/ 5 May 2023

Only Buthelezi’s face is allowed on regalia, says IFP

Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Heads will roll for Inkatha Freedom Party members who disregard a directive to wear regalia bearing party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s face, the IFP said on Thursday.

The party gave its district secretaries an ultimatum in the form of a letter to submit lists and details of all members who are found wearing party regalia bearing the face of the IFP’s president, Velenkosini Hlabisa, instead of that of Buthelezi.

The letter, dated 4 May and signed by party secretary general Siphosethu Lindinkosi Ngcobo, was addressed to all district secretaries. Copied into the letter were Buthelezi, Hlabisa, the provincial executive committee leadership and all constituency secretaries.

“You are requested to submit the list and details of all members/persons within your district who are known (either through social-media images or verifiable physical observation) to have worn or are currently wearing the regalia with the IFP logo that does not bear the face of the founder and President Emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, but of the sitting president Hon VF Velenkosini) Hlabisa in contravention with the party’s resolution,” reads the letter. 

“The details are to be submitted to my office by the end of business on May 5, 2023. This request has been copied to the constituency secretaries for ease of communication who, in turn, have the duty to communicate with the branches.” 

When asked if this was not tantamount to a possible purge of disobedient members, Ngcobo said the IFP does not involve itself in exercises that seek to victimise anyone, including its members.  

He said the directive was an innocent exercise that sought to ensure party resolutions were adhered to.

“I have taken note of malicious attacks on the IFP and its founder and president emeritus on the basis of an internal memorandum, which I circulated to all our structures today (Thursday). 

“While it is not my habit to discuss internal party matters in the public arena, I must provide context to the memorandum, as it is now being grossly misrepresented.

“The IFP, like all political parties, is gearing up for 2024 and we have had internal discussions about brand discipline. Nobody will deny that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the IFP’s strongest brand. It is due to his legacy and commitment to moral and ethical leadership that the IFP continues to grow, from by-election to by-election,” said Ngcobo.

He said the IFP national council, its highest decision-making body, had resolved to reaffirm the party’s resolution taken in 2019 and 2021, to continue using Buthelezi’s face as the IFP brand.

“My correspondence to our structures sought to reinforce this. It is therefore mischievous to suggest that this is some sort of decision that involves our founder and president emeritus. He has not been part of our discussions on the matter.

“Our brand is our strength, and brand discipline will be key as we embark on what we believe will be our strongest showing in the 2024 elections,” he said, adding that Buthelezi remained the IFP drawcard.

The disciplinary committee would decide on the fate of whoever disregarded the directive, he said. 

“Penalties on transgressors will depend on the gravity of their explanation for breaching party regulations, and obviously members will have different reasons. The penalty part is better left in the hands of the disciplinary committee.”

Perfect strategy ahead of elections

Political analyst Xolani Dube said the move was a perfect political strategy ahead of next year’s national elections. Politics was all about popularity and loyalty, he said. 

“Sentimental memories play a huge role in African politics. You might be committing political suicide if you were to put babu Buthelezi aside and go with babu Hlabisa, especially during this time as we are headed towards the elections.

“People adore [Buthelezi] so this is the right time that he should be the face of the party. The electorate still admire him, so I believe this is a good political strategy ahead of the elections,” said Dube. 
This story was first published in The Witness.