IFP's Velenkosini Hlabisa. File photo: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Durban - For the first time in its 44-year history, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is set to have a new leader at the helm with the party on Monday releasing the date for its long awaited National General Conference.

On the weekend of August 23 to 25, the IFP will hold its elective conference which will see a successor take over the reins from the only leader the party has ever had Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Last year the party postponed its national general conference but also denied this was due to a succession battle. It was widely expected host the conference next month, but now August has been announced as the official date for the conference.

In November 2017 the party announced that Velenkosini Hlabisa, the party’s secretary general and incumbent leader in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature, would be Buthelezi's successor and the IFP leader again in April indicated that Hlabisa was still his choice, and that of the structures of the IFP, to lead the party into the future.

Speaking to IOL about Hlabisa at the time, Buthelezi said: ““All of the party’s structures chose him to succeed me and I myself back him to succeed me. He has been a mayor for a long time, and he has grown in front of me as one of the children from the Youth League and his integrity and his experience satisfy me.”

This was a glowing endorsement from Buthelezi and with Hlabisa the IFP’s premier candidate and provincial leader the party would go on to usurp the DA as the official opposition in KZN amassing 16.35% of the votes which gave it 13 seats, to the DA’s 11, in the provincial legislature.  

Starting at the end of June the IFP will hold its provincial elective conferences between 29 and 30 June, with the National Youth Brigade’s elective conference scheduled to take place from the July 13-14 while the National Women’s Brigade's conference will take place between July 27-28.

Mkhuleko Hlengwa, IFP member of parliament and spokesperson, also said that Hlabisa had been nominated by the party’s structures including the extended National Executive Council in October 2017 as the president does not have the prerogative to nominate his own successor.

“Besides Hlabisa there’s no other nominations. The nomination process was opened up to all party members in October 2017 and only one nomination was received (Hlabisa). Subsequent national councils have continued to consider the matter and there have been no other nominations,” Hlengwa said.

When asked if he expected Hlabisa to be elected unopposed at the August national conference, Hlengwa simply answered: “Yes.”

Political Bureau