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Till death do us part? ANC and EFF have a long/infinite road to real collaboration

Till death do us part? ANC and EFF have a long/infinite road to real collaboration
EFF and ANC flags. (Photos: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo | Leila Dougan)

The Gauteng government has launched a new programme involving government money being used to pay people to pick up litter and plant trees in the province. This follows an earlier programme to employ people as ‘crime wardens’ and is clearly part of a campaign to garner support ahead of next year’s elections. While many may welcome the programmes, the EFF has accused the ANC of stealing its ideas.

On Sunday, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi launched 6,000 “work opportunities” in the province. Technically, they are under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and involve the government paying people to take part in the “cleaning and greening” of the province.

These EPWP participants are unlikely to be paid very much money, at least for the moment. In the past there have been protests by groups of such workers who demanded that their jobs be made permanent.

Just a month ago, Lesufi launched the crime prevention wardens programme, in which the provincial government employs people to patrol communities to deter crime. These people have received just two months of training.

In a country plagued by unemployment, particularly among young people, this is the kind of programme that can be used as a real vote-winner. It shows that the provincial government is determined to make the province safer, cleaner and to pay people to do visible work.

However, it is not clear at this stage whether these two programmes will achieve their stated aims. It seems inconceivable that people with just two months’ training can help to fight violent crime across the province.

Of course, if one or two communities have more people patrolling their areas, they may feel safer and this may well reduce crime there. But crime could simply be displaced to other areas, with little net result.

Also, considering the sheer scale of waste and litter in the province, it would require an army of people to make it cleaner. The problem of litter in our country is incredibly deep-seated. If the true aim was to really clean up the province, it would also involve a programme to change attitudes to littering, encourage people to responsibly dispose of waste and champion recycling.

For the ANC’s critics, these programmes are just a populist way of boosting support ahead of next year’s elections.

But there is another issue within this programme: Lesufi has said that the province will reduce the money it spends on food parcels to pay the salaries of those involved in the programme.

Gauteng Social Development MEC Mbali Hlophe said that this was to reduce “dependency”. She claimed that receiving a food parcel can be demeaning.

This does not appear populist — true populism would involve giving away more free things, not reducing them.

Still, it raises questions about the provincial government’s attitude to social grants and food parcels. It is likely that people who seek out food parcels are desperate, for themselves and their families. And forcing someone to pick up litter to receive a salary to buy the food they no longer receive will reduce the amount of time they have to seek other forms of income.

This suggests that the idea has not been fully thought through and that there may be other political motives here.

The EFF weighs in

The initiative itself has already created some controversy.

The EFF has issued a statement claiming Lesufi is starting the initiative to “empower ANC volunteers” ahead of the election. They claim that there are no proper recruitment procedures and that the entire initiative has been stolen from the EFF, that it’s a copy of their “Andries Tatane Clean-up Campaign”.

In particular, they are upset that councils in Gauteng have been instructed to employ people under this programme, which means that Ekurhuleni would have to take in some of these workers.

This again puts the spotlight on what is supposed to be a working relationship between the ANC and the EFF in that council.

Last week saw EFF leader Julius Malema claiming that “these thieves before us have stolen 71 trucks from the city”.

The ANC strongly denied that, saying the trucks could be accounted for, and that in fact, EFF councillors had voted in favour of a resolution that the vehicles would be written off.

Then, still in Gauteng, the West Rand region of the EFF accused ANC members of “assaulting and stabbing” one of their leaders.

Meanwhile, in a press conference on Monday, Malema himself launched into the ANC.

As part of what amounted to almost an attack on President Cyril Ramaphosa, he claimed the appointment of Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as electricity minister was the President “bluffing”. He claimed, without evidence: “We are almost at the point of grid collapse” and said that “Brian [Molefe] must come back, Matshela Koko must come back… so must all the Indian, coloured and white engineers”.

The big question

All of this gets to the heart of what is the most important political dynamic of our moment: Can the ANC and the EFF work together?

To attack the ANC on what is probably its weakest spot at the moment — load shedding — suggests that there is still no love lost between them.

It also suggests that despite what is supposed to be a working relationship, the EFF is going to continue its current path of attacking the ANC.

The ANC for its part, is probably going to do the same to the EFF.

When the EFF claimed that Gauteng’s programme was stolen from them, Social Development MEC Hlophe’s first reaction was to laugh. She said the EFF “must elevate their thinking”.

This is happening in Gauteng, where the leadership of the EFF and of the ANC appear to have the closest relationship. And yet in this province, there are claims by the EFF that ANC members stabbed one of their leaders, and that a government programme has been stolen from them. And the reaction of the ANC has been essentially to laugh them off.

This is hardly the behaviour of parties that are preparing to work together and suggests their rivalry is becoming more intense.

This is likely to get worse ahead of the elections, particularly because there will be jockeying for position ahead of what some claim will be coalition discussions. And the worse it gets, the harder it will be to contain these tensions.

The real risk for the leaders of both parties is that these dynamics become impossible for them to control. And that will make it difficult for those in the ANC who really do want to work with the EFF in government next year. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    We have a saying in German that “riffraff fight each other one day and are compatible the next” which applies to the riffraff under discussion. Both Lesufi and Malema have very dubious pasts. The first with millions wasted on unnecessary defogging of schools and the latter through VBS and other affairs. None of them has an idea what good governance is about.

  • charlesbotha says:

    From experience I know that political parties fight each other tooth and nail before an election and, after the election, cosy up to whoever gives them the best deal!

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