South Africa

EFF: Have berets and paperwork, but buddy, can you spare us a dime?

By Greg Nicolson 8 October 2013

Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will contest the 2014 elections and it has the paperwork to prove it. On Tuesday the party said that while it is struggling to find funding, this would not stop it from establishing structures, and it certainly wouldn’t stop members from signing up. The official national launch is on Sunday in Marikana, but EFF will have to sell a lot of berets to make a serious impact in 2014. By GREG NICOLSON.

If the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) doesn’t have enough on its plate with its boss accused of “grossly irregular” behaviour, employees would have looked out the window on Monday and seen a throng of EFF supporters dancing in the parking lot. It was the second time in a week.

Last Thursday, the party’s members, clad in red berets and t-shirts, popped champagne outside Election House only to be told there was a holdup with the party’s registration certificate.

There were no disappointments on Monday (unless the sight of Juju gives you nightmares). “This certificate means we are now going to contest the elections. We are a legal organisation which must be respected and be given space to mobilise and organise in South Africa for support, including for the votes next year,” said EFF’s commander-in-chief Julius Malema, reported Sapa.

“We are receiving a lot of attention, a lot. It’s overwhelming,” said national party spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, on Tuesday. Launched as a movement in June, EFF quickly moved towards becoming a political party, targeting the youth with radical policy proposals such as expropriation of land and businesses in key industries.

Ndlozi said member numbers are yet to be audited, “but we should be way above 100,000 [members]”. Structures have been established in all provinces and regions of the country. EFF also has structures in most sub-regions. Branches, which need 100 members to form, have been established and the party has a task team to form new branches in areas that don’t yet have enough members.

“It’s difficult,” said Ndlozi on the issue of party funding. He said that there were no full-time paid employees and EFF is yet to open an office, but plans to do so soon.

“We don’t have any big funders, none,” he added. The party has been in discussion with some big potential backers but nothing has come of it yet. He said some large donations were offered but rejected because of the potential strings attached.

EFF’s funding, said Ndlozi, comes from modest donations, a small portion from the SMS donation initiative, beret sales, and some contributions from party members.

The party says so far it has focused on building structures rather than an intense push for funding. [Maybe EFF member Fana Mokoena should call his World War Z co-star Brad Pitt for a hand – Ed]. Ndlozi said the small budget had its upside: members certainly aren’t joining for self-enrichment. Currently, the funding is going towards operating costs, particularly Malema’s travels around the country.

Malema has been regularly visiting university campuses and communities to rally support. “Anyone who wants to remain relevant must talk about EFF. We took a completely different policy,” he said on the last day of September, addressing an enthusiastic and packed audience at the University of Limpopo.

“They’re afraid of this new idea. It is this organisation that proposes real change,” he added.

Malema was speaking at the same campus where he helped his ill-fated Limpopo comrades keep the provincial ANC in 2011 and his recent visit made a difference in the university’s SRC elections. EFF took four seats, beating the ANC Youth League with three seats, and coming second only to the South African Students Congress.

In August a Pondering Panda cell phone survey, polling 3,585 people between the ages of 18 and 34, found 26% said they would vote for EFF if it contested elections.

Malema and other EFF leaders will be in Marikana this weekend for the party’s official national launch at the infamous koppie where 34 mineworkers were shot dead by police last year.

If it’s a good day, expect up to 50,000 people, said Ndlozi. A bad day should see a turnout of 15,000. Many red berets can be seen in the mining community and Malema seemed the key attraction when politicians spoke at the commemoration of the killings on 16 August.

Nomzekhelo Primrose Sonti, 51, head of the Marikana Women’s Group, said on Tuesday, “All preparations for the launch are going well and people can’t wait for the day to come.”

Sapa quoted EFF Gauteng spokesperson, Patrick Sindane, on Monday as saying: “We are going to Marikana to pick up the bloody spear of our fallen heroes who were killed by [President Jacob] Zuma and [national police commissioner] Riah Phiyega. Those workers were butchered like ants and flies for simply trying to ensure that there is bread on their tables. Marikana is a very significant area.”

The party expects to see some attendees from surrounding provinces but most will be from North West. “On Sunday, we are in Marikana to say to the people ‘Here is our certificate, we are a political party. A giant has been born, a giant that will give radical change to the politics of South Africa’,” added Sindane.

The event is likely to have a large turnout – the first 5,000 to arrive get a free beret and t-shirt – and the EFF has already proven its popularity amongst the youth. At this stage, it seems very unlikely the upstart will challenge the ANC’s majority or even the votes the IEC will count towards the Democratic Alliance.

But Malema is gaining momentum and as election 2014 heats up, expect his party to continue to skirmish with ANC supporters in communities and varsities and tarnish the reputation of the Zuma administration whenever it gets attention. DM

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