KZN Premier’s Self-harming Obsession with the IFP

Feb 24, 2022 | Press Releases

Since the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu in March 2021, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and Provincial Chairperson of the ANC, Mr Sihle Zikalala, has repeatedly publicly accused the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation of exploiting, coercing and controlling the Zulu Royal Family. It is clear that he neither respects nor understands the role of Undunankulu kaZulu.

One would think that the Premier would take the trouble to familiarize himself with the history and traditions of the largest population group in the Province he serves. One might also assume that he would tread carefully when speaking about one of the most senior members of the Zulu Royal Family whose lineage goes back to King Shaka kaSenzangakhona.

Unfortunately, political vitriol has poisoned the Premier’s sense of logic and decorum, and he simply cannot be civil about the traditional Prime Minister. Because, when he looks at the Prime Minister, all he can see is the Founder of the IFP.

He knows, when he looks at Prince Buthelezi, that this is the same leader who stood steadfast at CODESA insisting that the Zulu monarch be accorded a place at the negotiating table. He knows that Prince Buthelezi is the patriot who risked his Party’s entire future, to secure recognition for the King. He knows that Prince Buthelezi is the statesman who signed the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace; an Agreement broken by the ANC. He knows that Prince Buthelezi is the champion who extracted a commitment from Cabinet to change the Constitution to protect the role, powers and functions of Amakhosi; another commitment that went unfulfilled.

When Mr Zikalala looks at Prince Buthelezi, he comes face to face with every failure of the ANC to act with integrity.

Yet none of that excuses the despicable attacks he consistently launches at the IFP, at its Founder and at every leader of this Party. Whenever the conversation turns to the IFP’s decades’ long support of the Zulu Monarch and Nation, the Premier regresses to sandbox psychology, whining that the IFP “will now become popular and important”.

The Premier’s latest attack was sparked by the Mayor of the Zululand District Municipality raising a concern about water accounts during an intergovernmental strategic meeting to which the Premier had invited him. It is the responsibility of the Premier’s Government to maintain the Royal households, thus the Municipality has a responsibility to flag any matters of concern.

This is a governmental matter. It had nothing to do with the IFP, and nothing to do with Prince Buthelezi.

Yet it triggered a lengthy diatribe from the Premier in the form of a press statement, accusing the IFP of “old Bantustan tactics”, a “reign of terror”, “punishment”, “revenge” and “humiliation”. His coup de grâce (which he somehow failed to recognise as an embarrassing own-goal), was to accuse the IFP of “Royal capture”.

If one needed more evidence that he had lost the plot, the Premier then made an obscure reference to the late King Zwelithini having been “left stranded in a foreign country” requiring Madiba’s intervention. It is impossible to know what he is referring to, and more impossible still to see how it relates to the IFP.

It hardly needs pointing out, because of course the Premier knows this, but KwaZulu was never a Bantustan in any sense. Prince Buthelezi rejected nominal independence for KwaZulu, derailing the grand scheme of apartheid to deprive South Africans of our citizenship. Mr Zikalala also knows very well that Prince Buthelezi was following Inkosi Luthuli’s instructions, to participate in the homelands system, in order to undermine the system from within; a mission that he wholly fulfilled.

I caution the Premier to resist these urges to attack Prince Buthelezi, and the Party he founded, at every turn. If our integrity makes him so uncomfortable, he ought to try to emulate it, instead of pretending it’s a cheap trick that we’ve managed to sustain for 46 years.

The Premier knows that he is undermining the dignity of the Zulu Royal Family, the institution of traditional leadership and the institution of the monarchy for the sake of trying to score political points against the IFP. Ironically, though, the deeper he wades into this self-made morass, the less likely his political survival.

The Zulu nation respects the unifying role of Undunankulu kaZulu. The Premier does himself no favours by accusing the IFP of dividing the nation.

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