Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelez.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is facing rough waters following the death of its founding leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, which could tilt the scales in next year’s general elections, ActionSA KwaZulu-Natal provincial chair Zwakele Mncwango said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the party’s first policy conference, Mncwango expressed optimism about ActionSA’s prospects in the provincial elections, saying the IFP — which polls have suggested would regain ground in KwaZulu-Natal — was likely to be divided after Buthelezi’s death.
Buthelezi, who also served as traditional prime minister to a succession of Zulu kings, died aged 95 on Saturday morning after a lengthy spell in hospital.
Mncwango said the provincial leaders’ polling numbers in KwaZulu-Natal were likely to change in the coming week. “If I look three weeks ago, and now, Shenge’s [Buthelezi’s] passing also changes the political spectrum in the province. Because one, the big question is, will the IFP unite? What is the future of the IFP beyond Shenge?
“Their campaigns were always around Buthelezi’s image as someone who was always able to run a clean governance. Buthelezi was always the glue that held the party together during rifts and factions.
“It brings the question as to what will happen now, because Shenge was able to pull all sides together even when they tried to put a motion against [current IFP leader Velenkosini] Hlabisa. He was the one who would say, ‘No! you can’t do that’. So now he is no more. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
In August, Hlabisa avoided being ousted after 20 party members attempted to institute a motion of no confidence in his leadership over some of his supporters wearing T-shirts bearing his image.
The party had decided that only Buthelezi’s picture should be allowed on T-shirts because the IFP president emeritus would be the face of the 2024 election campaign. The IFP’s national executive committee decided not to accede to the request by the 20 members.
Speaking outside the Buthelezi family home this weekend, Hlabisa said the IFP needed to unite following its founding leader’s death.
The IFP made a comeback in 2021 and has been taking wards in by-elections ever since.
ActionSA’s Mncwango said the change in the political landscape enabled the party to present itself as an alternative to the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal.
“One thing about ActionSA is that … we do not have constituents, which makes it easy for us to create a new image in communities where parties like ANC, DA [Democratic Alliance] and EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] have neglected and it’s what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
Referring to small parties that have emerged successfully — such as the National Freedom Party, which got seats in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in its first elections — Mncwango said the province was an opportunity to showcase growth for the party.
“KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape are the only two provinces where power has changed hands, which tells you that we are not stuck with one organisation, they can check out, because voters are not really married to the IFP and ANC only and so I think there’s a space there for ActionSA to play,” he said.