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National Freedom Party president Zanele Magwaza-Msibi has been accused of selling out her supporters by accepting her appointment by President Jacob Zuma as deputy minister of science and technology.
While the ANC reacted with delight at the announcement of her appointment, opposition parties were unhappy.
Soon after the news broke on Thursday, the DA and IFP said they were disappointed that Magwaza-Msibi had not refused the offer.
“She’s yet another opposition leader who has been co-opted by the ANC with an offer of a high-paying government position. Magwaza-Msibi has effectively sold out her supporters,” the DA’s KwaZulu-Natal leader, Sizwe Mchunu, said.
He accused the NFP of being more interested in securing positions for its leaders in the national government than in providing better governance.
IFP secretary-general Sibongile Nkomo said they were not surprised by the appointment as it was “payment” by the ANC to Magwaza-Msibi for her support in local government.
She said that when Magwaza-Msibi launched the NFP before the 2011 local government elections, IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi had given Parliament “chapter and verse” of how she was being used by the ANC to destroy the IFP.
“Her appointment now as a deputy minister in the national executive of President Zuma can leave no doubt that Magwaza-Msibi has been used, in expectation of a promised reward. What further proof is needed?” said Nkomo.
The NFP leaders presented a united front at a press briefing at their national offices in Durban.
“We welcome the appointment of the NFP president as the deputy minister of science and technology, as this is a great opportunity for her and the party to serve in the national government,” said NFP national chairman Maliyakhe Shelembe.
He said it was unfortunate opposition parties were accusing the NFP of selling out. Shelembe argued that the same parties that were throwing accusations also had members who served under the ANC-led government.
He cited Buthelezi’s decade-long tenure as Home Affairs minister from 1994.
Magwaza-Msibi said that being an opposition party did not mean opposing just for the sake of it.
“Our goal has always been to contribute towards nation-building and the development of this country, and this is our opportunity,” said Magwaza-Msibi.
She dismissed allegations that the NFP was going to be absorbed into the ANC, and said her party would remain independent and autonomous at all times.
“I will still perform my duties as the NFP president, even as I serve in the national government. This appointment is a great opportunity for our party to serve our people throughout the country instead of just this province,” she said.
Mzoxolo Mpolase, a senior analyst at Political Analysis South Africa, said Magwaza-Msibi’s appointment should not come as a surprise as the NFP and ANC had a good working relationship, dating back to 2011.
“The NFP were the power brokers that weakened the IFP, which used to be the main opposition in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC probably relishes the fact that it upset the IFP, and is now co-governing some municipalities (which used to be under the IFP) with the NFP.”