Opinionista Tokelo Nhlapo 14 February 2018

The EFF’s ‘internal revolution’ is a liberal imaginary

In his two-part piece on the EFF, Gareth van Onselen attempts to impose liberal or federal notions of organisational discipline on the EFF, taking issue with democratic centralism, a standard Leninist organisational system in which policy is deliberated and decided centrally and is binding on all structures.

The recent report by former Democratic Alliance spin doctor-turned-political journalist Gareth van Onselen, who is also the liberal SA Institute of Race Relations’ head of politics and governance (EFF’s internal revolution, Politicsweb), is a demonstration of how liberals enjoy an unchallenged narrative which relies on manipulation and exaggeration, and lacks either substance or any critical analysis. The less said about the Institute of Race Relations, its history and spewed anti-intellectual rhetoric, the better.

The report superficially analyses the EFF’s imaginary instability and division based on the resignation of Members of Parliament, some whom have been redeployed to serve provincial legislatures and municipal councils for better organisational efficiency, in addition to the expulsion of three former MPs, all of whom have formed their own parties or joined others.

MPs from all parties resign for various reasons including from the DA, such as Makashule Gana, Nqaba Bhanga and Dianne Kohler Barnard to name but a few. The suggestion that the redeployment of EFF public representatives signals the party’s instability and division is not only delusional but intellectually lazy.

Van Onselen conveniently omitted that while his former party, the DA, gained 89 MPs from the 2014 general elections, in a period of well over 20 years, the EFF announced its candidacy for elections a mere 10 months before the elections and gained 31 MPs, 6% of the electorate. Though participating for the first time in the country’s local government elections, the EFF is represented in almost all municipal councils with more than 800 councillors. The EFF is by far the fastest-growing and arguably most stable political organisation in South Africa.

In the two-part report, Van Onselen admits that most MPs have been reorganised to serve in different capacities; those that have not been reorganised in legislatures continue to serve in the party and in its Central Command Team. He attempts to impose liberal or federal notions of organisational discipline on the EFF, taking issue with democratic centralism, a standard Leninist organisational system in which policy is deliberated and decided centrally and is binding on all structures.

Van Onselen superficially suggests that restructuring party representatives in the national legislatures signals an autocratic party that is divided. Without providing evidence, he claims that the EFF’s “internal organisational culture is highly regimented and authoritarian”.

Liberal attacks on the EFF are certainly not new. In fact, they signify a choking voice that cannot stomach the popularity of the red berets whose arrival has changed the country’s political landscape.

In fact, one is tempted to think that Van Onselen’s attack on the EFF is a poorly orchestrated attempt to shift focus from the embattled DA leadership in City of Cape Town. It is becoming more evident that not only is the DA similar to the ANC in policy, but equally in a leadership crisis, the politics of patronage and corruption. DM

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