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Sh*t the EFF will do: Stop Israel from funding South African political parties

At the EFFs first birthday party in Thokoza Park this weekend, Julius Malema insisted that “All of us must reject the DA. The DA gets money from Israel”. But how did he arrive at this interesting factoid? And how do we know that Israel doesn’t fund the EFF? South Africans don’t know who funds whom, and that’s because political parties want it this way. Was the CiC suggesting he’d change that state of affairs? RICHARD POPLAK isn’t so sure.

I picture Julius Malema as a small boy, cross-legged on the floor of his Seshego mkuku, wielding a pair of scissors twice his size and cutting juicy headlines from the front page of the paper. This probably never happened, but it’s a believable image, mostly because Malema is this country’s finest-ever headline culler: way back in May of this year, during his post-election press conference, he called on Nigerian insurgency group Boko Haram to release the school girls they’d stolen from Chibok, reminding northern Nigeria that “there are a lot of ways to engage in revolution, and kidnapping girls is not one of them.” How precisely those errant girls related to South African post-election politics was lost on me, but Malema acts local and thinks global. Red overalls as a worldwide revolutionary fashion statement: Viva, EFF Venezuela! Viva!

Malema’s current international bugaboo, yanked from his recently refreshed EWN app, is a sliver of Middle Eastern desert off the coast of the Red Sea currently bombing itself into pariah-dom. Yes, yes, I know that everyone has opinions regarding the Conflict, opinions proclaimed loudly on Facebook status updates and on Twitter. And I’m also aware that as Boko Haram continues to slay thousands of people a week—aggression met in numerical turn by the Nigerian military forces—those deaths fail to muster any sustained interest because #constantunrelentingethnicviolence is too ungainly for a t-shirt. Like most of humanity, Juju is selective in his outrage regarding religiously-tinged globalised slaughterfests. And he happens to go in big for Team Palestine.

This is hardly surprising. The left wing, in which the EFF ostensibly inhabits a room, is contractually obligated to support Palestinians during these bi-annual Gaza renovation projects. And so, the EFF has loudly and frequently proclaimed solidarity with Palestine. Does this mean that the Fighters are funded by individual Palestinians? The Palestinian people as an amorphous collective? Hamas, Fatah, the Qataris, the Saudis, the Syrians? Kermit the freaking Frog?

Well, maybe.

For it is an abiding truth that South African political parties could be bankrolled by Satan himself—I’m speaking here of Russian president Vladimir Putin—and no one in this country would be any the wiser. Just yesterday in this newspaper, Rebecca Davis dove into the whys and whats of political funding, noting that just about the only thing about which South Africa’s opposing parties agree (other than the fact that Nelson Mandela is awesome!) is that there should be no laws regulating donor activity in this country.

Over the course of the 2014 election campaign, I was time and again asked, “Where does the EFFs’ money come from?” I answered by staring dumbly at my shoes. The berets? The overalls? Dali Mpofu’s SABC windfall?  Malema insisted that they had no money, but that was a bit of careful disingenuousness. They did not bear the war chest of the ANC or the DA, certainly, but every party drew funding from somewhere. We just don’t know where that somewhere might be. Occasionally, a prick of light beams through the darkness: we can now reasonably surmise that in 2009, the ANC used the Gauteng department of health, courtesy of ex-provincial health minister and current Sleazebag-in-Chief Brian Hlongwa, as a funnel for the campaign coffers. But we don’t know anything more than that.

So, when Malema stood before his faithful in Thokoza on Sunday and accused the DA of accepting money from Israel, what exactly did he mean? We know that one of the DA’s bigger supporters (as opposed to funders) is Nathan Kirsh, a South African-born, Swazi-naturalised billionaire real estate magnate. Kirsh owns a little bit of everything everywhere, and a whole lot of Magal Security Systems in Israel. Magal is a high-tech, vastly unloved outfit listed on the NASDAQ and Tel Aviv stock exchanges; it is responsible for the West Bank security/Apartheid fence that has been such a boon to Banksy’s career. The botched marriage between Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang and Helen Zille’s DA was rumoured to be at Kirsh’s behest, but again, this is conjecture.

But is Natty-K a funder? He has refused to say.

Accuracy shmacuracy: perhaps Malema considers Nathan Kirsh a corollary for Israel? Or was he suggesting something else, something more Mossad-y, something bigger? Do the Israeli government fund the DA in order to punish an Israel-bashing ANC? Do ex-South African Israelis send money to the DA in order to save the country from crappy Israel Apartheid Week posters? Is Malema suggesting that because the DA can count on the support of South Africa’s Jewish community as a stalwart voting bloc, through some vast and ancient conspiracy they are able to filter money through Bank Leumi and a hummus-mixing operation? Who knows? Who knows?

It is certainly interesting that this particular piece of slander—if indeed it is slander—wounds Helen Zille’s DA in the manner of a ricocheting bullet. Zille refused to support transparency regulation in order to protect DA donors from the ANC, who would surely visit unholy hell upon, say, Toyota should they be found guilty of bankrolling the Blue Army every couple of years. That said, there are ways around that particular issue. The DA, along with the other opposition parties, should have called for a cap on campaign spending, a hard cap on donations, open donor rolls, and set advertising blocs from the state broadcaster for all party with a minimum of ten seats in Parliament. It isn’t a democracy when voters don’t know who funds the parties they’re voting for. It’s something else—a dark capitalist project that puts politics at the service of hidden money. It corrupts political parties long before they have a chance to fleece the state of any money.

Malema of all people should be aware of this—he was, you’ll recall, once a member of the ANC. Yet in accusing the DA of slurping funds from the most hated country on social media, he has inadvertently exposed his own flank: who the hell pays for all the EFF bling? He should immediately open his party’s books, disclose his funders, and vigorously challenge the ANC on any punitive moves.

Now that would be radical politics.

But I’m not sure those overalls have room for balls that size. So, politics as usual: the flinging of slander across political lines, and in this case conjuring the image of dead Gazan children in order to earn cheap points against a rival. Employing hate to engender hate—I suppose it’s a strategy. But I’d rather know who paid for the Thokoza anniversary bash, just as I’d rather see a list of DA or—hold your nose!—ANC donors. It would, after all, be helpful to know just how evil the folks backing the folks we’re voting for actually are. And I suspect that Israel would be the least of our worries. DM

Photo: Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema is seen addressing supporters during a march to the SABC’s head office in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 over its refusal to air an Economic Freedom Fighters’ television election commercial. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

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