ANC-IFP tensions on the boil in KZN

The political temperature is rising in KwaZulu-Natal after the Inkatha Freedom Party withdrew from constitutional talks in the province, claiming that the African National Congress had reneged on its legal obligations.

The withdrawal follows a rash of killings of IFP and ANC councillors, which some analysts link to the upcoming local government elections.

The most recent murder was that of IFP councillor and mayor of Kwambonambi in KwaZulu-Natal, Pheneas Dumokwakhe “Siqomu” Mthethwa and his wife Carol, who were hacked to death on their farm this week. ANC sources described Mthethwa as a local warlord.

Lionel Mtshali, IFP leader in the provincial parliament, stormed out of a constitutional committee meeting last Monday after accusing Cyril Xaba, the chairperson of the committee, of excluding “senior princes” in the royal house from the submission process.

The next day the IFP announced it had quit the constitutional process “pending the removal of this obstacle to transparency and all-inclusiveness”.

Xaba said the princes were given the opportunity to make their inputs on April 4, but failed to turn up at the parliament in Pietermaritzburg.

King Goodwill Zwelithini made a public submission, on behalf of the monarchy, a week before.

Relations between Zwelithini and the IFP are strained because the party perceives the king to be in the pocket of ANC Premier S’bu Ndebele. IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi has asked the king to call an imbizo to announce whether he wants Buthelezi as his traditional prime minister, while he ANC has vociferously objected that there is no room for two premiers in KwaZulu-Natal — in essence two centres of power. Zwelithini has remained mum on the issue.

Xaba said the princes Mtshali championed by opting out of the constitutional process were a dissident group, drawn largely from IFP ranks, who sought to put an “alternative view to the one presented by the king”.

The real motive for the IFP’s withdrawal, he said was that a team of constitutional experts, monitoring the drafting process, ruled that “80% of the IFP’s draft constitution is unconstitutional”. This had “angered” the IFP.

Mtshali hit back, saying that the constitutional committee had adopted “the ANC’s minimalist approach to constitution drafting”.

A key flashpoint in the IFP’s draft is a call for a provincial legislature of two chambers, with the second chamber — the “house of representatives” — comprising members appointed by local councils, traditional leaders, trade unions, the chamber of commerce and other interest groups. Experts believe this will violate the national Constitution by creating an un-elected house.

KwaZulu-Natal’s constitutional process is historically fraught. In 1996 the Constitutional Court refused to certify the IFP-driven constitution, ruling that it sought to invert the relationship between the provincial and national governments.

Xaba said the committee would press ahead despite Inkatha’s withdrawal, and that a draft constitution would be tabled in the legislature on May 2. The IFP would then re-enter the process by making amendments, which will be voted on.

If the IFP stayed out of the process altogether, the ANC would pass ordinary legislation catering for the king and the monarchy, said Xaba. This required only a majority vote in the legislature as opposed to the two-thirds required to pass a constitution.

However, without the IFP’s support, the constitution cannot be enacted because the ANC has only 38 seats in the 80-member legislature. Even with the support of the United Democratic Movement, the Democratic Alliance, African Christian Democratic Party and the Minority Front, it will not muster the required two-thirds majority.

The bitter wrangle over the constitution comes after the violent death of at least 20 councillors, youth activists and party officials from both parties in the past 18 months. The dead include two mayors.

Neither party is willing to say whether the killings are politically motivated, though members privately concede that they are. Sibu Giani, a member of the IFP’s executive council, said that until the ANC-led government tackled political violence with the same level of commitment it is giving to “reducing poverty … the IFP cannot rule out politics as a motive for the killings”.

Ndebele promised in his state of the province address in February that he would set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the murders. The commission has not begun its work. Ndebele has yet to announce its head, despite imposing a deadline for the body to meet by the end of March this year.

Ndebele’s spokesperson, Harry Mchunu, said an announcement would be made “this month”.

The premier’s decision to establish the commission followed a letter from Buthelezi to Deputy President Jacob Zuma calling for a presidential commission of enquiry to determine “why political crimes were not usually met with prosecution, trials and convictions”.