It is time for Mangosutho Buthelezi to retire

2008-05-10 00:00

BE careful what you wish for because it may come true. When lifetime Inkatha Freedom Party leader and chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi requested that the province’s traditional leaders be put on a par with their counterparts in other provinces, he seems not to have seen what was coming to him. He has subsequently realised that he would have to relinquish either his traditional position or being a member of Parliament.

Sportsmen like Michael Schumacher, Pete Sampras and Michael Jordan all left at the top of their games and I would suggest Buthelezi do the same.

Buthelezi’s recent spat with KZN local government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu shows how out of sync he is with the current political dispensation. Do not get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the former chief minister of KwaZulu as his outlook on politics has put him way above many others.

However, this is not the case with his recent political fallout with Mabuyakhulu.

For a leader of a party to blow his top in the manner in which he did is inappropriate, regardless who is right or wrong. He should be enjoying his cognac and cigar (or rather his traditional brew and pipe) with the Mandelas, the Mangopes and the De Klerks of this world and should not be fighting over positions in which he has had a lifetime to make a lasting difference.

The qualm he has with being ousted (according to the Gospel of Mangosuthu) reminds me of his reaction when ANC president Jacob Zuma replaced him as chancellor of the University of Zululand, a position Buthelezi had held for about 30 years.

This leads me to the question whether Buthelezi is just into accumulating positions or whether he really wants to make everlasting change and leave an immortal legacy.

For 10 years as the Minister of Home Affairs, the department limped from one disaster to another. I do not even want to go into what he did or did not do for the Zulu people he claims to have represented while he was chief minister of KwaZulu.

Throughout my career as a journalist, I have not come across a leader as articulate and as clear thinking as Muntomuhle Khawula — not just where IFP issues are concerned but on a global scale. If I were a member of the IFP, he would be my leader. I would probably vote for him even if I were a member of the ANC. Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is fearless and courageous. Musa Zondi has a deep understanding of political dynamics that is unparalleled within the IFP.

I feel that Buthelezi should retire and let the new breed of leadership take the party to the next level. If he does not, history will judge him harshly, just as it will Robert Mugabe.

Buthelezi needs to relinquish, not just his current position as chair, but all political

positions.

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