Failing to instil everlasting change

2009-01-03 00:00

Inkatha Freedom Party’s Thulasizwe Buthelezi and Irvin Barnes missed an opportunity to change the course of history of not just the IFP, but also of the South African political scene.

The two party hardliners were to square up for the influential position of chairman of the Inkatha Youth Brigade, the party’s youth structure.

When the two agreed to withdraw their participation in the elections, they failed the party’s electorate and halted everlasting change, something the party is in dire need of.

When lifelong IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi threatened to resign if the two did not step down for the sake of unity, the two would have had to oblige, thanks to the autocratic and undemocratic way the party is run.

However, with the support they enjoy within the party and looking at how members of the party pushed back on the senior leaders’ decision to change the conference to a non-elective one, they should have revolted against the decision.

Party national chairperson Zanele Magwaza also let down the party’s younger leaders by sticking with Buthelezi instead of using the opportunity to help the youth leaders be the catalysts for change.

The decision was not put to a vote but was a top-down one that was not consultative or open to discussion. Decisions such as these continue to characterise the IFP, and its failure to adapt to the changing times continues to be political suicide.

I wonder if Buthelezi would have actually resigned as president if Thulasizwe and Barnes had refused to step down. So much for political blackmail. They say “be careful what you wish for because it may come true”.

People within the party are yearning for change but members are afraid of the party leader who is seen as untouchable, even by his fellow mates in the leadership of the party.

I cannot help but think of former president Thabo Mbeki or even Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe when I think of politicians’ love for power and the autocratic tendencies that come hand in hand with it.

Yes, when it’s early days, leaders do a lot of good for their party and country but they seem to overstay their welcome and in the process get drunk on power.

I have a good feeling that IFP members will, sooner rather than later, pull a Polokwane-style coup d’état on democratic foundations.

Thulasizwe and Barnes failed to instil everlasting change by stepping down. Had they refused to step down, the party would have gone into the elections with another face for the first time. There is nothing that the party needs more than that.

When you stop growing, you die and I hope this does not happen to the IFP as South African politics needs the party.

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