Refusing to change

2009-11-14 00:00

What has not been written about the fate of the Inkatha Freedom Party over the past few years? Everything from the undemocratic systems and practices, the party leaders’ autocratic tendencies to the finalisation of party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s obituary of his political life and the constant implosion of the party since post-apartheid South Africa, has been mentioned.

This is against a backdrop characterised by perceptions that its leadership is illegitimate as its current term of office has expired following a further postponement of the party’s electoral conference to 2010.

Autocracy is the enemy the party is facing and, as a result, it has lost touch with its dynamic needs. It is the same challenge that Zimbabwe is facing and the same impediment that ended former president Thabo Mbeki’s tenure in both the African National Congress and the government. If one looks at these examples, it becomes apparent they all have very strong and close-knit core groups but beyond that there is nothing. Mbeki had his cabinet, most of the members of which happened to be made up of members of the party’s National Executive Committee. Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe had the same setup, which even vetoed his handing power over for democratic rule. However, when the core collapses, all hell breaks loose.

One of the foundations of the IFP was the ethnicisation of the political landscape in pre- 1994 South Africa. As a result, traditional Zulu men formed the core of the party. Xhosas could not be IFP — they were ANC. The ANC did benefit from various ethnic groups though, as evidenced by the fact that the likes of John Langalibalele Dube, a Zulu, was one of the founding fathers of the party.

You just have to look at the people who form the core of the IFP to see if anything has actually changed. The likes of Lionel Mtshali, Blessed Gwala and Albert Mncwango are among those who have refused to budge, regardless of calls for change within the party.

The IFP has been quick to point at ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s delinquency. By the look of things, the IFP will soon be running out of youth leaders as every one of them who has spoken not necessarily against the party but for change, has been either suspended or expelled. Then again, the party has come to signify an absence of change or dynamism.

What has been glaring is the silence of party leaders who were supported by those very youth leaders who were suspended. Both Zanele Magwaza and Musa Zondi have been silent, except when they issue party statements denying their availability,

The cancerous old guard which forms the core of the party continues to kill the rest of the party. The core is like cancer cells that need to be eradicated by chemotherapy. A few limbs have been amputated but it will not be long before the party loses its fight against this cancer. The leadership has not embraced the change it wants to see in this country. If I can borrow from Mahatma Gandhi, it must either change or die.

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