Durban – The IFP has confirmed that it will not field a candidate to contest ward 31 in Newcastle, paving the way for its coalition partner to retain the ward.
The by-election is scheduled for next Wednesday and the IFP has already stopped its campaigns.
It would not be the first time the IFP has entered into an arrangement like this one with a coalition partner.
UPDATE: The IFP mayor of Newcastle, Xolani Dube, has eventually confirmed that they will not field a candidate for ward 31's by-elections next week. Instead, they would support their coalition partner, Team Sugar South Africa of Musa Shukela Thwala, who is deputy mayor. @IOL— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) February 8, 2023
Late last year, the party reached an agreement with the DA not to field a candidate in eThekwini’s ward 99 by-elections.
That arrangement resulted in the IFP wrestling the ward away from the ANC which had occupied it for years.
In Newcastle, the party says it will support its coalition partner, Team Sugar South Africa (TSSA) of Musa Shukela Thwala, the municipality’s deputy mayor.
The confirmation came after IOL first reported that there was a tense meeting on Tuesday night in Newcastle where Thwala and his party demanded that the IFP pulls out or else he would pull out of the coalition.
By pulling out of the coalition, the municipality would then fall into the hands of the ANC which was ousted in November 2021.
Currently, the IFP has 18 seats, the ANC 22, EFF 8, TSSA 6, DA 5, ActionSA 3 while the likes of the NFP, PA and ATM have a seat each.
Therefore, this ward is expected to decide who, between the IFP and the ANC coalition will lead the municipality.
This was after the EFF dumped the IFP last week and was joined by the NFP to form a pact with the ANC.
According to sources who attended the meeting, Thwala feared that the IFP had made inroads in the ward which was won by his party in 2021 and he was about to lose it.
“He saw the weakness and exploited it. In the end, the IFP felt that it would be better to accede to his demands,” one insider who attended the meeting told IOL.
On Wednesday, the IFP mayor of Newcastle, Xolani Dube, and Thwala’s party held a joint press conference where they confirmed the arrangement, but denied that the latter’s party exerted pressure to win the negotiations.
Dube said they felt that it was the best arrangement under the prevailing circumstances.
“The IFP (acceded), upon receiving a request from Team Sugar South Africa to say the ward was initially won by Team Sugar South Africa during the 2021 local government elections.
“Last year, we lost Councillor Mroza (from TSSA), who was the ward councillor of ward 31.
“Then Team Sugar felt that we are working together as Team Sugar, DA, Patriotic Alliance, ActionSA, FF+ and the NFP.
“We had a meeting to discuss the dynamics of ward 31, because we had a feeling that there was commotion, unnecessary commotion.
“Then the other parties pledged to support Team Sugar South Africa. They said they weren’t going to contest.”
He said it was eventually decided to surrender the ward and allow TSSA to fight to retain the ward, even though the IFP and ActionSA had members on the ground.
“But as I have said, upon a request from Team Sugar South Africa, we then felt that it is a fair request (and) that, as the IFP, we (would) suspend our activities in ward 31 and support Team Sugar, as upon the request of Team Sugar.
“That is the position of the IFP. I must say categorically that there was no pressure exerted on the IFP by the Team Sugar,” Dube told the press conference.