National Freedom Party leader Zanele ka Magwaza-Msibi kept President Jacob Zuma waiting for more than a week before accepting her appointment into his new national executive.
The presidency announced on Thursday that Zuma has appointed Magwaza-Msibi as the new deputy minister of science and technology. The announcement came 10 days after Zuma announced his Cabinet and deputy ministers on May 25.
While humbled by the appointment, Magwaza-Msibi said she will not sell out and will continue to raise the issues that the NFP is not comfortable with against the government.
She revealed that Zuma had called her on May 25, informing her about his intentions to appoint her as a deputy minister.
“I requested time to touch base with my leadership as our party is still young and fragile. I did that over this past weekend and then I informed the president that I will accept the appointment.
“I also told the president that my party will remain autonomous, that I am humbled but if I am appointed I will remain Zanele, I’ll remain with my own views and I will continue to discharge my responsibilities as the leader of the NFP,” she said.
Magwaza-Msibi vowed to use her time in government “to touch the people’s lives”.
“That is what we wanted as the NFP, to touch the people’s lives, to serve the people,” she said.
Magwaza-Msibi is a former mayor of the Zululand District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. She resigned following the May 7 general elections to take up a seat in the National Assembly, after her party became the fifth largest in Parliament, having received 288 742 (1.57%) of the national votes, which allowed it to get six seats in the National Assembly and another six in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.
It’s not the first time that Magwaza-Msibi will be working with the ANC. She became the mayor after the 2011 local government elections as a result of a coalition deal between the NFP and the ANC to co-govern 19 hung municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.
Her appointment by Zuma sees the continuation of an ANC government tradition to appoint at least one member of the opposition parties into the executive. In the previous administration, Zuma appointed the leader of the Freedom Front Plus Pieter Mulder as the deputy minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. He is yet to give an opposition leader a full ministerial position.
Magwaza-Msibi’s star and that of her party have been rising since 2011 when she broke away from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to form the NFP.
The party performed fairly well in the May 2011 local government elections, which it contested just months after its formation. Both the Democratic Alliance and the IFP criticised Magwaza-Msibi for accepting the appointment.
The IFP said it was not in the least surprised by Zuma’s appointment of Magwaza-Msibi to the national executive. IFP secretary general Sibongile Nkomo said, “This appointment is simply ‘payment’ by the ruling party to Magwaza-Msibi for her treachery.
“When she launched the NFP just before the 2011 local government elections, IFP president Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi gave chapter and verse in Parliament on how she was being used by the ANC in an effort to destroy our party. The evidence was all there. President Zuma himself didn’t dispute it.”
Nkomo said the appointment was, unfortunately, another case of politics coming before good governance. “This must be hard for those who voted for her in good faith. But now that the truth is out, we want them to know that there is always a home for people of goodwill who seek the best interests of our country. We hope they will come home to the IFP,” said Nkomo.
The DA’s KwaZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu said his party “has learnt with great disappointment” that Magwaza-Msibi has accepted the position.
“She is yet another opposition leader that has been co-opted by the ANC with an offer of a high-paying government position. Ms Magwazi-Msibi has effectively sold out her supporters. People voted for her party because they wanted an alternative to the ANC. If people wanted to support the ANC, they could just have voted for the ANC,” said Mchunu.
Magwaza-Msibi will take her oath of office at the Union Buildings on Friday.