Former president Jacob Zuma’s right-hand man Philani Mavundla.Picture: Gcina Ndwalane/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The National Freedom Party (NFP) is pinning its hopes on former president Jacob Zuma’s right-hand man, Philani Godfrey Mavundla, to save it from collapsing.

Party treasurer-general Ahmed Munzoor Sheikh-Imam said the millionaire businessman who recently defected from the ANC stood a good chance of replacing Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi as the NFP president.

However, Shaik-Emam said some party members were looking at serial political party hopper Ziba Jiyane to take over the position.

He described Mavundla, the former ANC mayor of Greytown in the KwaZulu-Natal Mvoti district, as popular, articulate and dedicated.

“He has followers, he has people behind him and the capacity to be in the leadership structure within the party. If people decide that he must lead, then surely he must lead,” said Shaik-Emam.

He said the party was still trying to deal with bogus membership.

Mavundla shot to fame after being elected ANC Greytown mayor in 2011 and announced that he would work for free and not accept an annual salary of R700 000.

After leaving the ANC and after he had previously promised to raise funds for Zuma’s court battles, he joined the NFP and won a municipal ward that used to be under his previous party during a by-election.

However, Shaik-Emam said that for Mavundla to contest, the party would have to amend its constitution “because the constitution does not allow newcomers to become national office bearers until after five years”, he said. “It is the same thing with Ziba Jiyane, who has been all over.”

He explained that Jiyane’s name “was floating around as a possible (NFP) presidential candidate”.

Jiyane, meanwhile, yesterday confirmed that he had signed up with the NFP and was welcomed by KaMagwaza-Msibi on September 5, a few weeks after his attempt to contest the IFP presidential position was rejected by the party. However, he denied being approached to contest the NFP’s presidential position. “I needed a home where I can feel warm and I am an ordinary member,” he said.

When the party was formed in 2011, it resolved that KaMagwaza-Msibi would take two terms without being contested but, due to infighting, the party had not been able to hold its second elective conference. KaMagwaza-Msibi had never recovered after suffering a stroke in 2014 while she was a science and technology deputy minister. Shaik-Emam said she had indicated that she would want to step down because of her ill health.

Approached for comment, Mavundla said he was in a meeting and promised to return the phone call.

Political Bureau