THE IFP will hold its annual general conference at the end of July.

Sowetan has learnt that plans are afoot to deny delegates an opportunity to elect new leaders as the leadership fears the party will be plunged into further divisions that will cost it heavily during the provincial government elections next year.

Divisions within the party emerged soon after it suffered its heaviest defeat at the hands of the ANC, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, during last year's national general elections. Youth leaders blamed the leadership for the humiliation and called for national party chairperson Zanele Magwaza-Msibi,to take over from current president Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

A highly placed source within the party said: "The annual conference will take place as planned, but there won't be elections. The leadership is working hard on hatching a plan to postpone the elections during the general conference."

Writing in his weekly newsletter this week Buthelezi said the leadership of the party was "apprehensive over the threat of violence" at the conference.

"We feel that every effort should be made to address the underlying tensions before our conference, to ensure that we can engage serene debate and arrive at the genuine will of our members without intimidation, bloodshed and threats," he said. "The IFP leadership is therefore considering calling a representative meeting to give all our structures the opportunity to interrogate whether we still have one IFP or two organisations within one.

"This issue must be decided by a more representative leadership before we hold a general conference."

Meanwhile, the powerful Zululand district is expected to hold its leadership elections tomorrow.

The elections were postponed after two factions clashed a fortnight ago at Mandleni-Matleng in Ulundi.