ANC/IFP reconciliation a complex political process

Late former IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi called for reconciliation between the IFP and ANC. Picture:Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA

Late former IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi called for reconciliation between the IFP and ANC. Picture:Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA

Published Sep 24, 2023


Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was laid to rest on September 16 in a befitting ceremony as per the prescriptions of a special official funeral category one accorded to someone of high stature by the sitting president.

One theme that has been reverberating among different speakers is Buthelezi’s wish for the ANC and the IFP to reconcile.

Among the speakers who have invoked this wish are ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile, ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member Dr Zweli Mkhize, IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa, IFP Chief Whip Narendra Singh, and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Having been privileged to attend the inaugural Prince Buthelezi lecture, which was delivered by Obasanjo at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, organised by his foundation, where both Buthelezi and Obasanjo touched on this wish, I can confirm that, indeed, those who have constantly spoken about this wish following Buthelezi’s passing are on point.

While this is factually correct, it raises three pertinent questions – two of which are interlinked.

1. Is this this wish for reconciliation between the ANC and IFP feasible?.

2. What form would such reconciliation take?.

3. What would such an envisaged reconciliation mean for the forthcoming 2024 general election?.

I will deal with each of these questions separately for ease of reference. However, the first two questions are interwoven and thus can best be addressed together.

The feasibility of the ANC/IFP reconciliation depends on how such reconciliation is conceived. For example, did Buthelezi want his ANC membership card to be clarified, either by formally revoking his membership or reinstating it so that he holds dual membership of the ANC and IFP? Does reconciliation simply mean that the ANC must publicly acknowledge that Buthelezi was a member of the ANC Youth League after joining it at the University of Fort Hare in 1949?

Does it mean that the ANC must tell the world that Buthelezi formed Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe in 1975 after receiving blessings from the leadership of the ANC? Does it mean that the ANC must publicly admit that Buthelezi agreed to join the Bantustan (Homeland) set up with permission from the ANC, which needed someone to fight the apartheid system from within?

Does it mean that the ANC must admit that Buthelezi formed the Self Protection Units (SPUs) in response to the UDF/ANC’s Self Defence Units (SDUs)? Does it mean that the ANC must publicly admit that Buthelezi and the IFP were part of the liberation struggle? Importantly, does the envisaged reconciliation mean that the ANC and the IFP must put their differences aside and work together, or does it simply mean that the two parties must hold a media conference and announce that they have reconciled and have buried their political differences but will not form a coalition or work together in government?

All these (and possibly many other) questions are triggered by current political developments more than previous experiences. In the past, the ANC and the IFP worked together in running KwaZulu-Natal. Moreover, Prince Buthelezi served as Minister of Home Affairs for more than one term at national level. Above all, he was appointed Acting President for a record 22 times!

Therefore, history shows that the two parties have found a way to work together in the past. If the envisaged reconciliation means invoking that past and burying any political differences, there could be a possibility of reconciliation.

However, current developments compound the reconciliation narrative. In KZN, the IFP is working together with the Democratic Alliance (DA). Where does that leave reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP?

At national level, the IFP is part of the Multi-party Charter for South Africa, which was started by DA leader John Steenhuisen under the old name “Moonshot Pact.” Would reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP work while the IFP has joined forces with the DA? This is a question which the two parties must deal with.

The third question about the meaning of the anticipated reconciliation for the 2024 general election is equally important. For example, if the two parties were to reconcile in whichever form, this might contribute immensely to political tolerance, especially in KZN and Gauteng.

Secondly, it could make it possible for the leaders from both parties to jointly condemn the ongoing political killings in KZN. Thirdly and importantly, a stable political environment in KZN would attract investors and boost the province’s economy.

Another critical issue related to reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP is the state of the Zulu monarch. If the ANC and the IFP embrace each other, they would be able to contribute to stability in the Zulu monarch in a non-partisan manner. Therefore, the idea is good. The challenge is the form such reconciliation would take.

*Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu is Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at the Nelson Mandela University

*The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL