Big test for IFP as IEC declares Hlabisa’s face to be on ballot paper

The IFP will have a chance to prove its electoral muscle in the upcoming elections. It will also test whether its president, Velenkosini Hlabisa, is visible enough among voters. 

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced on Tuesday that it will be Hlabisa’s face on the ballot paper. This instead of the late founder and party president Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi being on the ballot paper.

Buthelezi not on ballot paper for the first time

“In respect of the IFP, while the face of their campaign remains chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of the IFP is Mr Hlabisa. For that reason only, the photograph of Mr Hlabisa will be on the ballot,” Masego Sheburi, IEC deputy chief electoral officer, said.

The IEC was giving its state of readiness and other developments ahead of the May 29 elections.

It is the first time that someone other than Buthelezi will be on the ballot paper since the party was formed way back in 1975.

The party has also conceded that the party’s electoral gains were centred around the gigantic figure and cult following of Buthelezi. This is the case especially in KwaZulu-Natal.

Party’s party’s electoral gains were centred around Buthelezi

It has even branded its election campaign “Do it for Shenge” (Buthelezi’s clan name). The  slogan is used by the party entice voters. It also uses it to remind voters about the contribution Buthelezi made to the South African political landscape.

The IFP also believes that it Buthelezi made the province what it is today. It was under Buthelezi’s tutelage as chief minister in the erstwhile KwaZulu government that KZN became one of the more developed provinces. He is credited with building schools, clinics, teachers’ and nursing colleges, among others.

Hlabisa comes into the fore following internal party divisions on the use of his image to campaign for the party. A strong grouping wanted Buthelezi to be the face of the party. This both in the ballot paper and in campaigns. The party defended the stance as part of the conference resolution.

Party secretary-general Siphosethu Ngcobo once issued a directive to discipline all members who defied orders on party regalia. Those who insisted on wearing the party regalia with the face of Hlabisa, instead of Buthelezi, were targeted.

Party regalia also under the spotlight

“You’re to submit a list and details of all members/person who have worn the IFP regalia that does not bear the face of …Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Those members within your district who are known either through social media images or verified physical observation,” reads the communiqué.

The IFP has remained the only major party that once declined, and came back stronger. This especially during the 2021 municipal elections.

The party has also won back-to-back elections and snatched key ANC strongholds.

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