Gavin Woods leaves IFP for new party

By Time of article published Sep 7, 2005

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By Angela Quintal

Cape Town - Ziba Jiyane's National Democratic Convention (Nadeco) was the floor-crossing winner in parliament on Tuesday, attracting four IFP members of parliament, including the respected Gavin Woods, to its ranks.

A fifth IFP MP, former diplomat Len Joubert, joined the DA, leaving the IFP with only 23 of its original 28 seats in the National Assembly.

Woods was joined by Vincent Ngema, Makhosazana Mdlalose and Bonginkosi Ngciba, who said they had jumped after it had become clear that there would be a purge in the IFP of those believed to be disloyal.

Mdlalose is the daughter of Frank Mdlalose, the chairperson of the Friends of the IFP, who, Jiyane said, also supported Nadeco, the ANC and all patriotic initiatives.

But it was an attitude of good riddance from the IFP on Tuesday.

IFP spokesperson Musa Zondi said his party did not regret the departure of the "four crosstitutes" because they were not "leaders of substance rooted in any significant constituencies within the IFP".

At a press conference, a buoyant Jiyane predicted that at least nine MPs from across all political parties would have joined Nadeco by the time the floor-crossing window closed on September 15.

He was also expecting several defections at provincial level. The party already has one seat in KwaZulu-Natal with last week's defection of ACDP provincial MP Hawu Mbatha.

Jiyane, once the IFP's chairperson, said that Nadeco would probably be the fourth largest party in parliament after the floor-crossing period.

Although it would contest the local government election, it had its eye on the 2009 national election, when it hoped to become the second largest party in South Africa. The four MPs had joined Nadeco not because of "any promise of selfish gain to themselves", but because they had recognised that Nadeco might be the last opportunity to fill an existing political gap in South African politics.

"South Africa does not need another small opposition party," said Jiyane. "South Africa needs an opposition party that can help to unite all opposition and reasonably aspire to one day become the ruling party in South Africa."

All eyes were on Woods on Tuesday, who was among the IFP's most high-profile members.

A respected academic and expert on public finance, he is a former chairperson of the standing committee of public accounts. In a statement, Woods explained that he had decided to resign after irreconcilable differences with the party and its leader.

He referred to the no-holds-barred discussion paper that he had been asked to write about the moribund IFP and the way it had been shelved.

"With no alternate reform proposals on the party's agenda, I believe my integrity as a public representative could be challenged should I remain in the party."

However, at a more personal level, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi had made "very insensitive and prejudicial comments" about his physical disability.

Woods, who is an amputee, was referring to a letter that Buthelezi wrote to the press in which he effectively dismissed Woods as a token.

Woods said he had found sufficient justification to cross to Nadeco primarily because a number of IFP voters had shifted support to the new party, "meaning that my move reflects the changing views of relevant voters".

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