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Renewed and invigorated: Inkatha is a party to watch as it moves from a regional to a national stage


Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

It is clear that the Inkatha Freedom Party no longer sees itself as a regional player and is now building up a strong campaign for the 2024 national and provincial elections.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is one of the political parties to look out for. It has new leadership which was elected in 2019, its president was elected unopposed, and it has shown that it is well organised and had a clear succession plan after the era of Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

It seems to be renewing itself under the leadership of its president, Velenkosini Hlabisa. The IFP we are seeing today is not the IFP that we saw in the early 1990s – it has rebranded itself as a party.

Most IFP-deployed cadres speak sense and you can see that their party has invested in its cadres. This is clear evidence that the IFP is here to stay and that its decline in the past made it change its strategy. Some might have criticised the IFP for having Buthelezi as the face of the campaign, but it is clear that this strategy worked for the party in these local government elections.

It was the first time the IFP contested elections in municipalities in Limpopo. In the past, the IFP contested elections only in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as its targeted voters were the Zulu people. It is clear that it no longer sees itself as a regional player and is building up a strong campaign for the 2024 national and provincial elections.

The party has also made it clear it doesn’t want to enter coalitions in KZN, an indication that it is going for KZN come 2024 and doesn’t want to be seen to be flirting with the ANC in that province.

This renewal process will definitely be a game changer for South African politics, especially as the IFP moved out of its comfort zone and entered Limpopo, building up to the 2021 local government elections. It is clear that it wants to grow its base and that it has a team that has assessed the political landscape in South Africa and is relaunching itself.  

The IFP will make things difficult for the ANC in KZN as it is claiming back its base and consolidating it. How the IFP governs its municipalities will have an impact on the ANC in KZN in the 2024 national elections. 

The IFP has a huge task ahead of it as it works towards service delivery in the municipalities it will govern. But it seems to have a plan and it looks as though this plan is going to work for the party. 

The IFP will have to focus on trying to end the ongoing violence and killings in KZN — not only political violence, but also taxi and other violence.  

South African politics is changing and the move away from regional parties is good for our democracy. DM


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