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IFP-dominated Nkandla faces political shakeup with rise of MK party, return of Zuma

IFP-dominated Nkandla faces political shakeup with rise of MK party, return of Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma's residence in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Giordano Stolley/Sapa)

Nkandla’s political landscape heats up as the MK Party, with Jacob Zuma at the helm, challenges the long-standing IFP dominance in the region, sparking local division and debate over the controversial former president’s impact on the area’s development.

In electoral terms, the Nkandla Local Municipality has always been dominated by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The municipality council consists of 27 members elected by mixed-member proportional representation.

Fourteen councillors are elected by first-past-the-post voting in 14 wards, while the remaining 13 councillors are chosen from party lists so that the total number of party representatives is proportional to the number of votes received. In the local government elections of 1 November 2021, the IFP won a majority of 16 seats on the council while the ANC has 10 seats and the EFF only has one seat.

But analysts say the trends are likely to change, as the MK party is expected to disrupt the IFP-ANC rivalry.

Dumisani Khanyile, an MK party co-ordinator in the Nkandla region, said the emergence of Zuma has helped them.

“We don’t have to do much of the campaigning because many people know Zuma and they realise what he has done for the people. I believe that we (the MK) will win Ward 14 and also take away the Nkandla Local Municipality from the IFP,” he said.

Local division

Resident Senzo Zuma (33) who was wearing his IFP golf T-shirt with pride, does not believe this rhetoric.

“Nkandla and Ward 14 belong to the IFP. There used to be a joke that people stand with Zuma on the line at the voting station, joke and laugh with him, but when it’s time to vote they vote the IFP. The IFP is still very strong, with or without Zuma’s involvement,” the IFP Zuma said.

Amon Dlamini (64) is one of many people who were wearing the uMkhonto we Sizwe party regalia in Ntolwane in Nkandla which is along the main road going all the way to Kranskop.

Amon Dlamini, Nkandla

Amon Dlamini wearing his MK party T-shirt in Ntolwane village in Nkandla. He said Zuma brought them development like roads, water and electricity. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

He lives opposite former president Jacob Zuma’s home, a home that has been attracting media attention for years.

“I was voting for the Inkatha Freedom Party before. But this time around I’m fully behind Zuma and the MK Party,” he said.

Dlamini, who spent many years working in Johannesburg and living in a hostel in Soweto, as well as many other residents in the Ntolwane area, credits the controversial former president for bringing development to the area.

Read more in Daily Maverick: MK party wins Electoral Court case to allow Jacob Zuma to contest elections

Many here paint a picture of the Ntolwane village — located about 214 km north of Durban and 24 km south of the small Nkandla town — as a once non-descript rural area similar to others in the Zululand District, that nobody cared about. Like other villages around it, they say, it was often beset with violent and deadly faction fights. The locals fetched their water from local rivers, often competing for drinking water with bony cattle and goats.

“Because of Zuma, this area is now an envy of many other villages around. We now have the main road leading to Kranskop, we have water taps in our home, we have electricity all because of this man. We hear on the radio that they accuse him of stealing the money and that he did this and that…..But all we know is that he brought us development,” Dlamini said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The unfinished business of the Nkandla debacle and Parliament

Ntolwane, Nkandla

The village of Ntolwane. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

Zuma’s luxurious compound is located in Ntolwane a village in Nkandla, and was referred to as a ‘monument of corruption’ after its refurbishment in the early years of Zuma’s presidency, costing the taxpayer R240 million. A report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended that Zuma pay for the non-security aspects of the house.

Khetho Ndlovu (40), whose modest home is separated from the Zuma compound by a dried-up stream, said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

“Zuma was a president, a big man, the upgrades were necessary because he was visited by many important people. Surely you couldn’t expect these important people sitting on wooden benches and in falling-apart rondavels,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zuma’s self-made Nkandla Cul-de-Sac

It is visible that the area’s fortunes changed with that of its famous son Jacob Zuma when he started gaining political ground, ultimately becoming the president of South Africa.

It seems like government officials sped up some of the developments. For one, the once bad and old gravel road was tarred and made into a modern highway, and redirected to pass just a stone’s throw from Zuma home.

A cow rests below a bridge beside the highway built during the Zuma years. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

Development uptick

After 2007, when Zuma was elected as the president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and a shoe-in for the country’s president, the area began to see a growing stream of gleaming executives’ vehicles including SUVs, as the country’s elite and top politicians jostled each other to ingratiate themselves to the man who would soon be their leader.

Ndlovu said many people in the area support the former president. “I will certainly vote for Zuma and the MK party. Even if the MK doesn’t win the elections, they will have enough of votes to fight for him and the causes he fights for in Parliament.

“I think many people here and around South Africa are angry that Zuma is singled out and persecuted when there are many corrupt people.”

He said they have water and electricity. “But now we have many days of load shedding….sometimes every day. Before, when we had load shedding, the Old Man’s (Zuma’s) home they were using generators to light up. But now I guess he ran out of money to buy diesel and when we have no electricity, the big house is also dark.”

Ndlovu’s next-door neighbours, the Hlongwanes who had a falling-apart mud house, attracted media attention when the Economic Freedom Fighters built a house for them, which was handed over by EFF leader Julius Malema ahead of the 2014 elections, where Zuma was seeking re-election as the country’s president.

Hlongwane homestead, Nkandla

The Hlongwane homestead, part of which was built by the EFF and handed over by EFF leader Julius Malema in 2014 ahead of the general elections. The family living there endured media attention and now family members say they don’t want to talk to the media. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

When Daily Maverick approached the family, a member of that family – a young man who refused to give his name — refused us entry, saying the family didn’t want to speak to the media because they’d had the terrible experience of being caught in a tug-of-war between rivals ANC (which was led by Zuma) and the EFF.

Service delivery concerns

People with no political affiliation said they are worried about basic things.

Bawinile Mhlahlo — a 42-year-old fruit and vegetable hawker with a stall outside the government multi-purpose centre comprising of a police station, home affairs, Sassa and other government outlets built during the  Zuma years — said community members are worried about the lack of jobs and high cost of living in the area.

“Food is very expensive. We have to pay R70 [to] take a taxi to Eshowe or Kranskop and, when there, everything is expensive. I hope that my vote will go to a party that will be able to improve things because we are feeling the pinch. Here, I used to make a little more money when this place opened up and cash-in-transit vehicles came here to pay people in cash. Now they don’t come and people collect their money through the banks and ATM. People would rather go to Eshowe and Kranskop instead of coming here because they collect their pensions and grant and also buy groceries there.”

When approaching Zuma’s homestead, we were greeted by men in army uniform. They formed part of the paramilitary unit that started camping there in the eventful moments before the arrest of Zuma in July 2021 for contempt of court. The arrest led to eight days of violence and looting, resulting in the death of more than 350 people and huge damage to the economy.

Read more in Daily Maverick: July 2021 unrest report – The anatomy of the destruction of South Africans

An officer in charge, who did not want to give his name as he said he was not authorised to talk to the media, said they were merely there to give “protective cover to their Msholozi”, Zuma’s clan name.

“You know the Old Man is a peaceful man, but his enemies want to target and kill him because he is telling the truth. We are here to protect him. We go around the house to ensure that nobody breaches security. We, the soldiers, are also peaceful people……unless someone provokes us. Then, all hell will break loose,” he said.

Jacob Zuma, Nkandla

Jacob Zuma’s homestead in the distance surrounded by local houses in Nkandla. (Photo: Chris Makhaye)

Battle lines drawn

Ntolwane forms part of Ward 14 under the Nkandla Local Municipality. The ward, as well as the municipality, is run by the IFP. From 2011 to 2016 local government – when Zuma was president — Ward 14 elected ANC councillors. But the IFP retook the ward during the 2021 local government elections when Zuma was no longer the president.

Bonga Mbambo, the ANC’s Nkandla sub-region leader, admitted that the emergence of the MK Party has presented his party with many challenges, but said the ANC would not take this lying down.

“We are organising and getting people to our side. You see all this development around here, was brought about by the ANC government. People know this and they say they will vote for the ANC come May 29. Only the vote will decide everything,” said Mbambo.

Wayne Sussman, an independent political analyst, said there are clear signs that the emergence of Zuma and MK party will upset the apple cart.

“In Nkandla the IFP has always been strong, even during the times of Jacob Zuma. I guess that this is because Thami Ntuli (the IFP’s KZN Premier candidate) comes from this area. There was a swing to the ANC when Zuma was the president but it didn’t affect the IFP’s powerbase. But I think there will be a bigger swing from the IFP to the MK party under Zuma than there was when Zuma was still with the ANC,” Sussman said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Any doubt still who was behind the 2021 riots?

  • John P says:

    “When approaching Zuma’s homestead, we were greeted by men in army uniform.” These men even refer to themselves as soldiers. They are in fact a completely illegal private army and should be dealt with accordingly.

  • Michael Thomlinson says:

    “Dlamini, who spent many years working in Johannesburg and living in a hostel in Soweto, as well as many other residents in the Ntolwane area, credits the controversial former president for bringing development to the area”.
    Yeah, right – the development was made, in the area, to accommodate Zuma so that he would have a smooth ride to and from Nkandla and have water and electricity. All paid with taxpayers money.

  • ST ST says:

    If you care about the people, you don’t build yourself a mansion surrounded by poverty. I don’t know how much an average house in the village costs. Lest sat under R500k. Maybe one in Eshowe town say R2 million. What is that is needed to upgrade for R250 million? What kind of golden benches (instead of wooden one) are his visitors meant to sit on? And does reflect the economy of the local area where poverty and unemployment is rife? The cost of army guards…and everything. How much food does that take away from the tables of the poor? How May kids could be sent to school? We really must leant what we are entitled to as citizens and stop glorifying leaders for doing the care minimum whilst pocketing large sums of money and pecks for themselves, their children’s and friends. Shameful for them and for us who support them.

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