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‘Rift’ in IFP over who should be KZN premier

Those supporting Hlabisa fear he could be sidelined for KZN premiership. Pictures: Theo Jeptha/African News Agency (ANA)

Those supporting Hlabisa fear he could be sidelined for KZN premiership. Pictures: Theo Jeptha/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 5, 2023


Durban — A silent battle over who the premier candidate should be for the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal, between party president Velenkosini Hlabisa and provincial chairperson Thami Ntuli, was said to be behind a plan to charge members wearing party regalia bearing Hlabisa’s face.

As the IFP prepares to launch a campaign for the 2024 general election, it was said some members were already wearing T-shirts bearing Hlabisa’s face, with the intention of campaigning for him to be the premier candidate. The move has angered those who favour Ntuli.

This prompted a response from the IFP’s national secretary, Siphosethu Ngcobo, who immediately penned a strong memorandum to the party’s district secretaries requesting them to submit a list of those members seen wearing regalia bearing Hlabisa’s image instead of the ones with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi on them.

A memo that the Daily News has seen, dated May 4, read: “You are thus requested to submit the list and details of all members or persons within your district who are known to have worn or are wearing the regalia with the IFP logo that does not bear the face of the founder and President Emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, but of the sitting president, VF Hlabisa, in contravention of the party’s resolution. The details are to be submitted to my office by the end of business on May 5.”

A member that spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity said he was one of those who wear a T-shirt with Hlabisa’s face on it. He saw nothing wrong with it since he was currently the president of the party. The member said they were aware that there was a plan to associate Hlabisa with those who wear his face, so that he can be prevented from being the premier candidate for the party in the province.

“We do not know of a resolution that prevents us from wearing regalia with the face of our president, but we know of a resolution that said we must dedicate 2021 to the founder, but that was for only 2021 as far as we know.”

He added that there were those who did not want Hlabisa to be the premier candidate now that the party has more chance of unseating the ANC from power, but wanted Ntuli.

In a statement issued by Ngcobo, he said he had taken note of malicious attacks on the IFP and its founder and president emeritus on the basis of an internal memorandum, which he had circulated to all party structures on Thursday. He added that while it was not his habit to discuss internal party matters in the public arena, he felt he had to provide context to the memorandum as it was now being grossly misrepresented.

He further said the IFP, like all political parties, was gearing up for 2024 and it had had internal discussions about brand discipline, saying nobody would deny that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was the IFP’s strongest brand. Ngcobo attributed the party’s success in the by-election to Buthelezi’s legacy.

“It is due to his legacy and commitment to moral and ethical leadership that the IFP continues to grow) from by-election to by-election. The IFP’s national council – the party’s highest decision-making body – has therefore resolved to reaffirm our party resolution taken in 2019 and 2021, to continue using our founder’s face as our brand.

“Our brand is our strength, and brand discipline will be key as we embark on what we believe will be our strongest showing, in the 2024 elections,” read the statement.

Meanwhile, the ANC has assigned former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma to facilitate Prince Buthelezi’s return to the ANC. This was revealed by ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo in a media briefing on Tuesday.

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