IFP: the next generation

2011-03-17 00:00

SKHUMBUZO MIYA: Who is Mkhuleko Hlengwa?

MKHULEKO HLENGWA: I am the youngest in a family of five children of the late KwaThoyona’s Inkosi Mhlabuyalingana Hlengwa, who was also the deputy speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, and the late Phakamile MaKhawula Hlengwa, the late daughter of the late uMzumbe’s Inkosi Calalakubo Khawula, the staunch IFP leader from the south coast. I grew up with my maternal family in Mzumbe and I did my schooling at Port Shepstone Junior Primary, Port Shepstone Senior Primary and Port Shepstone High School, respectively.


How did you get involved in politics and what are your leadership credentials?

My mother started taking IFP membership cards for me while I was still young, but the first time I joined using money from my own pocket was when I was 10 years old. As a young person I was involved in many social organisations, including the Environment Society and Sheppie Teens Against Cancer. I was also the founder member of the debating society at my high school.

Although I grew up in an IFP family, the IFP was never forced on me. It was my choice. I believed it was a viable organisation to improve people’s lives.

When I entered tertiary education and began my current bachelor of social science degree, I helped found the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s branch of the IFP students’ organisation, the South African Democratic Students’ Movement (Sadesmo).

In 2009, I was elected as its national spokesperson, the position I still occupy. Towards the end of last year, when the IFPYB was facing a leadership crisis, I was co-opted onto its national executive committee until I got elected national chairperson at the weekend.


What do you think should be the role of the IFPYB within the IFP?

The youth brigade should be the foot soldiers and the first line of defence in the organisation. If it’s subjected to any form of attack, as the vanguard of the party, we should stand up to defend it. It’s also our duty to advance IFP values within different communities and as we constitute the majority of party membership, it’s incomplete without us.


What are challenges facing the IFPYB and what are your strategies to counter them?

Our biggest challenge is that most IFP youth are not acquainted with the IFP constitution and the culture of the party. We will organise youth camps to open up space to engage our comrades and create understanding on all these things. We will also utilise our leadership-development institutions to acquaint ourselves with party policies and principles.

The other challenge is the existence of the “us and them syndrome” within the party. I believe our approach should unite all in dealing with the challenges that the party faces as we are dependent upon each other.


What are your strategies for addressing challenges facing South African youth?

The majority of young South Africans are unemployed, which makes them vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, which eventually leads to them engaging in unsafe sex and contracting HIV/Aids. While we should still address the problem of unemployment, our youth should be kept occupied with sport, arts and other social activities.


Your election was surrounded by controversy as your rival was asked to withdraw. You are also the son of a prominent IFP leader and your maternal uncle, Mntomuhle Khawula, previously occupied the same position. Can you comment on these perceptions?

It would be unfair for anybody to conclude that I won the election on that basis. My name was proposed by different structures of the party, and it will be undermining them to say I was elected because I was favoured by the leadership and that I am related to the former IFPYB national chairperson, my maternal uncle, Mntomuhle Khawula.

I have never advanced my family background when entering any leadership contests within the party. I am no blue-eyed-boy of the party leadership.


Do you have any plans in the pipeline to improve relations between the IFPYB and the ANC Youth League?

The past IFPYB conference resolved that we should work with all like-minded organisations and we are prepared to work with the ANC on issues where we have common ground. However, I would like to appeal to the ANCYL to desist from interfering with our internal affairs because that does not augur well for democracy.


You are inheriting a broken IFPYB. What are your plans to mend broken relations within the wing?

Very soon, I am going to propose that we hold an extended national executive committee meeting of the brigade so that we will formulate our strategic plan and the programme of action. All existing problems will be discussed at that gathering.


What are your views on the split within the IFP that saw the establishment of the National Freedom Party (NFP)?

It was most unfortunate that they did not exhaust all avenues available in the party before the split. However, we cannot cry over spilt milk and we will contest against them as if we do not know each other.


How are the IFP youth being treated?

There are false perceptions out there that the IFP youth are being alienated when calling for change and transformation. That’s far from the truth as the problem is that some individuals hijacked the transformation campaign to satisfy their personal ambitions.


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