The demise of the National Freedom Party (NFP) is likely to benefit the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) more than any other political party in KwaZulu-Natal.
Most NFP supporters would identify more with the IFP than with the ANC because of how the former was formed, said political analyst Protas Madlala.
“Remember, the NFP and IFP never had serious differences except that [Zanele] kaMagwaza-Msibi wanted to replace Mangosuthu [Buthelezi] as president of the IFP,” said Madlala.
The new party, led by kaMa-gwaza-Msibi, came to the political scene as a breakaway faction of the IFP to contest the 2011 local elections.
As it stands, the NFP will not be contesting the municipal elections on August 3 after the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) disqualified it for having failed to pay the required deposit on time.
It has threatened to take the fight to the Constitutional Court after the electoral court dismissed its application to appeal the IEC’s decision.
The NFP has more than 220 ward councillors nationwide and governs the Zululand District Municipality. The party also formed coalitions with the ANC in more than 20 municipalities after the 2011 poll.
Madlala said such coalitions were merely a “marriage of convenience” and that most NFP leaders were not happy associating with the ANC.
IFP spokesperson Mbongeleni Mazibuko said the fact that the NFP was not contesting the elections had no bearing on how the IFP would perform in KwaZulu-Natal. He claimed the ANC’s and NFP’s influence in the province had declined, whereas the IFP’s popularity had increased. “We were going to win most of the ANC-controlled wards even if the NFP was contesting the elections,” he said.
In 2012 the ANC lost control in the Nkandla municipality, home to President Jacob Zuma, where it had governed in a coalition with the NFP. The IFP won a by-election after NFP councillors revolted against the coalition.
But ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Super Zuma dismissed suggestions that the NFP’s absence would affect the ANC. He claimed the ANC had gained more support in areas where it previously governed in a coalition and that this time around it would not need a coalition to win.
“We are actually looking at contesting just as the ANC; we are not planning any coalitions,” said Zuma.
Both the IFP and the ANC said the IEC’s decision to disqualify the NFP was a violation of people’s constitutional right to vote for a political party of their choice. But the parties were quick to woo NFP supporters who may be looking for a new home.
“We would [welcome] even leaders of the NFP if they want to come back to the IFP,” said Mazibuko.
Last weekend, senior NFP leaders – including chairperson Maliyakhe Shelembe, deputy chairperson Sicelo Mabika and general secretary Nhlanhla Khubisa – resigned after the electoral court dismissed the party’s application to set aside the IEC’s decision.
NFP spokesperson Sabelo Sigubu said the party had invested a lot of money and time in campaigning, and threatened that it would make the country ungovernable if it was barred from participating in the elections.
Madlala said kaMagwaza-Msibi’s prolonged absence as a result of illness had created a leadership vacuum in the party and had given birth to infighting that has threatened to tear the NFP apart.
“Without kaMagwaza-Msibi, there is no NFP. I think we should write the obituary because the NFP won’t survive any longer,” said Madlala.
KaMagwaza-Msibi said the NFP did not revolve around her and would continue to play an important role in local politics without her.
“The future prospects of this party are very bright. The amount and the calibre of young leaders we have is tremendous and when I look at them I get a sense of pride and satisfaction that this party will be in good hands when not only I leave but when all of us, as the current leadership, vacate our positions,” she said.
The NFP is the second party to be disqualified from the local elections. The Pan Africanist Congress was also barred from contesting the poll for failing to comply with participation requirements.