South Africa’s two largest political parties, the ANC and the DA, were tripping over themselves on Tuesday to prove that they had been endorsed by a party that would for the most part not be on the ballot papers when the country’s voters go to the polls in the local government elections tomorrow.
The National Freedom Party (NFP) was excluded from the polls, with the exception of the Nquthu Local Municipality, after the party’s treasurer, Xolani Ndlovu, failed to pay the requisite registration fees to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in June.
In Durban the ANC’s provincial secretary Super Zuma held a press conference on Tuesday with the NFP’s national organizer Bonga Nzuza and the provincial chair of the NFP Womens Movement, Pertunia Happy Khuzwayo.
A statement was issued to journalists which read: “We are convening here today as the leadership of the ANC and NFP on the eve of local government elections to make an important announcement that the NFP has taken an important decision to vote with the ANC in these local government elections.”
Only once questioned by journalists did it emerge that this was an agreement that was only accepted by the NFP’s provincial leadership.
However, barely an hour before the ANC press conference, the DA’s provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango held a press conference claiming that key members of the NFP Youth Movement had jumped ship and joined the DA.
The party also sent out a press release earlier in the morning that Jeremiah Mavundla, the NFP’s outgoing mayor for Nongoma, had endorsed the DA.
“The DA welcomes NFP Nongoma, and their sitting mayor, Jeremiah Bhekumthetho Mavundla’s endorsement and support of the Democratic Alliance in these local government elections. This follows consultation with NFP structures and branches,” said Mncwango.
This followed a press release the previous day in which the DA claimed that the eDumbe Local Municipality’s deputy mayor Sbusiso Mmhabela, who is the NFP’s leader in the area, had also endorsed the DA.
Nzuza and Khuzwayo were unable at the ANC press conference to explain why these two municipalities were endorsing the DA and not the ANC.
The decision to endorse another party has not been accepted in the NFP’s ranks and Nzuza conceded that the party’s Mpumulanga region and Eastern Cape region had taken the decision not to vote.
The national president of the NFP Women’s Movement Sindi Mashinini told ANA by phone from Mpumulanga Province that she was against giving her vote to any other party.
“I really disagree with that. It will be difficult to call them back to the NFP. In my province we are not doing this. My mind says no NFP, no vote.”
She said she found giving her vote to the ANC “problematic”.
“You will recall that we have coalitions with them. The NFP is always having a problem with the ANC.”
The NFP was formed in early 2011 when the then-national chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) quit.
Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi’s decision to take her supporters cost the IFP its stranglehold on KwaZulu-Natal’s rural municipalities at the 2011 local government elections.
The NFP secured 2.4% of the vote nationally, most of which was picked up in KwaZulu-Natal. This left it in control of 20 municipalities, either outright, but mostly in an uneasy coalition with the ANC, where the national leadership of both parties was often called in to resolve any impasse that developed at any of the coalition municipalities.
It subsequently lost control of Nkandla, as voters in President Jacob Zuma’s home town rejected the coalition and in a by-election the IFP again took control.
While there has been no public pronouncement by any of the party’s leaders about supporting the IFP – the party from where it originated – there have been many local reports that the IFP will benefit from the NFP’s failure to pay its fees.
It is a fact that has not been lost on the IFP, including its octogenarian leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who on Sunday urged NFP voters to come home. He denied that the IFP had played a role in Ndlovu’s failure to pay the fees for all NFP candidates, with the exception of the Nqutu Local Municipality.
Exactly what KaMagwaza-Msibi thinks is unclear, because the party’s leader suffered a debilitating stroke in 2014 which left her unable to read her speech at the launch of the party’s manifesto in Vryheid earlier this year – her only public appearance on the campaign trail this year.
According to the joint statement issued by the ANC and NFP on Tuesday there “are more than one million supporters who faced the prospects of watching the elections on the sidelines”.
In 2011 there were 644 917 ward and proportional representative votes cast for the party. A further 247 340 votes were cast for the party in the district municipalities.
Support for the NFP fell in the 2014 national elections, which saw it only pick up 1.57% of the vote, or 288 742 votes.
Despite the falling number of votes, both the DA and ANC would welcome what there is. Only when the results are out will it be clear who out of the ANC, DA and IFP were the most persuasive in getting the NFP rank and file to support them.
– African News Agency (ANA)