/ 9 March 2024

As the Elephants head for Moses Mabhida, the ANC’s firepools come home to roost

Safrica Politics Election Vote
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Velenkosini Hlabisa waves to supporters outside the Imbaliyamazulu Primary School voting station during a voter registration campaign. Photo: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP


All eyes are on Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium for this Sunday’s big fixture.

It’s not a Premier Soccer League game we’re waiting for but the latest round in the pre-election fill-up-the-stadium challenge that has been played in the Mabhida precinct since 10 February.

This time, it’s the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) that is promising to pack Mabhida for its national and provincial elections manifesto launch; a mega show of strength in a province it hopes to win back from the ANC on 29 May.

The Elephants will be hoping to pull as big a crowd as the ANC did a couple of weeks ago — and a larger one than the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) managed to muster when they kicked off the tournament two months back.

They’re likely to get it right.

Mabhida is a home fixture for the IFP, so there won’t be much need to bus in people from beyond the province.

The IFP has an organisational memory — and structures — dating back to the mid-1970s in its locker,  which means the capacity to get the punters into the stands is there.

The party is also coming off the back of a year of wins in municipal by-elections — and a series of successful manifesto build-up events — both of which come with their own momentum.

So does shedding the image of being a party of head-breakers.

The IFP leadership knows this is the closest it has been to taking back the province since they lost it to the ANC in 2004 and to making its way back into national government, so they will be throwing everything into packing Mabhida to the rafters come Sunday.

The latest round of breakaways from the ANC can only strengthen the IFP’s position going into the elections in the province and its premier candidate, King Cetshwayo district mayor Thami Ntuli, stands a decent chance this time around.

All eyes are on Mabhida — and on the clock — which is running down for the political parties wanting to contest the poll.

It’s make-or-break Friday for the new entrants, who need to sign up — and pay up — by the time the clock strikes midnight.

The earliest casualty has been Roger Jardine’s outfit, which decided — or rather whose funders decided — to bail on this year’s elections.

Change starts … just now.

The firepools have come home to roost, again, for former police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

Nhleko resigned from the ANC ahead of the submission of the party’s parliamentary lists to the Electoral Commission of South Africa on Friday.

He fired off a missive announcing that he had parted ways with the ANC this week, blaming his departure on the “new” leadership of the party who had strayed from its founding principles.

No surprises there.

The writing has been on the wall for Nhleko for some time now, so jumping before he was pushed makes all the sense in the world.

He was at the forefront of defending the indefensible when it came to the R240 million spent on extending former president Jacob Zuma’s private homestead, back when he was minister of police.

Today, Nhleko is out of step with the dominant faction in the ANC — a liability, actually — so he was never going to be one of the big names with dodgy form who we are told made it onto the list, state capture and renewal be damned.

There was no MP’s pay cheque waiting for Nhleko after 29 May, so leaving on his own terms — rather than waiting for ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula to gleefully pull the trigger — made sense.

Going, going, gone.

Nhleko is in a better position than most who won’t pass muster for the ANC’s parliamentary lists.

Not as good a position as fellow Zuma-era police minister Nathi Mthethwa — he got to take his R22 million glow-in-the-dark flagpole and his R54 million orchestra with him to the embassy in Paris — but better than most of those ANC MPs who won’t have jobs in June.

Zuma is no doubt waiting, with open arms, to welcome Nhleko to the ranks of the  uMkhonto weSizwe party and offer him a second bite at the parliamentary cherry.

Should that fail, the former police minister and prisons commissioner also has lots of degrees to his name, as well as extensive experience in selling firepools.

If Nhleko doesn’t secure a second gig getting paid by the state to mumble inanities, a new career marketing strategic aquatic installations awaits.

It’s never too late to make a fresh start.