/ 18 December 2013

IFP denies involvement with new opposition coalition

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Not even a day after five opposition parties formed a coalition to challenge the ANC at next year's polls, one of them has distanced itself from the formation.

On Wednesday, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) announced it will not be part of the "new party" to contest the 2014 elections.

IFP secretary general Sibongile Nkomo said the party leadership was shocked to learn from the media that it had entered into a formal coalition, called the Collective for Democracy, to contest the 2014 national and provincial elections.

She said the party's national council, which is the IFP's highest decision-making body, has in the past engaged in extensive discussions on multiparty cooperation politics, the future of it in South Africa and the IFP's role in such a forum.

"Members of the national council were presented with two models of cooperation which they considered.

"One such model was that opposition parties in Parliament cooperate with each other, while maintaining their own identities and philosophies. Parties would then wait for the outcome of the elections to decide on how they could form alliances in different provinces,” she said.

Members had voted unanimously in favour of this option, which is to retain the current system of cooperation between opposition parties, and has seen various parties come together on specific issues, such as opposition to the Protection of State Information Bill and the fight against corruption.

"This remains our position."

No blessing
Nkomo said the IFP had not given its blessing for a new party to be formed, nor had it agreed to be part of a formal opposition coalition.

In the past, the IFP has experienced severe challenges when entering into formal coalitions, said Nkomo.

"For example, in KwaZulu-Natal the IFP contested the 2004 elections in coalition with the Democratic Alliance, in the Coalition For Change."

She said the more than 250 000 spoilt ballots indicated the depth of confusion among grassroots supporters, who voted for both parties on the ballot paper. "This was to the IFP's detriment," she said.

But Congress of the People's (Cope) national spokesperson Johan Abrie said he was baffled by the IFP's "new position". Cope has been at the forefront of forming the coalition and its leader Mosiuoa Lekota is the chairperson of the Collective for Democracy.

Abrie insisted that the IFP, through Nkomo, has been an integral part of negotiations to form the coalition.

"They were certainly part of it," he said.

Signing ceremony
He said that the IFP didn't pitch at the signing ceremony on Tuesday in Johannesburg but they have been part of the process leading to the signing ceremony.

"We were surprised when they didn't pitch yesterday, but we were waiting for them.

"They had actually asked for the postponement; we were all in Cape Town last Monday to sign, but it was the IFP that suggested that we should postpone the signing until after the mourning period for Madiba," said Abrie.

Cope issued a press statement on December 8, announcing that opposition parties were to going to meet and sign a memorandum of understanding the following day concerning the 2014 general elections.

Later that night, they announced that the meeting had been cancelled.

Sapa reported on Tuesday that five opposition parties had formed the coalition

The report said the new party is made up of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Cope, the Freedom Front Plus, the IFP, and the United Christian Democratic Party.