THE National Freedom Party (NFP), which will hold its second-year celebration in Durban this month, wants its president Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi to be the first female president of South Africa next year, secretary-general Nhlanhla Khubisa said on Monday.

The NFP, started by Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi after she walked out of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as its national chairperson, startled political analysts in 2011 by becoming South Africa’s fourth-biggest party.

Some analysts have again predicted the end of the NFP after a poor showing at recent by-elections suggested that rumoured political infighting and lack of funds may be affecting its operations.

"Contrary to what the prophets of doom have predicted, the NFP grows stronger every day," Mr Khubisa said on Monday.

Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi said they applauded academic Mamphela Ramphele’s initiative to form a new party, but the NFP was not threatened by the move.

Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi said Dr Ramphele might attract support from academic circles and middle and higher income earners, but she did not have grass-roots support.

Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi said Dr Ramphele’s party and the NFP would pick up new support from people outside the African National Congress (ANC) who did not want to be part of the political coalitions that the other opposition parties were involved with.

Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi said they no longer relied on the outcome of by-elections as an indicator of support due to "shenanigans" that took place during local elections such as the paying and bussing in of voters.

"We will be judged by the national and provincial election in 2014. We are growing in all areas," she said.

Mr Khubisa said the recent defection to the NFP of former IFP deputy chairman Stanley Dladla was an example of how the party was growing. He had brought with him 2,500 new NFP members from uThukela District, KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Khubisa said about 1,500 people had also joined the NFP in the Northern Cape over the weekend, while an event in ANC-led Estcourt over the weekend had managed to draw more than 800 supporters — this was an area where "we could not get 20 votes in the last election," he said.

Ms kaMagwaza-Msibi admitted the NFP had faced "challenges" among its leadership last year after the elective conference, but this was something that could be expected in a democracy.