The fledgling National Freedom Party (NFP) has, in effect, seized control of the highly influential Zululand District Municipality from the IFP without a single vote being cast.
Only a day after the party was unveiled in Durban by its leader, former IFP national chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, the bulk of the IFP councillors and ward and constituency leaders in Nongoma, Ulundi and Dumbe – the major centres within the municipality – had resigned from the IFP and joined the NFP.
Magwaza-Msibi, escorted by a large police contingent, held a series of meetings with activists and local level leaders in Ulundi and Nongoma, and conducted walkabouts in both towns, historically strongholds of the IFP, which took more than 80% of the vote in the last national and provincial elections.
Floor-crossing Earlier today, at a meeting in a community hall at Nongoma, 25 of the IFP’s 35 sitting councillors announced their move to the NFP, while all of its constituency chairperson made public their decision to do the same.
They were joined by colleagues from Dumbe, where seven of the nine IFP councillors defected to the new party. At Ulundi, where Magwaza-Msibi was based for eight years while mayor of Zululand, 18 of 24 constituency chairpersons crossed to the NFP, with 15 councillors following suite.
Mpiyakhe Hlatshwayo, the mayor of Dumbe, said that while the IFP could fire the proportional representation councillors, if it fired their ward counterparts there would be no opportunity to hold by-elections as there was no time to do so before the local government poll.
“We have taken a position that those councillors who are not fired will stay in place but campaign for the NFP.
They will hit the campaign trail with the rest of us.
We have been abused for dealing with corrupt people and have found the IFP leadership siding with those who are corrupt against us simply because we support VZ (the “Friends of VZ” group that supports Magwaza-Msibi),’’ Hlatshwayo said.
More to come While IFP leaders tried to downplay the effect of Magwaza-Msibi’s departure, she and her supporters have declared their intent to wrest control of the district municipality from the IFP, which has managed to stave off a series of challenges from the ANC since 1994.
Ordinary residents of the municipality, where she is regarded as the driving force behind delivery of basic services including water and electricity, turned out in numbers to see her return to the power base from which she was removed by the IFP after falling foul of IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Nqobile Mngomezulu, a 22-year-old youth activist from Ulundi who voted for the first time in 2009, said she had decided to move to the NFP because of a desire for the IFP to change.
“We have wanted change in the party for a long time but the leaders do not want this kind of progress.
Njinji (her clan name) was treated badly for wanting change.
We have to follow her if we want progress and change here,” Mngomezulu said.
‘A mammoth task’ Magwaza-Msibi dismissed claims by the IFP that she is being funded by the ANC and backed by the ruling party.
“I have always loved the IFP and nobody has worked harder for the IFP than me.
It was the IFP which took me away from here.
It was the IFP who banned me from meetings.
Where is the ANC in this?’’ she said.
She called on the defecting IFP activists to act as volunteers for the NFP, saying the task ahead of them was “mammoth”.
“We have to work like we’ve never worked before if we are to take the local government elections. We cannot sleep.
It is a challenge but we are up to it,’’ she said.
Tomorrow Magwaza-Msibi moves to the Eastern Cape, where she will mobilise support for the new party among IFP members.
Thereafter she goes to Limpopo before returning to KwaZulu-Natal for further local level meetings ahead of the official NFP launch on February 12.