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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

What went wrong in Natal?

Overcoming the obstacles and moving forward by Blade Nzimande

The overwhelming national electoral victory of the ANC-led alliance was not replicated in two of the nine provinces. In Natal, Inkatha won the election. Much of Inkatha's success can be attributed to fraud. But it would be wrong simply to console ourselves with this, argues Blade Nzimande in a paper that formed the basis for post-election Tripartite assessments of the situation in the Natal province.

This paper does not analyse the election results and patterns of voting in Natal. It is, rather, a broad political reflection aimed at providing a basis for our own critical assessment of the elections in Natal. Its aim is also to contribute towards strategic discussions on how to deal with the post-election political situation in the province. It is important to point out that, in order to arrive at a fuller picture of what actually happened in Natal and to fully assess the situation, it will be necessary for the Alliance to undertake a detailed analysis of area-by-area polling results. This falls outside the scope of this paper.

The Natal election results are a bitter lesson on parliamentary elections. That is to say, the results of an election are not necessarily an expression of one's actual support on the ground. Conversely, one's support on the ground is not automatically translated into electoral strength.

The situation we are faced with in the province is that Inkatha has won the elections and is now the majority party in government. This gives the IFP political legitimacy such as it has never had before. Inkatha's victory will probably go down as one of the largest frauds in the history of elections in our country, but the capacity of the IFP to embark on such large-scale rigging is not unrelated to our own subjective weaknesses in the province which will be highlighted below. It is for this reason that the ANC's defeat in Natal cannot be simplistically reduced to the rigging of the election.

Perhaps what is most significant about Inkatha is that it is the only political formation, among several that represented the interests of the bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie and that collaborated with the apartheid regime over the years, that has survived the April elections. The rest of the collaborating petty bourgeois political formations in the various bantustan and tricameral systems have been completely wiped out. This means that in Natal, we will be faced with a dominant party in government that will attempt to continue to preserve as much of the old order as possible. The structures of apartheid have provided its best instruments for consolidating power.

The strategy of the IFP, in alliance with the Natal National Party and the white right-wing, will be to push for federalism in Natal. This project is, however, being significandy undermined by the increasingly non-partisan role the Zulu king is assuming in the post-election period. The IFP will continue to try to prevent the ANC from broadening its mass-base, particularly in the rural areas. At the centre of this strategy will be the IFP's attempts to spread its patronage networks as a means of securing a firmer political base for itself. The possibility, therefore, is that violence is not going to disappear overnight in Natal. It is not inconceivable that the IFP will try to use violence to prevent the ANC from spreading its organisation into the rural areas.

Given the above situation, the needs of the majority of the people will be neglected by the IFP. It is a party of a small elite, serving the interests of privileged sectors of society and an aspirant Zulu bourgeoisie.

Perhaps the most critical change in the post-election period is that we are in both the national parliament (as a majority party) and in the provincial assembly (as a minority party). Hence, we cannot embark on strategies of boycotting the establishment institutions, as we have done before, when trying to deal with the problems facing us in the province.

It is clear that the next five years will be characterised by intense struggles both inside and outside parliament. The conflict over the question of the provincial capital for Natal is in fact a forerunner of some of the struggles likely to take place in the province.

Our weaknesses in the election campaign

Our weaknesses started with the process of drawing up a list of candidates for parliament. There was no strategic discussion around the question of strengthening the organisation. Instead, the list process may well have contributed to the weakening of our organisation, because there was no discussion on how best to deploy our leadership and cadreship both inside and outside parliament.

One of our main weaknesses in Natal was our failure to penetrate the rural areas. Where we are poorly organised, we were not able to deliver the vote. However, our failure to penetrate the rural areas is also a reflection of an objective disadvantage the Alliance faces in Natal: the difficulties of organising in a province which has been racked by violence. These difficulties made it almost impossible to organise in areas where the chiefs were explicitly aligned to the IFP. The slaughter of our election workers in Ulundi on the eve of the election is a grim example of this reality. In a sense, this means that low-intensity warfare succeeded for the enemy and ultimately delivered the vote to the IFP by virtue of our absence in most of Natal's rural areas. The IFP was able to deploy the state apparatuses of the KwaZulu administration to deliver a vote for itself, no matter how fraudulently.

The flip-side of our weakness in the rural areas was our over-reliance on our strength in the urban areas. This over-reliance led to a level of complacency and, as a result, we did not put in as much work as was needed in the urban areas. The fact that only 1,1 million people voted for the ANC requires much internal examination on our capacity to deliver our supporters to the voting stations in the urban areas. There are also indications that as many as 500,000 of our supporters did not cast their votes in the urban areas, although we still need to investigate whether this is true. Is it perhaps a result of votes that might not have been counted by the Independent Electoral Commission in Natal?

Perhaps our most serious subjective weakness - one which could singularly have contributed to our defeat - is the existence of three ANC Natal regions (Southern Natal, Northern Natal, and Natal Midlands) with distinctly different approaches to dealing with the violence in the province. These differences over-flowed into the approach to the elections. Consequently, and even more seriously, we failed to work together as a province. It was this lack of unity that prevented us from approaching the elections in a united way, whilst a strong opposition was united in its goal of preventing the ANC from winning in the province. It could also be argued that were we able to work together as a province, we could even have anticipated and thereby minimised the impact of Inkatha's rigging. In a sense, the strategy of the enemy to weaken us through violence succeeded in dividing the three regions on the issue of how to deal with the violence. The regions' differences on this issue also reflected themselves within some of our branches, leading to debilitating internal conflicts.

The double ballot also had an effect, particularly in relation to white voters. There are very clear indications that a significant number of National Party supporters voted for the National Party at the national level and the IFP at provincial level. This was partly as a result of the fact that, despite the widening political gap between the National Party and the IFP nationally, the Natal NP and IFP leadership are quite close.

This section can only be concluded by criticising the notion that the election result in Natal was an expression of the so-called "Nicaraguan option" - people voting for peace by voting IFP. This notion is a rather dangerous oversimplification of the situation in Natal, and in fact indicates a naivete about the real dynamics on the ground in this province. This argument is countered by the fact that a significant proportion of the areas where our supporters voted ANC in large numbers were, precisely, areas that have experienced some of the worst violence, in some instances right up to the eve of the elections. Among examples I would cite Port Shepstone; areas around Hammarsdale; sections of Richmond; and sections of Vulindlela near Pietermaritzburg. Itwas in areas where we failed to penetrate organisationally that we did very badly. In those rural areas where we had an organisational presence, we were able to deliver the vote. Even if one were to concede that there were instances of the so-called "Nicaraguan option", this can definitely not account for our defeat in Natal.

Our reaction to defeat

Understandably, we received the election results with shock. But we have hardly been able to go beyond this. We have not given adequate guidance to the mass of our members and the people in general. If we fail to correct this, the consequences of this will be a growing gulf between the mass-base of the ANC and the parliamentary representatives of our movement. Even more serious is that this might severely hamper the implementation of the RDP in the province.

Our immediate reaction to the defeat in Natal reflected the extent of the shock. On the one side was an immediate temptation to accept the results without adequately addressing the issue of how to deal with the restiveness of our support base, particularly on the issue of the fraudulent nature of the IFP victory. On the other side, there was a temptation to disrupt or boycott the new parliament without fully taking into account the political consequences of such action and how it would throw us into deeper contradictions as a movement that participated in the elections and is participating in all the emerging structures of government nationally. At least we have managed to overcome this.

Taking the Independent Electoral Commission (EEC) to court was, in a way, a compromise position between these two strands of thinking. The fact that this route has now been dropped (despite the fact that we have evidence of massive fraud) could be seen as proof that this was a compromise route suggested before the ANC took stock of the situation in the interests of peace and stability in the province.

A weakness in our response to the post-election situation has been a glaring lack of coordination between national and provincial leadership in dealing with the issue of the defeat in Natal. One example of this is the fact that, whilst the IFP has been pressurising us to give it key positions in the national cabinet (and in-deed it has succeeded!), it has treated us with contempt in Natal in the allocation of MEC portfolios. Had we coordinated national and provincial action on the issue of the allocation of portfolios, we could have effectively used our national strength to bargain for key portfolios in the province.

Lack of visible coordination with our national structures has tended to fuel the highly damaging speculation, both within and outside our ranks, that the ANC head office has sacrificed Natal as an act of appeasement to the IFP in order to secure peace in the province. At least there is one positive outcome of this, namely that the national and provincial leadership of the ANC have arrived at a common position and approach on how to deal with the election results in Natal.

A potential danger that must be combatted right from the onset is the division that seems to be emerging between the parliamentary and political structures of the ANC. This goes against our very own strategic thinking on our approach to the national liberation struggle and the next five years in particular. Experiences of revolutionary movements throughout the world show that the best way to lose a subsequent election is to completely demobilise political structures of the movement, and rely exclusively on bureaucratic and parliamentary institutions.

In order to chart the way forward, it is important to briefly out-line the strengths and weaknesses of both the IFP and ANC in Natal. It is important to debate and analyse these as a basis for our strategy and tactics in the province over the next five years.

IFP strengths

The fact that the IFP is now the dominant party in the Natal provincial government gives it enormous institutional power and legitimacy, such as it has never had before. The second strength of the IFP is its historical control of the countryside through a combination of Zulu tribalism, patronage and repression, coupled with its past total control over the KwaZulu Police (KZP). Related to this is the IFP's historical control over the majority of the chiefs, even though this has been primarily through patronage and terror. The IFP will continue to use its control over provincial government to secure its control over the chiefs.

The third strength of the IFP is that it has controlled the Kwa Zulu bantustan state apparatuses, thereby placing it in an incredibly advantageous position to manipulate emerging state structures in the province. Already, the IFP's approach to the merging of the former apartheid structures is that of absorbing them into the KwaZulu Government (KZG) structures. Furthermore, there is an historical collaborative relationship between the KZG and the Natal Provincial Administration through the Joint Executive Authority.

IFP weaknesses

The first and major weakness of the IFP is that it has no viable economic and development programme for the province. Its victory seems to have come as a surprise even to itself, and it has not prepared to govern. Secondly, its history of collaboration with the apartheid regime could still lead to new and potentially damaging revelations.

The third weakness of the IFP is its lack of experience in democratic organisation and its dependence on patronage, repression and violence for its reproduction as a political force in the province.

The IFP's fourth and most potentially devastating weakness is the possible rift between the king and Buthelezi, which would lay the basis for undermining Inkatha's use of the Zulu king to advance tribal, even secessionist, tendencies. This potentially deprives the IFP of one of its most powerful weapons, a weapon that has been used devastatingly to justify violence against the ANC in the province. With the king increasingly acting in a non-partisan way, this seriously deprives Buthelezi and the IFP of their claim to being the political custodians of the "Zulu nation". This even threatens the political and ideological coherence of the IFP.

Lastly, a potential weakness of the IFP is the "absence" of Buthelezi on a day-to-day basis in the province. Over and above this, he is locked into the political "logistics" of the government of national unity. The fact that he is a member of the national cabinet limits his ability to undermine it. Buthelezi's position arises out of his decision to head his party's national list rather than standing as premier for Natal. This serious miscalculation was aimed at avoiding an embarrassment to Buthelezi should the IFP have lost in Natal. Buthelezi's physical absence from Natal does not, however, detract from the fact that his primary preoccupation is still with Natal. Actually, all evidence points to the fact that he is manipulating the situation behind the scenes.

In a recent IFP victory rally in Durban, he arrogantly announced that it was not Mdlalose who won the election but himself! Our task, therefore, in Natal, is to ensure that Buthelezi is not allowed to tun the province through "remote control". Strategically, he must be contained and tied to the concept of a government of national unity by virtue of . being a minister in the national cabinet.

In noting these weaknesses we should remember one important lesson from our experience in the elections: the IFP's weaknesses are not automatically our strengths. We need to consciously and strategically transform these into our strengths.

ANC strengths

Since the weaknesses of the ANC have already been discussed above, I will not go into them again. I will simply deal with our strengths.

The ANC and the Alliance as awhole have a history of democratic organisation in the large urban and pen-urban areas. This places us in an advantageous position if this support and experience is translated into winning elections to local government in key cities and towns of Natal, making it impossible for the IFP to impose its agenda without having to negotiate with powerful local authorities in economically decisive centres of Natal. The strength of our ally, COSATU, in the organised labour movement in the major industrial centres of Natal places us in a very powerful position.

Our strength also lies in the fact that the ANC is the dominant party in the government of national unity. The ANC has a clear programme for reconstruction and development (the RDP), which is now a government programme. This places us in a strategic position to counter the IFP and present a coherent programme to the people of Natal. This is our major strength and a powerful weapon with which to advance our struggles in the province.

Strategy, tactics and the way forward

Our most important strategic objective in the province for the next five years should be the implementation of the RDP. Of course, we should be under no illusion. In our struggle for the implementation of the RDP, the IFP and its allies will present a serious obstacle. Despite their rhetorical commitment to the RDP, they are likely to undermine or hamper the introduction of the programme.

However, the strategies of the IFP to block the RDP will not be without their own contradictions, the foremost of which will be the fact that the IFP has publicly, no matter how rhetorically and grudgingly, committed itself to the RDP. We can hold them to this in our struggles. The second contradiction is that failure to implement even some of the basic aspects of the RDP will cost the IFP politically, as there can be no improvement to the lives of the people without the full implementation of the RDP.

The most critical issue that will face us will be how to advance the implementation of key aspects of the RDP without at the same time giving credit to the IFP for such achievements. To overcome this potential contradiction, we will have to involve an ever widening base of the mass of our people both in our strategic thinking and in opening up the frontiers for implementing the RDP.

Another key challenge facing us is to prepare for a resounding victory in local government elections in strategic centres in the province. It is crucial that we develop a strategy to penetrate the rural areas organisationally, at the same time dealing with the potentially violent reaction from Inkatha and its attempts to use the provincial state apparatuses to advance IFP goals.

We must use the space created by the existence of a government of provincial unity to advance our strategic objectives. At the sametime, we should not undermine that government in a manner that we would not like other parties to do to us at national level. This reflects the contradictory character embodied in the government of national unity, and in fact, this is the sharpest contradiction facing the ANC and the Alliance in provinces like the Western Cape and Natal.

The most crucial challenge facing us in Natal in the next five years will be to bring an end to political violence. The prerequisite for this will be to critically review our past strategy towards dealing with violence, assessing whether in the new conditions we need to develop new strategies to bring the violence to an end. Already, there have been some overtures by the IFP towards tus, and since we are now in the government of national unity, we are forced to work together with Inkatha in a manner that we have not done before. The key question here is what does all this mean for our strategy of engaging the IFP and dealing with violence in the region and the province as a whole?

We need to seriously contest the loyalties of, primarily, the bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie in Natal. Most importantly, we need to struggle for the transformation of the institution of chieftaincy from being an appendage of the IFP to an institution that acts in the interests of the people as a whole. This represents the most crucial challenge in our attempts to penetrate and transform relations of power in the country-side. The new situation already holds within it the potential for breaking the old relations between the KwaZulu bantustan and the chiefs. This should be regarded as one of the primary, though least emphasised, facets of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, that is, the transformation and democratisation of the state and all the relations embodied in the social relations of apartheid and colonialism of a special type. In doing this, serious reflection and analysis is needed on what has enabled us to successfully penetrate some of the rural areas.

One of the most critical questions requiring clarification and consensus within our own ranks is whether or not we are an opposition in Natal. There is still a fundamental contradiction between us and the IFP and its allies. Yet at the same time, because of the government of national unity, the current situation means that at the institutional level, we are not an opposition party in parliament. Our strategic orientation in this regard should be to ensure that national and popular programmes are implemented at provincial level. The political stances we take should be informed by the extent to which they advance or undermine the implementation of the RDP. In other words, we are both an opposition and a part of the government of national unity in the province; and at national level, we are formally the dominant party in government. This presents us with a uniquely complex situation.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.