IFP elects Velenkosini Hlabisa as new leader after 44 years of Buthelezi

IFP elects Velenkosini Hlabisa as new leader after 44 years of Buthelezi

New IFP president Velenkosini F. Hlabisa. Picture: IFP

The party is ushering in a new era after only ever knowing the leadership of one man.

Last night, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) elected Velenkosini Hlabisa as its new president, replacing the only other leader they have ever had, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

“The IFP in KwaZulu-Natal congratulates the newly elected leadership. We know that they will do good work for the party,” Thami Ntuli, spokesperson for the party in that province told News24 on Sunday.

Ntuli said the election of Hlabisa at Saturday’s national elective conference was unanimous.

The secretary-general is Siphosethu Ngcobo, and the deputy secretary-general Albert Mncwango.

The national chairperson is MB Gwala and the deputy national chairperson is Thembinkosi Kamadlopha-Mthethwa.

The treasurer-general is Narend Singh.

In his swansong as the long-serving leader of the IFP, Buthelezi used the occasion on Saturday to reflect on his career in the party, as well as an opportunity to send a message to future leaders.

The IFP had been holding its elective conference in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal.

Buthelezi, who has led the party since its inception in 1975, said the IFP started its transition in 2012 and that this moment “was planned a long time ago”.

He told his audience while giving welcoming remarks at the conference that his stepping down moment was “significant” but “far less sensational than many seem to think”.

‘Party bigger than Buthelezi’

“We have moved carefully and deliberately to this point, making public our decisions and the reasons for taking them. This moment was planned a long time ago. It is simply the last step in a very public journey,” said Buthelezi, who turns 91 next week.

“The story of the IFP is deeply intertwined with my own story; the story of Buthelezi. I have served this party for 44 years, since its founding in 1975. Yet I have never served alone. This party is bigger than Buthelezi. It has a future beyond my own.”

Hlabisa was formerly the IFP’s secretary-general, and he gave a brief acceptance speech.

“This evening was the ending of an era and the beginning of a new season,” he said.

He was Buthelezi’s preferred candidate, and he had the backing of the national executive committee.

IFP a wellspring of hope

Thirty-four members were to be elected to the party’s national council.

Buthelezi added that the IFP still has a lot to give to the political discourse in the country.

The party is the fourth largest in the country, with 14 seats in the National Assembly.

“In this new generation, our struggle is different. But our values remain the same. It is this that makes the IFP a wellspring of hope, providing water to a nation thirsty,” he added.

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