/ 2 May 2008

Buthelezi’s U-turn

As IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi threatens to challenge a new KwaZulu-Natal law in court, the provincial government has released correspondence showing that only last year he demanded that same law be enacted.

The law in question will make the position of chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders permanent, forcing Buthelezi to choose between his position as part-time chair of the house and his job as a national MP.

Seeing this as a plot by the ANC-led provincial government to either oust him from politics or erode his power base, Buthelezi has reacted furiously, attacking the province’s local government minister, Mike Mabuyakhulu, and threatening to take the matter to court.

However, in an ironic twist, the KwaZulu-Natal government has disclosed that Buthelezi was initially at the forefront of those pushing it for legislation to make the position full time.

The provincial government sent the Mail & Guardian a letter Buthelezi wrote to the KwaZulu-Natal department of local government and traditional affairs on July 17 last year ”to request — the appointment of the chairperson and deputy chairperson as full-time members of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial house”.

Buthelezi said he found it difficult to understand why ”we as office-bearers of this house should be treated differently from other office-bearers with similar status in other provinces”. He is the part-time chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders but spends most of his time in the National Assembly.

At Freedom Day celebrations last week he lost his temper and was seen repeatedly pointing his finger at Mabuyakhulu.

The IFP has accused the provincial government of failing to consult the House of Traditional Leaders before announcing the disputed legislation last week.

The provincial government is unmoved, saying it will declare the chairperson’s position vacant if Buthelezi fails to take it up within a month.

Mabuyakhulu said the government has been accused ”of being out of sync with what is happening in other provinces”, and that amakhosi in KwaZulu-Natal are ”putting pressure on the provincial government to make these positions full time”.

Last August the chairperson of the national House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi FP Kutama, also wrote to the KwaZulu-Natal local government department arguing that both the chairperson and the deputy chairperson should be full time.

The law provides that the positions will become full time from June 1 this year.

Buthelezi’s spokesperson, Jon Cayzer, said the IFP leader had wanted only the deputy chairperson’s position to be full time.