South Africa

EFF: Out of Parliament (again) and into the communities

By Greg Nicolson 17 May 2016

After the Economic Freedom Fighters were once again forcefully removed from Parliament on Tuesday, the party is set to continue campaigning for voter support. After the violence on Tuesday, the party went back to building supporters, continuing to balance antics with intense mobilisation. By GREG NICOLSON.

Economic Freedom Fighters Secretary-General Godrich Gardee on Tuesday said the party will be focusing heavily on touring communities and speaking to voters. “We’re on an election campaign now. We’re going to the streets.”

After being thrown out of Parliament (again) during (another) appearance by President Jacob Zuma, the EFF has vowed to continue protesting against the president while pushing forward with its ground-level mobilisation campaign ahead of the local government elections.

Tuesday’s showdown with Speaker Baleka Mbete, which came after the EFF failed to obtain a court interdict against the forceful removal of MPs, resulted in the most violent eviction of the party since it began demonstrating at appearances of the president.

Party leader Julius Malema spoke outside the National Assembly, saying only Zuma’s removal would bring peace.

These bouncers must know that if they give violence we will respond with violence. We’re not scared, we’re debating in Parliament. Anyone who manhandles us must know we’ve got the same capacity,” he said. “No one has monopoly on violence. This Parliament will never be the same – [we] want them to call [the] army. Zuma is not our president. The day he breached the Constitution, that’s the day he kissed the office of president goodbye,” he was quoted by BDlive.

Malema said the president failed to respect the Constitutional Court and other institutions such as the public protector and said the EFF would continue protesting and demanding that Zuma is disciplined by Parliament.

The state has power to unleash terror on us. We only have our lives and therefore we are going to put our lives in defence of this Constitution. Zuma will never find peace in this Parliament because Zuma is not a legitimate president of the Republic of South Africa. We cannot be led by a man who failed to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution. It will never happen, not under our watch,” said Malema.

Let cowards be scared to engage the regime. We are not scared. We are going to fight with everything we have. We’re fighting inside with bottles of water; that is the only thing we had. Any weapon we come across we fight with it. We are not scared to challenge Zuma under the current circumstances and under the conditions we operate in. That is the only thing we can do. There is nothing left, remember,” said Malema, who has increased the level of rhetoric against Zuma and the ANC recently.

We went to court. We are the ones who went to court and even when the court said, ‘You are right, this man did not uphold his oath of office,’ nothing happened. So we are left with nothing except to engage in this programme, whether it’s a negative image for Parliament or not. You will thank us once we restore the dignity of this Parliament by removing Zuma.”

The office of the ANC chief whip on Tuesday called on Parliament to press criminal charges against EFF MPs for assaulting security staff and damaging property. “The EFF MPs’ violence and general anarchic conduct is utterly disturbing, and Parliament must ensure that legal recourse is sought against the party. Today’s malicious damage to Parliament’s property by these MPs, whose positions require them to remain honourable and exemplary to the rest of the society, is particularly troubling in the light of similar destruction of public properties across the country – including schools, universities and clinics,” it said in a statement.

Video shows what apparently looks like EFF supporters shattering windows at Parliament and using a fire extinguisher in a crowd.

Malema has been campaigning in Cape Town over the last few days and immediately after incidents at Parliament he went to a meeting at Kayamandi High School in Stellenbosch with supporters. In the last few days he has been campaigning in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Phillipi and Du Noon and for the rest of the week Malema will be in the Eastern Cape, meeting with traditional authorities and communities. After that, the EFF will hit Mpumalanga.

It’s likely that Malema will continue to anger the ANC as he continues on the campaign trail. The ruling party condemned the EFF leader’s reported comments in Gugulethu that instead of burning down local facilities, protesters should target the ANC. After its latest call for the EFF to be charged, the ANC had already laid a charge of treason against the EFF leader for comments about removing the government “through the barrel of a gun” if necessary.

Probably the biggest challenge to the ruling party, however, is the EFF’s ability to match its strident rhetoric with effective community mobilisation.

Ahead of the party’s recent manifesto launch, Malema was consistently touring communities and he’s set to continue as the elections approach, tapping into anger over President Zuma, Parliament’s strong-arm tactics, and sentiment that the ANC hasn’t delivered on its promises.

When Godrich was asked whether the EFF might mount another march against big business following the huge demonstration that ended at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange last year, he was clear: It’s election time; it’s time to be with potential EFF voters.

While the ANC is obviously angered at the EFF’s demonstrations in Parliament and Malema’s war talk, his ability to attract and mobilise supporters ahead of the elections will determine whether the party is a serious threat to the ANC’s electorate.

Heading straight from Parliament to Stellenbosch shows the EFF’s “CiC” isn’t just about fighting parliamentary security. DM

Photo: Party leader Julius Malema and members of his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) clash with Parliamentary security as they are evicted from the chamber in Cape Town, South Africa, May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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