/ 30 August 2007

IFP showdown

A race for succession is taking shape in the IFP with progressive members of the party’s youth wing calling for it to formulate a succession plan ahead of the anticipated resignation of president Mangosuthu Buthelezi when his term ends in 2009.

Buoyed by a belief that the term ending in 2009 might be Buthelezi’s last as party president and his commitment to ‘renewal, regeneration and rejuvenation”, reformists within the party and its youth wing have begun lobbying for a deputy president.

Reformists, especially within the IFP Youth Brigade, made the proposal at the 2004 conference, but party elders rejected it.

But youth leaders told the Mail & Guardian this week that the current structure was confusing because it suggested the national chairperson was the party’s number two, while in reality the party secretary wields a lot of power.

Those casting about for Buthelezi’s successor cite the names of party secretary Musa Zondi, national chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi and national organiser Albert Mncwango as contenders.

‘Since 2004 we have been driving a systematic process of democratisation, which gained impetus during the era of Ziba Jiyane. We were misunderstood when we first raised the issue of a deputy president in 2004. People thought it was a direct challenge to the president’s position,” said a member of the youth brigade executive committee.

This time the youth point to indications that Buthelezi is committed to organisational reform. He is expected to let go of power when his term ends in 2009.

‘The Jiyane era and the subsequent noises he made about lack of internal democracy in the party has forced an about-turn on the elders. Since then we saw the national council being elected from the floor at conference.”

Since the party was founded in 1975, the 100-member council was made up of Buthelezi loyalists.

Constitutional reforms stripped Buthelezi of his power to handpick the chairperson of the youth brigade, with the incumbent, Thulasizwe Buthelezi, elected by the youth wing in October 2005

The youth said Jiyane — who they catapulted to the position of national chairperson ahead of Buthelezi loyalist and former premier Lionel Mtshali — compromised their reform strategy when he challenged Buthelezi for power.

The proposal for the deputy president position is not expected to receive much support from the party elders and is not likely to get support from the Women’s Brigade.

Buthelezi’s spokesperson, John Cayzer, said it was wrong to portray the IFP president as being anti-reform. Buthelezi was the first to speak about transforming the party and its structures, he said.

Buthelezi’s right-hand man and party secretary general, Zondi, claimed Jiyane hijacked the reform programme.

A member of the IFP executive committee said there was concern that ‘the issue of grooming a successor” would be divisive if not properly managed.

‘Raising the matter in the coming conference would not be correct. Its sensitive nature dictates that we have another seating deal with it and the future of the party. The coming conference should be concentrating on implementing strategies to ensure that we reassert the party as a powerful force in South African politics,” the executive member said.

In the running

Zanele Magwaza-Msibi

As the national chairperson, Magwaza-Msibi acts as president in the absence of Buthelezi.

As mayor of the Zululand district municipality, which plays an administrative oversight role over municipalities in the IFP stronghold of Ulundi and Nongoma, Magwaza-Msibi is seen to be at the coalface of delivery.

The first woman chairperson in the history of the party wields a lot of power and is loyal to IFP traditions and its leader.

Magwaza-Msibi, who joined the party in 1975 when she was 13, chaired her local branch in 1976 and was in the executive committees of both the youth and women’s brigades by 1988.

Albert Mncwango

Since his acquittal on a charge of rape by a former girlfriend, Mncwango has capi­talised on public symapthy and reinvented himself into an influential force in the IFP.

Considered as a party loyalist, Mncwango, who has been a long-serving member of the party, is not expected to ring in changes.

Mncwango is driving a strategy to restructure IFP branches, consolidate support and lure new voters.

He is driving the IFP’s campaign to win urban voters and young and ‘sophisticated” voters.

Mncwango is one of the brains behind the IFP strategic plan to recapture KwaZulu-Natal during the 2009 elections.

Musa Zondi

For a while now Zondi has been seen by party structures as the heir apparent.

The secre­tary general is a respected intellectual and a democrat, who would be best suited to revive the party and improve its appeal to urban voters.

Zondi, who has been in the party’s central committee since the 1970s, is part of its think tank and is ‘fiercely loyal” to Buthelezi.

This loyalty, however, cost him the national chairpersonship, because the youth opted to use Jiyane to bring about reformist changes in the party.

Zondi is a member of the National Assembly and is the former deputy minister of public works. — Zukile Majova