South Africa

Reconciliation a pipe dream? – IFP wants peace with ANC in KZN

Velenkosini Hlabisa IFP ANC reconciliation KZN

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) president Velenkosini Hlabisa has expressed an interest in reviving efforts for reconciliation between his party and the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

However, a KZN expert says that reconciliation between the two parties was unlikely and the behaviour of their leaders was proof of that.

In an interview with The Citizen, Hlabisa said peace should be given a chance and that it wasn’t too late for the two parties to iron out their differences.

ALSO READ: Elections 2024: Brewing political intolerance in KZN should not be taken lightly

Asked if reconciliation was possible between the parties given the recent public spat between the two involving ANC provincial chair Siboniso Duma and Zulu traditional prime minister Thulasizwe Buthelezi, a senior IFP member, Hlabisa said it was possible.

Duma had grabbed the microphone from Buthelezi while he was addressing a gathering to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the death of King Dinizulu KaCetshwayo.

The ANC refused to apologise for the incident.

‘IFP not an aggressor’

Hlabisa said it was always the ANC local leaders who had issues with the IFP but the ANC old guard, including Nelson Mandela, were keen to reconcile with the IFP.

Before 1994, Mandela wanted to bring together the two parties to make peace but local ANC leaders like South African Communist Party (SACP) stalwart Harry Gwala had opposed this because he wanted their fighting to continue.

Gwala told Mandela that if he went ahead with his move, his safety wouldn’t be guaranteed by the ANC in KZN.

But Mandela went ahead and was guarded by former uMkhonto weSizwe members and a Transkei Defence Force unit sent by then homeland military ruler Bantu Holomisa.

Mandela had asked the two sides to throw their weapons into the sea.

PODCAST: IFP’s Mzamo Buthelezi shares insights on political discord in KZN, mic grabbing incident

Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki, continued to keep IFP leaders in their respective Cabinets – including late IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi – beyond the term of the government of national unity.

Buthelezi was home affairs minister, Ben Ngubane was arts and culture minister and Ben Skosana was correctional services minister in Mbeki’s first Cabinet in 1999.

Hlabisa said the IFP was not an aggressor in the conflict as it had been portrayed by the ANC.

This was proved by the fact that of the 20 000 people who had died in their conflict, 12 000 were IFP members.

“Those people did not kill themselves,” Hlabisa said.

But he is now advocating for peace saying he would be happy to see harmony between the two parties.

“We need to give peace a chance, it’s never too late to do that.”

ANC-IFP alliance ‘a pipe dream’

Political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu said reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC was “a pipe dream”. “It never was there and it will never be there,” he said.

Ndlovu, a politics lecturer at the University of KZN, said contrary to beliefs, Buthelezi never wanted the two parties to reconcile.

Ndlovu’s view came after it emerged at Buthelezi’s funeral last year that he had wanted reconciliation between the two parties and was working towards unity between them.

WATCH: Ramaphosa calls for calm after 16 people injured in ANC-IFP clash

But Ndlovu said instead of reconciliation in its true sense, Buthelezi wanted to lure the ANC to come closer so it could apologise to him for calling him an apartheid sellout.

He said both sides were not interested in reconciliation and even the behaviour of their leaders indicated that the two parties were fast drifting apart from each other.

Besides, the ANC was losing power, especially in KZN, and both parties had realised that they would work to outdo each other in the province.

IFP siding with opposition to defeat ANC

Ndlovu said Hlabisa would rather cooperate with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other opposition parties in the Multi-Party Charter to defeat the ANC in KZN as stated by the two parties.

On the other hand, the ANC itself was working to outmanoeuvre the IFP in KZN and elsewhere.

“You can see that the IFP is not interested in forming any coalition government with the ANC. So this talk of the ANC and the IFP uniting, no, it’s just a pipe dream.

“They don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. I don’t think this is going to happen, especially now that Buthelezi is no more.

“Even if he was still alive, I think all he wanted from the ANC was the need for it to apologise to him for accusing him of being a sellout and for not supporting the struggle.

“Other than that, I don’t think there is any interest in the IFP and ANC joining forces.”

READ MORE: ‘We await Ramaphosa on KZN peace talks’ – IFP

He said Hlabisa was more anti-ANC because he had no option, his leadership was being challenged within the IFP.

“If he were to work to reconcile with the ANC, he will become unpopular within the IFP because many IFP people do not want to reconcile with the ANC. So he won’t do anything that will make him unpopular with the members of the IFP,” said Ndlovu.

Hlabisa said this week that the IFP would win KwaZulu-Natal and remove the ANC from power.

He envisaged a coalition government for the province. The party nominated its provincial chair and King Cetshwayo district municipality executive mayor Thamsanqa Ntuli as its provincial premier candidate.

In the interview, Hlabisa urged voters to trust the party with their votes on 29 May.

“I am not using the newspaper [The Citizen] to campaign for the IFP, but appealing to the people of South Africa to go and vote. The IFP is ready to serve them,” said Hlabisa.