‘Alleged rift, assassination plot subject of a smear campaign’

The IFP has come out guns blazing to refute claims that party president Velenkosini Hlabisa is facing foes within such that the police have beefed up his security detail.

Sunday World reported a few weeks ago that there was a fierce battle between Hlabisa’s supporters and those of KwaZulu-Natal provincial chairperson Thamsanqa Ntuli.

This paper understands at the heart of the brawl, which has been simmering for a long time but kept under wraps, is who will become premier should the IFP win the province in 2024.

Hlabisa is known to be close to party founder and president emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi while Ntuli enjoys overwhelming backing from the party’s rank and file.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday World this week, Liezl van der Merwe, the party’s acting spokesperson, these are a subject of a smear campaign.

Van der Merwe said the aim is to spread lies with the hope of derailing the IFP’s electoral gains.

“We have taken note of reports that suggest that the president of the IFP, VF Hlabisa, has had his security detail beefed up because of a plot against him. We wish to reject this reckless narrative,” said Van der Merwe.

“President Hlabisa has always had security provided to him by the IFP, just like many other IFP leaders.”

She further sought to explain that the police had conducted their own threat assessment, which concluded that Hlabisa should be assigned SA Police Service (SAPS) protectors.

“This is an SAPS process, and not a process initiated by the IFP. This is also standard SAPS procedure.

“We have not seen the media reporting the same narrative when, for example, President Cyril Ramaphosa, a minister, or any other opposition leader has had SAPS protectors assigned to them or has had their security detail increased.”

She poured cold water over purported rifts between Hlabisa and Ntuli, saying the two leaders had been campaigning side by side which has seen the party record back-to-back by-election victories.

The latest by-elections victory was recorded in Mthonjaneni ward six, which the IFP snatched from the ANC on Wednesday last week.

Despite the party’s vehement denials that there is bickering and jostling, Sunday World understands through reliable sources within the IFP that there is an intense work behind the scenes to charge Hlabisa for defiance and putting the party in disrepute.

According to insiders, the charge emanates from allegations that in several IFP gatherings, Hlabisa’s supporters pushed to wear party regalia bearing his face instead of Buthelezi.

The matter is still the subject of an internal probe.

“Bulawayo [Hlabisa’s clan name] does not enjoy support from the majority of members within the [national] council [IFP’s highest decision-making body].

“The push is to get him suspended because besides his supporters, he has been seen on numerous occasions wearing regalia bearing his face and defied party resolution,” said a member who is not authorised to speak to the media.

Another member said Hlabisa enjoys protection from Buthelezi.

“We have little room to maneuver because uMntwana [Buthelezi] enjoys a strong bond with Hlabisa.

“Our hands are tied because we respect uMntwana and we do not want to be seen as leading a campaign to divide his party.”

Hlabisa was elected uncontested as party president in 2019 after being endorsed by Buthelezi to succeed him.


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