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Mainstream media’s shockingly antagonistic attitude to the EFF

Lubabalo Ntsholo works as a Researcher for the EFF in the National Assembly. He previously worked as a strategist and project coordinator in both the land reform and biodiversity conservation sectors. He holds a masters degree in development studies from UCT, and a second masters in land and agrarian studies from UWC.

The protagonists of a co-ordinated attack directed at the EFF have been peddling myths about what the EFF stands for, and thrown journalistic caution on the subject of fairness and objectivity out of the window in their relentless efforts to pulverise the idea of economic freedom in this lifetime.

The success of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) motion in Parliament for land expropriation without compensation has ignited a flurry of reactions from a number of South Africans in general, and from white people in particular.

Most of these reactions from mainstream media have taken a shockingly antagonistic approach to the entire project of economic freedom, as advanced by the EFF and other progressive forces.

Under the pretext of protecting an imagined unity of South Africans across the colour line, the protagonists of this co-ordinated attack directed at the EFF have been peddling myths about what the EFF stands for, and thrown journalistic caution on the subject of fairness and objectivity out of the window in their relentless efforts to pulverise the idea of economic freedom in this lifetime.

Soon after the passing of the motion for land expropriation without compensation, Mondli Makhanya, the editor of City Press, whose views are perhaps the only ones worth a substantive response, penned an emotive article which was in its entirety devoid of facts. He claimed that political parties in Parliament, led by the EFF, to start a process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution, went to “extraordinary lengths of fiddling with the Constitution to solve a problem that does not exist”.

For him, there are no “land hungry masses”, because if that was the case, we would not have “sprawling informal settlements and the overcrowded hostels in towns and cities”. He asks, “But what are they doing in the cities if they are land hungry?”

Had he bothered to at least uncover some semblance of the truth, he would have easily found that the 2016 Community Survey of Agricultural Households by Statistics South Africa indicated that in total, there are about 2.3-million agricultural households in South Africa, the bulk of them in KwaZulu-Natal, followed by the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

These are households that regularly practise agriculture, either as a main source of livelihood or as a complementary activity to other sources of income.

He would also have found that blacks had the highest representation of these agricultural households at 15.5%, followed by whites at 8.6%. But strangely, 85% of black agricultural households were using their back yards to plough, and a mere 6% used farms. In contrast, 58% of whites used their relatively large backyards for agriculture, and 38% had access to farmland.

This ought to expose the myth of a de-agrarian black population as explicated by Makhanya as bankrupt to the core. It also exposes his claim that there are no “land hungry masses” as intellectual opportunism on his part.

Black people are practising agriculture, against all odds; black people do not have land. And it is these agricultural households which must constitute the core of the new vision for agrarian transformation in this country. This is but one of many instances where journalists are showing their lack of depth in the analysis of the historical epoch South Africa is at.

After the unfortunate incident where the Deputy President of the EFF had a scuffle with a Netwerk24 journalist, Ferial Haffajee, the Editor-at-Large of Huffington Post South Africa, quickly tweeted:

These people want to one day lead the country. Over our dead bodies.”

This is an editor of a growing news agency in this country, and she declared that the EFF would come to power “over their dead bodies”. Nothing objective can ever be expected from her and the news agency she leads as far as fair reporting of the EFF is concerned. She has been consistently without shame in her defence of the status quo, and as her tweet showed, she is prepared to throw all the weight of the media house she runs to ensure the EFF and the agenda it represents are demonised.

Sikonathi Mantshantsha, the deputy editor of the Financial Mail, together with Gareth van Onselen, a former spin doctor of the Democratic Alliance turned researcher for the Institute for Race Relations, are miles ahead of everyone else in their spirited demonisation of the EFF.

From likening Julius Malema to Eugene Terre’blanche and Hilter, to calling him a fascist and a racist, the real agenda of these gentlemen has never been to interrogate the EFF and its policy propositions, but rather to project an image of unthinking infants intent on destroying the country and sowing seeds or racial disharmony, as if there was ever a time in the history of this country when there was harmony between races.

Many others, such as Justice Malala, Adam Habib and Max du Preez have joined the fray. The idea is clear: influence consumers with their analysis as much as possible, and thwart, by all means necessary, the growth of the EFF. This would all be okay if these gentlemen were politicians, not supposed objective analysts and journalists.

None of these critics has ever provided an informed and deep critique of the EFF’s policy propositions; they have no interest in having that sort of engagement. Their only interest is to influence those who consume news to have a particular view of the EFF, not based on fact, but on subjective sentiment.

The co-ordinated media assault on the EFF is at the core a reaction to the realisation that the EFF and the kind of society it envisions are a threat to the continued exploitation of all black people. The resolution by the ANC conference in December 2017 for land expropriation without compensation has horrified proponents of neoliberalism and racially skewed development that has characterised this country. And instead of turning their vitriol on the ANC, the party in government, they have decided to attack the EFF, because they now realise the real possibility of the EFF wielding persuasive power over the ANC, without necessarily being in state power.

The assault therefore is a manifestation of the unwillingness of the powerful elite to transform society, it is a manifestation of their fear of freedom, as Paulo Freire would say. Freire observed:

Men and women rarely admit their fear of freedom openly, however, tending rather to camouflage it, sometimes unconsciously, by presenting themselves as defenders of freedom. They give their doubts and misgivings an air of profound sobriety, as befitting custodians of freedom. But they confuse freedom with the maintenance of the status quo; so that if the conscious threatens to place that status quo in question, it thereby seems to constitute a threat to freedom itself.”

The real fear therefore is not fear of the EFF, or of Julius Malema or Floyd Shivambu, but it is the fear of any possibility of young black people affirming themselves and their humanity, and demanding, sometimes forcefully, a radical transformation of society in a manner that threatens submerged interests of the powerful elite.

If the EFF is allowed to grow, the emergence and societal influence of this militant group of young black people who are tired of being the wretched of the earth, of being hewers of wood and drawers of water, is inevitable.

Frantz Fanon appositely captured this dynamic in Black Skins White Masks:

The disaster of the man of colour is that he was enslaved. The disaster and the inhumanity of the white man lie in the fact that somewhere, he has killed man. And even today they subsist, to organise this dehumanisation rationally.”

African revolutionaries were also warned by Thomas Sankara of this co-ordinated organisation of black people’s dehumanisation rationally when he noted that “imperialism is everywhere. Through the culture that it spreads, through its misinformation, it gets us to think like it does, it gets us to submit to it, and to go along with all its manoeuvres. For goodness’ sake, we must stand in imperialism’s way.”

The rage by white analysts in the main and a few black elites at the transformative ideals of the EFF must be seen in this regard. They are eager to rationalise the continued dehumanisation of blacks by persuading blacks through fake intellectualism to willingly sustain the colonial architecture of racism, and not imagine a different set of power relations.

They fear that the success of the land expropriation without compensation motion would be the beginning of a process of unravelling the very nature of power relations in South Africa, and they are correct that it would.

The only authentic voice for this kind of upheaval of the repressive nature of power relations at the moment is the EFF, and it must be attacked, by all means necessary. Honest fighters for the restoration of the dignity of African people must resist this brigade, at all costs, as Sankara pleaded with us.

Authentic analysts and journalists interested in the advancement of the country must criticise the EFF, to expose its weaknesses, without resorting to be party-political in their posture. DM


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