The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has won the fiercely contested Mpembeni (ward 13) by-elections under the City of Umhlathuze (Richards Bay-Empangeni), snatching yet another ANC stronghold ward.
The new IFP councillor in the ward is Sibusiso Ndunakazi.
The IFP's victory comes after months of an intensive campaign spearheaded by Xolani Ngwezi, the chairperson of the party's Umhlathuze constituency, a former MP turned mayor.
This has increased the tally of the IFP's seats in the economically thriving northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality, meaning that it can now only rely on Democratic Alliance (DA) votes to stay in power.
The victory means the IFP now holds 25 out of the 67 seats in the council, an equal number of seats to the ANC.
NEWS: The IFP has won the fiercely contested Mpembeni (Ward 13) by-elections under the City of Umhlathuze, KZN snatching yet another ANC stronghold ward. The IFP's victory comes after months of an intensive campaign spearheaded by constituency chairperson, Xolani Ngwezi. pic.twitter.com/m3IKFmB6Fh— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) September 27, 2023
The DA, a key coalition partner of the IFP has eight seats, while the EFF has six. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), and the National Freedom Party (NFP) each one seat.
During the November 2021 local government elections, the ward was won by the ANC.
However, in July this year, the ANC councillor in the ward, Lindo Ndlovu, survived an assassination attempt and was forced to resign, fearing for his life.
That started intensive campaigning by both parties and there were accusations that they were both using State resources to boost their electoral fortunes.
The IFP was accused of using resources of the City of Umhlathuze while the ANC was accused of using resources of the provincial government which it is in charge of.
During the day of the voting on Wednesday, tempers flared at Mkhobosi voting station and the police had a tough time restoring order.
That was when IFP supporters tried to block Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube from accessing the voting station.
They alleged that she was not on a government mission, but her party’s (ANC) mission, since she was wearing its full regalia.
In a statement after the victory, the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal said it dedicates the remarkable victory to the memory of its founder and President Emeritus, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who passed away on September 9, aged 95.
“This triumph stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Prince Buthelezi and reaffirms that the IFP remains a formidable force in South African politics.
It also said this is a sign that it is ready to lead ahead of the 2024 elections where it is aiming to unseat the ANC.
"The party's impressive performance in this by-election reflects our unwavering commitment to the people and our readiness to lead.
“With the 2024 general elections on the horizon, this victory sends a clear message that the IFP is a dominant force in the province,” it added.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said it welcomes the support it got at the polls even though it was in a backyard of the opposition. It said it will use that support to build for the future.
Meanwhile, the ANC suffered another electoral setback at Maquassi Hills local municipality when the EFF snatched ward 3 from it. The ANC had won the ward in November 2021.
The new EFF councillor in the ward is Lehlohonolo Metoa.