Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The bitter-sweet news that Zanele Magwaza-Msibi has abandoned the IFP to launch her own political party closes a painful chapter for the IFP. Having suffered so much treachery and deceit, divisiveness and even violence, we are somehow relieved that our former National Chairperson has finally come clean about her extraordinary personal ambitions. While it comes at a cost to the IFP, Magwaza-Msibi's abandonment leaves us room to unify, refocus and regain our strength.
Analysts warned Magwaza-Msibi that another breakaway party was unfeasible. But of greater concern was that the proliferation of small parties would weaken South Africa's democracy, drawing support away from an established opposition with a respected track record.
I regret that the launch of the National Freedom Party is not predicated on ideologies, policy differences or values. Rather it has been established on the twin pillars of disgruntlement and ambition.
Magwaza-Msibi has termed it a home for anyone dissatisfied with their own party, for whatever reason. What will bind supporters of the NFP is not a democratic vision or policy blueprint, but the mere fact that they are all unhappy. It might prove the old adage, misery loves company, but it won't further our struggle for democracy.
Among the unhappy is Mr Wiseman Mcoyi, who jumped the gun by announcing the launch of the NFP and Magwaza-Msibi's leadership of it, before she had a chance to do so herself. Over a year ago Mcoyi was sacrificed on the altar of Magwaza-Msibi's deceitfulness when she voted to expel him from the IFP. But he hung around and waited, vociferously supporting her, and now he is a senior leader in her new NFP.
With a beauty contestant's practiced look of surprise, Magwaza-Msibi announced on Tuesday that she never, in her wildest dreams, thought she would be launching her own party. Except that it was already registered with the Independent Electoral Commission on the 29th of October 2010, just a day before Magwaza-Msibi was scheduled to appear before a disciplinary hearing.
The hearing, ironically, sought to determine the veracity of Magwaza-Msibi's protestations that the "Friends of VZ" - a group of malcontents campaigning for her to take over the IFP - were acting without her blessing or consent. Over the course of two years she repeatedly insisted she did not want the IFP presidency and publicly condemned the divisive activities of her supporters as being contrary to her own belief system. She even voted to expel them from the IFP.
Deceitfulness at any level is to be despised, but for a National Chairperson to intentionally lie to her Party is intolerable. Over the course of three months, a thorough investigation was performed to determine whether Magwaza-Msibi was lying. Again and again she was implored to participate, refute the evidence and clear her name. But she never did. Faced with overwhelming evidence of treachery, the IFP's National Council called her to a disciplinary hearing.
Things were moving towards an inevitable pass for Magwaza-Msibi, as she realized she would have to account for her lies. Three days before the hearing she took a desperate step, approaching the High Court to prevent us from holding the hearing. There was nothing urgent in her "urgent" application, for the process of investigation had been ongoing for months. But in her court papers she was finally forced to admit that being subjected to a disciplinary hearing would diminish her chances of being elected President of the IFP.
Thus she had her eye on the prize, while her back-up plan was being registered with the IEC at the very same time.
Magwaza-Msibi sensed it was time to have a sudden public change of heart. Out of the blue she announced she would stand for nomination for the presidency, an option she had vehemently dismissed for so long, for no better reason than that the IFP's Constitution allowed it. She then created an election platform by casting herself as the victim of persecution. Thus began the "misery loves company" campaign.
When, last week, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed her application with costs, it was clear that Magwaza-Msibi's disciplinary hearing would go ahead and she would have to face the music. She complained that it was a foregone conclusion that she would be expelled. This had nothing to do with bias, prejudice or persecution.
It had to do with Magwaza-Msibi knowing that she had lied to her Party and it was about to catch up with her.
The saga of Magwaza-Msibi's rise, fall and absconding has taken its toll on the IFP. I have struggled to understand how she could inflict such damage on a party she professed to love. Even after her court loss, when her egocentricity was evident, I did not close the door on her. Had she been in any way inclined, we could have explored reconciliation.
It is thus deviousness on her part to call her absconding a "constructive dismissal", when she did her utmost to prevent a disciplinary hearing and launched another party without resigning from the IFP. Magwaza-Msibi's party has been registered with the IEC for 3 months, during which time she happily drew a salary as an IFP MPL.
Where is her conscience?
When she lost her court case last week, Magwaza-Msibi said that there were many options open to her and she could not allow her political career to end there. But this was not only about her. Promises had been made, and her group of malcontents would have been disgruntled to the extreme if she had chosen to join the ANC.
Positions in the ANC are fiercely contested and while indications are that Magwaza-Msibi would have found a plum spot, her lieutenants may have found themselves out in the cold. Admitting that she had to speak to her supporters, Magwaza-Msibi postponed her media briefing to take some tough decisions.
Throughout this saga I have been castigated for pointing out that some leaders in the ANC are involved in fomenting the IFP's ructions, and even bank-rolling the activities of the "Friends of VZ". But this is not idle finger-pointing, nor is it a ploy to detract attention from our problems. We have concrete evidence, which I took to the President of the ANC in July last year, and then to the Deputy President in August.
IFP Secretary-General, Reverend Musa Zondi, also wrote to the ANC's Secretary-General, Mr Gwede Mantashe, in an attempt to resolve this problem, but never received the courtesy of a response. Yet Mr Mantashe now complains to him that we should not be exposing the ANC's involvement. Is it my fault that they are terrible at covering their tracks?
I am informed that Durban City Hall, the venue for the NFP's launch, was booked by Mr Nigel Gumede, an ANC Councilor. This is but the latest in a long string of evidence that casts the ANC as the puppet master. Yesterday a copy of a report was anonymously faxed to my office which indicates that the ANC Youth League was backing Magwaza-Msibi "through propaganda mechanisms", while the ANC's "NEC has taken a resolution to give her the support".
The ANC has, of course, vehemently dismissed this report as a hoax, saying that it should do its "utmost best" to unmask the originators.
It should do its utmost best, I agree. But whether it will do anything at all is another story. I am still waiting for the President to act on the information I gave him in our meeting six months ago. There is no question that the launch of the NFP is good for the ANC. But what is good for the ANC and what is good for the country is not necessarily the same thing.
In the week before her announcement of the NFP, Magwaza-Msibi's Facebook page was inundated with messages imploring her not to abandon the IFP. The IFP is a solid brand, a trusted name. Her supporters never wanted to leave the IFP; they were simply led to believe it would be better under her questionable leadership. They would never have followed her to the ANC.
But the question they now face is whether they are ready to abandon their home, to join the new pity party. As one of her supporters now writes, "I am very dedicated but sometimes naïve? u can take everything that belongs to me but not my IFP membership card."
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP