Picture: SOWETAN/BAFANA MAHLANGU
Picture: SOWETAN/BAFANA MAHLANGU

THE election of Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s daughter, Phumzile, as leader of the IFP Women’s Brigade has received mixed reaction in political and social circles.

Phumzile Buthelezi was elected at the Women’s Brigade conference in Ulundi at the weekend. She is the third child of Buthelezi and his late wife, Irene.

Not much is known about her political pedigree apart from her longstanding membership of the IFP. In January 2011, ahead of the local government elections, Phumzile and two other IFP councillors were arrested for allegedly intimidating ANC councillor Skhumbuzo Mabaso at a community meeting in the Ulundi area, an IFP stronghold.

They were each granted R300 bail but the case later fizzled out.

IFP insiders say Phumzile’s availability for the position was a highly guarded secret within IFP structures until just before the weekend’s elective conference.

The conference was delayed for hours as delegates were told about behind-the-scenes negotiations and deal-making between different party factions.

Earlier at the conference outgoing Women’s Brigade leader Thembeni kaMadlopha-Mthethwa warned delegates about factionalism and jostling for position within the party structures, saying this was sowing divisions.

Her opponents in the IFP and the Women’s Brigade said it was a veiled threat by KaMadlopha-Mthethwa that Phumzile Buthelezi’s bid should not be contested.

Some social network commentators claimed that Buthelezi’s victory was engineered by her father’s supporters in the party.

The 91-year-old IFP leader is expected to relinquish power at an elective conference in August. He has lead the IFP since he founded the party in 1975.

Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst with the Xubera  Institute of Research and Development, said it was clear that Phumzile’s elevation had been paved by her father’s prestige in the party.

He said Buthelezi’s hand was also seen in the elevation of Nkandla mayor Thamsanqa Ntuli as the IFP’s KwaZulu-Natal chair and Mthokozisi Nxumalo as the party’s youth leader. Buthelezi is said to have anointed Velenkosini Hlabisa to succeed him as party leader.

“I think that Prince Buthelezi is undoing his legacy by creating dynasties and anointing successors. It shows that political parties formed out of the charisma of a cult leader often find it difficult to outlive those leaders.

“I think Prince Buthelezi would have left politics with his legacy still intact had he not used his popularity within the IFP to prop up leaders. Leaders elected in this fashion are not able to engender credibility that will allow them to take over and grow the parties in which they are elevated,” Dube said.