Durban – Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) founder and president prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said on Monday that the party was back in form following its results in the 2019 general election held on Wednesday last week.
“I think the question has been answered: Yes, the IFP will survive without Buthelezi, and over and above that, the IFP is back,” said a smiling Buthelezi.
He was speaking at the party’s headquarters in central Durban during a media briefing. A jubilant Buthelezi was joined by several senior party leaders.
The country’s official election results were released on Saturday night in Pretoria and showed the IFP had resurged in KwaZulu-Natal, where it once governed before being knocked off that pedestal by the African National Congress (ANC) in 2004.
The party also increased its national assembly seat count from 10 in the 2014 general election to 14 in 2019. Its seat allocation in the provincial legislature increased from nine in 2014 to 13. It garnered 588 046 votes in the province (16.34% voter share), up from 10.86% in 2014.
The party could now also reclaim the status of official opposition in the province. It lost that title to the Democratic Alliance in 2014.
Buthelezi said the results confirmed that voters felt the party had approached its leadership transition with “prudence and judiciousness”.
The 90-year-old said the "rumour" that he had done an “about-turn” over retiring was started by a journalist and spread on social media.
“I will be returning to Cape Town next week to be sworn in as a member of parliament until the IFP holds its next elective conference. I am still the president of the IFP and I must fulfil the responsibilities of the position.
“Let me reiterate...that I will not stand for re-election at the IFP’s next national conference,” said Buthelezi, adding that he had not nominated a successor and would not because “this is not how it works”.
“The IFP is a democratic party and has a constitution and rules of procedure. Our leaders are elected by the rank and file of our members through their dedicated representatives at a national conference,” he said.
In 2017, the party structures “unanimously” voted for secretary general Velenkosini Hlabisa to lead the party, he said. “I did not put his name forward myself nor did I engage in debate on who should stand, but I was pleased to support the decision,” he said.
“It is evident that the IFP rank and file are comfortable with our decision made during the transition period and will embrace the decision of our leaders, which will take us into the next chapter."
During the question and answer session, Buthelezi said he agreed with smaller parties that claimed the elections were not free or fair because of various discrepancies reported at the polls.
“We have never really had free and fair elections in South Africa. It was not a free election, and I totally agree with the smaller parties about the shenanigans that took place,” he said, adding that he had been alerted by a senior party member that the indelible ink used during the voting process had rubbed off immediately.
He said the party would now work towards the 2021 local government elections and the 2024 general election. "We believe that within five years, the IFP will be well positioned to govern in KwaZulu-Natal again.