IFP and ANC marriage to co-govern Umvoti Local Municipality collapses within 24 hours

IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa said there is no way the IFP would work with a party that has destroyed the country. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa said there is no way the IFP would work with a party that has destroyed the country. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published May 22, 2024


Durban — What was believed to be the fulfilment of reconciliation between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African National Congress (ANC), which was advocated by the late party founder, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, before his death, has ended abruptly.

Barely 24 hours after the historic forming of a coalition between the IFP and ANC to co-govern Umvoti Local Municipality, the IFP has backtracked and cancelled the agreement, ordering its local leadership to reverse it.

Party president Velenkosini Hlabisa shockingly announced the reversal of the agreement on SABC, saying the agreement did not have the blessing of the national leadership. Hlabisa said there was no way the IFP would work with a party that has destroyed the country.

Reacting to Hlabisa's statement, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said it would hold discussions with the regional leadership and then issue a formal response.

In its reaction, Abantu Batho Congress (ABC) secretary-general Phumelele Phahla said Hlabisa's statement meant that there was no formal agreement and what happened was a circus that had been arranged by individuals who decided to wake up and do their own thing.

Phahla said the ABC was never removed from power since there was an order to interdict the meeting.

"We never panicked about the circus that played out yesterday (Tuesday). We always knew that ABC was still in charge of the municipality, so the people of Umvoti were not even bothered by what happened," said Phahla.

The historic move by the parties was hailed in different circles as the start of the implementation of the wishes of the late Inkosi Buthelezi, who in his last days pushed for reconciliation. Even during his funeral, there was a feeling between the ANC and IFP that the parties would continue with talks of reconciliation to fulfil Buthelezi's wishes.

On Tuesday morning, the two bitter political rivals teamed up at Umvoti Local Municipality in Greytown, at a special council meeting, and removed ABC Mayor Philani PG Mavundla and Speaker Mfundo Masondo by a vote of no confidence.

The meeting was called by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi and was chaired by the department’s Deputy Director General, Madoda Khathide.

In the process, ANC regional chairperson Ntombi Ngubane was elected as the new speaker while the mayorship went to IFP councillor Zamani Malembe, but signs that the marriage would not last were visible after the ABC produced a court order interdicting the meeting to continue.

After the chairperson of the meeting insisted on continuing, despite the court order, ABC councillors walked out, paving the way for Malembe and Ngubane to be elected unopposed. The ABC was on Wednesday expected to file papers to court to set aside the election.

The development was historic since the two parties had only co-governed a municipality in the province from 1994 to 2004 when they shared power in the provincial legislature and nationally.

Explaining the historic decision, both Ngubane and Malembe said although the two parties have serious differences nationally and provincially, they were brought together in the municipality by the failures of Mavundla, adding that they felt they should put their political differences aside for the sake of Umvoti citizens.

“We know and understand this is an unusual arrangement between our parties, but it was important to rise above our political differences for a common goal, which is to serve the people of Umvoti,” said the two leaders.

On legal matters, the two parties said they are leaving it to CoGTA to deal with as it was the department’s meeting.

Both Mavundla and Masondo laughed off the election, saying it was a circus and urged the people of Umvoti to reject it as they are still the municipality’s leadership.

Speaking to the media after the proceedings, Masondo, who is also ABC’s national chairperson, said the IFP and ANC wanted to make a political statement by electing themselves despite the order.

Masondo said the party had anticipated that the sheriff would delay and the party went to serve CoGTA’s legal team with the order of acknowledgement and stamped it way before the council meeting could start, adding that even the sheriff came and served Khathide before the magistrate swore in the new leadership.

“The meeting is clearly illegal. As I speak to you, I am speaker and Mavundla is the mayor. What happened here was just a circus. In fact, they are in contempt of court and must be arrested and sent to jail for disobeying the order of the court,” said Masondo.

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