Defend Truth


What have you done for me lately? Not much, how ’bout you EFF?


Ismail Lagardien is a writer, columnist and political economist with extensive exposure and experience in global political economic affairs. He was educated at the London School of Economics, and holds a PhD in International Political Economy.

In general, the EFF will be expected to make the poor better off without making the rich worse off. It is an ambitious expectation, but not as ambitious as expecting people to continue living in poverty and on the streets.

Having examined the ANC and DA, albeit somewhat superficially, over the past two weeks by looking only at what these parties can and should do if or when they are elected to municipal governments in the local elections 2021 (LGE21), I turn now to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). This focused (as opposed to in-depth) look should not be misconstrued. It is simply a method of letting the electorate know what they may or may not expect where the rubber hits the road — where they live, work and play. We can set aside the EFF’s performance politics, its association with alleged corruption and so on. 

As the third-largest political party in terms of national parliamentary representation, the EFF goes into LGE21 at a distinct disadvantage. It has little to no actual experience in local governance, with some experience of rather fragile coalitions at the local and provincial level. This does not mean we should cut it any slack. What we can do is extrapolate from its stated political objectives to get a sense of what we can expect from the EFF if it does win any municipalities.  

When the EFF launched its local government election manifesto last weekend, its leader, Julius Malema, specifically stated that the manifesto was “based on many observations that we have made about the state of local government in South Africa”. It has, it seems “done its homework”. There is no getting away from the fact that municipalities run by the ANC across the country are in a diabolical state, with the DA showing some of the best results nationwide. In this way, the EFF has its work cut out for it. Should it win municipalities from the ANC, it has a lot of cleaning up to do. If it wins municipalities from the DA, it has to focus on the blind spots of the liberals — places like the Cape Flats and Khayelitsha. In these areas, there is a general sense, though not always accurate, that the DA has failed to adequately address low-cost housing in places like Cape Town.   

Local government control panel 

We know what the ANC stands for as a national movement; it is unashamedly a Marxist-Leninist movement with some ideas of Frantz Fanon thrown in — arguably to make it seem more hip and down with the kids and with barbarous professors who work in the shadows. We know that the EFF turns to the courts when it suits it (the way Benito Mussolini at first respected the Italian Constitution), but also it is generally unhappy with the political settlement at Codesa and the Constitution that emerged from that.

This was eloquently expressed by one of the EFF’s intellectuals. We may recall that Mussolini was unhappy with the political settlement at Versailles in 1919 and would eventually dismantle all the parts of the Italian Constitution that he found unsatisfying. 

What we can extrapolate from this is that the EFF will enter the electoral process like good citizens, but once it gets to the control panel of local government it might well dismantle the aspects of local government that do not suit its long-term strategic objectives. These objectives are to establish a Marxist-Leninist state where the state owns or is a “custodian” of all land, with non-Africans considered as alien. How else can one explain Malema’s toxic, populist, blood-curdling rhetoric and scapegoating of “non-Africans”, including especially Indians/Muslims/Malays in the Cape who have been told to go back to Asia? 

Parenthetically, when the EFF trashed a department store it specifically told the manager (a Muslim woman from Cape Town) to go back to Asia. That woman is one of my cousins. That the press generally is not alert to this is a reminder of how the media, especially The New York Times, missed the rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930s — until it was too late. But that’s another story. 

The rise of fascism in Italy was bolstered by a direct connection between municipal election outcomes in 1919 and later support for a national government led by Mussolini. Local government became the testing ground for the national spread of fascism in Italy. So victory for the EFF in municipal elections should suit its long-term objectives of establishing a Marxist-Leninist control panel for the country — and put into practice by fascist means.  

Tax the wealthy: Never mind the rhetoric 

Unless the EFF has clever people who are sleepers in local government, it doesn’t appear to have any experience in governance. Nobody in their right mind would take any pleasure from seeing the poor mired in misery forever. At the level of perception, the EFF may be their last chance at living a better life. I am not sure, however, that it is capable of governance. 

I am sure it has smart people in its ranks, including people who actually wrote their doctoral dissertations themselves. But from the outside it looks like it doesn’t seem to understand the difference between politics and government. If it believes it can get away with blood-curdling rhetoric and making statements about “whites”, “land theft”, “genocide” and “bloodshed”, governing a municipality that is home to black and white people is a whole different ballgame.

There may be days when you have to collect the rubbish in poor areas, and other days in rich areas. In general, the EFF will be expected to make the poor better off without making the rich worse off. It is an ambitious expectation, but it is even more ambitious to expect people to continue living in poverty and on the streets. 

While the EFF would have to be the local government of everyone (rich and poor) in a municipality it governs, the poor, the unemployed and the homeless will expect the most of the EFF in government. Malema was correct when he said at the EFF’s manifesto launch that building new houses for the poor would promote integrated human settlements and that the rich and poor must live together. 

“The EFF is going to identify a piece of land in Sandton and we are going to build RDP houses. We must not have places of the rich and places of the poor. We must bring you together because you belong together,” he said. 

He was also right in saying that so-called hijacked buildings in Gauteng and other metropolitan areas would be repossessed by an EFF local government to create accommodation for the poor. He steered away from xenophobic comments, saying buildings were not hijacked by foreigners, but by criminals “and must be returned to the people”. 

Malema also announced his party was going to impose a “property wealth tax” on all who resided in suburban areas of South Africa. “The property wealth tax will affect those that live in big houses and have big yards. We are going to tax them because they are rich; they must subsidise the poor.” He included himself and advocate Dali Mpofu among those who ought to pay a wealth tax. 

In terms of local governance, and on the face of things, the EFF’s main problem is that it is inexperienced and remains obsessed with the politics of revenge. Whites must pay for the original sin of the land, the wealthy must pay to improve the lives of the poor. In part, there is little wrong with those statements. The difficulty is whether the EFF can be trusted at the control panel of governance. 

Narrowly conceived, in local government elections people vote for people who can improve their daily lives and provide public goods and services. The EFF knows that most of its voters will be black and that most of those black people remain dispossessed materially and in very many other ways. This means that when the EFF makes municipal election speeches, it is not talking to “non-African” voters. The problem is that once in office it would have to learn to become the government of non-African and African people. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dr Know says:

    The Clicks, Vodacom and H&M store trashing were Kristalnacht Lite exercises. Watch these guys go full nazi as soon as they see their way clear.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Malema and crew belong in jail for their corrupt behaviour, that has already been revealed in the VBS saga. They have no interest in improving the lives of the poor, they simply use populist rhetoric to gain power and money. Shameful people with no understanding of modern government.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    If Malema considers himself wealthy, the question needs to be raised, where does this wealth come from. Honesty and hard work may make you comfortable, but never wealthy.

  • Peter Worman says:

    I wouldn’t trust this man further then I could throw him. He’d have all citizens united in poverty except of course himself and his fellow leaders. The sooner the ANC and the EFF ditch their communist ideals the better. What we need is a mix of socialism and capitalism whereby jobs are created so people are not dependant on hand-outs from the government. Dishing out land willy-nilly will only further bankrupt SA

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Anyone voting for the EFF is, in my opinion, doing exactly that …Electing F*cking Fools!
    The Damn Arrogant stand a better chance of delivering to the people!
    Another Nasty Corruption have had their chance and blown it!
    The acronyms say it all!

  • Gordon Oliver says:

    Lagardien says “the DA has failed to adequately address low-cost housing in places like Cape Town.”
    It seems he does not know that local low cost housing is a national responsibility, not a local government function? Blame the ANC incompetent government!!

  • James McQueQue says:

    Besides Dali Mpofu, does anyone in their party have any actual work experience outside politics?

  • Alan Paterson says:

    The EFF is a one man band. Malema Inc. Their so-called “intellectuals” are irrelevant. Floyd, and brother Brian, are/were the cash cows. To paraphrase Smuts, Malema did not join the struggle to be poor. Identify land in Sandton? To be sure not Sandton City or where would they shop? A disgusting rabble, all of them.

  • Stephen T says:

    “Whites must pay for the original sin of the land, the wealthy must pay to improve the lives of the poor. In part, there is little wrong with those statements.”
    That, Ismail, is why you fail.

    However, the multiple references to the lessons of history and specifically to fascism is a welcome change. The EFF need to be called out for what they truly are at every opportunity.

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    The only reason the EFF is anything is that the media made them something and continues to do so.

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