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ANC and IFP’s fierce battle for votes in Zulu heartland could become ‘killing talk’

ANC and IFP’s fierce battle for votes in Zulu heartland could become ‘killing talk’
Illustrative image: Thulasizwe Buthelezi, senior IFP leader and prime minister to King Misuzulu, and Siboniso Duma, the ANC provincial chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photos: Fani Mahuntsi / Gallo Images and Darren Stewart / Gallo Images) Chris-IFPKZNViolence

The ANC and IFP’s battle for the heart of the Zulu kingdom could turn ugly if ‘loose cannons’ are not restrained. This is clear after the violence that broke out as a result of a microphone-grabbing incident at the 110th commemoration of King Dinuzulu. 

Congestion in the pond for the urban vote in KwaZulu-Natal is behind the fierce contestation for the rural vote that traditionally was firmly behind the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) but shifted allegiance to Nelson Mandela’s ANC under democratic rule. 

Service delivery failures in a previously ANC stronghold city of Durban have left the party clinging to power by a thread as a host of relatively new parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Abantu Batho Congress have colluded to force the once mighty ANC into a shaky coalition. 

The result is a rudderless city administration that simply has no answers to the dry taps and mounds of refuse lying uncollected for weeks while workers were on strike. 

The collapse of the provincial capital city, Pietermaritzburg, under ANC rule is well documented, prompting some to imagine that Chris Pappas of the tiny Democratic Alliance-led local municipality of uMngeni up the hill could do a better job even as premier. 

As recent by-elections in Newcastle have confirmed, the IFP’s snatching of three wards from the ANC point to a party in the ascendancy with the 29 May provincial and national election day approaching. 

The real battle for the soul of the black African majority vote in KwaZulu-Natal was always primarily going to be between the ANC and the IFP. The EFF has performed dismally in ward elections, picking up only proportional representation support. 

The ANC has access to state resources. After all, no governing party would miss an opportunity to stage a service delivery event in the stronghold of a political opponent. It is no coincidence that in the build-up to election day, there has been a flurry of KZN government sod-turning events. 

Marquees are sprouting all over the province to host functions to “introduce” road construction contractors. Title deeds are being handed over. The doors of new libraries are being opened, and farmers’ livestock is being branded by government officials. 

After all, “service delivery to our people does not stop because there is an election”, as the spin doctors would say. 

The commemoration of the 110th anniversary of Zulu King Dinuzulu in KwaCeza, in Zululand, last weekend was one such occasion to demonstrate that Zulu kings have a special place in the heart of the ANC government. 

Concerns about political violence

Instead, the “microphone-grabbing” incident is what has dominated the headlines. Its aftermath and the violence that followed has understandably raised concerns about the resurgence of political violence in the province. 

The provincial government had initially planned the event for 10 March, which happened to coincide with the IFP’s manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. It had to be postponed to last weekend because King Misuzulu objected that he had not approved the venue and date. It was his traditional prime minister, Rev Thulasizwe Buthelezi, who conveyed the message that the king and the royal family would not attend an event he had not endorsed. 

There was already bad blood between Buthelezi and the ANC, which refuses to recognise his appointment as traditional prime minister on the grounds that there is no provision in law or in the Constitution for such a role. 

That is true.

After the IFP won the first democratic provincial elections in 1994, the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi pushed for the adoption of a provincial constitution that made provision for a traditional prime minister. 

In terms of the IFP-proposed provincial constitution, the traditional prime minister would be consulted by the government in respect of any matters affecting the monarch or the monarchy, he would be the “liaison between the monarch and the nation, inter alia by making such announcements to the nation on behalf of the monarch”. 

Importantly, the traditional prime minister would preside over protocol functions relating to the king.

However, that proposed constitution ran into insurmountable legal hurdles and could not be certified by the Constitutional Court as it was “fatally flawed”. 

But Mangosuthu Buthelezi continued in this role because it was accepted that the king’s pronouncement could not be countermanded. 

This explains the dilemma the ANC has found itself in with the appointment of Rev Buthelezi by the new king.

For some time now, there has been some disquiet in the ANC regarding serious allegations against Buthelezi in his role as mayor of Zululand District Municipality. 

However, in 2022 the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled in Buthelezi’s favour when the provincial government sought to act against him and the municipality. 

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had instituted an investigation into allegations of maladministration, fraud and corruption and completed a report without Buthelezi’s input.  

In the build-up to the commemorative event, ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo made some unsavoury comments about Buthelezi and the king in a WhatsApp group that includes many senior political leaders in the province. 

Aware of the sensitive content of those messages, the programme director, MEC Siboniso Duma, had to grab the microphone before Buthelezi reported Mtolo’s utterances to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the king. 

Who is calling the shots?

Duma is ANC provincial chairman, and as he made clear on the day, it is the ANC government that is in charge and calls the shots. 

But things are not that simple in the heart of the Zulu kingdom where hierarchy and traditional protocols are observed strictly. That is why Duma, as programme director, could not instruct the praise singer to introduce the king, because that task is in the traditional prime minister’s domain. 

Now the leadership of the king’s regiments is upset with Duma. They want him fined 100 cows. 

Some ANC supporters, including women, ended up in hospital after being beaten up by the fearsome regiments who took exception to Duma’s conduct. 

It is anybody’s guess what would have happened had they charged to the podium where President Ramaphosa and other dignitaries sat. 

It is an unhealthy environment of intolerance in a province that has a long history of violent conflict between the IFP and the ANC.

The provincial government has announced elaborate further plans to pay tribute to King Dinuzulu as well as King Zwelithini. 

The current king and the royal family must be central to these events, as will be the traditional prime minister and the regiments. 

Briefing the media following the meeting of her provincial executive council this week, Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube would not be drawn on how the impasse over the role of the traditional prime minister would be resolved, opting instead to direct the media to Duma.

History has taught us that when political intolerance simmers in KwaZulu-Natal, bold leadership is needed. 

A key player in the resolution of the conflict of the past, former president Jacob Zuma, is now engaged in his own battles with the ANC since he threw his lot with the new Umkhonto weSizwe Party. 

ANC leaders, some of whom would have been in their political nappies when Zuma engaged with IFP leaders to forge peace in the killing fields of the late 1990s, have resorted to calling him names. 

However, those who were around this province when political violence was at its height, remember what was called “killing talk” and why it had to be avoided.

This referred to incitement through insults and denigrating statements.

Then, as it is now again in 2024, the battle for the rural vote was intense, and blood was shed as the ANC and the IFP wrestled over the influence of traditional leaders and their communities under the Zulu king. 

Zuma, who was at the centre of brokering peace in the land, is now waging his own political war on a different front.

Some of his new lieutenants are beating the war drums, presumably on his behalf. 

Things could turn ugly again unless loose cannons on all fronts are restrained by those they purport to represent. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Salome Byleveldt says:

    So nothing has changed in thirty years. How demoralising.

    • Lucifer's Consiglieri says:

      Nothing at all. This is politics, Africa style. Just look north to see how well it has served the populations.

    • Matthew Quinton says:

      That’s not true, Durban has gone waaaaaaay backwards in 30 years. Possibly even 50 years backward.

      Just think, another decade or so of ANC rule and Durban will have been returned to the verdant and untouched tribal land it once was… then the kingdom will truly be restored, unrestrained by irritations such as money, electrickery or running water.

      Ah yes, Radical Economic Transformation is succeeding in KZN.

      I do wonder, however, wether the Kingdom of the Zulus will be as much fun without the rest of SA’s tax money to spend? I guess we dont’ have to wait long to find out.

      Ah yes, the royals of KZN. Just wow… impressive lot ne?

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        I remember Durban 40 and 50 years ago. A wonderful place. You could park your car walk down from Grey street towards the beach during Christmas. Streets and shops were decorated beautifully with Christmas decorations. It was quiet, extremely safe, spotlessly clean. The beachfront was vibrant, with the funfair a great destination. No one new what a car guard was. Nor did they need one. I wish we could go forwards to be where we were 50 years ago.

        • Malcolm McManus says:

          That was at 9.00pm at night. No fear of your car being stolen. No fear of being held up at gunpoint. no worry about pick pockets. A very first world place when the term first world actually meant something.

  • Adrian Wolmarans says:

    I have sympathy for the well meaning Mr Madlala who is trying sincerely to lay out the nuances of Zulu politics to what I assume is an audience of whinging middle aged white men.

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