/ 12 January 2001

Inkatha joins ‘the better devil’ to twist ANC arm on amakhosi

Jaspreet Kindra

The Inkatha Freedom Party is positioning itself alongside the Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal in an attempt to twist the arm of the African National Congress on the amakhosi issue. Apparently the IFP is hoping to force the ANC to enhance the status of the amakhosi in a Municipal Structures Act amendment likely to be deliberated in the National Assembly next month. Senior Inkatha leaders said they had been “forced” to seek a partnership with the DA in local governments in KwaZulu-Natal because of increasing unhappiness within the IFP’s national leadership with the ANC’s stance on the amakhosi issue.

The IFP, whose leader, Minister of Home Affairs Mangosuthu Buthelezi, is also the chair of the provincial House of Traditional Leaders, has been agitating since early last year for a more inclusive role for the amakhosi in the new local government structures.

“We do not agree with DA’s politics we just wanted to hit at the ANC and practically demonstrate to them that we have these other options,” said a senior IFP leader.

Another said: “The DP is the better devil; at least they recognise the amakhosi.” A senior IFP leader’s comment was telling: “If the ANC were to adopt a favourable stance, the decision to align ourselves with the DA could be reversed.”

While the number of KwaZulu-Natal municipalities where the IFP and the DA have entered into partnerships is not available, their alliance at the Durban Metro Council level was not well received by the ANC.

The IFP late last year expressed its dissatisfaction with a Bill amending the Municipal Structures Act. The amendment was promoted as assuring the amakhosi more powers in the new municipalities, but the IFP described the changes as a “window-dressing effort”. The approval of the amendment Bill was postponed before the municipal elections, according to officials because of some technical glitches. Public hearings on the fresh and yet to be published Bill are likely to be held later this month.

The IFP’s position on local government alliances has angered the ANC. The ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal last week urged the four ANC ministers who sit in the coalition government with the IFP in the province to seat themselves in the opposition benches.

Both parties entered into an agreement to set up a coalition government when neither managed to win a majority stake in the legislature after the 1999 general elections. The IFP also took up three ministerial and two deputy ministers’ positions in the national Cabinet.

On Saturda, Buthelezi renewed his attack on the national government for having adopted legislation that excluded the amakhosi from the new local government structures.

Addressing a gathering at the unveiling of a monument of Chief Mthiyaqhwa ka Didi of the Biyele clan at Nkandla, Sapa reports, Buthelezi called the situation “very dangerous and unsatisfactory”. He said the amakhosi had been drafted into extensive negotiations and embroiled in false promises and trickery of all types.

While leaders like Deputy President Jacob Zuma have given a commitment to enhancing the status of the amakhosi, the ANC is believed to be at the end of its tether in handling Buthelezi’s displeasure over the issue.

Late last year, while addressing a Mail & Guardian query, President Thabo Mbeki questioned Buthelezi’s concerns. He pointed out the decision to address the amakhosi’s concerns in the manner it was currently being handled was taken by the government, “and [Buthelezi] is part of the government”.