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Minority Front leader Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi has admitted that the leadership squabble in the party has hurt it, but vowed the MF is bouncing back, with the work to reverse this trend already in motion.
In an interview with the Daily News following a settlement reached between her and MF MP Roy Bhoola, Thakur-Rajbansi said it would be too early to write off the MF as it could still spring a few surprises.
Following the death of Amichand Rajbansi in December 2011, the party was paralysed by a nasty dispute bet-ween Bhoola and Thakur-Rajbansi over who should take over the reins.
One faction led by Bhoola held its own conference in November 2012, where it declared the Member of Parliament as leader, while those supporting Thakur-Rajbansi claimed the conference infringed the party constitution and that Raj-bansi’s widow remained the legitimate leader.
This sparked a legal battle – only resolved last month – when both parties reached an out of court settlement, the details of which have been kept under wraps.
The settlement confirms Thakur-Rajbansi as party leader, while Bhoola would also help with organisational work.
It is understood that Bhoola was guaranteed that he would not be removed as MP before his term comes to an end.
Thakur-Rajbansi denied that Bhoola had been promised any position in the party.
Party insiders have claimed that the ANC played a major part in brokering the deal. The ANC, they claimed, was worried that any paralysis in the MF could bolster DA support in Indian communities.
Asked about this, Thakur-Rajbansi said: “The ANC has been supportive of our efforts at unity… We, however, have always jealously guarded our independence and the interests of our constituency. In fact, it is very important that we retain our ability to be critical of the ANC where necessary”.
The DA seemed to have capitalised on the MF’s misfortunes. Last year the DA snatched eThekwini’s ward 70 from the MF after Ismail Cassimjee resigned as MF councillor and joined the DA, forcing a by-election which the DA won.
Thakur-Rajbansi said the leadership squabbles had distracted their attention as leaders of the MF, while it also meant the party could not function well because the IEC froze its financial allocations.
“However, despite no campaign, we still won a significant percentage. There was also a low poll turn-out, which means our supporters did not vote.”
She accused the DA of trying to deceive MF supporters. Some in the MF have claimed that the DA has been targeting some MF councillors, luring them with a promise that should they join the DA they would be guaranteed a PR seat if they failed to retain their ward seats in by-elections.
Provincial DA leader Sizwe Mchunu denied this, but said his party would engage with whoever. But Thakur-Rajbansi hit out at the DA, saying: “The DA will try, but will not succeed. Our people will not be fooled by the DA’s deception. The oppressor cannot hide its true character, no matter how much cosmetics they put on.”
Despite its relevance being put under scrutiny, ThakurRajbansi said her party was even more relevant now.
The ANC is still seen as a black party while the DA is seen as a white party, she claimed, adding the MF was the only voice for Indians.
The settlement was reached after both realised the interests of the MF were “bigger than any other issue. We are both seasoned activists and have the maturity and commitment to deal with matters professionally. We accept each other’s determination to build the party to new heights”, she said.