Durban - The National Freedom Party gave the strongest indication yet of the threat it posed in next month’s general elections when it paraded recruits at the Beach Hotel in Durban on Monday.
The long list of new members included representatives of an Islamic theological body, hundreds of nurses, disgruntled former rival party councillors and retired soccer players.
Among them was a former ANC councillor for Vryheid, Andre Lotter, who ditched the ANC in January last year, after which his ward 22 was left without a councillor. He contested the ward in the by-election as an independent candidate. However, the election was constantly postponed because of Lotter’s legal challenge against the ANC and the IFP, in which he claimed the parties had bussed-in voters for the election.
Speaking to The Mercury on Monday, after being presented to the media, Lotter said he had joined the party because it was the only one that supported his court case.
“The IFP and ANC don’t respect democracy,” he said. “The DA is still perceived as a white people’s party. A party like this, with a dynamic leader, has a proven track record of delivering services to the poor in a rural area like Zululand, where I’m from. It was a natural decision,” he said.
Hundreds of nurses, many of whom said they were unemployed, packed the hotel’s conference venue eagerly awaiting NFP leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi’s arrival. They burst into song and dance as she strode into the venue flanked by bodyguards.
With them were retired soccer players Ishmael Maluleke and Vusumuzi Vilakazi, former strikers of Mamelodi Sundowns and Golden Arrows respectively.
The 300 000-member Islamic theological body, the Sunni Jamiatul Ulama of SA (SJU), also pledged its support.
SJU president Maulana Mohamed Yusuf Gaffar said the party decided to “pledge” its backing for the NFP after internal deliberations and “substantial engagement” with the party.
“We are of the opinion that the party’s manifesto aims and objectives are aligned with the principles of the SJU,” he said.
KaMagwaza-Msibi, while acknowledging that the ANC had “addressed some issues”, said the party had failed to deliver “essential services”.
“We have witnessed a weak administration, rampant corruption, neglect of health services and low standards of education that usually take us backwards, and an economy that fails to create job opportunities for the youth,” she said.
The NFP, she said, was in politics to stay, and was growing “rapidly every day”.
She urged the new recruits to “go out there” and rally support, adding that she was certain the NFP would be the official opposition in the province after the elections.