South Africa


The grim prospect of the EFF governing SA looms

The grim prospect of the EFF governing SA looms
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

What the EFF really wants is a weak ANC that depends on it to stay in power so that it can use its relatively small share of the vote to propel it — and its pecuniary leaders — into government.

The vote for a new mayor of Johannesburg has come and gone and the DA’s Mpho Phalatse has been replaced by the ANC’s Dada Morero. The meeting which took this decision is being contested and it is unclear where this will end.

What is clear is the emerging shape of a possible post-2024 coalition — and it does not look good.

In November last year, the EFF’s Julius Malema pronounced on coalitions: “There’s nowhere where the EFF is going to vote with the ANC. We are going to disrupt them to teach them a lesson.”

Not for the first time, the EFF has been exposed as an opportunistic and intrinsically untrustworthy political player. When the opportunity to reattach itself to the disrupted rents flowing from Johannesburg arose, it simply turned 180 degrees without apology and without apparently an ounce of remorse.

When ActionSA broke its deal with the DA-led city government and offered the Speaker position in the Johannesburg Council to the IFP (supposedly as a first step in ActionSA seizing the mayoral post), the EFF voted with the ANC, Patriotic Alliance and Cope to throw out the coalition which had been making headway in restoring shattered governance to Johannesburg by rooting out corrupt contracts and getting the public service back on a delivery footing. All of this in a climate of national decline as power outages hammered residents and severely damaged infrastructure.

There are many takeaways from this sorry saga. One is that an eight-party coalition is inherently unstable. That a party with a single seat can turn tail and upend a government, is costly for a big city already broken by years of neglect, but would be disastrous at a national level. Functional coalitions require two or three big parties to make sense, not a swarm of personality parties. 

Voters — and party funders — need to think hard about this in the run-up to 2024.  

The significance of the EFF’s pivot towards the ANC should also not be underestimated. Until now, the EFF has been coy, pretending that it loathes the ANC and wants to see its demise. This, it turns out, has been disingenuous. What the EFF really wants is a weak ANC that depends on it to stay in power so that it can use its relatively small share of the vote to propel it — and its pecuniary leaders — into government.

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A populist coalition

The Johannesburg pivot puts into sharp focus the possibility of a populist coalition at national level should the ANC’s support decline to below 50% in the 2024 election.

The ANC has been holding on to a 50%-plus victory with its nails, according to the most optimistic polls, and is likely to fall into the mid-40s, according to others. Given that this polling was done before the collapse of the electricity supply which has ushered in an unprecedented monthlong nightmare of rolling blackouts, the possibility of a sub-50% ANC is on the rise.

It’s time to start thinking about the outline of that ANC-EFF future. What will happen to government and governance? Where will South Africa go? 

The consequences of this would be stark, most notably:

  • The likelihood of the EFF’s Julius Malema being given a senior role in the national government, possibly even the deputy presidency;
  • The likelihood of agreement on policies which have hitherto been elusive, most notably the revival of the “appropriation without compensation” of land and nationalisation of the Reserve Bank;
  • The likelihood of a shift towards nationalisation or, at the very least, aggressive state regulation and taxation of the private sector;
  • A shift in momentum within the ANC towards the dominance of the Radical Economic Transformation faction, which supports State Capture and shares the EFF’s looney tunes economic policies; and
  • The return of a virulent (and possibly violent) mutation of State Capture. The EFF looted the VBS bank while in opposition. What will happen when it is helping to run the Treasury is moot.

As has occurred in all other countries where this sort of populist economics has been implemented — think Zimbabwe and Venezuela — this will result in capital flight on a grand scale, the collapse of the currency and hyperinflation. The flight of skills and talent will grow exponentially. You know the sorry story.

The EFF has a bullying mentality in opposition. A magistrate has just made the unbelievable finding that it is okay for EFF leaders to push around police officers. Once its hands are on the levers of power, you can expect this to take on a new dimension. Look out for the collapse of constitutionalism, the defiance of court orders and the use of the security forces and legislation to suppress criticism — all under the guise of exorcising the ghost of apartheid which will be summoned for a series of cameo appearances.

Until now, the view has been that the above scenario is unlikely given the EFF’s public antipathy towards the ANC and its bold public statements that it will never vote with it. It has even gone so far as to support DA votes on the “better the devil you know” principle. The Johannesburg decision changes all of that. 

When the possibility of power arises, it turns out the EFF will seize it, devil or no devil. From Johannesburg it appears the opportunism of other, smaller parties could, unwittingly or not, assist it in its aims.

South Africa, you have been warned. DM

Ray Hartley and Greg Mills are with The Brenthurst Foundation


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Are South African voters really so stupid?

    I fear the answer maybe yes.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I’m afraid so. They have proven this for 28 years. We face a bleak and dangerous future.

      • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

        Correct. These lying journalists fail to point out that the people standing for the looting of VBS are its former executives and the ANC was very instrumental in driving the looting and the current Limpopo PEC is made up of VBS looters that include Florence Radzilani who is a staunch Ramphosisa ally and must be protected. There is no case that can stand in court against the EFF leadership because the evidence does not exist. Ramaphosa is a supporter of the corrupt if not corrupt himself. People who have an agenda and parade as journalist are very dangerous. We saw what propelled Zuma into power and included journalists like these.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      I trust that the media will read this article and take steps to educate the voters to vote a democratic party in.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    And what the ANC want is for theDA voter to be so terrified at the prospect of EFF leadership they will vote ANC just to keep the EFF at bay!
    The ANC and the EFF have always been bedfellows – this is nothing new. The secret would be best exposed if there was full disclosure of where party funding comes from. One has to wonder and now realise why the ANC has never done this when it has always been within their power to do so!

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      The DA are thieves themselves and are not clean. In Nelson Mandela Bay three councillors have been arrested and in Cape Town, the DA is using public money to defend a councillor charged for corruption. There are many examples of DA corruption. You want a right wing Alliance of ANC – DA that is what you must say and not paint DA as saints as they are thieves themselves and very corrupt!

      • allan j whitehead says:

        Stick to the topic and stop being a racist !!!!!
        eef and malema having top spots in this country’s government , not while I have a say in that..

      • Concerned . . says:

        right wing alliance of ANC & DA…. how to respond to this hopelessly inaccurate statement? no point really.

        Yes, there have been cases of corruption within the DA, the difference is that it is largely dealt with and there will be prosecutions. The same cant be said of the ANC and EFF.

        The ANC is unfortunately corrupt to its roots, and the EFF will be far worse than even the ANC. As much as I try and be positive, this article will likely prove all too true.

      • Alan Salmon says:

        To my knowledge the three councillors arrested in Nelson Mandela Bay took bribes to vote against their own party to get the ANC back into power, and have been expelled from the DA.
        Of course the DA are not saints, but the ANC are totally corrupt from top to bottom.

      • Kb1066 . says:

        Educate yourself, the DA exposed the corruption and fired the 3 councilors, something that is unheard of in the ANC / EFF cabal

      • sl0m0 za says:

        At least the DA gets the job done, unlike the ANC who don’t care that their own people go hungry

      • Rob vZ says:

        Just to be clear, The 3 DA councillors in NMB were arrested for taking bribes from the ANC to vote with the ANC. The DA has a very low tolerance for corruption compared to ANC and EFF.

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        Certainly not daily evidence of corruption on the part of the DA, In the very few cases we have heard of, but almost always there have been consequences for the perpetrators. They expect & enforce accountability within their ranks.

      • Peter Dexter says:

        Interesting that DA Politicians are actually charged. If you followed the Zondo commission you will realise that the majority of the ANC government are guilty of corruption but only small fry are ever charged.

      • John Smythe says:

        Sigh! Yawn!

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I certainly would be quick to boycott any company that funds the ANC or EFF and one or two other parties. I don’t think I am alone. Probably why there isn’t disclosure.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    I totally agree with the author and have personally thought for some time that if the ANC drop below 50% then the EFF will form a coalition with them so that Julius can be deputy president. In the UK when Cameron needed a coalition partner to govern, he made Nick Clegg deputy prime minister to get the Lib Dems on board, so it is not unusual at all. Malema is interested in power and money only, in that order. SA is in serious trouble.

  • Johan Buys says:

    the older folk better plan their life around their children living overseas 🙁

    • Guntram Buchhold says:

      Johan I am German living here on retirement visa.I have relatives living in the US and Australia and Germany and always say the grass is always greener on the other side until you to start mowing it too.
      The real thing I am scared of in this country is if ever Malema (in my opinion our home grown Mugabe) would ever take over here.

      • Johan Buys says:

        Guntram: that is why I qualified with “older folk”. We are less impacted by politics because there is not much the government can do to me. You are able to get on a one way plane because you have a plan B. A 30y couple considering their careers and their children’s futures face a different evaluation of the color of the grass – or at minimum go over long enough for that citizenship and then some come back. It is happening at a massive rate, far higher than the official emigration statistics.

        • Guntram Buchhold says:

          Johan: unfortunately I have to agree with you because out of my love for this country I forget that I do have a plan B for me,my children and grandchildren if all goes Malema style.

  • Jeroen Dubbelman says:

    Ok, it is clear this is a real possibility! How do the sane and healthy thinking South Africans heed the warning? It seems we can’t trust any party. They are after all just politicians and have their own interest at heart. A single feeble individual vote is meaningless as the people put in power are selected by the party and not the people!

    Is it possible that only big business has any clout available to lobby government in some way? Pressure from the private sector is the only tool available to change the direction this country is going in. This would mean a high level conference by big business to focus on the challenge.
    BTW – It is time that big business confronts any corruption they are involved in themselves. This will add weight to the culture we need.

    • Johan Buys says:

      Jeroen: business (big and small) can help. We have the power of our taxes and our utility bills. We are not far from seeing for example a local ratepayer association taking over the running of certain services after deducting that from their council bills. It has already happened. On the energy front, businesses have realized they have to bring their own. So solar plus storage will be the norm along with boreholes, pothole street clubs, etc. former prisoner zuma got booted in time for an income tax revolt not to happen. Pay tax into a secure trust until government performs and reforms. Financial sanctions is what brought the Nats to heel, the same will happen to the ANC

      • David Edwards says:

        How many businesses, after restructuring for BBBEE compliance, have shareholders who’s interests are not completely aligned with the ANC and their cadre deployment? Do not think that business, big or small, will save us. South Africans have to save themselves, and the only way to do so is by turning up to vote, and making sure everyone you know does the same. Stop splintering the opposition vote, however enticing a new party may seem, and however frustrating the DA may appear – they are the only party with the scale, an aspirant set of values and semi-decent track record (arguably the best track record, albeit of a dismal super set). We cannot afford the luxury of many opposition parties, we have to consolidate our mandates to be effective.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    If this comes to fruition, expect mass emigration of the top end of the income tax base. The wealthiest will be Julius’ target and they are the most mobile. Expect a collapse of income tax revenues.

  • Bruce Watney says:

    That’s why I said” be careful what you wish for” Support Ramaphosa! Better the devil we know ! ANC right now, needs to govern, with the help of all smaller parties. Having a finger in the pie. You will see, the balance will be fine, EFF will never govern this country. 🤞

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    I have been saying that the only sensible party to vote for is the DA. I stick to that even more now. Drop those one-man parties, they are useless at best and downright dangerous at anything less than best. Not one of them has any record of delivering excellence of any sort. ActionSA has just given Jo’burg to the ANC/EFF and the Good Party is in the ANC stable.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I have to agree with you. Normally I am not one to suggest whom to vote for in the interest of proper democracy. Since South Africa is an uneducated democracy and therefore not a competently applied democracy, we need to be strategic in how we vote in order to achieve the best results out of a bad scenario.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    I couldn’t think of a more obnoxious, vile and putrid state of affairs should the racist, fascist and bullying EFF ever come to power. This will be the end of SA as these morons with half a brain cell between all of them (I’m being very kind here) will drag this country to the gutter ie to their vision of utopia ie Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela etc. One has to be a very special kind of stupid not to learn from history and the mistakes of others, but there again, the EFF has this in abundance. This country is always on the brink of disaster and let’s fervently hope that this scenario never comes to pass.

  • Susan Buekes says:

    This makes for depressing reading. I have tried to be positive about the future of this country, but I cannot refute the content of this scenario. The manner in which Msunduzi Municipality is converting the City of Choice into a dirty, pot-holed village, is probably an example of the future of the whole country.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    There is a simple answer. NPA’s focus must be on the VBS scandal so that Julius and his sidekick end in orange overalls.

  • Johan Fick says:

    I am reading this article in Canada. It is chilling.
    By a fortunte roll of the dice we were selected on the Canadian Parents and Grandparents reunification program. By April 2025 we need to have spent 36 months in Canada in total to be able to apply for full citizenship and a passport. As of now we have clocked up 21 months. We are heading back to SA in a few weeks to miss this coming Canadian winter, and have been wondering if we really want to come back to do the rest of our time. What would you do? Lets do a poll. “Go for it” or “Drop it.”

  • Peter Wright says:

    Interesting and insightful.
    But preaching to the converted.

    This message needs to get out to the voting public, to the grass-roots people that vote for populist demogogues. And how many of these read DM?

    It’s not a criticism of the article or the publication, but the truth is that the people that read this are probably already convinced.

  • Rodgers Thusi says:

    A move by the EFF to the ANC is a logical realignment of the Left. Remember that EFF is a breakaway from the ANC and any animosity between the two has to do with how they broke up and not what they believe in. The Left should put aside personality politics and focus on policy development that will improve the life chances of the poor majority through employment creation, better pay and a more equal African society. The Centre Right, led by the DA also has the opportunity to regroup and contest for actively for state power so that they can advance their neo-liberial economic policies that leave the poor in perpetual state of desolation. That is what we need in South Africa, a battle of ideas and for good and effective governance rather than internecine fights over who got what job.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Correct ! What was once a ‘centred’ organisation under Madiba, who had the stature and integrity to lead effectively in that direction, has all but evaporated under the spineless CR, who is more interested in keeping the ‘party’ in power, by including the RET formations of which the EFF is an extremist example. It is Madiba’s clear sightedness that made him state unambiguously … that you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid regime. What he failed to predict was how the rise of populists of all descriptions (like the misguided one ‘personality/interest group’ parties desperately vying for attention) could undo the democratic project, and inadvertently usher in an authoritarian regime. Much like the misguided or rather misinterpreted Mbeki call to ‘I am an African’ hymn !

  • Luan Sml says:

    Truly a depressing read… as the only functioning part of Transnet, the gravy train will just pull into the ANC/EFF alliance station and hitch up additional carriages!
    Say what you will, but the DA is streaks ahead of any other party when it comes to running a municipality or a province… the only experience the EFF has is being the tail that wags the dog!

  • Andy Miles says:

    We need to take every opportunity and use every means at our disposal to shrink the role of the Government/the public sector including SOE’s. All the scenarios for SA are gloomy without this change. Best is slow decline, relatively less corruption, slow economic growth… Worst is scorched earth run by dictators pretending to have democratic values… Ha.. Ha… Ugh. SA has probably the greatest potential of any country on the planet, but its dogged by one set of misguided ideas after the next.

  • Antony Davis says:

    How about an article advising us how to stop it?

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