ANC Strips Zulu Traditional Prime Minister Buthelezi of Rights Over Water Projects

The African National Congress’s (ANC) spat with Reverend Thulasizwe Buthelezi, traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu nation continues, with the ANC today stripping Buthelezi of his power over water projects in KwaZulu-Natal. 

What You Need to Know:

At a commemoration event in mid March, the ANC’s KZN chairman, Duma Siboniso, dismissed royal protocol by removing the microphone from Reverend Buthelezi as he was beginning to introduce King Misuzulu KaZwelithini to the stage. 

Duma stated, “Shenge you have embarrassed this beautiful event and became clumsy instead of doing your work to introduce the king.”

In response, Zulu royalists began attacking ANC members present at the event with spears and pangas (traditional machetes). 

Further inflaming tensions was the ANC’s refusal to apologize nor recognise Buthelezi as traditional Prime Minister after the incident. 

Buthelezi, who is the Mayor of KZN’s Zululand District Municipality (ZDM) through his membership with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), was stripped of his power over 10 water projects by ANC member and Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu. 

Mchunu announced the removal of Buthelezi’s water provision responsibilities while on a visit to KwaMandlakazi Royal House in Nongoma on Monday.

The Details: 

According to the ZDM Integrated Development Plan for 2020/2021, of the 10 regional water supply schemes set out in the Plan, just two – in Khambi and Mkhuze, have been completed. 

Furthermore, while unveiling ZDM’s draft budget for the 2023/2024 financial year in April of 2023, Buthelezi announced that the bulk of the R1.5 Billion (78 Million USD) budget would be invested in water provision projects. 

However, the water crisis is not only isolated to Zululand. A 2023 report by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation found that 46% of South Africa’s water supply systems pose acute human health risks due to the existence of bacteria or other pathogens. Furthermore, the report found that 67.6% of the nation’s wastewater treatment plants are close to failing due to neglect. Additionally, 47% of the country’s water was lost through leaks or illegal tapping. 

So, What Now?:

The progression of the ANC’s spat with Revered Buthelezi is likely an attempt by the ANC to consolidate power in areas such as Zululand, where parties such as the IFP have traditionally held power. 

While visiting KwaMandlakazi Royal House, Mchunu stated, “We took the decision [to move the responsibility for the provision of water] to make sure that the people of Zululand received water without any difficulties. As the ANC we want the people of this district to get water services without any problem,” most likely in an attempt to degrade Buthelezi and the IFP. 

The ANC’s strategy in this context can be understood by looking at Jacob Zuma’s MK party, which has made sweeping gains among voters in traditional ANC strongholds in recent months. With the ANC projected to receive less than 50% of the vote for the first time since gaining power 30 years ago, the stripping of Buthelezi’s power over water projects, despite the ANC’s own failings in the provision of water, highlights the ANC’s anxiety to appear competent to voters, particularly on the issue of service provision. 

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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