Echoes of bad old days
A knobkerrie beating on a cow-hide shield makes a fearsome cracking sound, especially for those who remember the murderous internecine violence between the IFP and ANC/United Democratic Front in the Eighties and early Nineties in KwaZulu-Natal.
On Saturday, at the funeral of pro-ANC inkosi Mbongeleni Zondi, where IFP members were outraged at being stopped from entering the funeral marquee in Msinga because they had arrived in party regalia, the drumming sound heralded 48 hours of political violence.
On Sunday buses carrying ANC members to a rally in Nongoma were stoned. After the rally ANC MP Zeblon Zulu survived an assassination attempt, while IFP councillor Jeremiah Mavundla was arrested for the attempted murder of an ANC organiser, Bongani Ngcobo, who was attacked on the night of the funeral.
Independent violence monitor in KwaZulu-Natal Mary de Haas is not surprised.
“There is ongoing low-level political intimidation in KZN between elections with an upsurge in the build-up to them,” she said.
De Haas says political intolerance is rife in areas with a history of violence where former IFP warlords maintain banks of voters by squashing political activity and freedom of association.
Last weekend’s events also highlighted the schizophrenia plaguing the IFP. On the one hand it is attempting to modernise and appeal to a broader base of voters, especially urbanites, on the other the party seems unable to adapt its traditional approach, based on a Zulu societal hierarchy which is transforming.
“The rigid structure of Zulu society is crumbling. The IFP can’t fool people any longer and neither can they rely on chiefs to capture subjects [to vote] for them,” said political analyst Protas Madlala.
The promulgation of the KZN Traditional Leadership and Governance Act in 2005 brought the amakhosi closer to the ANC in government. The 249 traditional leaders in KZN now receive salaries from provincial government, have pensions and access to further education and the provincial department of housing is building houses “fitting of their stature as amakhosi”.
The ANC’s open courting of Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, combined with his fragile relationship with IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has also loosened the IFP stranglehold on the rural electorate.
Madlala says that, much to the IFP’s chagrin, the ANC has used its five years in government “to make inroads into rural areas through service delivery and social spending”.
“There are better roads, bridges and access to welfare grants. We are yet to see the IFP intervene in critical issues, like farm evictions, which would have been a logical issue from which to build support,” said Madlala
The Ulundi and Nongoma areas are part of the IFP’s heartland and have a history of intolerance for the ANC. A week before last weekend’s rally ANC provincial Cabinet ministers were hounded out of the area while on government business.
Ironically, a few days before this weekend’s incidents IFP MP Narend Singh, speaking in Parliament, called for greater tolerance among political parties.
“We can never let the dark days of politically motivated killings return—ever again,” said Singh, who called for all parties to campaign with the “electioneering principle of respect, honesty and integrity”.