In constant quest of new friendships

Musa Zondi offers a perspective on IFP alliances.

Throughout its existence the IFP has had an "open door" policy, which manifested itself in the development of contacts and engaging in dialogue, seeking to promote understanding with various role-players, covering the political spectrum of our country.

It was for this reason that in the dark days of apartheid, Prince M.G. Buthelezi and Inkatha sought to build bridges across the racial divide with like-minded political parties such as the then Progressive Federal Party (PFP), the predecessor to the Democratic Party.

Inkatha always insisted that such co-operation and dialogue would be in the direction of the total destruction of apartheid and the establishment of democracy in South Africa. Guided by this enlightened policy, Inkatha found it possible to campaign together with the PFP in the 1983 referendum against the establishment of the tri-cameral parliament.

The IFP's openness to a rapprochement with the ANC, even though it had been identified by the ANC-mission-exile as an enemy following unresolved differences between the two movements at their 1979 meeting in London, is part of that tradition. It persisted even through the low intensity civil war in the 1980s, in which over 400 of the cream of Inkatha's leadership cadre were systematically assassinated. It explains, too, the IFP's readiness to serve in the national government with the ANC from 1994, first under President Nelson Mandela and then, from 1999, under his successor, President Thabo Mbeki.

Even now the IFP still maintains that "open-door" policy, which enables it to seek a common understanding and co-operation on certain issues of mutual concern with parties such as the DP and the DA. In certain municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, the IFP and the DA found it in their mutual interest to co-operate. It was for this reason that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Mr Tony Leon, Leader of the DA, addressed a joint meeting of KwaZulu-Natal municipal councillors of the IFP and the DA in Durban on 15th March 2002.

Just as the co-operation between the IFP and the ANC was never intended and has never resulted in an alliance, neither is the limited co-operation between IFP and the DA intended to result in an alliance. But co-operate they will as long as it is good for South Africa for them to do so.

When the National Chairperson of the IFP and Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr LPHM Mtshali, addressed the Federal Congress of the Democratic Alliance in Johannesburg on 13th April 2002, he acknowledged that the IFP and DA were "different parties cast by history into different roles and with different missions to fulfil in the unfolding of South African history". Mtshali also noted that there were areas of commonality in which the two parties could work together. He observed that the former DA-controlled Western Cape and the IFP-led KwaZulu-Natal provincial governments had co-operated on technical matters to reshape the flawed elements of the national HIV/AIDS policy.

This brief tour de horizon of the historical context of the relationship that the IFP has with the ANC and the DA respectively reveals that the IFP does not believe that any one party has a monopoly on political wisdom or can fully express the sentiments of all the people of South Africa. Therefore in its pursuit of these co-operation initiatives, the IFP retains a distinct profile and will not be liquidated into an alliance or another party. A relationship with any one party does not devalue or preclude the relationship with another party.

This IFP's 'open door' policy is available to all parties, no matter how big or small. At this crucial stage in the political transition, the IFP believes that all viewpoints should be accommodated and expressed in the party-political-system. The litmus test for co-operation with other parties for the IFP is the advancement of reconciliation and the integration of all our disparate peoples into one nation.