The IFP and ANC's marriage in a coalition-led KZN government
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By Cyril Madlala
The refusal by the IFP to co-govern municipalities with the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is a culmination of decades of mistrust arising from what the IFP perceives to be unkept promises to the electorate and a disgraceful breach of a solemn undertaking to its leadership.
In the words of IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa, the ANC cannot be trusted as it “has not been honest with us in the past. They have let down (the) people of South Africa, and the voters clearly expressed themselves when it comes to the ANC.”
The national executive committee has stipulated that the IFP will not go into a coalition with the ANC in the province unless some outstanding matters that have caused tension between them have been addressed.
In turn, President Cyril Ramaphosa has retorted that the ANC will not be kneeling before any party begging for co-operation.
Inadvertently, the stalemate could be the best outcome for those citizens of KwaZulu-Natal who have had the unique experience of living under the apartheid government of the National Party, 19 years of homeland rule of KwaZulu under Inkatha, the provincial government in the new dispensation under the Inkatha Freedom Party, the provincial government under the ANC, and now, the turning of the tide in the local government elections against the ANC, largely to the benefit of a resurging IFP.
In other words, it is a constituency that has seen the best and the worst of both the ANC and the IFP in power.
Significantly, this core constituency that is the majority of the African voters remains largely loyal to these organisations despite the presence over decades of a range of other options – from the Pan-Africanist Congress, the United Democratic Movement, the Congress of the People, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance and of late the Economic Freedom Fighters among those represented in the provincial legislature.
What is remarkable about this month’s elections is that the core support group did not only abandon the ANC, but it tilted the scales back towards the IFP in the majority of areas that had already, in the language of the ANC, been “liberated” from the clutches of conservative former KwaZulu homeland politics dominated by traditional leadership.
Despite a massive campaign that was driven by the launch of many service delivery projects by the ANC government in the province during the election period and promises of more to come, this constituency was not persuaded and seems to have internalised the caution from the IFP and other ANC detractors that the ruling party could not be trusted to deliver on promises.
The IFP’s gripe that the ANC lacks integrity predates even the advent of democracy when an agreement was signed by then-ANC president Nelson Mandela, NP leader FW de Klerk and IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi to rope in international mediators to iron out the status of the Zulu king and kingdom in the new constitutional dispensation which was outstanding before the IFP agreed to participate in the first democratic election.
Efforts by the IFP to table the matter before the Constitutional Assembly after the polls were in vain, and the agreement was not honoured.
When the national executive committee of the IFP decided against a coalition arrangement with the ANC, it would have also reflected on the extremely difficult days of co-governing the province in 1999 after the IFP won the second provincial elections with a reduced majority.
Those were tumultuous days in the provincial legislature where members of the executive council could barely stand each other, particularly the ANC’s Dumisani Makhaye and IFP premier Lionel Mtshali.
Many years later, when a thaw in relations was most palpable, and leaders from both sides were appropriately civil to each other, at least in public, former IFP chairperson Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi broke away with a huge chunk of supporters to form the National Freedom Party (NFP).
So destabilised was the IFP in the 2011 local government elections that it was KaMagwaza-Msibi who emerged as the mayor of Zululand District, the heartland of the IFP.
To this day, senior leaders of the IFP maintain that the NFP was from inception, a clandestine project of the ANC to destroy the IFP.
However, KaMagwaza-Msibi’s ill-health and the monumental disaster that was the NFP’s failure to register for the 2016 local government elections allowed the IFP to regain lost ground. The fact that the NFP has been declared the leading party in eDumbe in this month’s elections is testament to the hard work that the late charismatic leader of the party had done in those parts of Zululand.
But in the scheme of bigger coalition matters where the IFP is the leading party, it is the discomfort with an ANC partnership in KZN that has been expressed. If this scenario unfolds, as envisaged by the IFP, where it is the leading party, it would rather have the ANC sitting in opposition benches. In turn, the ANC should also have the space to put together its own coalition partners, where it is the leading party, as in eThekwini Metro, for example.
It remains to be seen how those arrangements will work when every party, however small, wants to flex its muscles by presenting non-negotiable “principles”.
Fortunately for the IFP this time around, in KwaZulu-Natal, it is by no means minuscule and can afford to pick and choose coalition partners – except the ANC that it has historical misgivings about.
It is a matter of trust, or more appropriately, lack thereof.
*Madlala is a political commentator and former Editor of Independent on Saturday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.