/ 5 August 2005

Damning report exposes IFP’s internal collapse

A confidential Inkatha Freedom Party discussion paper, which calls for a change in the party’s old guard leadership, has been leaked to the Mail & Guardian in the week in which national chairperson Ziba Jiyane was given his marching orders because of his drive to revolutionise the dying party.

Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi last Sunday suspended Jiyane at a special national council meeting for remarks the chairperson had made the previous weekend at an IFP Youth Brigade rally in Durban. Jiyane had said that the party was operating as “an internal dictatorship”.

Jiyane’s suspension tightens Buthelezi’s grip on the party, which he formed in 1975, and raises his stakes for re-election at the IFP’s national conference in September, where it is expected that young Turks, eager for a modernised party, will table a vote of no confidence in Buthelezi’s leadership, paving the way for Jiyane to take the crown.

The discussion document, titled The IFP — Crisis of Identity and of Public Support, was written by IFP MP Gavin Woods at the request of the party’s leadership and tabled before a national parliamentary caucus earlier this year. Among other things it calls for the “infusion of new thinking and new minds”.

The document pulls no punches: “The reinvention of the party should be sought through a zero-based approach, which resists unchallenged assumptions, holy cows, single truths, knee-jerk denials or quick fixes.”

Its brutally honest assessment of the party’s flailing identity angered Buthelezi to such an extent that he recalled all the copies and ordered that they be shredded so that they did not land in the hands of the media.

The document notes that in the mid-1980s the IFP was the fastest growing organisation, with a signed up membership of two million. “Policies and positions were argued publicly and with confidence across the national agenda … these displayed moral fortitude and genuine concern and caring for the country and its people.”

After 1987 the party began floundering, largely because it was unable to extricate itself from the violence sweeping the province. “It lost its ‘big picture’ perspective of the changing political environment … it moved from a wide strategic approach to day-to-day and issue-by-issue tactics. It became increasingly reactionary, defensive and internalised in its thinking.”

After 1994 the situation continued to deteriorate for the party, the report notes. “It lost moral authority and in general the IFP underperformed in the KwaZulu-Natal government, and in particular those departments headed by IFP provincial ministers.”

Today the IFP “demonstrates little, if any, human caring towards many instance of deprivation and suffering … its highest level meetings [national council] are mostly lengthy, self-involved talk sessions … Its resolutions are very seldom honoured.”

Since 1994, the IFP has lost 50% of its voter base, including 40% of its Zulu base, and it only captures 2% of the urban vote. “All that some voters know about the IFP is that it is strongly associated with the interests of traditional Zulu structures,” says the report.

“Whichever way these statistics are contemplated, they are emphatic in their portrayal of a party as a dying political force.”