Infirm KaMagwaza-Msibi says the embattled NFP is not dead yet
A frail-looking National Freedom Party president Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi made a rare public appearance during her party’s media briefing in Durban on Wednesday‚ but did not speak - her statement instead read out by Imam Sheik Mansour‚ a member of the party’s national working committee.
KaMagwaza-Msibi - through her mouthpiece‚ Mansour – said the party would not host an elective conference this year‚ but rather that an ad-hoc committee was working at branch level to prepare the membership for the conference.
She said she had come to announce that her party was turning over a new leaf with the return of estranged deputy president Alex Kekana‚ who had hauled the party and KaMagwaza-Msibi to court following the disbandment of the national executive committee in May. This after KaMagwaza-Msibi disbanded the party’s NEC following a huge fallout as a result of failure to contest last year’s local government elections - a situation that left the party toying with the very real prospect of becoming redundant in KZN politics.
Plagued by infighting‚ a plethora of political and legal challenges and KaMagwaza-Msibi’s infirmity‚ the NFP sought to allay fears by mounting a united front and preaching unity.
However‚ it was a different story on Wednesday as Kekana appeared to have reconciled with KaMagwaza-Msibi‚ appearing at the media briefing.
“Comrade Kekana and myself have been engaging behind closed doors because we realised that the animosity between members and to a certain extent between leaders could potentially obliterate the NFP‚” said KaMagwaza-Msibi. “Therefore today we are opening a new chapter in the history of the NFP. We are reshaping ourselves in unity. We are putting everything behind and marching to our destiny in unity."
She called on members - even those who had left in the wake of the dismal pre-elections saga - to come back and help in reviving their fortunes.
Kekana said he wanted to dispel perceptions that he was in opposition to KaMagwaza-Msibi‚ adamant that this was not true. In an about-turn he said he had withdrawn all legal matters against the party “as these were not driven by the interest of the party but by selfish interests of individuals".
“In my discussions with the president it is clear that she is passionate about serving the people. She wants unity in the party and I want to assure you all today that I’m fully behind her in her quest to unite the National Freedom Party‚” he said.
The NFP was plunged into chaos after KaMagwaza-Msibi‚ who is also the deputy minister of science and technology‚ had fallen sick due to a stroke in November 2014 and the party split into several cliques that claimed to be the new leadership. This reached its apex in 2016 when the party failed to pay a deposit to the Independent Electoral Commission to contest the local government elections.
This is a massive decline from how the party - a splinter group from the IFP - left tongues wagging after the 2011 local government elections when it gained enough votes to overtake the IFP and the DA and become the second-biggest party in KZN. This growth continued‚ with the party winning enough votes in the 2014 national election to send six MPs to the National Assembly.
Now‚ however‚ the party has only one councillor in the country‚ and that is in Nquthu‚ the only municipality they contested.