Durban - Internal fights and fielding of candidates with questionable integrity has been cited by some within the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as the reason behind the party being on the brink of losing the control of Abaqulusi municipality (Vryheid) in northern KZN.
The members fear that should the ongoing internal battles in the Abaqulusi constituency not be urgently contained, the party may ultimately lose control of the Zululand district municipality to its longtime rivals, the African National Congress (ANC).
The allegations and the concerns comes after the party lost ward 18 to the ANC by 16 votes on March 27. This was after a late night decision by the constituency leaders of the IFP to controversially expel Philisiwe Mtshali who was a branch chairperson and a candidate for the party. She was replaced by Ziqu Ngcobo.
A national executive member of the party said Mtshali got angry and took her votes to the Economic Freedom Fighters, 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 on condition of anonymity.
The mayor of Abaqulusi and senior party member, Jerry Sibiya on Tuesday denied that there are divisions within the party. He said in ward 18 the IFP fielded a candidate (Ngcobo) who left the municipality under a cloud and that Mtshali took voters with her to the EFF.
“On top of Ngcobo’s history, the votes that cost us are the ones that were taken away by Mtshali when she left for the EFF. Otherwise we would have won the ward convincingly,” Sibiya said, defending himself and the party.
Two weeks after losing ward 18, the IFP suffered another knock when the ANC took ward 21, and the party now has 22 seats in the council, which equals the number of seats held by the IFP and its coalition partners, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Sibiya said the loss of ward 21 was a contagion effect from ward 18 as both wards share a boundary and voters influence each other.
Elsewhere, the IFP, as a result of internal infighting in regional structures, lost control of the Ndumeni local municipality (Dundee) and its control of the Mzinyathi District Municipality is under threat should the ANC win the upcoming by-elections in Dundee in two months time.
The national chairperson of the party, Blessed Gwala, when asked whether they are aware of the reported divisions in the Abaqulusi constituency, said they are not aware of any divisions as no one has reported them. “No one has ever reported that there are divisions in our Vryheid structures and that makes it difficult for me to answer you in a manner that will satisfy you. Maybe that is being discussed in corridors somewhere but it has not reached us,” Gwala said.