IFP’s challenge to rebrand
THE NEWS that the IFP’s longest-serving leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, is handing over the reins after 42 years at the helm came just hours after former president Thabo Mbeki celebrated the birthday of the ANC’s longestserving leader, Oliver Tambo.
Buthelezi’s tenure as the IFP leader is not comparable with that of Tambo, who led the ANC’s external mission from 1960 to 1990.
But what is similar is that the IFP, like the ANC, is losing a figure who has been associated with the party since its formation in 1975.
This has posed the question of whether the IFP can live beyond the shadow of its founding leader, who had become a personality with cult status, the brand itself.
There is already one argument that the IFP is a traditional party, formed on the basis of Buthelezi’s push for Zulu nationalism, and that it won’t survive without him.
This argument, of course, ignores the changing face of politics in KwaZulu-Natal, the heartland of the organisation. The party lost some ground after the ANC masterfully deployed to KZN one of the sons of the province, Jacob Zuma.
There is no question that this move did, to a great extent, shake the very foundations of the IFP.
Now that the glue that used to bind the ANC together in KZN – Zuma – is no longer there, it remains to be seen if this won’t, at least in the next few years, help sustain the IFP.
The departure of Buthelezi might also help the party to do one critical thing – re-brand itself.
His departure is set to breathe much-needed oxygen into the brand of the IFP and help redefine it.
Certainly, the country is bidding farewell to one of its longest-serving sons, who has been part of its political landscape for decades.
History, though, will judge his legacy.