Inkatha Freedom Party leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Inkatha Freedom Party leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi says he is ready to step aside and allow a younger leader to take the party forward. Speaking during an exclusive interview with eNCA on Monday, Buthelezi said he has been able to turn around his party after several years of challenges.

He said he was pleased by the recent win in the Nquthu by-elections, where all 33 seats were up for grabs. The IFP won 19 seats, to the ANC’s 11. The cherry on the top for the IFP, said Buthelezi, was that the IFP won three wards won by the ANC in the August 2016 local government elections.

"The recent Nquthu by-elections were most important in the history of SA. It was the first time that the whole ANC top six, the entire Luthuli House [ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters], went to one place to campaign."

He said his party won because it had a simple message for the people of the area, who are tired of rampant corruption and of political parties that visit only to canvass for votes, make huge promises and disappear after the elections.

After the big win in Nquthu he is confident the IFP has turned a corner. "I am ready to allow someone to lead the party and take it forward. In fact, in 2012 I voluntarily offered to step aside and allow the party to choose leadership, but the party members and leaders said we were facing our biggest challenge and I must stay on. They even changed the constitution to allow for a deputy president so that he can take over from the party. I have been in this situation for five years and I am now ready to allow the party to move on."

Dr Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst based at University of Western Cape, says the IFP has been ready for a successor to Buthelezi for a long time. "I think he should have left before the 2014 general elections so the party could find a suitable leader to take it forward. Having been in charge for more than 40 years, he has done everything he could have done ... But it would be wrong for him to think that by virtue of the election result in Nquthu he can claim the party is now on the right course. For me, the Nquthu result has more to do with the fact that the ANC is having countless problems."

Mngomezulu says the problem for the IFP is that nobody has been groomed to take over. "Buthelezi’s deputy in the party, Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, is nowhere to be seen. He hardly makes a public announcement and no presidential responsibilities have been handed over to him. In this situation, the party would find it difficult to find a replacement for Buthelezi senior, who has been the face of the party for such a long time."

The IFP lost control of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in 2004, and struggled after the formation of the breakaway National Freedom Party (NFP), just months before the 2011 local government. The IFP’s former national chairperson, Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, left the party to form the NFP after failing to force Buthelezi to relinquish the reins of the IFP, taking away many IFP supporters in the process.

The NFP won many votes in IFP strongholds, winning the Dumbe and Nongoma municipalities outright and forming coalition governments with the ANC in 19 other hung municipalities in the province. As a result of the ANC-NFP coalition, the IFP was left with only Ulundi and Msinga municipalities.

But the NFP has faltered since KaMagwaza-Msibi suffered a debilitating stroke in October 2014, and many of its supporters have returned to the IFP.

During the August 2016 local government elections, the IFP regained most of the municipalities it lost in 2011, winning all 24 wards in Ulundi and taking the Nkandla ward, where President Jacob Zuma has his controversial home and where he often votes.

A brief history of Buthelezi and the IFP

• August 27 1928: Prince Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi is born in Zululand

• 1944: he joins the ANC Youth League while studying at Fort Hare University

• 1952: he marries Irene Mzila

• 1975: he forms Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe (IFP) with the blessing of the ANC leadership, including president Oliver Tambo.

• 1976: he becomes chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland authority, created by the apartheid government

• 1979: he breaks ties with the ANC and years of clashes between IFP and ANC supporters ensue

• 1991: he participates in the Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa), the talks that led to the first democratic elections. The IFP’s conditions are rejected by other parties and nearly result in the party not participating in the polls

• 1994: the IFP is included in the country’s first democratic election at the 11th hour and wins a majority in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, and several seats in the government of national unity

• 2004: the IFP loses KwaZulu-Natal to the ANC and its ministers later quit the national coalition government

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