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Update: IFP forced to remove images of Zulu king from infographic promoting its election manifesto

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has been forced to remove an image of Zulu monarch Misuzulu ka Zwelithini from social media promoting its election manifesto after the king threatened to take action against the party for doing so.

The use of the king’s picture by the IFP sparked an angry reaction from the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and the Zulu royal house, whose spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu, later instructed the party to remove the picture and stop involving the monarch in party politics.

The image was contained in an inforgraphic promoting the manifesto,  launched on 30 September in Durban, with the monarch’s image used adjacent to a heading stating that “We partner with traditional leaders.”

“We partner with traditional leaders by recognising just how vital traditional leaders are and how important it is to support and resource amakhosi, so that they can execute their functions of ensuring that communities’ needs are met and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect,”’ the infographic states.

It then encourages people to vote IFP on 1 November.

The offending poster  also circulated on  social media accounts before the outcry from the king and the ANC forced the party to take them down.

On  Monday, the material was brought to the attention of the royal house, sparking the statement by Prince Thulani.

“The office of the king wishes to state categorically that from time immemorial, the Zulu king and Ndlunkulu kaZulu (traditional prime minister) has never been used to advance political ideology,” Zulu said.

“This office humbly appeals to all political parties to refrain from using photos of the kings or any royalty related images in their election campaigns. This king is, and always has been, above politics,” he said.

“This is a warning to all political parties, otherwise this office may have to seek legal advice on this matter.”

The ANC also weighed in on the matter, saying that the IFP was attempting to make the monarch it “subject” by using his image for campaign purposes.

The ANC’s provincial spokesperson, Nhlakanipho Ntombela, said the party had noted the IFP’s “desperate attempts to confuse the electorate by using the king’s image in their election material shared in social media”.

He said the ANC called on the IFP to “refrain from reducing the Zulu monarchy to a level where it becomes a subject of the IFP”.

“They are not custodians of the monarchy. Just like us, they are subjects of the Zulu monarchy and should behave as such. The IFP should stop abusing the proximity of its former leader Mangsuthu Buthelezi to the king,” Ntombela said.

The retraction of the image comes days after the Democratic Alliance was forced to take down its “racist” posters in Phoenix proclaiming those involved in the killings in the area in the July riots as “heroes”.

It took place on Monday, the same day that parties in KwaZulu-Natal — including the IFP and the DA — signed a pledge to abide by the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC’s) electoral code of conduct in the run up to and during the local government elections.

The IFP said the pictures were part of an infographic and had been used “erroneously” and apologised to the monarch, the royal family and IFP president emeritus Mangosuthu Buthelezi in his capacity as traditional prime minister to the king.

It had been taken down voluntarily as soon as the party leadership became aware of it, the party said.

“As part of the IFP’s local government election social media campaign, an infographic in support of traditional leadership was released with a photo of his majesty, the king of the Zulu nation. The photo was erroneously used,” the IFP communications directorate said in a statement.

It said disciplinary action would be taken against the staff members involved in producing and distributing the graphics.

“The IFP remains steadfast in its support of traditional leadership, as per South Africa’s democratic dispensation,” the IFP said.

This story was edited after publication to correct the assertion that the image was used on election posters and in the IFP manifesto. This is not correct. The images were used on social media promoting the manifesto. We apologise for any inconvenience or embarrassment which may have been caused by our error.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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