How is your party dealing with the ANC’s growing popularity in KwaZulu-Natal since Jacob Zuma became the leader of the ANC and South Africa?
There have been a lot of blunders since President Zuma took over – corruption in the ANC makes people think twice. Nkandlagate has made people realise that corruption is a cancer, and they are joining us in numbers. Our goal is to take the province and serve the people of KwaZulu-Natal. If we fail, we will still replace the Inkatha Freedom Party as the official opposition in the province.
What do you say to Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s charge that you are an ANC project, sent to destroy the Inkatha Freedom Party?
That’s the story all the time; it’s propaganda to discourage people from coming to us. Buthelezi says we received money from the ANC, but we all know that’s not true. We were established because there was a political vacuum. People wanted a political party that will push for clean governance, not one that benefits the few.
And what about your dominance of the NFP? Is it your personal brand?
You always have that problem: when people talk about the NFP, they say Zanele. But we have other leaders in the party, and I’m glad. We’re ensuring that the party is not seen through one person. It’s not about Zanele, but all the members and the poor.
Is the NFP just another Zulu party? How do you overcome that perception in the rest of South Africa?
When we formed the party, we announced it would be for all South Africans. We’ve been to all the provinces to introduce it, and we have structures throughout the country. We’re expecting 1.8-million votes nationally.
There has been a sharp rise in political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. Do members of your party have a hand in it?
No, we don’t. Why do you ask?
Isn’t it true that an NFP leader shot and killed a member of the IFP in front of television cameras outside Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court in 2012?
That shooting was unfortunate, but we denounced it and said the law must take its course. But if you look at the video of that incident, you will realise that our member was provoked. The case went to court and he was found not guilty, because he was defending himself.
ANC members marched to your office recently to protest against corruption in the Zululand municipality which you lead. Are you corrupt?
Since I became mayor the council has never received a qualified audit. The march was just an election ploy by the ANC, which is running the municipality with us. If they say we are corrupt, it means they are corrupt as well. I think the intention of the march was to shift attention from Nkandlagate.
How do men in the NFP feel about having a woman leader? Isn’t it difficult being a female leader in a province like KwaZulu-Natal?
It’s very difficult. The patriarchy is still very high; there are people who believe women can’t be like men. But there are also men who are progressive. Men in the NFP give me the respect any leader deserves. I have been working with traditional leaders and they appreciate my work and respect me.
Wouldn’t it have been better for you and the province if you hadn’t left the IFP?
I don’t regret it at all – not even a single day. I always thank Mntwana [Buthelezi] for having targeted me for two years while I was still in the IFP. God wanted me to go through this path.
You appear to have presidential ambitions. Do you think South Africa is ready for a woman president?
Some believe a woman is not suitable as president, but others are realising women can do much better than men. As I said, I’ve been a mayor for 15 years and have never received a qualified report. I’ve done things that people think can’t be done by a municipality.