What will his legacy be?

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has eventually decided to relinquish his position come 2009.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has eventually decided to relinquish his position come 2009.

Under Buthelezi, the IFP's post-apartheid fortunes have been chequered.

Between 1994 and 2002 the party rode the crest of political influence and controlled KwaZulu-Natal and 51 of its 61 municipalities.

It performed dismally in the 2004 general election, and now controls only 36 rural cash-strapped municipalities.

The party's woes can be blamed on wrong political tactics. In 1999 Buthelezi turned down Mbeki's offer to become his deputy, because he did not want to relinquish control in KwaZulu-Natal. This move reduced his party's national profile.

Just before the 2004 election, the IFP ran a campaign demanding that Ulundi become the new capital of KwaZulu-Natal.

The move antagonised many urban voters who regarded Ulundi as a bastion of tribal politics.

Although set to step down in 2009, Buthelezi will still lead the IFP during the general election because the party's elective congress will only happen in September.

His challenge remains being able to turn the IFP into a party that retains its traditional base while attracting urban voters who eschew tribal politics.

Unless Buthelezi has an ace up his sleeve, this will remain the party's blight come 2009.

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