NFP: How far can anger and T-shirts take it?

SUV exhaust fumes and free T-shirts are probably the only guarantees the electorate can be certain of from politicians.

In the case of supporters attending the launch of the National Freedom Party (NFP) at Durban’s Curries Fountain on Saturday, neither was in short supply.

The venerable stadium, with its long history of United Democratic Front, trade union and Umkhonto weSizwe rallies, was drenched in the loud orange of the NFP as about 5 000 supporters converged.

NFP president Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, formerly the national chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party, sped in and then paraded a spanking new SUV worth more than R600 000, courtesy of a new benefactor, Limpopo businesswoman Mulalo Makhathini.

But the bling is where the similarities with the political status quo end, according to Magwaza-Msibi.
Rather, as she unveiled the party’s manifesto and policy discussion documents, her party’s focus would be on “hard work” in winning the local government election and “responsive local government” afterwards.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Magwaza-Msibi said the NFP’s draft policy documents being circulated among party members were “informed by my experiences of the Zululand district municipality for eight years and, when the process is finished, by what ordinary people are experiencing in their daily lives”.

The draft document has a strong rural focus, aiming to encourage business investment in these areas with tax breaks for companies and calling for a deeper role for traditional leadership in the formulation and delivery of government projects.

Failing municipalities
“Most of the municipalities are failing because of the tensions between councillors and traditional leaders. If traditional leaders are involved more in matters affecting them and their communities, service delivery is much better in my experience,” said Magwaza-Msibi.

Independent political analyst Protas Madlala said, however, that the party’s policy document was a “superficial wish list” that was “low on substantive content”. “There is no distinctive competency that sets the NFP apart from what the other political parties are offering to voters. Many of the policies can be attributed to other parties, their drive to encourage micro-enterprises to create employment is already being done by the ANC in government, for example,” said Madlala.

“What I saw on Saturday [at the launch] was a lot of anger against [IFP president Mangosuthu] Buthelezi and not much else. As Cope has proved, anger will get you only so far,” said Madlala.

He was surprised that the NFP had made no mention of infrastructure development in rural areas, especially of roads, schools and clinics, in its policy draft.

But Magwaza-Msibi appeared buoyant this week. She held public meetings in Nongoma and surrounding areas on Tuesday and Wednesday and on Thursday she accepted more than 40 IFP councillors from “around the Zululand area” into her fold.

According to NFP national organiser Bonga Mshazi, before last Saturday’s launch the new party had attracted 234 292 paid-up members. NFP spokesperson Andile Biyela said “the majority of IFP members who have crossed over to the NFP are from the eThekwini, Zululand, uThukela and Pietermaritzburg areas”.

According to Limpopo NFP spokesperson Sipho Nkosi, recruitment in that province was ­thriving. “We have signed up about 900 members so far. People are fed up with slow service delivery and politicians visiting them only at election time,” he said. But IFP national organiser Albert Mncwango said the meteoric recruitment figures provided by the NFP were “absolute hogwash”.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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