TRIBUTE | Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi: The Imbokodo of opposition politics in KZN

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Late National Freedom Party leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi.
Late National Freedom Party leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi.
Daily Sun

Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi, who died earlier this month, opened the door for many other women not only in KwaZulu-Natal but also nationally, writes Nqobile Zulu.


Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi wore many hats. She was president of the National Freedom Party (NFP), a former school principal, and former chair principle of Inkatha Freedom Party. She was also the Deputy Minister of Science and Development from 2014 until  2019.

Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, her colleague, explained that she was like a mother to him. This description is befitting as she selflessly served the interests of the poorest of the poor in the country. 

Unfortunately, in November of 2014, she suffered a stroke affecting her mobility, from which she never fully recovered, but it didn't stop her from pursuing her initiatives.

KaMagwaza-Msibi died from a Covid-19 related illness in 6 September in a hospital in Umhlanga.

Selfless and committed   

Her legacy started at the young age, when she joined the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as a teenager in 1975. Magwaza-Msibi grew up in the IFP. She held many senior positions, including that of Mayor of Zululand District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. She was appointed in 2000 after the first local government elections in the new dispensation.

She was committed to serving the people, as well as being committed to doing her best. 

She was described as a selfless, committed and compassionate person. Emam mentioned that kaMagwaza-Msibi would not allow people to have their toilets 50 meters away from their house and that she wanted people to have water sanitation in the house, allowing them to live their humble lives with dignity.

KaMagwasa-Msibi first served as branch chairperson in 1976 in the Inkatha Freedom Party. After that, she joined the Youth and the Women's Brigade executive committee. In 1995, she was the only woman on the executive board of the Nongoma Transitional Local Council. KaMagwaza opened the door for many other women not only in KwaZulu-Natal but also nationally.

READ | Late NFP leader Zanele Magwaza-Msibi described as an exemplary leader

The following year, she was elected Chairperson of the Emakhosini Subregion, which comprised of Ulundi and Babanango. She was deputy chairperson of the Youth Brigade from 1998 until 2003. Later she became the national secretary of the Women's Brigade.

Inkatha Freedom Party national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa lauded kaMagwaza-Msibi's political ideals, saying they were "formed in the IFP from an early age". He added that "she served in our structures and was mentored by the founder and then-president of our party who recognised in her the passion to create social and economic justice for our country." 

Hlengwa said the IFP "benefitted from her leadership" when she served as its national chairperson, and the party "confidently advanced her as our premier candidate for KwaZulu-Natal in the 2009 national and provincial elections". This again speaks to the indomitable powerhouse that KaMagwaza was - a formidable force within IFP, enough to be seen as a good candidate for the Premier position challenging the ANCs Zweli Mkhize.

IFP split 

Hlengwa paid the ultimate tribute to Zanele KaMagwaza Msibi when he pointed out that the IFP party would not reflect on the tumultuous period between the IFP and NFP when the breakaway happened and the subsequent acrimony that followed.

"At a time like this, one would not wish to remember subsequent events. Suffice to say that when the Honourable Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi split from the IFP and formed the NFP, our founder maintained that the door would never be closed, despite the deep pain that had been caused.

"We therefore have no negative words as the nation grieves this loss of a former deputy minister, Member of Parliament, and political leader. We acknowledge the difficult time experienced by the NFP as its president struggled with ill health, and we extend our sympathies.," Hlengwa said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the party also mourned her death, labelling kaMagwaza-Msibi a "powerhouse politician". Gwarube added "We will remember her for her fearlessness and as a trailblazer for women in politics. We also commend her for her service to the country as a councillor, Member of Parliament, mayor and deputy minister." A powerful tribute from political rivals testifying to the "exemplary figure" that Zanele was in her political life. 

READ | NFP leader Magwaza-Msibi laid to rest

A little known fact about kaMagwaza-Msibi is that she was married to Mandla Msibi, an ANC politician who serves in the Mpumalanga legislature. 

She was an icon that inspired young black women everywhere, reminding them they had the capability of being much more than housewives and mothers. Her family home background speaks to this strong conviction and political maturity where both husband and wife served in senior positions in different political parties. 

Her leadership ability and strength of character was revealed when kaMagwaza-Msibi left the IFP to form the NFP which became a force to reckon with in KZN. Her newly formed party went on to gain a seat in Parliament.

For a woman to enter into prestigious and powerful circles, with the background that she had, took not only courage and determination, but resilience and confidence in her ability to make a change. 

Rest in peace the Imbokodo of opposition politics.

Dr Nqobile Zulu is the Research Manager at Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute. He has a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Witwatersrand.


Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News2

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