elections.

Magwaza-Msibi’s strength, at least here in KwaZulu-Natal, is that she is in touch with communities at grassroots level.

It remains to be seen whether she will build on what she has started.

There are increasing signs that ordinary South Africans are growing comfortable with living in a democracy and are becoming more vocal.

Parties that succeed are those that are in touch with communities on the ground.This is one of the reasons for the success of the ANC with its extensive branch structures.

Citizens are demanding more and better communication from those in power.

We saw this with the debacle over Mandela’s hospitalisation. South Africans want to be spoken to, they also want to be heard. Good communication is certainly a positive way forward.


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