Traditional leaders and Zulu warriors attend an imbizo called by King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: NCE MKHIZE
Traditional leaders and Zulu warriors attend an imbizo called by King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: NCE MKHIZE

Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) are once again beginning to find each other, at a time when the monarch’s relationship with the ANC has soured in the post-Jacob Zuma era.

Early this week Zwelithini rebuked the ANC government, saying he will summon President Cyril Ramaphosa to explain his government’s position on land and other pertinent issues.

After his election as ANC president in December, Rama-phosa paid homage to the king, introducing the top-six leadership and presenting him with a herd of Ankone cattle.

However, Zuma’s removal coincided with a thawing relationship between the king and the ANC government. This was after a high-level panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe recommended that Parliament scrap the law that allows the king’s Ingonyama Trust to own vast tracts of land in KwaZulu-Natal.

This has not gone down well with Zwelithini, who called on every Zulu to donate R5 towards a fund to take on the government over this issue.

This generated heated debate, with some feeling that the Zulu king was entering politics. The IFP and its leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, have expressed their support for his various initiatives including improved remuneration for headmen and improved resourcing of traditional courts.

Support for the IFP has been growing, with the party winning by-elections in Nkandla and Mtubatuba recently. Pundits ascribe this to infighting in the ANC and the demise of its ally, the National Freedom Party.

Thabani Khumalo, an independent political analyst, said Ramaphosa should address the concerns of traditional leaders about the contentious issue of land expropriation.

"It is no secret that Zuma had his own successful way of dealing with traditional leaders, particularly the Zulu monarch. But since the land expropriation debate exploded into the public discourse, the ANC has failed to handle it correctly. Instead of addressing the concerns of traditional leaders and investors, the ruling party has decided to march to the EFF rhetoric."

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga believes the growing distance between the ANC and the king is creating a vacuum the IFP is keen to occupy.