South Africa


From schoolyard bullies to emerging fascists: The EFF’s unstoppable politics of violence

Leader of the EFF, Julius Malema. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

Daily Maverick timeline tracker reveals at least 11 serious instances of violence — or violent intent and potential for violence — in two years by the EFF, with accountability in only two.

The EFF has instrumentalised violence as a key part of its political strategy and it’s working for the start-up party.

Clicks, which published a racist campaign for a haircare brand, caved in to the EFF’s brinkmanship when it reached a rapprochement with the party on 10 September. It has done what the party told it to – disburse sanitary towels and bursaries as per EFF instruction – even though 37 stores were vandalised by EFF members, many in party regalia.

Deputy President of the Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF) Floyd Shivambu at Sandton City Mall during the national shutdown of all Clicks outlets on September 07, 2020 in Sandton, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

The party has denied its members were the culprits, as it often does when things turn violent – as they frequently do. It has told Clicks it will help identify the “agents provocateurs” and see that justice is done.

Don’t hold your breath.

Violence is now a method with the EFF, as this graphic timeline shows.


In a Daily Maverick timeline tracker, the party and various of its members have been involved in various forms of serious violence at least 11 times since March 2018.

While criminal and civil charges have been laid against them, most of these have not succeeded or the cases are still dragging their way through court, creating a playing field of impunity for the red berets.

H&M and the hoodie from hell

In January 2018, H&M, the Swedish retailer caused a storm when it advertised a hoodie showing a monkey on a young black boy. The young white model got a tiger hoodie. It caused a global crisis for H&M, which overhauled its global supply chain and its diversity and race policies.

All good.

But EFF members looted and vandalised stores and nothing happened. (It also didn’t stop the EFF leaders from shopping at H&M later.)

In December 2018, EFF members looted and vandalised Vodacom outlets because they did not like a slide that ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang showed at a journalism award. The CEO Shameel Joosub and his executives met the EFF at its headquarters and no charges were pursued either by Vodacom or the franchisees who owned the trashed telco stores.

Fast-forward to September 2020 and the EFF has repeated it in Act 3. This time its members trashed 37 stores and saw Clicks shut its entire fleet of more than 400 outlets for at least a day, some for more. Shoppers were harassed and social media was flooded with stories of people who could not get their chronic medication.

Three CEOs have caved in to the EFF’s bully tactics. As a party represented in Parliament and with an outsize influence on South African politics, the EFF could easily use procedures at the legislature, through the Chapter Nine institutions and the courts to ensure that corporates who haven’t shrugged off the apartheid past are put through their paces.

But violence has come to serve the EFF well as a means of populism and of patronage. Part of the Clicks settlement allows the party to extend its patronage because it will decide where and to whom the sanitary towels and bursaries are distributed.

Vodacom won’t say, but it’s likely the company was similarly shaken down.  This normalises violence and institutionalises hostage politics where corporations, eager to get out of the public eye and the headlines, will play nice with thuggery. It’s not unusual in gangster states – a lot of Latin America is run by political mafias.

There’s more we don’t see 

On Radio 702 this week, Azania Mosaka, the afternoon host, spoke about how she knew of inter-family feuds where EFF T-shirts were worn to intimidate members and push through positions.

Where it co-governs, the EFF is said to bully agencies to get its own people on to parastatal and state-owned entity boards. In light-manufacturing areas and on some mines, the EFF locals are like a cross between trade unions and militia, negotiating at workplaces without recognition agreements. These are parts of the country where there is no media glare and where the red T-shirt and red beret is often a symbol of a mayhem you’d rather pay to make go away.

I’ve heard of business people, in turn, who will “hire” local EFF brigades to take care of problems, be it “troublesome” workers or debtors who won’t pay up. If you listen carefully at Parliament to the EFF positions on some matters, there is usually a lobby attached: its campaign to stop the curatorship of VBS Bank (before Pauli van Wyk exposed what was really happening) was an example of how the party can also become a pay-to-play machine.

The party has franchised violence and when questioned, leaders will say that it has not patented the red overall and beret and that members engaging violence are not EFF.

But, here’s where it gets important to watch the EFF Twitter timelines: the party leader Julius Malema has said that he needs Twitter because he and other leaders use their huge followings to direct action.

The Clicks vandalisation was preceded by Malema calling his “ground forces” to “Attack” on Twitter as did his lieutenant EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. While all the major political parties now organise on social media, the EFF’s viral footprint leaves the others panting in its wake.

Who will bell the red cat?

This tracker shows that almost nobody will and that the politics of violence is now part of the party’s DNA – an acceptable exhibitionism often laughed off “Argh, it’s just Juju”. Outgoing Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib has shown the folly of such a position in this essay which likens the EFF’s tactics to early forms of fascism.

We need to talk urgently about our new generation of activists – a small cohort romanticising war and violence

In the cases tracked by Daily Maverick, the two violence-related cases that have led to some accountability —  in the form of civil judgments against the EFF — were:

  • The violent incitement rhetoric case brought by AfriForum; and
  • A case of defamation brought by Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule after they were labelled Stratcom agents. The party was ordered to apologise to the two journalists.

Also in civil court in another defamation case, the EFF was ordered to cough up R500,000 and apologise to Trevor Manuel after labelling the process of selecting new SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter as “patently nepotistic and corrupt”.

Trevor Manuel 1, EFF 0 in defamation case

Various criminal charges against the party have dragged on, most for years.

Violence can be like a bullet train – fast and unstoppable. Unless South Africans do something about it. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    The money trails have been well documented. What a pity we don’t have a functioning NPA – they should be all over them like a rash. Racketeering? Extortion? Incitement? Money laundering?

  • Bruce Morrison says:

    Those who abuse social media should be removed.

  • Greg La Cock says:

    Very strange that Twitter and other social media platforms allow this type of incitement to violence on their platforms. Surely they should be banished from operating locally if they continue to do so?

  • Peter Doble says:

    Sadly the bullet train is already unstoppable with the allied support of the appeaser “victims” and condoned by the passive bystanders – government agencies and so-called law enforcement.
    Meanwhile the boys in blue are doing a sterling job. A rapid response team told me to put my dogs in a lead. Perhaps they mistook me for Juju?

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    So not only does the EFF vandalise Clicks stores and find them guilty of a serious crime, it doles out a sentance which Clicks remorsfully accepts. “Thank you m’lord”.
    We know what to expect from the EFF but Clicks are the main culprits here. Not for the ad but for enabling the EFF.

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      Agreed … they (eff) are encouraged to continue their violence because they get away with it. Like paying a ransom to terrorists and then believing they won’t commit the same violent crime.

  • Steve Spottiswoode says:

    The ANC is playing a game by allowing the EFF to carry on like this. A big question not addressed in Ferial Haffajee’s article is the degree of support within the ANC for this behaviour. Interesting times ahead.

  • roland rink says:

    Webster’s definition of extortion – Extortion (also called shakedown) is obtaining benefit through coercion. Extortion is sometimes called the “protection racket” since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for “protection” from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties; though often, and almost always, such “protection” is simply abstinence of harm from the same party, and such is implied in the “protection” offer. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime.
    The question is – why have no criminal charges been laid?

  • Hulme Scholes says:

    The Clicks advert was unbelievably short sighted and clumsy. To capitulate to the EFF and allow the EFF to control the distribution of the donated sanitary products and bursaries is as unbelievable. It will happen again and there will be more violence and vandalism to come when there is an EFF protest in the future because Clicks has demonstrated that it works. It is a great pity that corporate South Africa gives way to coercion like this.

  • Judy and Julian Cooke says:

    Thank you for list chronicling where the EFF is taking us. The wake-up call we need. Wake up South Africa!

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    “This normalises violence and institutionalises hostage politics where corporations, eager to get out of the public eye and the headlines, will play nice with thuggery. It’s not unusual in gangster states …. ”
    “I’ve heard of business people, in turn, who will “hire” local EFF brigades to take care of problems, be it “troublesome” workers or debtors who won’t pay up.”
    Says it all ….. This is what the eff gets away with in parliament, why not in so-called civil society?

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    A clear indictment of what happens when an organisation and its leaders have no ‘ethical’ standards or boundaries…just like Trump and his so-called ‘transactionalism’ ! Anything goes.

  • Richard Breytenbach says:

    Firstly, somewhat off-topic, so the advertisement was racist (or at least insensitive) was it? Many black hair specialists disagree. One well-known such person (black) clarified that the language used is standard in the industry – unfortunately he felt obliged to remove his comment from Twitter, no doubt because the ‘cancel’ culture started screaming at him that ‘their’ truth was ‘the only truth’. And so we lose yet another round in the battle between open decent democratic society and those who want to close down all mature discussion and thereby control the narrative. Instead of mob violence (the EFF’s primary way of controlling the said narrative), democratic institutions already exist with which to deal with such apparently ‘offensive’ advertising and other events – and these should have been used; this would have allowed proper public discussion, so causing the surfacing of the facts and opinions of all relevant parties, followed (if need be) by appropriate actions and guidance to prevent or reduce the possibility of it happening again. Instead of first laying a complaint with the appropriate ombudsman however, a number of public figures first ‘screamed out’ on Twitter knowing full well that this was likely to incite further violence and divisiveness in an already fractured society. If these people now feel vindicated and proud of the outcome, then SA is firmly set on a path of self-destruction – hopefully they have realised their error and are now appropriately ashamed (I doubt it). Twitter may be a lot of fun, often useful, and a sounding-board for idiots, but it is also a trigger for group-think and mob-violence. That said, it remains fundamentally wrong to ban / remove people from the platform unless they have demonstrably committed a crime in or through their use thereof.
    And this brings me to the energetic protection racket otherwise known as the EFF. They are fully aware that each and every South African, wherever they live and work, stands alone without any effective protection from them – the so-called forces of law and justice in SA have left the field – in fact, SAPS engages in as much criminal behaviour as the ‘official’ criminals and the NPA are a seeming write-off. The Clicks debacle demonstrated the total ineffectiveness of any SAPS protection. The law REQUIRES that they protect life, limb and property of individuals (and thus of companies) – when I served, this was made explicit when we supported the police, and we acted accordingly. SAPS, however, provided little or no effective protection for Clicks, their employees, customers or property; this is born out by the statistics – 37 stores vandalised and 400 closed is a policing FAILURE (kudos to Cele……). This ensured that Clicks, who should have been able to rely on such protection, had to ‘comply’ with the fascist demands of a bunch of thugs masquerading as a political party. This was pragmatic – and I’m sure that there was much grinding of the teeth as they were forced to ‘come to the party’ by MOB of delinquents who have NO LEGAL RIGHT TO DEMAND OR ENFORCE such a ‘deal’. The protection racket are acting as if they are a subsidiary of the ruling criminal enterprise (to borrow someone else’s phrase) which they probably are.
    In short, we the people (and our businesses) have been abandoned by the ruling criminal enterprise – they have broken the social contract with the citizens of South Africa. It is now up to us to take action against the racist mob since the SAPS will either stand aside or absent themselves entirely. And when they do act, they often act inappropriately and highly unprofessionally. As a parting swipe at the SAPS, have they yet arrested ANYONE for the 1500 (plus) school vandalisations that have occurred during lockdown?

  • Sam Joubs says:

    Grasping at everything and anything thing to try to stay relevant Julius? A bully will stay a bully when not treated like a bully.

  • Christine Cameron-Dow says:

    So why hasn’t the media unpacked the “racist” ad and examined what was racist about it? Have any ad agencies themselves come forward to discuss what the ad makers did wrong, and where the actual twist occurred? Because, make no mistake, there was a serious amount of twisting that took place. The ad must be partially to blame, because it failed to dot Is and cross Ts, that’s inarguable, but why is the public still labouring under the misapprehension concerning the two “good” hair types, and the utterly nonsensical deduction that it is “telling black women they must straighten their hair”? The EFF will only shut up if it sees it can’t bs the public. There was a considerable backlash against the red brigade, by ordinary people who saw through the political grandstanding, but there were far too many LEARNED people who bought into the narrative.

    Companies must stop caving in to the EFF. It would have helped if more members of the media had examined the ad more critically, and come out in support of Clicks, as being what Shivambu described as “unfortunate collateral”. It’s all very well to point out the evils of the situation after the fact, but from where I’m standing, it looks like everyone, media included, were just too scared of themselves being victims of attack to approach the subject from a more dispassionate viewpoint.

    • Graeme de Villiers says:

      Brilliantly analysed. The fear of being labelled and targeted by the Cucumber in Chief and his Vegetable Army clearly weighs too heavily to stand up and be ethical and defend what needs to be defended. Much easier to jump on the bandwagon of comfort and avoid the potential troll army to come knocking on your door next.

  • Rosemary Duncan says:

    Thank you Ferial for that alarming timeline! I feel alarmed and am afraid of the lack of more out cry and as I have posted elsewhere there is a threat to our democracy as these fascist thugs continue to intimidate , loot and continue violence while the Police stand by to watch and Corporate’s bow to their threats. I’m afraid it brings back memories of 1930 Germany and the horrors that followed.

  • Mike Griffiths says:

    The Clicks’ cave in is just another example of corporate SA (it’s much the same every where I suppose) being complicit in dragging the country down. There is no such thing as ethics, it’s profit and to hell with anything else. Businesses in SA have stood by and allowed the crooks and thugs to tell them what to do. Anything to keep the peace and turn a buck. Businessmen to a man whine about the red tape and social engineering that they are subjected to but what have they actually done to prevent it despite the fact that they are the ones who have the real muscle to influence politicians? Bought them off is the answer.

  • Bill Gild says:

    The problem with fascism is that once the broader public understands the consequences and ramifications of this idious political philosophy, it’s too late; the process, once it reaches critical mass, is unstoppable.

    UCT lost its chance with RMF and FMF. It’s important for the ANC not only to recognise the dangers associated with the EFF, but to take pre-emptive action, such as hewing to the rule of law, pressing prosecutions against all political parties and leaders who believe that they can operate in a sewer. The ANC needs urgently to get several messages across: 1) The ANC is n0t in any way aligned with the EFF, and/or doesn’t use the EFF as a “trial balloon”; 2)The ANC is committed to the political process, in all its forms and expressions, including freedom of speech, association, and the inviolability of the rule of law.

    South Africa stands in a dangerous place right now: a wrecked economy , rising poverty (from already high levels), high levels of food insecurity, and millions of young, able-bodies individuals on the streets. A surer cocktail for social unrest cannot be imagined. It is in situations like this that fascism thrives. It eats off discontent, coopting and attracting the dissaffected to their ranks to serve as foot soldiers, if you like.

    Only the ANC can try and retard the progress of this real and present danger to our country.
    If it doesn’t, Afropessemists will be able to declare that South Africa, the most industialized nation on the continent, has finally joined the other failed African states.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options