Durban - A POLITICAL analyst has described Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s decision to return from retirement and be the face of the IFP's election campaign as a typical African leader who wants to lead until death.
The 93-year-old’s face was on street posters ahead of the party’s manifesto launch in two weeks time. It is not clear who will deliver the keynote address.
Reacting to the news, Dr Ralph Mathekga told the Daily News on Thursday that it was shocking how the party was not making an effort to live beyond Buthelezi.
He said even if it was party members who begged Buthelezi to return, he could have turned the offer down for the benefit of his legacy and to allow the current president, Velenkosini Hlabisa, to lead the campaign.
“I am not surprised by his or the party’s action. This organisation has never imagined itself without Buthelezi, and he himself was not helping it to live beyond him by returning from retirement to lead an election campaign. This is typical of African leaders who do not want to leave public positions. This is crazy, and South African politics are upside down these days,” said Mathekga.
Buthelezi’s decision angered Hlabisa’s supporters, who described it as a well-planned strategy to undermine and eventually remove Hlabisa from the position. Two district leaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had been fighting this tendency of undermining him since he was elected in 2019, because there were top leaders who had never accepted him from day one.
The leaders said it was no longer a secret that the party was divided, and the camp that was working to destroy Hlabisa was known as KKK (konke kuhamba kahle) - meaning, ’why change, because everything was still going well’.
Hlabisa’s camp is known as AU (Abusekho Ubunzima) - meaning, ’no more problem’. The KKK apparently consists of most Parliament members, while district leaders were apparently mostly on Hlabisa’s side.
“We are angry at this decision, and we never agreed to it. It was an up-down approach, as we were told about it. We initially wanted to revolt against it, but we advised one another that for the sake of (Hlabisa) not to be victimised, we agreed not to challenge it. We know whenever we raise things, we are told we hate Prince Buthelezi,” said one leader.
A suspended leader, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the party’s action to sideline Hlabisa and prevent his supporters from standing as candidates, after they won popular votes in their constituencies, had forced those candidates to register as independents. The Daily News has learnt that in the Jozini Municipality, under the uMkhanyakude District, nine IFP members have decided to stand as independents, while six had done the same in Mtubatuba.
Hlabisa said he did not have a problem with the decision to make Buthelezi the face of elections, because the party had agreed to dedicate this election to him in honour of his contribution to the party and to the country.
He added that initially, the party had dedicated 2020 to Buthelezi, but due to Covid-19, the party could not hold celebration rallies to honour him, so the leadership felt 2021 and local government elections should be dedicated to him.
Hlabisa said on the ballot paper, faces of leaders were no longer used, but only the party emblem. He declined to discuss who would deliver the keynote address when the party launched its manifesto.