IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi steps down after 44 years

In his swansong as a long serving leader of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosuthu Buthelezi used the occasion to reflect on his career in the party, as well as an opportunity to send a message to future leaders.

The IFP is currently holding its elective conference in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal.

Buthelezi, who has led the party since its inception in 1975, said the IFP started its transition in 2012 and that this moment "was planned a long time ago".

He told his audience while giving welcoming remarks at the conference that his stepping down moment was "significant" but "far less sensational than many seem to think".


Mangosuthu Buthelezi with former presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in the 1990s. (Netwerk24 archives)

'Party bigger than Buthelezi'

"We have moved carefully and deliberately to this point, making public our decisions and the reasons for taking them. This moment was planned a long time ago. It is simply the last step in a very public journey," said Buthelezi, who turns 91 next week.

"The story of the IFP is deeply intertwined with my own story; the story of Buthelezi. I have served this party for 44 years, since its founding in 1975. Yet I have never served alone. This party is bigger than Buthelezi. It has a future beyond my own."

The party is expected to elect a president, a deputy president, a national chairperson, a deputy national chairperson, as well as a secretary-general and a deputy.


Mangosuthu Buthelezi with former president Nelson Mandela (Netwerk24 archives)

IFP a wellspring of hope

Thirty-four members will be elected to the party’s national council.

Buthelezi added that the IFP still has a lot to give to the political discourse in the country.

The party is the fourth largest in the country, with 14 seats in the National Assembly. 

"In this new generation, our struggle is different. But our values remain the same. It is this that makes the IFP a wellspring of hope, providing water to a nation thirsty," he added.

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