ANC-IFP tensions: Is SA on edge?

The ANC and the IFP want to resolve their differences before the elections. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers

The ANC and the IFP want to resolve their differences before the elections. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 24, 2024


The tension between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has raised concerns about the spectre of violence in the build-up to the elections in May.

For the first time in 30 years, the ANC faces a serious challenge to its position as the ruling party, with just the Western Cape being run by another party.

The IFP was in charge of KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 until 2004 when the ANC won the province. Since then it has had several premiers, including S’bu Ndebele, Zweli Mkhize, Senzo Mchunu, Willies Mchunu, Sihle Zikalala, and of late, Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

But after the loss of support in the 2019 national and provincial elections and the 2021 local government polls, the ANC is being challenged in both KZN and Gauteng.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been cooperating with the IFP at a local level in KZN.

The battle for the control of KZN is far from over, with the ANC promising to mount a serious campaign to retain the province it has governed for two decades.

However, the recent spat between the ANC and IFP has threatened political stability in the province.

The MEC of Economic Development Siboniso Duma was in the spotlight last weekend when he grabbed a microphone from traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, Thulasizwe Buthelezi.

The ANC accused Buthelezi of trying to hijack a government event by raising political issues.

After the event to commemorate the 110th anniversary of King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, 16 ANC supporters were injured and the ANC and the ANC Women’s League accused the IFP of attacking their members.

Dube-Ncube said 16 people were injured in the attack. The IFP denied its members launched the attack on ANC members.

But the matter did not end there, as the ANC and IFP continued to trade insults against each other.

Analysts warned that the lack of political tolerance could lead to KZN descending into political violence ahead of the May 29 elections.

Professor Bheki Mngomezulu from the Nelson Mandela University said the two parties should avoid any conflict.

“Tension between the ANC and the IFP, following the public spat between Buthelezi and Duma does not augur well for political stability in KZN. Although Buthelezi was undermined in his capacity as Zulu traditional prime minister, the incident affected relations between the two parties. Failure to address this situation sooner could see KZN descending into chaos,” warned Mngomezulu.

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa wrote to ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa that they must pick three people from their National Executive Committees to start engaging in peace talks.

Ramaphosa was amenable to the idea of peace talks between the two parties. He was the first one to raise the matter last weekend on the South Coast where he was campaigning for the ANC.

ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said they have also apologised to King Misuzulu kaZwelithini over the incident.

This is despite regiments demanding 100 cows from Duma to apologise to the King.

But the spat between the ANC and the IFP could raise political temperatures in a province that has its own past.

Mngomezulu said the sooner the leaders from both parties smoke the peace pipe, the better for the province.

The path to political stability will be forged in the next few weeks before the country goes to the polls.

The contest will be tough and gruelling, but leaders of the ANC and the IFP have acknowledged that they will need to meet and resolve their differences.

Ramaphosa has raised the issue of political stability and how much it was needed in the elections.

The government has promised to deploy the army and the police during the elections, but political will was needed on all sides to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections.

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