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Buthelezi Says He'll Step Down as Inkatha Freedom Party Leader in 2009


In South Africa, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has announced he will not seek re-election in 2009. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a former homeland leader during the Apartheid era, made the announcement Sunday at the party’s general conference.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about reaction to the announcement.

“It has caused somewhat of a rash of interest and news reports about it. Many of them, though, have questioned whether in fact by the time 2009 rolls around whether he will stick to that decision or not,” she says.

Robertson describes the homeland system: “Under the policies of Apartheid, the then-government established areas that were designated only for black South Africans and they were ethnically divided. So he was the leader of KwaZulu, which was a nominally independent homeland, not fully independent. But a self-governing area for Zulu people in the area now known as KwaZulu-Natal,” she says.

The IFP and the current ruling party, the ANC, were bitter and at times violent rivals at times during Apartheid. But what is the status of the IFP today? Robertson says, “In KwaZulu-Natal, it is the second largest party. Currently the African National Congress (ANC) has the highest number of seats in the provincial government and runs the provincial government and the city of Durban…and also the city of Pietermaritzburg. But the IFP has greater numbers in some of the smaller towns and in a number of rural areas, where they have political control.”

Asked why Buthelezi would announce he’s stepping down in 2009, she says, “It seems to be a reaction from some criticism that has popped up from time to time, and most recently in relation to an IFP conference this past week – the criticism being that he is unwilling to hand over power to anybody else, that he’s been in that position of leading the IFP for too long and that fresh blood is needed. And that is what he apparently responded to this weekend.”

She says part of his legacy will be the political violence between the IFP and ANC. Buthelezi also studied various forms of governments that could have replaced the white-ruled government after Apartheid, but none of them were adopted.

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