Newly-elected IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa has made reconciling with the ANC one of the party’s goals as he takes over from Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the party’s founder and long-time former leader.
“We are not talking of bringing two organisations into one, we are talking about reconciliation. There was a phase of violence, which made many families lose members and during that period many untrue stories were told to the public about the IFP,” said Hlabisa.
He made the comments during a wide-ranging sit-down interview with News24 this week. Hlabisa said relations soured between the two organisations following a 1979 meeting in London.
The new party president said it was time for the history of the IFP and ANC’s relations to be rectified, saying they came from the same background. At the same time Hlabisa made it clear it was the governing party to blame for the soured ties.
Recently, Buthelezi, who was once in the ANC, said the idea of the IFP was first suggested by Zambian liberation icon Kenneth Kaunda and endorsed by the ANC’s own struggle hero and long-time leader Oliver Tambo.
“It started as a national cultural movement, took on ANC colours, personally I took it to be a front for the ANC,” Buthelezi told Power FM host Aldrin Sampear during an interview on Friday.
Buthelezi said the two organisations parted ways when he couldn’t agree with the ANC’s decision to move away from its non-violent posture during the struggle against apartheid.
Both Hlabisa and Buthelezi say the ANC should take responsibility for its many conflicts with other political parties in the country throughout the years.
“You know the common denominator who inflicted pain to many people through violence. We need to talk about that, tell the truth,” said Hlabisa.
“There has been violence between the ANC and the IFP, the ANC and the PAC, the ANC and Azapo, violence between the EFF and ANC… the common denominator is clear,” he added, insisting the governing party is the only organisation constantly involved in clashes with other movements.
Buthelezi said he was denigrated by many, including then ANC secretary-general Alfred Nzo, who allegedly called him a “careerist” at a London meeting in 1980.
“After that the sluice gates had opened and I became vilified all over the world, called a sell out because I didn’t endorse the armed struggle,” Buthelezi told PowerFM.
Buthelezi then went on to claim an ANC leader who went to study the “people’s war” in Vietnam returned to use it against other political parties instead of the minority government.
“Sadly, that people’s war was unleashed against not only me, not only IFP but the PAC and Azapo,” he said.
Must correct the past
Hlabisa, in aiming to take the party forward, said it was time for the truth to be told for the sake of future generations and proper documentation of the South African transition towards democracy.
“There are people who won’t allow the IFP to exist in their areas cause of the past history, some won’t allow the ANC in their areas also because of past history. We need to close that history, everyone must take responsibility,” said Hlabisa.
He also said he believed the ANC knew there was a need for a reconciliation and past tensions to be resolved.
Hlabisa said while he couldn’t put down a timeline as to how long this project would take, he committed to giving it his “best effort”.