Leadership battle overtakes Minority Front

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Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, the embattled Minority Front leader says she will not be removed from her position without a fight. Picture: S'bonelo Ngcobo

Durban - The knives are out for Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, but the embattled Minority Front leader said yesterday that she would not be removed without a fight.

At stake is her political future – and the party founded by her late husband, Amichand Rajbansi.

Thakur-Rajbansi confirmed in an interview that there was a plot to topple her, by a man whose ambitions, she said, her late husband could not satisfy.

She did not name the figure, but could be referring to arch rival, Roy Bhoola, who is challenging her leadership in the Western Cape High Court. It could also be her stepson Vimal Rajbansi, who wants her to step down.

Her vow to stay in power comes a week after Vimal and his mother, Asha Devi, announced to media that they wanted to help rescue Rajbansi’s legacy.

Some of Thakur-Rajbansi’s detractors have publicly complained about the way the party’s leaders were appointed, calling for democratic elections. Describing herself as a “realist”, she welcomed a party elective conference – but not before the 2014 elections.

But MF councillors would have none of it. Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior party members said they were pushing for an elective conference before the end of the year.

If it did not take place, they have threatened to reveal information about Thakur-Rajbansi, claiming it would force her to quit politics.

“We have been compiling a dossier which contains damning information against Shameen. It regards her personal life and the financial affairs of the party,” said one party member.

“We do not want to use it. But she may force us to. This is not a threat. It’s the only way to make the Minority Front survive and clean up its tainted image.”

Thakur-Rajbansi said she was unaware of any plans or discussions for an elective conference before 2014.

A lot of restructuring had to take place before it, she said.

She also blamed the derailing of the party’s national executive committee for the delay in holding the conference sooner.

“Since Mr Rajbansi passed on, I have opened 14 new offices in the province. I believe when the elective conference takes places it should be fully inclusive,” she said. “And it will take place at the appropriate time, not now.”

Comeback

She remained tight-lipped about Vimal, and Rajbansi’s first wife making a possible comeback to politics.

When asked if she knew who was behind the plot to oust her as party leader, Thakur-Rajbansi said: “This whole saga revolves around one man’s ambitions which our late leader could not satisfy.

“The ballot box is the only indicator who brings in the seats. This is based on the hard and honest work on the ground. In life, it is important to understand our limitations and constraints no matter how motivated we are.”

Party sources said they had been contacted by Vimal Rajbansi on several occasions, indicating his interest in the party’s affairs.

“I have spoken to Vimal and he expressed concern the party was losing ground. He believes he has what it takes to restore the credibility of the Minority Front,” one source said. “But, the members are concerned about this move too. Do we want the top structure of the party to be open to only Rajbansi family members?”

The source said while Vimal was keen to take over from his father, his mother would be his adviser.

“Like the members of the party, Vimal and Asha Devi are also calling for transparency. As a priority, we are calling for a full financial audit and the formation of a management committee.”

The source claimed Thakur-Rajbansi was rarely seen at the party’s head office in Chatsworth, and said the party would suffer at the polls in the next elections.

“Change has to take place now and not in 2014. Shameen has to ring in the changes or the party may never recover.”

Vimal Rajbansi said he had given his stepmother eight months to prove her political mettle, and she had failed.

“She must go. She is an irresponsible leader. She must also give up her executorship to our family trust. She tells everyone that my father groomed her to take over as party leader. That’s hogwash. He trained all his councillors.

“In fact, people like Roy Bhoola and Patrick Pillay are sharp thinkers like my dad. They would be ideally suited to lead the party.”

Rajbansi said he and his mother were not wanting to make a political comeback.

“My father slaved for 57 years to build the party. We want to rescue his legacy before it is too late,” he said. “We will not force our way in. If we are invited by the majority to join the ranks of the party, we will.”

Rajbansi said he supported the call for a financial audit.

“Opening 14 offices does not help. It just means employing unnecessary people to run it. In fact she [Thakur-Rajbansi] now has more offices than the DA,” he said.

“I have been in discussions with the councillors for over two months. They have not been getting any funding to keep the work going. If Shameen does not step down, minority communities will suffer and my father’s hard work will go down the drain.

“I cannot sit back and watch that happen.” - Daily News


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