Inkatha launches South Africa vote campaign in Zulu heartlandSun, 10 Mar 2024 17:25:47 GMT

South Africa’s opposition Inkatha Freedom Party gathered a huge crowd of supporters for the spectacular launch of its general election campaign Sunday, filling a stadium in the heartland of its Zulu base.The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was packed to hear party leader Velenkosini Hlabisa unveil the IFP manifesto, but the impressive show of force on day one may prove to be the campaign’s high point for the movement.”South Africa stands on the brink of collapse, not because of any lack in our people but because South Africa has been subjected to poor governance, to weak leadership and corruption,” Hlabisa declared in a lengthy address.”In 2024 across the length and breadth of Africa, there is one resounding call: the call for change.”The May 29 election will be the first fought by the right-wing party without its iconic founder and late leader Mangosuthu Buthulezi. And now, it faces new challenges even in its home province KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), a key electoral battleground.Preparations for the rally were clouded by news that three buses carrying IFP supporters to the stadium had crashed. Medics treated 36 at the scene while eight people were taken to hospital, one in a critical condition, ambulance provider IPSS Medical Rescue told AFP.- Losing ground -In the 2019 general election the IFP came in fourth place nationally with 14 seats in the 400-member National Assembly, with few votes outside KwaZulu-Natal, where in the provincial assembly it is the official opposition to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).Several of South Africa’s opposition parties are trying to form an alliance to unseat the ANC if it falls below 50 percent nationally, and even a shrinking IFP could prove influential in post-election horse-trading.This year, three decades after the advent of democracy and end of apartheid, the ANC is expected see its support slip nationally, perhaps losing its majority for the first time, but the IFP may not be able to capitalise.Former president Jacob Zuma has been suspended from the ANC after corruption scandals but has formed a new opposition party. He remains popular among fellow Zulus and his populist platform could pick up more KZN votes than the IFP’s liberal economic stance.Nevertheless, the manifesto launch attracted a huge and enthusiastic crowd, including traditional leaders in Zulu dress, under the slogan “Let’s do it for Shenge” — a tribute to Buthulezi under his nickname and a nod to how much the party still leans on its late figurehead.While Hlabisa launched his campaign, President Cyril Ramaphosa — who also drew an impressive crowd to the Durban stadium earlier this month — was campaigning in and around Johannesburg in Gauteng, the only province with more votes and assembly members than KZN.He conducted a walkabout in a shopping mall, greeting smiling voters and taking pictures with babies, before giving a speech in a church, the Fire Tabernacle Prophetic Ministry in Ekurhuleni.South Africa’s economy is in the doldrums and voters are concerned about soaring violent crime and crippling power cuts.Ramaphosa has stuck to the ANC’s traditional strengths, citing its legacy as the party which led South Africa out of apartheid and promising assistance to the less well off.After his speeches, he visited working class families in their homes in Ekurhuleni, canvasing door-to-door and discussing their needs.- Cost of living -“We must put South Africa to work. We must increase the number of people that are employed and reduce the number of people unemployed,” he said. “We also want to tackle the high cost of living.”Meanwhile, Zuma was also on the road campaigning among evangelical churchgoers in Cape Town. Zuma served as president from 2009 to 2018 but left under a cloud of corruption allegations.”It’s been 30 years … but sorrow and poverty is now the daily life for the majority. This year, I became among the people that said: Let’s stand up,” he said.The general election on May 29 will decide the make-up of the National Assembly, which will then vote to confirm the next president.