Reference Entry

Inkatha Freedom Party South African political party based in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Kate Tuttle

in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170559
Inkatha Freedom Party South African political party based in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

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The Inkatha Freedom Party was originally formed as a Zulu cultural association, but for years it has been one of South Africa’s most controversial political forces. Its leader, Mangosutho Gatsha Buthelezi, was at one time a member of the African National Congress (ANC) but has become one of the ANC’s most formidable rivals. Today, despite the widespread opinion that Buthelezi commands a corrupt and undemocratic—and strictly ethnocentric—organization, Inkatha remains the dominant party in KwaZulu-Natal province.Inkatha, the political party, has its roots in Inkatha Ya Ka Zulu (Zulu National Movement), a cultural organization founded in 1928. In 1974, some twenty years after South Africa’s apartheid government designated bantustans, or “Bantu homelands,” for all the nation’s major African ethnic groups, Buthelezi renewed Inkatha as Inkatha ye Nkululeko Ye Sizwe (National Cultural Liberation Movement). KwaZulu, like the other homelands, was partly self-governed, but Bantustan ministers were regarded as puppets of the national government. Most observers believe that Buthelezi revived Inkatha to undermine the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, his only rival for power in KwaZulu.Buthelezi, who had spoken out openly against apartheid, nonetheless supported the bantustan system. He also emphasized that Inkatha, unlike many black South African political organizations, was pro-capitalist. Although Buthelezi has often reminded audiences of his close ties with Nelson Mandela, throughout the 1970s Inkatha criticized the ANC’s support of student protests and presented itself as an alternative movement. Its less ideologically militant stance, stressing cooperation with the existing regime, made Inkatha palatable to South African whites as well as to western governments. Following the Soweto uprising in 1976, Buthelezi’s cooperation with the South African police in forming anti-militant vigilante groups confirmed the suspicions of critics, especially within the Black Consciousness Movement, who had branded him a government puppet.The ANC officially broke with Inkatha in 1980, after Buthelezi leaked details of private meetings with exiled ANC leaders. The two organizations soon became bitter enemies. Never as large or as powerful as the ANC, Inkatha dropped its initially nonviolent stance; throughout the 1980s, armed Buthelezi supporters carried out strikes against ANC and United Democratic Front (UDF) supporters. Inkatha was reportedly responsible for dozens of assassinations at ANC funerals.In 1990 Inkatha became an official political party, the Inkatha Freedom Party. A year later, reports emerged that Inkatha had received past support from the South African Security Police and Military Intelligence forces. Buthelezi, seeking a sovereign Zulu state, nearly forced a delay in the 1994 elections with Inkatha demonstrations and rioting. At the last minute he allowed his name to be placed on the ballot as a candidate for president in the national elections. Inkatha won 10.5 percent of the national vote and forty-three legislative seats. Buthelezi was named minister of home affairs, but he and other representatives of Inkatha demanded more autonomy for the KwaZulu-Natal than the ANC-dominated government was prepared to allow. In April 1995, Inkatha members withdrew from the parliament. They remained absent when the country’s new constitution was ratified in May 1996 but rejoined the government later that year and have held seats in the legislature ever since. Buthelezi continued to head Inkatha in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Reference Entry.  537 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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