South Africa


An Open Letter to the Women of the EFF

Photo of the EFF congress by Greg Nicolson

We know you’re still in there somewhere. Could you please remind your male colleagues what the EFF was supposed to be doing about gender?

Here’s the thing. Nobody expects South African political parties not to be seething cesspits of misogyny. Most of them are clearly places where your average entitled bro of whatever colour could stroll in and put his feet up right away.

Among local political parties, sexual harassment policies are treated a bit like SABC TV licences. Everyone knows it’s the right thing to do to have one – but also, snore.

Almost all the parties count among their ranks the type of dudes that women save on their phones under “CREEP DO NOT ANSWER”.

Some of the parties also include the kind of men who suffer from, shall we say, a touch of Mampintshitis, although we must clarify for legal reasons that the well-loved musician who gives his name to the syndrome may also be a brave survivor of domestic abuse himself.

As I said, this is a fact of life pretty much across the political spectrum. Some parties, admittedly, have very harmonious internal gender relations – like the parliamentary caucus of the Freedom Front Plus, who all get on splendidly because there aren’t any women.

But otherwise, this is something most political parties have in common, together with getting the night-sweats when they think about the impending Political Party Funding Act.

For every Mduduzi Manana there’s an Archibald Figlan; for every Pieter Marais, there’s a Patrick Sindane.

Sorry, that last name might not ring a loud bell for the general public – though it should be well known to you, female Fighters.

Patrick Sindane is the EFF MP in the Gauteng provincial legislature who was briefly suspended in 2018 under suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend – all a misunderstanding, turned out – and who was also expelled from the Anti-Privatisation Forum in 2011 under suspicion of participating in the gang rape of a sex worker.

That, too, turned out to be a misunderstanding – if that’s how you interpret the fact that the sex worker who laid charges against Sindane seems to have suddenly disappeared.

It is unfortunate that Sindane’s name seems to be repeatedly besmirched so unnecessarily, but the good news is that he’s doing fine. On his Twitter profile, Sindane describes himself as an “Old School Reggae & Hip lover”. One assumes he means hip hop lover, but what I’ve been saying about male politicians is that you simply never can tell.

But you know all this, female Fighters.

I’m going to assume that part of what drew you to the EFF was the possibility of something different, though. Hope dies last: it’s why millions of us still tune into SONA each year, defying the cellular memory of how kak it is.

When EFF burst on to our stage in 2013, carried in on a gust of revolution like a bunch of anarchist Mary Poppinses, one of your major drawcards was the fact that you guys spoke such good game when it came to your plans for depositing the patriarchy in a garbage bin and setting it on fire.

Never before had there been a South African party spitting such incendiary bars about gender. The EFF revolution wasn’t just about delivering a mighty dick-punch to white monopoly capital. It was also about fearlessly staring down the whole stinking patriarchal, heteronormative Hellmouth!

You said Thomas Sankara was your main man. Sankara, who was railing against the gender pay gap roughly 30 years before the UN wised up to it. Sankara, who slammed the social oppression of childless women, and who called for the paying of bride-price (lobola, as we know it) to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The message was that yours was a party of male and female Sankaras. Boy, did that sound sweet in a country led at the time of your launch by a man who could have been on the cover of Patriarchs Weekly 52 times a year.

Sure, there were some teensy misgivings. Could two men – Shivambu and Malema – who had personally distributed pitchforks to anyone interested in ruining the life of Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser really have suddenly woke-d up so transformatively on the topic of gender?

I mean… maybe! People change, right? Look at all those old National Party MPs who realised their hearts were actually with the ANC when majority rule rolled around! If “benefit of the doubt” wasn’t a thing, nobody would have a career in politics at all.

And sure, it seemed a bit weird that Shivambu, Malema and Ndlozi did approximately 98% of all speaking on behalf of the EFF at press conferences, but maybe they’re just chatty guys. A few of you female Fighters were usually sitting up there too, after all. And we’ve seen you in Parliament, giving the Speakers a good rev and holding your own in committees. Nobody is suggesting that you’re hostage victims, is what I’m saying.

But since we’re on the topic, the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” has been leaping unbidden to the mind of late. Maybe it’s all the True Crime documentaries on Netflix, or maybe it’s that you once bad-ass female Fighters seem okay with the fact that the dudes on top of your party are intent on crowdsourcing online vigilantism towards female journalists.

We know that the practice of outsourcing is one of the EFF’s capitalist bugbears, but when it comes to outsourcing violence your leaders seem happy to make an exception. This is nothing new in South Africa – who among us hasn’t approached a dodgy dude in a back alley in the hope of offing an enemy – but doing it via Twitter is probably not what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is intended to accomplish.

It’s a question I genuinely can’t get my head around. You female Fighters have always seemed like a bunch of brave, smart, progressive women socking it to The Man every chance you get.

There’s no easy way of saying this, so let me just come out with it. When Shivambu and Malema started siccing their millions of followers on to female journalists, did you consider asking them what the fuck they were doing?

Did you at least consider broaching it on your leadership WhatsApp group, perhaps with a gif or two to make it less awkward?

It shouldn’t be your responsibility as women to police the men in your party when it comes to inciting bullying of women, obviously. This shouldn’t be your burden to carry. In a party as gender-progressive, as the EFF is on paper, it shouldn’t happen in the first place.

But – hey-ho! – it has. And many of us are curious to know where you guys are at when it comes to this hot, dangerous, sexist mess to which your male colleagues seem bizarrely dedicated.

Many of us women can relate to turning a blind eye to bad male behaviour in the workplace, because some days we simply don’t have the energy and we’d quite like to keep our jobs.

The thing about you guys, though, is that you were supposed to be the ones fearlessly standing up to patriarchal bullshit. You were supposed to be different.

Female Fighters: if you’re still in there somewhere, please give us a sign. Hope dies last. DM


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