Incoming Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) president Velenkosini Hlabisa, can grow the organisation; this according to political Analyst Xolani Dube. However, Dube says the growth will depend largely on how Hlabisa deals with factionalism within the party.

“The party now finds itself at a crossroads. It will be difficult not having Buthelezi at the helm of the party because the IFP has become the party that it is because of Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi.”

Dube adds that factionalism has been politically counter-productive for the IFP.

“There are those who are not in that circle of Bab’uMangosuthu Buthelezi. They are seen as the outcast of the organisation but who decided to stay until possibly one-day Bab’uMangosutho is no longer the president of the organisation and so now one can say the IFP is at the crossroads and unfortunately the person who has placed the IFP in this particular dilemma is Bab’uMangosuthu Buthelezi.”

Hlabisa takes over the party from Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who has led the party since its inception in 1975.

Hlabisa hails from Kwa-Hlabisa outside Ulundi,  His political growth was watered by the IFP.   In 1978 he joined the IFP Youth Brigade.

A teacher by profession, he’s taught in various schools in northern KwaZulu-Natal.  Hlabisa has been a councillor since 1995  and is currently the mayor of Hlabisa Local Municipality. He also held the position of Secretary-General of the IFP.  Hlabisa was the IFP’s KwaZulu-Natal premier candidate in the 2019 national elections.  The party failed to win the province but managed to overtake the Democratic Alliance (DA) to become the official opposition in the province’s legislature.

Prof. Otty Nxumalo believes Hlabisa’s biggest strength is his experience in IFP politics.

“I think with good support he will be able to achieve something. That is expected of him. I found him to be able to be somebody who is very incisive and able to read between the lines too, he is not naive at all.”

Political analyst Sethulego Matebesi says leadership change is good for the IFP because the party needs urgent renewal.  Matebesi says one of the dangers of democracy in South Africa is that political parties celebrate individuals who become reluctant to relinquish power.

” I think it’s also incumbent on some of these people to say ‘I’ve had enough, I have been elected more than three times let me step back’. So, it is definitely going to be a huge step for the incumbent. I think it’s good for the IFP, they’ve been around for a long time. We’ll look out to what is going to happen in terms of renewing and taking the IFP forward.”

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