A South African political party’s leadership vote is a ritualised process. It’s seemingly arbitrary, and simultaneously democratic. At any rate, it’s one way to do things—and as far as democracy goes, it’s the best worst of a best worst system. And this is how it played out for the EFF, on the second day of its First National People’s Assembly. By RICHARD POPLAK.
The delegates who arrived in Bloemfontein on Saturday, expecting to be blissfully accepted into the belly of democracy, did not look so blissful at 23h00 on Saturday night. The Callie Human auditorium was thick with exhaustion and the gunsmoke smell of political disquisition. This was the point in the programme where the EFF’s Big Six—President, Deputy President, Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, National Chairperson, Treasurer—were to be engraved on the winner’s cup. If this was the government in waiting, than these were the leaders waiting to wait.
Presiding over the affair was a gentleman named Moses Matsitsa, employed by a company called Grace and Mercy, a faith-based organisation that performs election auditing as a sideline. Matsitsa, rotund and particular in a sky blue golf shirt, is the sort of faith-based fellow who in the good old days would have dispensed 90 lashes for eating with an open mouth. Now, he runs this sort of thing. A born martinet, this he was entirely in his element.
“You’re a wonderful group of people,” he said. He didn’t mean it.
So, time for nominating the president. Up hopped a Fighter, who proposed Julius Sello Malema for the role. A mass of raised hands in the hall. Grace and Mercy ran an eyeball audit. Malema accepted the nomination. A Fighter with the biggest balls in the universe suggested a Page Mugabe as an alternative. Mr. Mugabe wisely turned this down. (Clearly not a relation.) And just like that, Julius Malema, who was sitting in the stands with Limpopo delegates, became president of the party he invented.
And so the process unfolded. In this crowded, bustling Free State University auditorium, once a stalwart Boer institution, the vanguards of the revolution were ushered into their destined rolls. Floyd Shivambu was voted in, unopposed, as Deputy President. The obligation of Secretary General fell to Godrich Gardee. Dep Sec? The nomination was for Hlengiwe Hlophe, the first female on the list. Then what counted as a “shocker”: ideological firebrand Andile Mngxitama was nominated. “I am not available at this time,” he said. This was followed by a Fighter closing the nomination. The closure was seconded. And so, Dep Sec thus fell to Hlophe.
“I now move to the position of National Chairperson,” intoned Matsitsa.
Famed lawyer Dali Mpofu, of Ward 123, of Johannesburg, accepted the nomination. So it went, as we bashed through the last of the evening’s air and patience, nudging well past midnight, and into Day 3.
“We are almost there,” begged Matsitsa, and indeed we were. The big guns were lined up, locked and loaded, prepped to fire. It all felt a bit rehearsed; there were no third or forth of fifth nominations; the proceedings had a smoothness that felt artificial.
Nonetheless, the EFF top six are, as elected unopposed by the EFF 1st National People’s Conference:
President: Julius Malema
Deputy: President Floyd Shivambu
Secretary General: Godrich Gardee
Deputy Secretary General: Hlengiwe Hlophe
National Chairperson: Dali Mpofu
Treasurer Magdelane: Moonsamy DM
Photo by Greg Nicolson.