DURBAN, October 22 – The Inkatha Freedom Party has yet again postponed its national general conference, but has denied that this is because of a succession dispute.
Speaking at the party’s headquarters in Durban on Monday, deputy national chairperson Albert Mncwango dismissed weekend reports that there was a succession rift in the party that led to the postponement as “baseless and without merit”.
“The IFP remains committed to holding a conference,” said Mncwango.
The party last held an elective conference in December 2012, where founder and president Mangosuthu Buthelezi – who turned 90 this year – was again nominated to lead.
At the same conference, the IFP constitution was amended to allow for a deputy president, which came in the form of Mzamo Buthelezi.
In October last year, Buthelezi announced that he would not be standing for re-election in the December 2017 conference. He further announced that party leadership had agreed to nominate Hlabisa mayor, Velenkosini Hlabisa‚ as his replacement, effectively snubbing his deputy.
But the 2017 conference was also postponed due to “logistical issues” that included the auditing of branches, the media was told at the time.
Expanding on those issues on Monday, Mncwango said that in January, bogus branches had been discovered and that “serious problems” still remained despite intervention by party leaders. This would have undesirable outcomes on the national general conference, said Mncwango, including possible litigation.
“The unintended consequence of these problems and delays has been that structures have been unable to duly prepare and ready themselves for the conference. As things stand, the delegates’ roll is incomplete,” he said.
Mncwango said that last week several branches and structures advised the national executive committee (NEC) that, “certain constitutional prescripts had been compromised” in the preparatory stages for the conference.
The NEC found the concerns to be legitimate, said Mncwango.
“A tough and difficult decision had to be made. The NEC was forced by circumstances to postpone the national general council to avoid violating our own constitution and also avoid possible litigation,” said Mncwango.
The “dilemma” was presented to the extended national council on Sunday, said Mncwango, and it was agreed that the NEC decision be upheld.
A conference was due and desirable, he said, but the party was bound to protect its processes and the legitimacy of the conference outcomes.
Mncwango said that Buthelezi expressed “disquiet” over the decision and had wanted a conference to take place come “hell or high water”, but had subjected himself to the collective.
“In this regard, the allegation that he singlehandedly postponed the conference is both unfounded and malicious,” said Mncwango. He then apologised to Buthelezi for “the state of ill preparedness for the conference, particularly after his announcement to step down from the leadership of the party”.
Mncwango said the backlash for the decision should be directed to the party, not Buthelezi. The IFP’s daily monitoring committee would sort out all outstanding matters and provide weekly reports to the national executive, he said. (ANA)