Inkatha Freedom Party members fear that the party is on the brink of losing control of Abaqulusi Local Municipality (Vryheid) in northern KwaZulu- Natal, should the ongoing, escalating internal leadership squabbles in the constituency not be urgently resolved.
The members also fear the party may for the first time lose control of the Zululand District Municipality, the district home of Abaqulusi and Ulundi, the home of Zulu heritage, to long-time rivals the ANC.
The concerns come after the party lost Ward 18 to the ANC by 16 votes on March 27. Members attribute the loss to internal conflict.
The loss followed a late-night decision by IFP constituency leaders to expel Philisiwe Mtshali, who was a branch chairperson and a by-election ward candidate.
She was replaced by Ziqu Ngcobo, who was later defeated by Thandanani Zungu of the ANC.
An IFP national executive member said Mtshali got angry and took her votes to the EFF, where she was fielded as their candidate.
“It was those votes that Mtshali took to the EFF that paved the way for the ANC to overpower us and win the ward. What is troubling here is that the decision to expel her was taken without considering that she was popular with voters,” said the NEC member, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another long-time member of the party in the Zululand region blamed a lack of support for their by-election candidates by the mayor of Abaqulusi and senior party member Jerry Sibiya.
He said this made voters reluctant to vote for their candidates, for fear that if they didn’t get along with the mayor, they wouldn’t be able to deliver services in their ward, and they then opted for ANC candidates.
“The mayor (Sibiya) didn’t even help our candidates when they were campaigning for the by-elections.
“He only briefly showed up on the day of voting and left,” the member said.
However, Sibiya denied there were divisions in the party in the Abaqulusi constituency, and denied he was not supporting their candidates.
He said in Ward 18 the IFP fielded a candidate (Ngcobo) who left the municipality under a cloud, and Mtshali took voters with her to the EFF, hence the loss.
“On top of Ngcobo’s history, the votes that cost us were those taken away by Phili Mtshali when she left for the EFF. Otherwise we would have won the ward convincingly, as she got around 150 votes with the EFF, and the difference between us and the ANC was just 16 votes,” Sibiya said.
Two weeks after losing Ward 18, the IFP suffered another knock when the ANC took Ward 21, thus reaching 22 seats in council, which equalled the number of seats held by the IFP and its coalition partners, the DA and EFF.
The national chairperson of the party, Blessed Gwala, when asked whether they were aware of the reported divisions in Abaqulusi constituency, said they were not aware of them as no one had reported them.
Elsewhere, the IFP, also as a result of alleged infighting in constituency structures, lost control of Ndumeni Local Municipality (Dundee) and of the Mzinyathi District Municipality.