Hayley with councillor Govender.
Image: Hayley Reichert

Could the resurgence of the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal bring change in 2024?

Will the ANC lose significant ground to the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal next year? asks London-based South African Hayley Reichert.


Hayley with councillor Govender.
Image: Hayley Reichert

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has a longstanding relationship with the ANC. Yet, the IFP has taken a bold decision to join the newly formed Multi-Party Charter. Will the ANC lose significant ground to the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal next year?

IFP at a glance

As of 2 August 2023, the IFP has a total of 601 councillors nationwide. This is made up of 330 ward councillors and 271 PR councillors. The IFP’s stronghold is in northern KZN. However, they do have their sights set on breaking ground in eThekwini and the southern part of the province. 

“With each by-election we have contested, we’ve either dislodged the ruling party or made reasonable inroads in areas where IFP did not have support before. We are grateful for the trust that voters have placed in us.” said Siphosethu Ngcobo, IFP secretary-general at a news conference on 20 May 2023. 

Here’s a brief overview of the 2023 Municipality by-election IFP victories over the ANC in KZN:

  • 18 January – Mtubatuba Ward 9 
  • 9 March – Msunduzi Ward 2 
  • 23 March – Dannhauser Ward 12
  • 6 April – Nongoma Ward 11, uMvoti Ward 6
  • 27 April – uMhlabuyalingana Ward 19
  • 15 June – uMvoti Ward 2
  • 28 June – Alfred Duma Ward 29, Inkosi Langalibalele Wards 5 and 21
  • 19 July – uMthonjaneni Ward 6 and Nkandla Ward 2

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Meeting the party leader 

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with IFP leader, president Velenkosi Hlabisa, in Richard’s Bay. I was intrigued by his calm, intelligent and professional character. He gave great insight into the process leading up to last week’s national convention that resulted in the Multi-Party Charter. 

I then spent time in Umhlathuze ward 26 discussing the history of the IFP and insight into the Indian community in KZN by councillor Ray Govender and speaker of King Cetshwayo District Municipality, Ivan Naidoo. One thing that struck me was the genuine respect between these ward councillors and Hlabisa. 

In recent interviews, Neill De Beer, leader of the United Independent Movement (UIM) and Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Fredoom Front Plus party, have both hinted at Hlabisa being a potential candidate for the position of president of South Africa.

ALSO READ: IFP: Jacob Zuma’s release should not be considered precedent

Inroads to eThekwini and KZN south

According to the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) website, there are currently 5 397 706 registered voters in KZN, making up 20.76% of the total number of registered voters in the country. 

eThekwini is fraught with corruption and mismanagement under the ANC. The province is still reeling from significant damage to homes and businesses following the 2021 riots and 2022 floods. The ongoing water and sewage system problems in Durban are also affecting tourism with many beaches unsafe for swimming due to the critical E. coli contamination. 

“The IFP is making significant progress in the eThekwini area, in particular, for the first time in 26 years, ward 99 which has historically been an ANC ward was won over by a large margin of 4500 votes to 2200 by the IFP. It is an indication of people, ANC in particular, that are having second thoughts about the non-service delivery of the ANC in the eThekwini municipality…

“The south region is very important for the IFP, and we are focussing great effort in ensuring that we return to glory days where we controlled 5 of the 6 municipalities and where we were in charge of the Ugu District Municipality,” said MP Narend Singh, the IFP’s acting national spokesperson, treasurer-general and parliamentary chief whip via voice note on 23 August 2023.

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Singh has emphasised that the IFP is growing in the number of branches that have been inaugurated and increasing party support in the Ugu District Municipality, suggesting a turnaround of support. 

KZN features as a key province that could significantly contribute towards unseating the ANC thus the IFP stands to play a significant role in making history and changing the political trajectory.