Julius Malema launched his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party this weekend as delegates to its national assembly in Soweto unanimously agreed to register the organisation as a political party and contest the 2014 elections. Far away, at another conference of young politicos, his former comrades sounded concerned. They have every right to be. By GREG NICOLSON.
EFF supporters gathered in Soweto this weekend for their national assembly on “what is to be done?” A reported 2,000 people from across the country packed Uncle Tom’s Hall in Orlando West to hear their “commander-in-chief”, decide on the group’s logo, founding manifesto, and whether to contest the 2014 elections. As usual, Malema provided ample sound-bites as he articulated EFF’s key policies – land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of the strategic sectors of the economy, and building state capacity, which includes scrapping tenders.
The platform offered Malema a chance to hit out at his opponents: “Blade [Nzimande] is complaining that we stole his colours. He does not have a copyright on the red colour. There is nothing we can steal from him because he has nothing but that skuurpot (pot scourer) face of his. Why didn’t he complain when Vodacom went red?” said Malema, with his typical brand of political ribbing.
Speeches from tripartite alliance leaders over the weekend suggest the launch of EFF has it concerned. Malema and his new crew of political, intellectual and celebrity leaders have appeal. They recognise the South African miracle alludes many people who are struggling for work and basic living standards and they also offer solutions. Their answers are easy to digest and easy to build support around.
EFF’s manifesto focuses on the common idea: a democracy is made of a polity of relative equals and cannot be achieved while extreme inequalities continue to exist. It argues that the foundations of the post-Apartheid state leave the government impotent to implement initiatives on land reform, service delivery, jobs, and industrialization, while leaving the government vulnerable to corruption and defending the interests of the wealthy and foreigners.
“The post-1994 government will not change the conditions of the people for the better and is poisoned by the arrogance of power and the related sins of incumbency,” reads the manifesto. “The post-1994 government has lost its capacity to understand the aspirations of the people, hence deepening neglect and violence against the people, from the brazen abuse of power by political authorities and the sheer disregard of the voice of the people.”
EFF, which describes itself as a “radical and militant economic emancipation movement” bringing together different organisations, proposes seven points to address the problems. It wants to expropriate land without compensation, nationalise strategic sectors of the economy (mines and banks), build state capacity and abolish tenders, offer free quality healthcare, education and housing, create a protectionist development state, develop the continent’s economy, and promote an accountable, corruption-free government.
“As an act of revenge, it may appeal to the marginalised and excluded citizens in our society. Yet, it will not create one extra job, let alone five million jobs by 2020,” commented scenario-planner Clem Sunter. In a well-considered column in Sunday Times, Mondli Makhanya reasoned, “[Malema’s] solutions to South Africa’s problems are whacky and destructive, but like all populist solutions they are very appealing in a climate of hopelessness.”
The policies seem appealing to certain members of the ruling alliance who believe the ANC government has betrayed its socialist rhetoric. Addressing the Young Communist League’s national council in Kimberley this weekend, President Jacob Zuma emphasised the type of revolutionary to watch out for. “Young communists must always appreciate that appearance is not always consistent with reality. For example, singing revolutionary songs and shouting revolutionary slogans from roof tops does not necessarily mean that one is revolutionary,” he said.
Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande told the Young Communists, “People have established pseudo political parties with just one intention: these political parties have not any other objective to serve our people, but just one intention – to overthrow the ANC. Comrades, we must not give space to counter-revolution to thrive in the name of democracy. This is not democracy but…handing over our country to the highest bidder.” His speech finished: “We dare not allow our youth and their organisations to be hijacked.”
The most ardent defence came from Cosatu President S’dumo Dlamini. He warned against thinking new organisations can deliver simply because they are new. “Indeed what appears to be ‘militant’ and ‘revolutionary’ can often be counter-revolutionary,” said Dlamini. He argued that youth are prone to becoming prey to demagogic tendencies, supporting leaders who are only concerned about themselves. “Every action is executed to prove a point that you belong to the gangster. Promotion into a position of leadership is not on the bases of political clarity but the ability to hurl insults and abuse everyone who may be a threat to your position. These are the features we have seen to some of the newly formed organisations who promise economic freedom without a class perspective.”
Dlamini issued a call to arms: “Your task, comrades, is to occupy the front ranks, firstly to expose the ideological hollowness of these newly formed political formations with the same vigour you did when you dealt with COPE. Never take your opponent for granted.”
The ANC’s new opponent is EFF (even if it’s extremely unlikely to match the vote of the old opponent, the Democratic Alliance) which is really Malema (at least until the party develops more leaders). The alliance will be praying he is convicted for fraud, corruption and money-laundering and goes to jail, leaving the new movement rudderless.
Until then, Malema is another headache as multiple opposition parties and movements continue to target ANC and unregistered voters. As we build to 2014, EFF plan to support mass movements, community protests, and strikes that support their goal. Whether their fears eventuate or not, the tripartite alliance has reason to worry. DM
Photo: Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema is seen at the protest movement’s launch on Thursday, 11 July 2013. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA