My fellow citizens of KwaZulu Natal
As an avid reader of newspapers, I have been disappointed by the coverage of my party's performance in last week's municipal by-elections in KwaZulu Natal. The overwhelming expectation, whipped up by mostly negative publicity given to alleged internal strife in the IFP, was that we would lose every by-election we would contest.
As it turned out we have won four by-elections across KwaZulu Natal, namely Umvoti (Ward 9), Indaka (Ward 6), Okhamhlamba (Ward 1) and Nqutu (Ward 5). The most controversial of these was no doubt the Umvoti by-election. Greytown has recently seen some fierce fighting between the ANC and the IFP with a number of casualties on both sides. We have lost and still mourn two exceptional councilors.
The media congregated in large numbers in Greytown ahead of the by-election, expecting the IFP to lose. "When we did not, the journalists responded with deafening silence," I pointed out to the media subsequently. What undoubtedly made the difference in mobilising our grassroots support for the upcoming by-election was the Women's Day march, organised last Monday by the IFP Women's Brigade and attended beyond our wildest expectations.
Our women took the opportunity afforded to them by the National Women's Day celebrations to march against the local spate of political violence. In their memorandum, presented to the local SAPS, they condemned politically-motivated violence on principle, expressed its heart-felt condolences to the families of the individuals who lost their lives in incidents of political violence on both sides of the conflict, appealed to all political parties and their supporters to resolve their future disputes in a democratic manner and urged the SAPS to do their utmost best to bring the perpetrators to book while pledging on behalf of the IFP to provide whatever assistance we can to enable the police to investigate these and other incidents of political violence fully and conclusively.
In stark contrast to the coverage of the by-elections has been the media's interest in the non-story of the alleged expulsion of IFP National Chairperson and Mayor of the Zululand District Municipality Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi. The media went ahead with this obvious falsehood despite the IFP's denials of the substance of the story. Days after persistent media reports to the contrary, Mayor kaMagwaza-Msibi is still the party's National Chairperson. In her own words, she continues to serve her party.
All in all, I have been very disappointed by the media's insistence on peddling a non-story at the expense of a genuine news development. The electorate in the municipal wards where last week's by-elections were contested has once again defied the wishful thinking in certain sections of the media which are determined to beat the ruling party's drum at all cost.
Another untruth peddled by the media is that the recent disciplinary action against members of the IFP Youth Brigade was a punishment for their calls for a change in the party leadership. I wish to point out that the IFPYB members have been suspended for bringing their party into disrepute in a transparent process and in accordance with the IFP Constitution.
Once again what worries me about these developments is the obvious effort to look for sensational stories where there are none. All the IFP is doing is looking for ways to reinvent itself in the eyes of the electorate as a winning party ahead of the 2011 local government elections. This process is accompanied by vigorous debate as it should be. It is, however, unfolding in far less dramatic and considerably more relevant manner than our detractors and the media give us credit for.
Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi MPL
Leader of the Official Opposition