Plot to oust IFP leader after failed ANC coalition deal

Johannesburg- The spectacular collapse of a coalition deal with the ANC has triggered a plot to oust  IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa.

Hlabisa is in the firing line, with his detractors in the party saying his handling of the failed ANC/IFP pact has jeopardised the chances of the party governing KwaZulu-Natal again.

Last week, Sunday World reported that the deal between the IFP and ANC had caused ructions in both parties.

On Monday, IFP councillors openly defied Hlabisa by voting with other opposition parties during the inaugural meetings of councils, resulting in the ANC suffering defeat in several municipalities, including uMhlathuze municipality (Richards Bay), the third-largest municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

It has now emerged that moves were afoot to remove Hlabisa from his powerful post. According to IFP sources, Hlabisa’s woes are being orchestrated by a strong faction within the party that is aggrieved that the preferred leaders were not considered for posts in various municipalities that the IFP controls.

“These calls for Hlabisa to go are not new. They started in 2019. When Hlabisa was elected to succeed uShenge [Mangosuthu Buthelezi] there was unhappiness in the party. Members felt that Hlabisa was imposed on the party by uShenge. This [situation] is rearing its head again,” said the party senior leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added that Hlabisa is accused of not getting a mandate from the structures to pen a deal with the ruling party that would have seen the two traditional
political foes voting with each in hung councils.

“Party structures and several senior leaders were kept in the dark about the agreement. That is why they defied the decision. There is a view that Hlabisa doesn’t have a backbone and he is a liability,” he said.

Another source said there was ongoing bad blood in the party over the ascendancy of Hlabisa to the party’s leadership, with one faction saying party deputy Mzamo Buthelezi was overlooked.

He accused Hlabisa of appointing his favourites to run several municipalities in the province so that he could consolidate his political power.

“Hlabisa was never elected but anointed.  He was never even contested in the position. When we raised this, we were threatened with expulsion,” he said.

“We are lobbying other aggrieved members so that we can officially raise the matter with the national council. We want a motion of no confidence against his leadership,” said the insider.

Last year, IFP founder Buthelezi conceded “there are vultures in the party who we will not name for diplomatic reasons, who are trying to influence our party to split in two”. He said there was a group working against Hlabisa to get into positions of power in municipalities for material gain.

IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa laughed off the allegations, saying the party was confident in Hlabisa’s leadership.

“Any disciplined member of the IFP knows that the IFP does not have a branch or structure in the media,” he said, adding  that those who had legitimate
concerns had to use internal processes.

“In the case of this allegation you are bringing forth, the IFP is not aware of those issues. Had they been raised they would have been clarified with ease,” said Hlengwa.

He described the allegations as street gossip of “nameless and faceless cowardice elements devoid of substance and lacking in information and anchored in cheap politics”.

For more political news and views from this week’s paper, click here. 

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