‘Painful to see the city in ruins’

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa. | TUMI PAKKIES/Independent Newspapers

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa. | TUMI PAKKIES/Independent Newspapers

Published May 16, 2024


Durban — “Do it for Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.”

This is IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa’s rallying cry as he throws down the gauntlet to the party’s main rivals, including the ANC, ahead of the May 29 elections.

For all the campaigning sweat and strain, Hlabisa is confident that the IFP will net enough votes to unseat the ANC from power in KwaZulu-Natal and weaken its support to below 50% nationally.

In a candid interview with the Daily News, the soft-spoken Hlabisa unveiled his grand plan.

“I want to return cities like eThekwini to their former glory. The city has been dilapidated unabated under the incompetent ANC government.

“When we take over the provincial government, we will restore the province’s image.”

The IFP will be contesting the elections for the first time without the party’s charismatic founding president Mangosuthu Buthelezi – who passed on last September at the age of 95.

While his passing rattled IFP leaders and backers alike, Hlabisa said they did not sink under the load of despair but waged a political fight to reclaim KZN from the ANC to honour the late Buthelezi.

“The way we can honour uMntwana wakwaPhindangene (Buthelezi) is to win the province back from the ANC. That is why we are urging millions of voters across the country to ‘do it for Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’ by voting for the IFP.”

Hlabisa hailed Buthelezi as a fearless leader and a bringer of justice to the province which was once torn by what became known as the People’s War, or Black-on-Black violence, in the late 1980s and leading up to the 1994 democratic elections.

While admitting that the KZN province was the party’s strongest power base, Hlabisa stressed that the IFP, the fourth largest party nationally with 14 seats in the National Assembly, was not a regional party.

Further pressing his claim, Hlabisa said he had taken the IFP’s campaign to the North West at the weekend where the “reception was warm”.

“I also took my campaign to Limpopo and the people welcomed me well and showed interest in the IFP’s manifesto.”

He said it was amiss for some people to label the IFP as a regional party, arguing that the party also had sizeable support in Gauteng, where it governed two wards in the City of Johannesburg.

“It is really misplaced for some people to say that the IFP is a regional party,” said Hlabisa.

KZN was poised to be the scene of an epic battle as the IFP, ANC, and DA, and smaller parties like ActionSA, all had set their sights on the province, he said.

The IFP emerged as the winner in KZN after the historic 1994 elections. But the province slipped away from the party’s grip in the 2004 elections. Since then, the party has been waging a desperate political battle to snatch the province back from ANC rule.

The formation in 2011 of the breakaway National Freedom Party by the late Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi, former IFP national chairperson after a dramatic public fallout with Buthelezi, also thwarted the IFP’s chances of winning KZN.

Many IFP supporters defected with KaMagwaza-Msibi to her new party.

However, the NFP struggled with infighting and years later many of its backers trekked back to the IFP, which has been gradually reclaiming its support since then.

Reflecting on this, Hlabisa said Buthelezi had groomed upcoming IFP leaders – including him – to be brave amid the setbacks that the party had suffered.

Hlabisa said it was painful to watch the dilapidation of eThekwini municipality – the only metro in the province, boasting a recently passed budget of R67 billion.

“The once-glorious city is decaying right in front of us. There’s no accountability. The public infrastructure is a shambles. Things have got to change,” said Hlabisa.

Speaking with the Indian community at the Gujarati Vedic Society hall in Pietermaritzburg last Wednesday, Hlabisa lauded Buthelezi and Sri Swami Sahajananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society in South Africa for the work they did together.

“It is remarkable to think of the good they achieved together. Together with Swamiji, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi built classrooms and homes, created feeding schemes and educational programmes, serving the most vulnerable in society.

“Prince Buthelezi never stopped praising the teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda, from his first visit to an ashram in the 1970s,” said Hlabisa.

He added: “Prince Buthelezi was a natural bridge-builder, and he planted that principle at the foundation of Inkatha.

“This is why today the IFP is a multi-cultural home for all people of goodwill and patriots.”

He said the IFP was fiercely committed to protecting minority rights, “in our beloved country because we truly believe that everyone has a claim to stake in the future of South Africa, and everyone must be allowed to make their contribution”.

WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.

Daily News