/ 17 November 2021

IFP-ANC agreement breaks deadlock in 21 hung KwaZulu-Natal councils

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The agreement was secured after talks between the ANC’s top leadership — including president Cyril Ramaphosa — and the IFP top brass, including its president emeritus, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / POOL / AFP)

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has announced a governance plan with the ANC in 21 hung municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. The plan will see the party that took the largest slice of the vote in each municipality governing, with the second largest acting as an official opposition.

Talks were still ongoing with regard to KwaZulu-Natal’s four economic hubs — Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Umhlathuze and Newcastle — where the discussions were “more complex” and where, in some cases, a straight ANC-IFP governance agreement would still not constitute enough votes to elect a mayor and committee.

The governance deal, announced by IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa on Wednesday, was “not a coalition”, but an agreement to “allow the party with the most votes to govern”’ in the hung municipalities to avoid a deadlock in forming new councils after the 1 November poll.

The agreement was secured after talks between the ANC’s top leadership — including President Cyril Ramaphosa — and the IFP top brass, including its president emeritus, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

It came after the IFP leadership said at the weekend that it would not join ANC-led coalitions in the province because of the governing party’s poor track record in honouring earlier agreements between the parties.

The ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) will meet to discuss the agreement — which has been endorsed by the IFP’s top body, its national council — only on Thursday 

Although the agreement falls short of being a coalition, it will see the IFP back ANC mayoral candidates to prevent a deadlock in hung councils and to allow governance to take place.

“This is not a coalition,” Hlabisa said. “A coalition places both parties in power, with a sharing of positions. What we are doing is allowing the party with the most votes to govern while the other party is relegated to the opposition.”

Municipalities have until 23 November to constitute their councils and elect mayors, deputy mayors, speakers and executive or mayoral committees. Intense negotiations have been taking place between the ANC and the IFP over hung municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The IFP’s vote is essential for the ANC to hope to control the Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and eThekwini metros, in which it failed to secure enough votes to govern alone.

Hlabisa said that, after “frank” discussions with the ANC at national level, the parties had produced the agreement, which neither party would “interfere with”. 

“We will, therefore, remain opponents, but opponents who have agreed to operate on the same principle for the sake of securing stability in local governance and affording our people service delivery,” he said.

The IFP would stick to its position that it would not ask the ANC to join it in governing municipalities in which it led but did not have a majority and would, instead, call on smaller parties to form a government with it, he added.

The IFP had also held talks with 16 other parties, all of which had different conditions they wanted in return for their support at coalition level.

Hlabisa said the party would also be inviting the smaller parties and independents in the municipalities in which it held the majority to work with and strengthen governance and service, as well as to “ensure the maturing of our democracy.”

Hlabisa said the IFP believed its performance in the councils that were about to be constituted would provide it with a platform to regain control of the province from the ANC in 2024.

The agreement would allow the party to remain a “formidable opponent”, which would demand government transparency and accountability in municipalities that it did not control.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said that he was unable to comment.

“The matter was handled by national and we will only get a report in the PEC tomorrow,”’ Ntombela said.

The agreement will be submitted to the ANC’s national executive committee for endorsement at the weekend.