Durban - IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa will take up the National Assembly seat once occupied by the late founder and president emeritus, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa announced on Monday that the decision had been made by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
“(These) decisions are consistent with the party’s smooth leadership transition and the NEC believes that these changes will take forward the legacy and life’s work of Prince Buthelezi, entrench party unity, and consolidate the IFP’s onward march to the 2024 national and provincial elections.”
Hlengwa said Blessed Gwala would now become leader of the official opposition in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature. Gwala had previously been the chief whip of the legislature.
Hlabisa was elected party president in 2019 and replaced Buthelezi, but remained an MPL in KwaZulu-Natal.
He has a long history in the party’s leadership, and was previously mayor of the Hlabisa Big 5 Local Municipality.
During a memorial service for Buthelezi last month, Hlabisa said there would never be a leader again like the late founder of the party.
“The loss of Prince Buthelezi has left a gaping vacuum in the IFP, in the Zulu Kingdom, and in the South African political landscape.
“Most – if not all – of us here today have never had to live in a world without uShenge. I believe that while he left the world a better place, there is still much work we can continue with in his name, in order to honour his life, his sacrifices, and his legacy.”
He said even though Buthelezi stepped down as the president of the IFP, he continued to make his presence felt.
He said that during the July 2021 unrest, Buthelezi was one of the very few political leaders who was out on the streets of his community, in Ulundi, supporting residents and calling for calm.
“He was also the first to call on the president of the country to deploy the SANDF to save our economy.”