NFP beset by squabbles amid infighting

NFP leader Ivan Barnes said his party would be backing the IFP-ANC-DA grouping. Picture: Supplied

NFP leader Ivan Barnes said his party would be backing the IFP-ANC-DA grouping. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 5, 2024


Durban — In another dramatic turn of events in the NFP intra-party factional quarrels, party leader Ivan Barnes has unceremoniously suspended the disputed party secretary-general Nhlanhla “Teddy” Thwala.

This comes after Thwala’s thinly veiled jab at Barnes after he accused him in a media statement of using the NFP to settle political scores and advance his fledgling political career.

Without mentioning names, Thwala said there was an individual in the NFP “who thinks he’s entitled to be the executive mayor of the Zululand District Municipality because of the NFP’s one seat in the KZN provincial legislature”.

This was believed to be about the widely reported speculations that Barnes was eyeing the top mayoral position of the Zululand District Municipality as a political power broker for supporting the Government of Provincial Unity (GPU) power pact of the IFP-ANC and DA to govern KwaZulu-Natal.

In the suspension letter seen by the Daily News, Barnes, as NFP leader, instructed Thwala not to involve himself in any NFP internal party matters.

The letter further reminded Thwala that he was suspended from party activities owing to a court order against him.

In part, the letter read: “We hereby give you a stern warning to desist from such unlawful conduct and stop any unauthorised public speaking or writing on behalf of the party.”

Additionally, the letter accused Thwala of unlawfully interfering with party political funding.

In an interview with the Daily News, Thwala said he would fight his suspension “defiantly”.

“I will defiantly fight my unconstitutional removal from the NFP. Barnes will not hold any disciplinary hearing against me, because he is also an illegitimate party leader,” said Thwala.

Thwala said his lawyers, TL Mbili Attorneys, were dealing with the matter.

On rife speculation that Barnes was eyeing the mayoral position, Thwala said: “He will never be the mayor of Zululand, even in his dreams.”

Barnes confirmed to the Daily News that Thwala was suspended from all party activities.

Speaking on the Durban-based Vuma FM, deputy NFP president Milton Sokhela said the move to deploy Barnes as a mayoral candidate in the Zululand District Municipality was a collective National Executive Committee (NEC) decision.

Fears were mounting that Barnes would potentially collapse the GPU after the IFP dashed his hopes of taking the mayoral chains of Zululand.

This was after he was upstaged by the IFP fielding its candidate, Michael Khumalo, who was subsequently elected as mayor of the northern municipality.

Further thwarting his mayoral chances were allegedly some NFP councillors in Zululand who legally blocked his swearing-in as councillor – which could have paved the path for him to the high seat of power.

The mayoral position became vacant after prominent IFP leader, the Reverend Thulasizwe Buthelezi, was deployed as the new MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

Thwala’s suspension comes barely a week since he opened a case of crimen injuria and intimidation against a prominent member of the NFP – further widening the rift in the crisis-plagued party formed by the late Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi in 2011.

The NFP member had also alleged in WhatsApp voice recordings that Thwala was in cahoots with the IFP leaders in the Zululand District Municipality to block Barnes becoming a mayor.

Thwala rejected the claim, arguing that he was a loyal member of the NFP.

The NFP – once a powerful political party – is now in fractious ruin amid a series of long-running internal battles for the control of the party.

The NFP became a crucial kingmaker in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature after the May elections with its single seat and helped the IFP-led coalition to get to the magic number of 41 majority seats in the 80-member provincial legislature.

This summarily ended the hopes of the Jacob Zuma-led uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP), which has 37 seats, of leading the province.

Political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: “It is not a good thing for a party that is a kingmaker in a crucial province like KZN to be plagued by such deep divisions and infighting.”

He said it was difficult for the NFP to rid itself of the internal factions because they were deep-seated.

He warned that this could potentially affect the GPU, which relied on the NFP’s single vote to govern KZN.

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