Give me the IFP over the Engerlish




The Johannesburg pre-dawn is beautiful, but cold enough for me to be draped in a blanket as I hit the guesthouse balcony for a quick coffee before getting stuck into the day’s labour.

I’m starving. Dinner the night before consisted of biscuits and a couple of bananas — I’d worked too late to organise anything more substantial — so my stomach is pretty empty. Then again, I’m not exactly emaciated, so skipping the meal won’t do me any harm.

It’s my own fault that I’m playing an away fixture in my second-least favourite city in the country. I’d given the news desk a heads-up on Tuesday that the new president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Velenkosini Hlabisa, would be in Jozi to meet the media on Wednesday and suggested that somebody do an interview with him.

Dumb move. That somebody turned out to be me, so here I am, craning my neck for a glimpse of the non-existent ocean to the east, while cursing myself for being so conscientious and shivering my ass off.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The gig meant I got to meet the bras in the office for the first time since before the May elections. And submit my expense claims that have been piling up since then. It didn’t make sense to submit them while a retrenchment process was going on and remind the lahnees that I cost them anything more than a salary.

At least I’m not in Cape Town, my least favourite city in the republic, running around after the allegedly “royal couple” like so many of our colleagues have been forced to do. I’ll take the IFP over the Engerlish any day of the week.

I don’t get the obsession with the English “royal family”. These are the representatives of our former colonial masters, rapacious, thieving warlords who robbed this country of its mineral resources and murdered its leaders, paved the way for the apartheid regime and did their best to keep it in power. The “royals” should be here to make reparation, to return the stolen diamonds and gold, to apologise for their role in slavery, colonialism and apartheid. They aren’t, but here we are, a country that’s driving out fellow Africans, running around glorifying the “royal couple”, like they’re doing us a favour or something.

Perhaps they are just another set of potential economic refugees, checking their options, given that the United Kingdom appears to have failed as a state and may not exist by the time their trip is over.

One never knows.

I wonder if their paperwork is in order for an extended stay, in case they don’t have a home to go back to? Stranger things have happened. The home affairs department should keep a close eye on them. The last thing we need is more “undocumented foreign nationals” taking our jobs and selling drugs, and all that.

The Hlabisa interview was cool, if a bit stiff in the beginning.

Hlabisa has been with the IFP since 1978, when he was 13, and has served as a councillor and mayor for 24 years. A former school principal, Hlabisa only moved to the party’s national leadership last year when he became its secretary general, previously acting as KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader since 2011.

While he is currently leader of the official opposition in the provincial legislature — he was mayor of Hlabisa, his hometown, until May — the new IFP leader is relatively new to national politics and still something of an unknown beyond the party ranks.

Hlabisa’s taken a big jump. He’s refreshingly frank about it. At the start of the interview, he takes concise notes of the questions in his notebook, making sure that he turns the interview into a learning experience for himself.


It’s a big job.

Most people outside the party think that the IFP’s youthful representative in Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts, Mkuleko Hlengwa, is its new president, because he’s on TV way more often than Hlabisa.

The party itself also seems a bit confused. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who ran the party for more than four decades, is still listed as president on the IFP’s website. The biggest picture on the site is still

that of Shenge, as Buthelezi is known, while Hlabisa’s is relegated to the news feed. There’s also no profile of the new president on the site.

Then again, there’s no rush. Buthelezi was president of the party for 44 years, so logic dictates that Hlabisa, who is only 54 years old, will be around for a while, so why hurry with the pictures and biography? Shenge retired at 90, so the benchmark is set.


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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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