Amakhosi abandon IFP

Inkatha Freedom Party dissidents remain adamant that the party leadership’s foot-dragging over a date for a national elective conference will not stave off a radical restructuring of its top positions.

Speaking on condition of anonymity one Ulundi organiser said a lobbying campaign was under way to remove the current leadership. ‘We have started mobilising structures on the ground and most people feel the need for change — If the conference was held tomorrow we would get about 60% of the vote from [the 136] branches in Ulundi,” he said.

Organisers in other areas of Kwa-Zulu-Natal confirmed the campaign. The party faces the added challenge of traditional leaders and amakhosi — used to mobilise voters — moving closer to the ANC.

In May IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi refused to stand for reelection as chairperson of the Kwa-Zulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders after the nomination process showed that only 24 of the 53 voting amakhosi backed him, others favouring his opponent, Inkosi Bhekisisa Felix Bhengu.

‘Buthelezi was truly shocked by the voting,” Protas Madlala, a political analyst, said. ‘He honestly thought he had a grip on traditional leaders.”

The Mail & Guardian understands that the party is split between dissidents, supporting chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi — whose relationship with Buthelezi has reportedly broken down — and traditionalists, mobilising around secretary general Musa Zondi.

The IFP’ s nat ional council announced after meeting in Ulundi this weekend that a date for internal elections, originally scheduled for July this year, will only be announced after branches are reassessed by the third week of October.

Zondi said the reason was that branches were ‘not ready for conference” because of low membership figures. The IFP constitution stipulates that a branch is in good standing if it has at least 50 members.

Elements in the IFP and its youth brigade see the postponement of the conference as a delaying tactic. Since the party’s dismal showing at the polls earlier this year they have called for a change of leadership.

Ivan Barnes — who, with Kwa-Zulu-Natal IFP youth chairperson Sikhumbuzo Khanyeza and his deputy, Simphiwe Buthelezi, was expelled from the IFP for urging change — said the leadership wanted time to prop up branch membership and build sympathetic support ‘to remain in power, but the people are calling for change”.

Barnes again called for the IFP’s transformation at a mass meeting of the party’s student wing, the South African Democratic Students Organisation (Sadesmo), at the University of Zululand’s Ongoye campus last week.

The national council strongly condemned its student wing for giving him the platform and threatened to ‘reconsider” its ‘generous” moral and financial support of Sadesmo.

Madlala said these were further signs that the ‘centre was not holding” and that the IFP ‘was in disarray” and continuing to unravel. The party has faced rebellion since the election vote in KwaZulu-Natal, where it achieved just 20.5%.

Last week police used stun grenades and rubber bullets when IFP members supporting the leadership and youth brigade members calling for the reinstatement of the expelled dissidents clashed outside the party’s Durban headquarters.

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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