Fractious ANC Gauteng on a go-slow to cut ties with EFF after poll support rises for Red Berets

Fractious ANC Gauteng on a go-slow to cut ties with EFF after poll support rises for Red Berets
EFF leader Julius Malema drops the mic during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ 10th-anniversary celebrations at FNB Stadium on 29 July 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

The ANC’s national executive committee last week resolved that the party must cut coalition ties with the EFF. The two parties lead coalition governments in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. They installed minority party councillors as mayors as they shadow-box and position-bargain ahead of the 2024 election.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) support is rising in two of three major opinion polls taken ahead of next year’s election. The party would get 17% or 18% of a national vote if an election was held tomorrow, according to respondents to a Brenthurst Foundation poll and an Ipsos poll.

The EFF’s Johannesburg campaign launch in July, where party leader Julius Malema used a scissor lift to end with a mic drop, trended for weeks and has given the party’s fortunes a boost.

This weekend, the EFF will finalise its campaign plans for Gauteng, where it believes it can install Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as the premier.

EFF leader Julius Malema dances inside the Cape Town City Hall. He was forcibly removed from proceedings after his party disrupted the State of the Nation Address, 9 February 2022. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi during the national shutdown protest on 20 March 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) last week resolved that the party must cut coalition ties with the EFF. The two parties lead coalition governments in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. They installed minority party councillors as mayors as they shadow-box and position-bargain ahead of the 2024 election.

Daily Maverick has been told that, although the ANC nationally wants them to cut ties because the EFF is eating into the governing party’s support base in the province, local leaders are go-slowing on the national party resolution. This raises questions of whether the centre of authority in the ANC can hold in an era of coalitions, or whether local bosses will make arrangements that work for them, in effect beginning to splinter the party.

“For us, giving power to the Moonshot Pact [the Multi-Party Charter for SA of seven parties led by the DA, the IFP and Action SA] is suicidal. The NEC said we should review from time to time to see if the agreement is working,” said ANC Gauteng secretary TK Nciza.

If the ANC was to cut ties with the EFF now, it would lose control of the two cities, which could return to DA-led coalition governments. The ANC has stacked both governments with cadres, and they would lose their jobs.

“When it comes to coalitions, they are a moving challenge; it’s about how you manage relations. In most of our regions, the coalitions are stable; it is only in one or two where it is unstable.”

Nciza said only if the provincial review showed instability, then “I think we need to accept the decision of the NEC”.

The provincial bosses are unlikely to heed the national decision anytime soon.

The Gauteng ANC is fractious and divided. Last weekend, the Ekurhuleni chairperson, Mzwandile Masina, said the party needed to get out of coalitions as governance was so bad that it would lose the election next year. “If we don’t make changes, we will lose elections,” he said.

Masina has written about how municipal coalitions can damage the ANC.

The Johannesburg region, led by chairperson Dada Morero, also wants to get out of the coalition, which has robbed him of the mayoral chain and left him to sort out a municipality in crisis. Morero is the MMC for finance in Johannesburg.

But the ANC’s provincial bosses appear to be overruling regional leaders who want to accede to the national decision of the party to cut ties with the EFF.

This may be because the EFF is rising quickly in Gauteng, where it is vying closely with the DA to be the official opposition, according to the Ipsos poll. The ANC’s majority in this lynchpin urban province is in play.

The EFF has moved party strategist Leigh-Ann Mathys to lead the campaign in Gauteng, and she is a significant figure. This weekend, the party takes over Standard Bank Arena to prep its “ground troops” for the provincial campaign.

“The EFF has an interesting support profile,” says Mari Harris, the director of public affairs at Ipsos Sub-Saharan Africa. “It has a greater diversity of geography, age, class and gender [than other parties].

“The EFF is doing better than before, but it’s too early to say if they will be the biggest beneficiary of the 2024 election. As a second-choice party, they do well because people are fed up with the ANC,” she adds.

What stands in the EFF’s way is that people, in general, are turning away from political parties.

The biggest bloc of voters is those who are not registered or do not intend to vote. Less than half of eligible young people have registered so far, and an IEC registration drive later this month is targeted at them.

Frans Cronje of the Social Research Foundation, which also released a poll last week, says he was surprised when the EFF did not poll higher in its telephonic poll.

The party is at 9% in October in the Social Research Foundation poll, which also asked a representative sample of voters for whom they would vote if an election was held the next day.

“It’s very weak, given that half of young black people do not have jobs and [in Gauteng] are surrounded by wealth and prosperity. I am amazed they are not at 50%.”

Cronje says that historically there is little appetite in South Africa for populist radicalism, which is at the heart of the politics of the EFF.

In his experience, South African voters are “immensely moderate and sensible”.

The ANC is wholly divided on what its relationship with the EFF should be. While the party’s NEC, its highest decision-making body between conferences, has decided it must cut ties, this is not a generally accepted position.

The party’s secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula – the ranking member of its mighty secretariat – has said the EFF is a natural ally of the ANC. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The dreamer Ramaphosa has been wasting his time in trying to unite a hopelessly fragmented party instead of focusing on what is really important.

    • Francois Smith says:

      Ramaphosa will go down as the worst president RSA ever had. He had all the goodwill and opportunity to unite RSA and put us on a remarkable trajectory. Hopefully for us, he has been so bad that the ANC will lose control of KZN and Gauteng next year and he musters a coalition government with a couple of small parties. That will hopefully cause the ANC to tear in at least two with the populists joining the EFF and the 3 sane ones left in the party to join an alternative. We are going to refer to the lost 9 years of Zuma plus the lost 5 of Ramaphosa and the 5 of hope that Ramaphosa has given us by trading in his spine and principles for a few populist votes.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The article is very interesting in that it is correctly showing differences within the ANC of the reasons for its electoral decline. Any Gauteng leader worth his salt would take a report by Makhura who has presided over the ANC decline in the Province and Metros in Gauteng with a pinch of sault. The question would be where does he get his wisdom after leaving office as the Chairperson of the Province. He bears the greatest responsibility for the ANC decline in Gauteng . The ANC problems arise out of the factional issues in the Provincial Conference and have nothing to do with the EFF if you speak to the ANC people on the ground. Lesufi is very much aware of that hence he sees the report as hogwash. The article puts up the polls and fails as other articles to disaggregate them according to Province for better understanding. The polls by the Social Research Group showing EFF at 9% are inaccurate as EFF is not declining and Cronje polls are ideological fit with the DA that other polls show it at 20%. Lesufi is very much aware that the ANC is blamed by communities in Gauteng townships whether it is in power or not in the Metros. One has the evidence of that in the Johannesburg Metro where ANC councillors were chased despite the DA being in power. In Tshwane the ANC was forced to vote for the budget for the same reasons. The EFF has nothing to do with the factional fights in Johannesburg that pit the Alex group against the current Chairperson with Kunene inserting himself in.

    • Graeme de Villiers says:

      I have to ask… Did Makhura shaft you in a tender or something similar? Your boringly consistent attacks on him, admittedly with full merit, make me believe that he has wronged you in a big way in the past.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    This is a big problem for the DA because disaffected ANC voters are more likely to go to the EFF than the DA. Also the DA campaign to get youth to vote is self defeating because those so convinced will likely vote EFF.

  • Rae Earl says:

    If the EFF came into power sharing with any party, the situation for SA would be desperate. There is as much honesty and will-to-work for our beleaguered country in the EFF as there is in the ANC. EFF corruption in various crooked tenders engineered by Malema and Shivambu over the years is matched by their direct and indirect theft of cash from VBS Bank, a mutual bank established to help low income balck people. SA citizens who can least afford an EFF controlled government will get steadily poorer and face increasing joblessness. The only hope now is the Multi Party Charter and they must conduct their election campaigns decisively and with a force of unity.

  • Johan Buys says:

    How do these polls correlate to EFF losing support in various by-elections and IFP gaining support?

  • Martin KolSchroeder says:

    Interesting article from Queenin and Ferial

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    When a scissor lift and a mic drop are pivotal to a parties election prospects you know democracy has been well and truly wasted on us.

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