/ 10 March 2009

Throwing his hat in

Staff Photographer
Staff Photographer

The Inkatha Freedom Party has been in electoral decline since losing its grip on the KwaZulu-Natal government in 2004. Niren Tolsi spoke to IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi about how he views his chances in the coming poll

What does the IFP hope to achieve in this election?
Any party goes [into an election] with the aim of going into government — it doesn’t matter how small it is. We don’t have many resources. We don’t have many godfathers who give us large sums of money — which other parties do have, unfortunately for us. So that limits our organising and mobilisation capacity.

The IFP has suffered a progressive waning of electoral fortunes …
I never like to dabble in that. It’s been a punchline for journalists to say: “Young people say it’s not cool to belong to the IFP.” But look at the Mangosuthu University of Technology — the whole council is Sadesmo, our student wing. That contradicts this thing of … carrying traditional weapons only. Our big problem is that we lack resources, because money is the milk of politics. Madiba used to tell me, because he is our friend, the moment he left jail he used to get six-figure donations. You’ll never find that with us.

The IFP has been trying to present itself as a modern party. Didn’t the political violence in Nongoma affect this image?
I don’t know what you mean by modernisation. I don’t think the majority of voters here — who in the past gave us more votes than any other party — thought that they were primitive. It’s only you journalists who create that impression. In our rallies those people are a very small minority, but you take photographs and create the impression. The majority of people at our rallies are ordinary people. I carry [traditional weapons], but on cultural occasions — I think there’s an occasion for it. I don’t think they add any value during ordinary political rallies because they create the wrong impression and then some people, for propaganda or whatever purposes, focus on them.

You often attack patronage and corruption in government. How will the IFP be different?
When I say we condemn corruption, I don’t say that we’re a bunch of angels and the ANC is the devil. There have been transgressions in all parties. But where people have done that and they are on the lists again and going to Parliament, that creates a kind of blessing for corrupt people so that they can get away with corruption.

Does the IFP have the skills to run an efficient government if it wins in KwaZulu-Natal?
Look back at the government of KwaZulu. I’m not boasting about skills, but our civil service was a proper civil service. Since 1994 in this province there was a purging of people who did not have ANC membership cards. Some of the skills from which we could have built were removed and people completely out of their depth were put in place, because they were pals of the party.

The ANC recently paraded your son, Tutu Buthelezi, as a recruit.
That is very cheap. He was an IFP councillor who moved to [IFP breakaway party] Nadeco and now from Nadeco. This kind of political prostitution, they push it to say: “Even in my [Buthelezi’s] family!” My son has very strange ways. Although I have helped him many times, with his children’s education and so on, he has been a wild card.

There have been rumours of the IFP and the ANC forming post-election coalitions to keep out the Congress of the People.
Someone said that to me, but I don’t know of any official approach by any of our leaders.

The IFP has taken up the issue of land redistribution. How would you accelerate it?
We think we can make a difference without creating the kind of conflict we see in Zimbabwe … We’ve got Aids, incurable TB — for these things, apart from antiretrovirals, nutrition is a must. You can’t say people must be dependent on grants and can’t go back to producing food. Whether under Mr Mandela or Mr Mbeki, we always say that the apartheid era was terrible for our people. But as far as rural areas were concerned, there were tractors and people were helped with fertilisers.

You lost a child to Aids and the issue features prominently on your election manifesto. How will the IFP address it?
We support ABC [Abstain, Be Faithful, Condomise], but we should go beyond it. I don’t think we should overemphasise prophylactics — we can’t say condoms are the only solution. Moral regeneration is very important. Across all religions there is commonality about these things. In Zulu society it was a thing to aspire to, to be chaste when one got married.