/ 21 June 2024

KwaZulu-Natal premier Thami Ntuli confident voters will not punish IFP over unity government participation

Thami Ntuli
Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal premier Thami Ntuli. Photo: Mbuso Kunene

Newly elected KwaZulu-Natal Premier Thami Ntuli says majority of the people in the province voted for the parties involved in the government of provincial unity and effectively rejected the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party.

Ntuli was reacting to the notion that the party, which is led by Jacob Zuma, should have been part of the government in the province as 45% of the people of KwaZulu-Natal voted for it. 

Speaking on the sidelines of President Cyril Ramaphosa‘s inauguration on Wednesday, Ntuli said, out of all the people who voted in KwaZulu-Natal, 55% did not vote for the MK party.

“Only 45% voted for them, so they did not win, and no political party got an outright majority in KwaZulu-Natal,” Ntuli said 

“What is important now is to focus on the agenda of service delivery, not the stories that the MK party won. If they did win, they should be governing the province of KwaZulu-Natal.”

Ntuli emerged as premier after his Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the ANC, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and National Freedom Party reached consensus to form a coalition to ensure that they kept the Economic Freedom Fighters and the MK party out of government.  

Ntuli said the MK party had been afforded an opportunity to negotiate to form a coalition but had not pitched up for the meeting, adding that trying to reach out to the party was “chaotic” because of the uncertainty of its leadership structure.

In the six months since Zuma announced that he would vote and campaign for the MK party, several people have been removed from leadership positions, including Jabulani Khumalo, the person who registered the organisation.

“What was unfortunate with them is that you were not certain who to talk to because you’d be called by so-and-so then the next time so-and-so is calling and saying this one is the wrong person,” Ntuli said.

“It was chaos and they ended up not pitching up for the meeting at which we waited for them as the IFP.”

There have also been suggestions that the IFP and the ANC will be punished in the 2026 local government elections, with voters rejecting them because they are working with the DA in the government of national unity without the involvement of the MK party.

But, in the by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday, the IFP won seven wards, the ANC two, the DA one and the MK party one. The EFF failed to win any of the wards that were contested.

Ntuli said he was convinced that, as the unity government began its work in the province, KwaZulu-Natal residents would be convinced of the unity of the parties. 

“No one will punish us because we will be doing what they want. People do not vote for politics but they vote for service delivery. When we do what they want, people will follow what we do and support us,” he said.

Conspicuously absent in Ntuli’s cabinet was former premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, who was placed 31 on the ANC’s provincial list. Only 14 people on the list made it to the provincial legislature.

Dube-Ncube did not attend Ntuli’s inauguration in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday but did attend that of Ramaphosa in Pretoria the following day.

The Mail & Guardian attempted to speak to her during Ramaphosa’s inauguration to hear thoughts on why she had been excluded from the new cabinet but she refused to talk. She has also reportedly turned down a diplomatic posting.

Ntuli defended his decision not to include Dube-Ncube in his cabinet, saying she was not a member of the legislature.

He vowed that, under his leadership, the people of KwaZulu-Natal would not be let down because of differences among the various parties co-governing the province.

“We will be working together — as you know, it’s a government of national unity — but I was categoric when I appointed the members of the executive council that though we come from different political parties, we must not let down the people of Kwa-Zulu Natal,” he said.

“I know when different political parties are co-governing, there will be times when there will be disagreements but we are committed, as all the parties in the [government of national unity], to sustain the wagon for the people of KZN because we must have a stable government.”