The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are the unknown factor in this year’s elections. The party is carrying itself like a heavyweight, ready for power. The latest Ipsos poll suggests getting 5% will be a win. Whatever the outcome, Gauteng premier candidate Dali Mpofu is ready, releasing his plan for the first 100 days on Thursday. By GREG NICOLSON.
Formula 777. It sounds like something from a sci-fi pastiche. Google it and you’ll see an instruction guide on weed killer. “Applicators and other handlers must wear: goggles or face shield; long-sleeved shirt and long pants; chemical-resistant gloves such as barrier laminate; neoprene rubber, nitrile rubber or viton; and shoes and socks.” Only trained professionals need apply and if ingested, call your nearest poison control centre.
Thursday morning, Dali Mpofu sits in the middle of a table Fighters, all bereted, most in red polo shirts. They’re a youngish, stylish bunch. A “Vote Dali Mpofu” poster hangs off the table in front of the hopeful premier. The 17th Orion Hotel Devonshire looks over Braamfontein. Behind Mpofu is downtown Joburg and the expanse of mine dumps on the way to the townships. Ahead is a view of the leafy northern suburbs, the wealth the EFF has in its sights.
“The development of the economic well-being of our people – the downtrodden, the marginalised – is going to happen at the expense of the rich. Full stop,” says Commissar Mpofu. The eight other Fighters sit, mostly silent, as he tells the media how Formula 777, the EFF version, will have an immediate impact on improving the lives of the province’s most disadvantaged.
“We are the first ones to recognise that political freedom is there,” says Mpofu. “It’s crucial. It’s what has allowed us to wage a non-violent fight for economic freedom… We are disappointed because political freedom was never an end in itself. It was a means to achieve the economic emancipation of our people.” There are many people in the same situation, or worse off, he continues. “That’s what this phase of the struggle is all about.”
The second phase of the transition, the ANC labelled it back in June 2012, after Julius Malema was expelled. The parties differ, however, on the policies behind the slogan.
Formula 777, the EFF’s blueprint for Gauteng, includes the party’s seven non-negotiable pillars, seven values and seven priorities. It’s how the party sees its populist rhetoric in action, on a provincial level. Give Mpofu the premier’s offices on Simmonds Street and he’ll prioritise fighting for the underdog, ending poverty, inequality and unemployment, championing agrarian and rural reform, empowering citizens, building a common future, fighting corruption, and investing in youth. Nothing unique.
How will he do it? The EFF plans to conduct a land audit in Gauteng and identify land for expropriation and distribution for residential and business use. (An audit released last year found 17% of Gauteng land is state-owned, 65% is privately owned and the rest unaccounted for.)
The party will go to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on land expropriation and redistribution.
Mpofu will determine the value of the mines in preparation for expropriation. The EFF says it will add the value of the asset to the future costs a mine will cause to the environment, which will show the state’s value, then calculate the state’s ownership ratio by comparing that figure to shares owned by mining investors and present their findings. The results will be taken to public meetings.
E-tolls will be eradicated, Mpofu says. On corruption, no public servant will be allowed to do business with the state, which is already proposed in the Public Administration Management Bill, and EFF government will work with the Auditor General to reduce irregular spending.
Jobs will be created by filling state vacancies and getting the financial sector’s commitment to the goal of improving economic development and creating one million small and medium-sized businesses across the country. The EFF also plans to create youth entrepreneurship centres, providing free office space and Wi-Fi access.
Then Mpofu plans to do some stocktaking; see what sort of shape the ANC left the place in. There’ll be an inquiry into police brutality and a survey on informal traders, which will lead to using them to boost the economy. There’ll be meetings with stakeholders in schools. A task-team will look at fighting crime. EFF will look at racially skewed enrollments at universities. And there’ll be a youth summit. Gautengians will also be encouraged to take pride in their province.
Compared to the plans outlined by Democratic Alliance candidate for premier Mmusi Maimane, Mpofu’s booklet is brief. But hey, the guy’s only talking about his first 100 days. “You can’t simply walk in as if it’s day one. [Understanding what’s happening in the province] is what the first 100 days are about,” said the Fighter on Thursday.
If his wishes are granted and he wins the provincial election, Mpofu also faces the hurdle of ruling a province with no power to do what he wants – take from the rich and give to the poor. He can further the nationalisation agenda, but achieving it will require national control.
With only two weeks until 7 May, the party will take its message to the rich. “You can’t be an island of profit making when you are surrounded by people who are hungry. Those people will revolt and cause chaos for your children and your children’s children,” Mpofu says to SA’s wealthy. He compares it to tackling environmental issues. Doing it now will cost money, but allowing it to worsen will mean your kids will live in hell, or without some of the perks of a 2014 middle-upper class lifestyle.
Unless EFF pulls off a miracle, Formula 777 will remain known as a weed killer. “Kills most growth,” the label asserts. Dangerous but effective. Mpofu’s plans aren’t nearly as potent and it’s unlikely 7 May will allow us to test their effectiveness. DM
Photo: Dali Mpofu of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) speaks at a news conference in Centurion on Thursday, 13 February 2014 on provisional sequestration of party leader Julius Malema