President Jacob Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla has fallen under the control of the IFP after the party snatched a ward in the municipality from the rival ANC in Wednesday’s by-election.
The IFP’s Thembinkosi Nxumalo won ward 4 in Nkandla with 54.9 percent, giving his party a clear majority in the previously hung council.
The seat was left vacant after the death of ANC councillor Bongumenzi Ngcobo, 47, who was also the speaker at the municipality.
He died in October after having spent four weeks on life support at a local hospital.
At the time, the Daily News reported there were concerns that Ngcobo could have been poisoned.
The IFP’s victory in ward 4 brings the number of IFP seats in the 27-member council to 14, meaning that the shaky NFP-ANC coalition can no longer control the municipality.
After losing the seat, the ANC is now left with 10 seats, while the NFP has three.
An IFP councillor is expected to be elected Nkandla mayor at a special council meeting on Tuesday.
Nkandla is one of 19 municipalities that were left hung after the local government elections last year, and it has since been co-governed by the NFP-ANC coalition.
Recently, relations between the two coalition partners in the council soured, which resulted in the NFP jumping into bed with the IFP to oust ANC mayor Zandile Mncadi-Mpanza.
It was not clear whether the IFP would offer any positions to the NFP.
The IFP leader in the council, Thami Ntuli, said his party’s victory in ward 4 was proof that Nkandla residents had never wanted the ANC-NFP coalition.
“Even in the last election, the majority had voted for the IFP, but that was not enough for a clear majority. This meant the coalition between the NFP and ANC went against the will of that majority, but now the people have spoken.”
Blessed Gwala, leader of the IFP in the provincial legislature, said his party was excited about the result and looking forward to the broader consequences of the ward 4 win.
He said the Nkandla victory was a “particularly sweet one” as it was Zuma’s hometown.
Referring to the recent controversy surrounding the upgrades to the president’s Nkandla home, he said: “The people of Nkandla can obviously tell the difference between community development and service delivery for all as opposed to individual development and self-service.”
It is alleged that about R250 million of public funds was used for upgrades to Zuma’s home.
On Thursday, Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi announced that a departmental investigation into Nkandlagate would be delayed by about a week.
Earlier this week, he said the investigation would be released only after the ANC’s national conference, where Zuma is looking to get re-elected as president.
Nxesi – speaking during a visit to some infrastructure programmes in Durban – said investigators were tying up loose ends.
“We want to be comprehensive in dealing with issues, but once the report is ready, I will share the outcome of the investigation,” he said.
The IFP victory at Nkandla means it now controls three municipalities in the province.
After the local government elections last year, the IFP was only left in control of Ulundi and Msinga.
Meanwhile, the IFP has also won wards in Hlabisa and ward 39 at KwaMashu hostel.
The Hlabisa ward was previously under the control of the NFP.