Magwaza-Msibi praised as a fearless trailblazer for women in politics
Tributes have been pouring in after the death of National Freedom Party leader and founder Zanele Magwaza-Msibi from cardiac arrest.
Ahmed Munzoor Shaik-Emam, NFP parliamentary caucus leader, told TimesLIVE on Monday that Magwaza-Msibi, 59, had been ill and was admitted to a Durban hospital.
Magwaza-Msibi served as deputy minister of science and technology in former president Jacob Zuma's executive between 2014 and 2019.
“She was in the ICU for some time and unfortunately she succumbed to her illness on Monday morning. The party is grieving and our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
“She was an inspirational leader, who despite suffering a huge stroke in 2014 continued with her work, despite her health challenges,” said Shaik-Emam.
In a statement, family spokesperson Canaan Mdletshe confirmed that Magwaza-Msibi had suffered a cardiac arrest.
Reacting to the news, the ANC extended its condolences to Magwaza-Msibi's family, friends and colleagues, saying their loss was shared by the entire nation.
“Mama Zanele served the people of SA with distinction during her tenure as a parliamentarian between 2014 and 2019 when she resigned due to ill-health,” said ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe.
The DA remembered Magwaza-Msibi as “a powerhouse politician” who started her career in the IFP, and later left to lead the NFP into parliament.
“We will remember her for her fearlessness and as a trailblazer for women in politics,” said DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube. “We also commend her for her service to the country as a councillor, MP, mayor and deputy minister,” she added.
GOOD's Patricia de Lille described Magwaza-Msibi's death as a “great loss”.
“We will always remember her courage. Even when she served as a deputy minister, she was able to balance the work of a deputy minister and the work of her party. It is indeed a great loss for us,” said De Lille.
The UDM's Bantu Holomisa said he first met Magwaza-Msibi when she was a member of the IFP [IFP] and that she worked hard for that organisation. According to Holomisa, that hard work had an effect on her health but her roles in both the IFP and the NFP had successfully changed SA's political landscape, he said.
Magwaza-Msibi joined the IFP as an activist in the mid-1970s and rose through the ranks from branch level and became its national chairperson in 2006. She became the first mayor of the Zululand District Municipality in 2000 after the first local government elections in the democratic dispensation.
Her relationship with other IFP leaders had soured as her supporters started campaigning for her to become IFP president. Others reportedly wanted then-party leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi to continue at the helm to preserve unity.
In 2011, Magwaza-Msibi, then the national chairperson of the IFP, resigned from that party and formed the National Freedom Party. The party contested and performed fairly well in the May 2011 local government elections.
She returned to the position of mayor of Zululand after the 2011 local government elections as a result of a coalition deal between the NFP and the ANC to co-govern 19 hung municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.
Former health minister Zweli Mkhize described Magwaza-Msibi as a pragmatic leader who ensured her views and those of her party remained independent and distinguishable even as the party co-operated with others to ensure successful service delivery.
“As the provincial leader of the ANC that entered into a co-operative arrangement with the NFP after winning a number of local government seats in KwaZulu-Natal in 2011, I appreciated the principled leadership that Njinji [her clan name] provided to bring about stability in governance in the municipalities co-governed by our respective parties,” said Mkhize in a statement shared by the NFP on Monday.
He said Magwaza-Msibi had emerged as a powerful woman leader among political leaders in SA as she led in the IFP and later the NFP that she had founded.
“She was respected as a strong champion for transformation and for her role in improving lives. She performed her tasks as mayor of Zululand and deputy minister in national government as well as an MP with distinction,” he said.
“KaMagwaza had a passion for serving our people, a job she performed with compassion and deep commitment. We are aware that she had not been well for a while, but we have always harboured a hope for her complete recovery,” said Mkhize.
“I remain with fond memories of political engagements in which she displayed great wisdom and clarity of thought. She will be forever missed for the impact she made in the country’s political landscape,” he added.
The NFP became the fifth-largest party in parliament after the 2014 elections, having received 288,742 (1.57%) of the national votes, which allowed it to get six seats in the National Assembly and another six in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.
Zuma appointed Magwaza-Msibi as the deputy minister of science and technology in 2014, a position she held until May 2019.
The IFP's national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa recalled Magwaza-Msibi's committed leadership, saying she was a woman whose political ideals were formed in the IFP from an early age.
“She served in our structures and was mentored by the founder and then president of our party, who recognised in her the passion to create social and economic justice for our country.
“The IFP benefited from her leadership when she served as our national chairperson, and we confidently advanced her as our premier candidate for KwaZulu-Natal, in the 2009 national and provincial elections.
“At a time like this, one would not wish to remember subsequent events. Suffice to say that when Mrs kaMagwaza-Msibi split the IFP and formed the NFP, our founder maintained that the door would never be closed, despite the deep pain that had been caused.
“We therefore have no negative words as the nation grieves this loss of a former deputy minister, MP and political leader,” he said.