With the unexpected announcement on Sunday by Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi finally throwing in the towel as Inkatha Freedom Party President, the focus is shifting to the man tipped to replace him and whether he will be able to take the party to new heights.
52-year-old Velenkosini Hlabisa is the man set to become the next IFP president. Taking the reigns from 89-year-old Inkosi Buthelezi who’s led the party since it’s founded in 1975.
A modest and respected leader, Hlabisa joined the IFP at the age of 13 and grew in its ranks. He served as a member of the Youth Brigade and was later elected as its National Secretary. A teacher by profession, he’s also represented the party in Local government since 1995.
In 2011, he was elected Provincial Secretary, to date. Hlabisa is currently also the Mayor of Big-5 municipality.
Buthelezi describes him as a man of integrity who has served the IFP with distinction and analysts believe, it’s such traits which aided his rise to the top.
Prof Bheki Mngomezulu, political analyst says, “Given his loyalty and long service in the party and the fact he is relatively young when compared with Buthelezi for example, we know one of the concerns is that the youth have been crying foul about not being well represented in the national structures of the party.”
Prof Mngomezulu believes Inkosi Buthelezi has made the right move at the right time, “The timing is perfect because Inkosi Buthulezi will be there to provide support that is needed and it’s good that he did it now, while he is still available, the only thing that would been worse is if Hlabisa came into the picture when Buthelezi was no more than it would have been chaos.”
As other political parties face tough leadership battles, analysts say Buthelezi’s hoping to avert his party being placed in a similar predicament.
Prof Bheki Mngomezulu elaborates, “He looked at the current political situation both in KZN and nationally and he said he doesn’t want the IFP to be painted with the same brush as the other political parties.”
Inkosi Buthelezi maintains that Hlabisa’s nomination does not prevent any other person from being nominated at the National General Elective Conference.
Analysts however believe the chances of any other member challenging Hlabisa are slim.
The Democratic Alliance sends wishes to Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as he steps down from leading the party at its next national elective conference.
As one of the foremost leaders in our nation’s transition to democracy, he played a key role in creating a framework for a negotiated solution to the racial conflict in South Africa. I would like to thank iNkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi for his contribution to our country’s political history – in particular the role he played in KwaZulu Natal in the early 1990’s.
We are appreciative for the 1994 decision Buthelezi took to participate in the first democratic South African elections after he initially refused. His decision meant that South Africa would have its first democratic election, which was held in 27 April 1994.
We will continue to work with the IFP in cities and towns across the country, in order to deliver services to the people, and keep the ANC out of power.