Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

IFP leader in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Velenkosini Hlabisa was elected unopposed as party president in a watershed national elective conference in Ulundi early on Sunday morning.

The IFP became the fourth largest party in parliament after growing its support to 3.38% during the May 8 election and received 14 seats in the National Assembly.

It also dislodged the DA as the official opposition in its stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal , where it received 14.58% of the votes which equate to six seats in the provincial legislature. 

Hlabisa, the former IFP secretary-general, replaces Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who has led the party since its inception in Ulundi 44 years ago. He turns 91 on Tuesday.

Buthelezi announced last year that the party’s extended national council had chosen Hlabisa to succeed him and that he endorsed the council’s decision, according to TimesLIVE.

Born on January 4 1965, Hlabisa studied at the University of Zululand and Unisa, worked as a high school teacher for five years at Ngebeza High School and then as principal of Somfula High School for 20 years years.

He joined the Inkatha Youth Brigade in 1978 and has had an unbroken stint as a serving local councillor for 24 years.

The other leaders that were elected alongside Hlabisa for a five-year term are:

  • Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, a member of parliament (MP), was re-elected as deputy president
  • National chairperson Blessed Gwala, member of the KZN provincial legislature (MPL)
  • Deputy national chairperson Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa, MPL
  • Secretary-general Siphosethu Ngcobo, MP
  • Deputy secretary-general Albert Mncwango, former deputy national chairperson
  • Treasurer-general Narend Singh, the IFP chief whip in the National Assembly

The three-day national elective conference held in the IFP stronghold of Ulundi in KZN, also elected 34 committee members who will serve in the party's national council. 

In his opening remarks on Friday night, Buthelezi said the IFP has been in a time of transition since 2012 and stressed that his stepping down from the helm was simply the "last step in a very public journey".

Buthelezi noted that while he had served the political party for 44 years, since its founding on March 21 1975, he had never served alone.

"The party is bigger than Buthelezi. It has a future beyond my own."