IFP’s chal­lenge to re­brand

The Mercury - - OPINION -

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.

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