The Hon. Mr Velenkosini Hlabisa MPL
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
Leader of the Official Opposition in KwaZulu-Natal
In fulfilment of our commitment to fully brief South Africa on the outcome of talks regarding local governance, the IFP today held a press briefing where the statement below was delivered. While it makes our position absolutely clear, there have, regrettably, been some distortions – particularly on social media – where it is claimed that we have entered “a coalition” with the ANC. This is absolutely untrue. I invite you to read the statement we made, in order to know the truth.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media; we appreciate your presence here today as we convey to South Africa the IFP’s decisions regarding governance where no clear majority emerged through the Local Government Elections of 1 November.
As you are aware, the IFP’s National Council appointed a team to engage discussions with any political party wishing to talk to us. Over the past two weeks, we have held discussions with no less than 17 parties as we sought the best way forward.
During this time, there has been much speculation by analysts and politicians over who will work with whom, and who will not work with whom.
Let me begin with the IFP’s starting point in these discussions. As you will recall, last Sunday I said that where we will govern as a leading party we will not enter into a coalition with the ANC, because they have not been honest with us in the past. The voters expressed themselves clearly against the ANC. In the fourteen municipalities in KZN where we got the outright majority, we will govern and deliver services exclusively as the IFP in accordance with the mandate of the voters.
In addition, last Sunday we stated categorically that we will not get into coalitions for the sake of coalitions. The difficulty with coalitions is their tendency to fall apart, as one or the other coalition partner sees an opportunity for advancement.
Thus, as we engaged political discussions, we in the IFP kept at the forefront of our minds the priority of creating stability, sustainable service delivery and peaceful working relations. We always put the interest of the voters first. In many of our discussions it became abundantly clear that stable governance would not be achieved through coalitions of many political parties in one municipality.
What we experienced in many of the discussions we held over hung municipalities was not encouraging. Some political parties appeared to see themselves as kingmakers and felt entitled to make difficult demands. Some wanted the mayoral chain, others wanted to be Speaker. At a fundamental level, this would be a manipulation of democracy, for these positions they want were not fairly won through the ballot box.
The IFP believes in respecting the democratic will of South Africa’s voters. We also believe, as I said, in prioritising stability in governance ahead of political power. We are in politics to serve the will and the interests of the people.
We decided, therefore, to approach governance in hung municipalities not on the basis of how much power we can take through uncertain coalitions, but on the basis of a principle: the principle that the electorate is entitled to get the government it chooses through the ballot box.
In KwaZulu Natal, it is clear that voters in each municipality predominantly chose either the IFP or the ANC, with the exception of Umngeni where the DA was the majority choice. Despite there not being an outright majority in some municipalities, either the IFP gained the most seats or the ANC did.
Thus, after frank discussions at national level with the ANC, we have come to a broad understanding that where the IFP has the most seats, despite no outright majority, the IFP will form the municipal government. Reciprocally, where the ANC has the most seats, despite no outright majority, the ANC will form the municipal government.
Neither party will interfere in this process, and will support the principle of the two largest parties becoming the government and official opposition respectively. Accordingly, where the IFP governs, the ANC will become the official opposition, and vice versa.
We will therefore remain opponents; but opponents who have agreed to operate on the same principle for the sake of securing stability in local governance and affording our people service delivery.
It goes without saying that this is not a coalition. A coalition places both parties in power, with a sharing of positions. What we are doing is allowing the party with the most votes to govern, while the other party is relegated to the opposition.
Where the IFP governs, in about 22 or 24 municipalities, we will invite smaller parties and independent individuals to work with us to strengthen good governance and ensure the maturing of democracy. By working together, with mutual respect, we will achieve the foremost goal of delivering quality services on time. The IFP remains the Official Opposition in KZN and will remain the biggest threat to corruption and weak leadership.
While talks are still ongoing over the four economic hubs of KwaZulu Natal, where the dynamics are more complex, the IFP believes that the principle we have committed to can be expanded and replicated as a model in other parts of the country, allowing the biggest party to take control.
The decision the IFP has taken has been taken at national level, through our National Council, which is the highest decision-making body of the Party between conferences.
We are committed to operating on the basis of integrity and in the best interests of stable local government. We will seek to uphold the democratic will of the people. Where we govern, we will do so with excellence, and where we are in opposition, we will be a formidable opponent demanding transparency, accountability and honest governance.
We believe that this is the most straightforward way of approaching governance. It will allow the people to see the IFP’s strength as champions of service delivery and good governance, through our leadership both in administering government and in fixing government. We will showcase our ability to deliver services, fight corruption and provide enabling opportunities to our people.
By 2024, the electorate will have more than enough incentive to restore the IFP to governance throughout KwaZulu Natal. In 2026, we will see many more municipalities placed under the IFP in pursuit of maximum service delivery.
We do not take the voters lightly. We understand that South Africa has hit rock bottom and that every vote for the IFP was an appeal for change; an appeal for a leadership that our people can trust. We remain committed to this appeal by the voters.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that, we have kept the promise that once all negotiations were complete – as many parties were approaching us – we would provide feedback so that everyone will be clear on the IFP’s position.
I am sure that you have many questions. I and my colleagues will gladly answer them.
I thank you.