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Buthelezi brand worked well for IFP at municipal polls, say analysts

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder of the IFP. Picture: Theo Jeptha African News Agency (ANA)

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the founder of the IFP. Picture: Theo Jeptha African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 9, 2021


SOME political analysts believe the political brand of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is now seen as an elder statesman and a voice of reason, helped the Inkatha Freedom Party to muster its recent local government feat.

The party was able to snatch some municipalities like uPhongolo from the ANC and forced the governing party to scramble to negotiate coalition partnerships with smaller parties to govern former strongholds like eThekwini.

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With coalition talks having just started, the IFP has already stated clearly it was not going to consider the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal because of unresolved deep-seated and historical tensions between the two parties.

Professor Sipho Seepe said Buthelezi had evolved to become a statesman, becoming the voice of reason during difficult times, hence it was easy for the IFP to use him and receive immediate electoral dividends.

Among the issues Seepe cited as having seen Buthelezi playing a role of an elder statesman was when the EFF was gunning for former president Jacob Zuma in parliament,  the burial of the late Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, and in July when KwaZulu-Natal was plunged into chaos when there was looting and violence.

“Buthelezi’s active role did help the IFP at the polls. Prince Buthelezi is an institution and no one in the IFP has stature like him,” Seepe said.

He said Buthelezi’s prominent role in the country was even affirmed by the late Nelson Mandela who used to appoint him acting president when he was away.

But Seepe was cautious about saying the IFP’s current moment could be taken to 2024, saying the IFP’s performance in the general elections would be determined by how the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal dealt with the electoral setback.

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He warned the ruling party to learn a lesson from Cape Town and the Western Cape where their electoral losses marked years of decline that they are yet to recover from.

“Once the ANC loses steam, they hardly recover, so they must be careful not to lose municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

Another political analyst, Makhosini Mgitywa, said Buthelezi has long-standing grievances with the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and sadly they have chosen to ignore them. He warned the ANC and IFP need each other.

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“It’s time they realise that even though they don’t like each other they are condemned to work together in the province,” he said adding they have a good history of the government of national unity of 1994-1999 to work on.

Mgitywa echoed Seepe that the ANC in KwaZulu-natal cannot afford to lose municipalities and occupy opposition benches as the Cape Town and Western Cape scenarios have shown they do badly and hardly ever regain lost municipalities.

“The ANC cannot afford to become the opposition because when they do, it becomes hard for them to win back municipalities. Cape Town is an example,” he said.

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On their electoral prospects in 2024 following the local government elections setback, Mgitywa said with the current decline of the ruling party at the national level they could be pushed out of power by the IFP.

“They might be reduced to below 50% and have the province led by the IFP through a minority government,” he said, adding that unfortunately the IFP would end up in a coalition with the DA which does not have a good history of serving black and poor areas.

Mgitywa also stressed that Buthelezi’s standing in society has been greatly enhanced as he is now seen as an elder statesman and that helped the IFP at the polls since he ran their electoral campaign and was its face.