Road to 2021 Local Elections
Buthelezi looms large as IFP kicks off campaign with vow to tackle corruption and fix municipalities
The spectre of the Inkatha Freedom Party’s former leader and founder, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, loomed very large as the party launched its local government elections manifesto in Durban on Thursday night.
Many of the hundreds of supporters attending wore T-shirts with his face rather than those with the face of current leader, Velenkosini Hlabisa.
The upcoming local government elections will be the first elections the IFP will contest without Buthelezi at the helm of the party. It will field 2,570 councilor candidates in 105 municipalities, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng.
The IFP is the fourth-largest party in South Africa after the ruling ANC, the opposition DA and the EFF.
Buthelezi relinquished the party leadership in August 2019 after leading the party he had founded 44 years ago. He was succeeded by the cool and priestly Hlabisa, who was little known outside the IFP structures when he was nominated and appointed to take over the mantle.
Although Hlabisa has found filling the shoes of the charismatic and articulate Buthelezi a bit hard, he has managed to contain and keep together the IFP factions under his leadership.
The party’s 10-point plan to fix municipalities
Hlabisa was upbeat as he presented the party’s election manifesto.
He said establishing the special court to deal with endemic corruption in the public and private sectors will be the IFP’s rallying call ahead of the local government elections.
The party also emphasised that installing credible and ethical leadership in municipalities, providing houses, water, electricity and fixing the dilapidating public infrastructure will form part of its 10-point plan to fix local government.
The plan, Hlabisa said, will ensure that “political freedom translates into social and economic justice”.
Among other things, the plan includes busting corruption, creating job opportunities, especially for young people, supporting subsistence farmers as part of efforts to facilitate food security, increasing security for women and children and supporting big and small businesses and allowing them to invest and create jobs.
“It is tragic that under the ruling party reports of corruption scandals have become so commonplace that they no longer shock South Africa. For years the IFP has been calling for a specialised corruption court to deal with transgression of the Public Finance Management Act, the Municipal Finance Management Act, and other national Treasury regulations, as well as transgressions identified by the Auditor-General.
“We will keep pushing for this so that in the end South Africans will see convictions instead of endless commissions of enquiries and recommendations reports that are left to gather dust,” he said.
Hlabisa added that his party is worried about the high levels of crime in the country.
“Our communities are terrorised by criminals. Young women are fearful of walking alone. It pains me to know that South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries (in the world) for women and children to live in. This is our country. These are our people… and they are being hurt and slaughtered. This must be stopped!” he said.
The launch was attended by the IFP’s heavyweights and all the regional leaders of the party who are driving its campaign.
Mdu Nkosi, the IFP’s frontman in the eThekwini Municipality and a member of the city’s executive committee, said they hope to slash the ANC’s dominance in the municipality.
He said it helped his party’s cause that the ANC is so divided at the moment.
“The city has a R50-billion budget but our people are not feeling this because of the rot and corruption in this city. Durban city centre is dirty and by-laws are ignored. It is just chaos,” Nkosi said.
“When we visit communities in the townships and other areas people are warming up to us, they say they are tired of this corruption and mismanagement.”
Bhekumndeni Ndima, IFP chairperson in the Amajuba District Municipality, said his party was gunning for this municipality, which is currently run by the ANC, and the Newcastle, eMadlangeni and Dannhauser local municipalities under it.
“We have high hopes because of the support we have received from the communities on the ground. People are very positive in responding to our call. In the Newcastle municipality people are complaining about high rates and poor service delivery, we have to address these issues. In all the municipalities there is the problem of ageing infrastructure, resulting in the constant water cuts,” he said.
Another upbeat leader is Naye Mathe, who heads the IFP in the uMkhanyakude District, where water scarcity has been a problem for years.
He is the Ward 6 candidate in the Jozini Local Municipality. The ward is currently under the ANC but he hopes the IFP will not only win it, but also wrestle the municipality from the party.
“We have a problem with water and people are tired of getting water from the water tankers irregularly. We hope to change all of that when we take over,” he said.
The launch was also attended by young people, who filled the amphitheatre.
One of them was Mbali Mthembu, a 27-year-old unemployed woman from Lindelani, north of Durban.
She said she is vigorously campaigning for the IFP because it is the only party that can provide for South Africans, especially young people.
“At the moment you have to have the card of the ANC to stand a chance of getting a job in the eThekwini Municipality, regardless of whether you qualify for the job or not. This is wrong and must be stopped. The IFP will help us as the youth to get job opportunities,” she said.
IFP’s past performance
Despite the outpouring of confidence from its leaders and members, it is still too early to predict how the IFP will fare in the local government poll, analysts say.
The IFP has been on a bumpy road since the first democratic elections in April 1994. In that historic poll the party recorded a decisive victory in KwaZulu-Natal, taking 50% of the vote to the ANC’s 32%. Nationally the IFP won 10.5% of the vote and 43 seats in the National Assembly.
This allowed Buthelezi to be appointed as home affairs minister by President Nelson Mandela.
In the following two decades the IFP’s power waned significantly, but it suffered most owing to the “Zuma factor”.
Analysts believe that Jacob Zuma, who comes from the Zulu tribe and has strong traditional roots, won over many IFP faithful to the ANC. In 2009, when Zuma’s face was on the ballot box as the ANC presidential candidate, the ANC decimated the IFP in KZN, gaining 2,192,516 votes (63%) to the IFP’s 780,027 (22%).
But the lowest point for the IFP came in 2011 when, just months before the local government elections, the National Freedom Party (NFP) was formed, led by former IFP chairperson Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi.
This split played into the hands of the ANC. Before the 2011 poll the IFP controlled 32 of KZN’s then 61 municipalities. After the election the NFP helped the ANC to take control of 19 hung local and district municipalities that were previously under the IFP.
The slide went further. In the 2014 general elections the ANC consolidated its lead by winning 2,475,041 (64.5%) to the IFP’s 416,497 (11%). The IFP even lost its status as the official opposition in KZN to the DA.
In the 2014 national and provincial elections, the IFP won little more than 2% of the national vote, netting 10 seats in the National Assembly, and came in third in KZN.
In the 2016 local government poll the party bounced back, retaining the Nkandla (Zuma’s own backyard) and Msinga municipalities, taking control of six councils and winning 419 councillor seats throughout the province. The party’s slice of the vote increased to 18.39% provincially, up from 16% in 2011. The councils back under IFP control include Hluhluwe/Somkhele, Mtubatuba, Nongoma and Nquthu.
The party also recaptured Zululand and the uMzinyathi District Municipality.
However, it remains to be seen how the party will fare in the 1 November elections. Although the party mandarins remain confident that the IFP is on an upward trajectory.
Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst who is also with the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, said the current upheavals and infighting in the ANC could work in the IFP’s favour.
“The IFP has been able to handle its succession battle very well and there has been no splinter group or party. The party is facing the upcoming election very stable and behind its leadership.
“Velenkosini Hlabisa was not known much outside the IFP but he has now grown into the leadership mettle. I think the IFP is going to do very well in the local government elections.
“Also working in its favour are the recent events in the ANC. Many people are unhappy about the treatment meted out to Zuma and many ANC supporters would stay away or vote for the opposition to spite the current leadership of the ANC. The IFP will be one of the beneficiaries of this,” Dube said.
The Buthelezi factor
In his message of support Prince Buthelezi said he is proud of the leadership he left behind in the party, saying they are more than capable of tackling the ruling party, especially amid the country’s current challenges.
He said the July looting and riots were a warning to South Africans that the ANC is taking the country to the doldrums.
“I want this generation to understand that what we witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal two months ago was not a bolt from the blue. The civil uprising that brought chaos to our streets and devastation to our economy was born of a deliberate strategy of putting politics before every other consideration, even the lives of South Africans. South Africa was dragged into their internal political war, and we all became collateral damage.
“It pains me to know that the very people who fought for freedom are the people who brought South Africa to its knees,” he said. DM
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