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The EFF and ANC’s shared tendencies of social hatred and the politics of revenge


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.

The politics of revenge is part of the clear fascist leanings of the EFF and the totalitarianism of the ANC. It brings them together.

We have reached a point where there is little blue sky between the ANC and the EFF. This is most evident in the way that the politics of revenge, sometimes Biblical revenge, is spreading under the banners of these two political formations.

This may be because when Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC he took the ANC Youth League’s beliefs and values, including its rhetoric, with him and established the EFF. It became clear, early on in the life of the EFF, that they had become an outgrowth of the Youth League, and that the EFF’s policies were merely “a copy and paste from the ANCYL’s resolutions in 2011”.

It may also be because of a terribly misguided belief that revenge is a necessary recourse to justice that open hostility is a useful rallying cry for support, that “non-Africans” must, today, suffer the pain that “real Africans” have endured for centuries, and (at the far reaches of plausibility) that the state alone is responsible for wellbeing in society.

This is not an anti-state argument… it is simply to recall Benito Mussolini’s formulation of the totalitarian ideal: “everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” We will get back to that below.

In recent months, the policy differences and elements of their respective programmes of action have bled into one, and there has been increasing speculation of coalitions between the two formations in national, provincial and local governments. (See here, here, and here).

While this rapprochement between the “broad church” that is the ANC, and the ersatz leftist (increasingly fascistic) EFF may be part of electoral pushing and shoving and Malema’s belief that he has to be president of South Africa, it is on the politics of revenge that is of greater, more immediate concern.

Let’s take a walk into some of the ideas about hatred…

Social hostility, hatred and revenge

Over the past several years there has been a rise in EFF propaganda expressed in crude hatred of white people (see report on slogan “kill all whites” and now-tired appeals from Andile Mngxitama’s political movements to kill whites) and more and more gaslighting of “non-African blacks” — specifically directed at South Africans of Asian heritage.

This prejudice has been extended insultingly via social media also to Africans who are described as “coconuts”, who speak English “with a Model C” accent, Jacob Zuma’s “clever blacks” or people who listened to particular radio station broadcasts — the so-called 702 blacks. As a footnote: the idea of a white genocide is a myth. South African society is marked by extreme violence, especially murder, across the population.

One way to understand this growing spread of violent prejudice and hatred is the way in which powerful rhetoric by monocratic leaders (dictators, autocrats or people who believe they have a divine right to govern) amount to social influence that establishes a range of prejudices from anti-semitism, racism, sexism or homophobia to outright vitriol and outbursts against people who are considered to be “outsiders”.

One explanation that intellectually eludes me is Freud’s “narcissism of sameness”. During the inter-war years, he wrote:

“The Jewish people, scattered everywhere, have rendered the most useful services to the civilisations of the countries that have been their hosts; but unfortunately all the massacres of the Jews in the Middle Ages did not suffice to make that period more peaceful and secure for their Christian fellows. When once the Apostle Paul had posited universal love between men as the foundation of his Christian community, extreme intolerance on the part of Christendom towards those who remained outside it became the inevitable consequence.”

What does sound plausible is that once South Africans were told we are all equal under law, this “sameness” provoked a probably greater intolerance. There are distinct echoes of this in the fact that Europeans arrived in southern Africa as a “same” group of colonisers (a solid white front), but would split into Afrikaans and English speakers — though not entirely. This split remains vaguely evident in the current differences between the Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus.

Another example of this comes from Anthony Sampson in the New York Times under the headline “South Africa: the Time Bomb Ticks” (in 1964!)

“The despair of the Africans is not derived simply from a harried and oppressed existence; it comes from the fact that they have been first lured into the Western world, and then shut out from it; that they have seen larger horizons, but have been pushed back into their back yards; that every day they feel aware of the humiliation of their race.”

In other words, you let people into the sameness, and as soon as they’re in, you take it away and divide them up… It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around that completely…

South African society is marked by a battle between the past (past injustice) and the (just) future; the present becomes hallowed grounds for claims about innocence and guilt. The political economic way ahead into a just future begins with excoriating the guilty for past injustice and any resistance or objections are met with, or at least threatened with, violence. This is the space into which the politics of revenge steps.

We can start with a question: do you exact revenge, or do the victims and villains work to establish a stable, non-violent future?

One thing is for sure; violence and killing cannot solve social problems. The Atlantic community killed most all Nazis, and the Nazi movement in Europe during and after the Second World War, but the world is not rid of anti-semitism. I would venture a guess that if you killed every white supremacist, racism would not die, nor would patriarchy or misogyny end if you killed all males.

So there is no misunderstanding, we have to support the Constitution’s insistence that the injustices and wrongs of the past have to be rolled back. It is also important to stress that there can be no political-economic transformation without addressing the land question.

The naysayers might want to look at the history of land reforms as the start of political economic development across the world in varying ideological polities — see Taiwan from 1895 onward, or land reforms in Poland from 1764 well into the early 20th century. Poland’s The Land Reform Implementation Act of 1920, and the amendment of 1925, laid the legal foundations for land redistribution.

Land reform and distribution is not always just or benevolent. Sometimes it can lead to large-scale human and social disasters. The evidence for this is when Europeans appropriated land from indigenous people in North America, and when two land-people engineering projects during Mao’s Cultural Revolution led to millions of deaths. Maintenance of the status quo is no guarantee of a stable future in South Africa. Land redistribution is necessary but probably insufficient…

Suffer everyone: Punished for sins of the fathers

We are political prisoners of the past. South Africa’s past is one of European oppression and injustice in southern Africa, and at home in Europe, for what it’s worth.

It was in that past when our attitudes to others were shaped. White against black; Afrikaner against English-speakers; “non-African” against African… South Africa has become, then, a place of intense anger (not so much different from the age of anger that Pankaj Mishra so eloquently wrote about) and recrimination, with very distinct trends of vengefulness.

For their past injustices, and the suffering of black people, Julius Malema has embarked on revenge politics, a Biblical punishment for sins of the father. White people, and presumably non-Africans in general must suffer what black people suffered in the past. This, and not the Bill of Rights, seems to be the only way that there can be redress.

The ANC’s Panyaza Lesufi joins the ANC in targeting Afrikaans-language schools, less as a means to address mother-tongue instruction in indigenous languages, but because past injustices were codified in that language. Where genocide kills people, a people and their culture can be decimated by killing the languages that represent communities.

This politics of revenge is part of the clear fascist leanings of the EFF and the totalitarianism of the ANC. It brings them together.

Consider the ANC’s response to when communities sought to free themselves from the state enterprise formally responsible for the generation and supply of electricity, and generate their own power. The state’s response has been like saying; you have to get it from the state, and if the state can’t provide it you must suffer like everyone else.

Part of the state’s response to households generating solar energy is to tax it heavily and place it out of reach. The message here is you either get it from the state or you don’t get it at all. This is Mussolini’s formulation of the totalitarian ideal: “everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”  

This is not to say that taxation is bad, it is simply to state that South Africa has an energy crisis, compounded by a crisis of the state and extreme rent-seeking by elites. Those elites are precisely those inside and outside the state, including those in Parliament.

The EFF and ANC leaders share among them forms of capital (cultural, social, symbolic and economic) and that places them in positions of power and privilege.

To them, rolling back the injustices of the past is primarily a pecuniary pursuit, even if it takes bloodshed and violence, a position that Julius Malema has held since his days in the ANC, and that he has restated as leader of the EFF. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Don Garcia says:

    Unfortunately, the ANC and EFF politicians are living a life of luxury whilst their followers wallow in poverty and unemployment. why don’t they reduce their exorbitant salaries and distribute that to the poor and suffer the effects of their own incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and criminality.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Well written analysis

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Whilst revenge may be understandable, given the severe injustice of Apartheid, the ANC/EFF has to truly examine whether this will in anyway improve the quality of life for the masses.
    Race based laws, cadre deployment, EWC etc have simply seen an ongoing destruction of our economy and a flight of skills desperately needed to create jobs.
    Not smart – but then is this really about getting a piece of the pie, even if it is shrinking as a result ?

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Ultimately doesn’t it all come down to the chase for power and (possibly), money by a certain faction in any group, whether it be racial, religious, or whatever? You only have to look at someone like Juju, who epitomises that concept. Or someone like Putin, who apparently has a stash of about a hundred billion dollars. Probably the worst for me are the religious ones, though, who sell a book of fairy tales as ‘the truth’ despite lies like Mary was a virgin despite it just being a mistranslation from the ancient Hebrew. Look at Trump with the evangelicals. And don’t forget that apartheid was based mainly on the ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ nonsense from the same book!

  • Anthony Akerman says:

    When I was in exile – back in the 1980s – at conferences I already detected authoritarian leanings among (unelected) ANC leaders. It’s clear who they took their cue from. It’s the country that’s funding the ANC today. It’s a miracle that the authoritarian ANC and the authoritarian NP bequeathed us a liberal constitution. Did they do so to spite each other?
    Julius Malema’s style is unambiguously fascistic. Interestingly, Mussolini had a socialist background and was editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti. I applaud you for identifying him as a fascist – but perhaps he has no problem with the label. Facebook does. I once put up a picture of Mussolini next to Malema and the post was taken down.
    Your analysis is excellent and we need this sort of thing in a political space dominated by populist rhetoric.

  • blaxx47 says:

    Listening to Malema on BBC yesterday, my take-away is that he is actually looking forward to the looming total collapse of the electricity network, as THAT will be the trigger for a NATIONAL uprising and revolution – like around Durban nearly two years ago, but on a nation-wide scale. Looting, burning, and murdering, until there is nothing left, and the non-africans are utterly dispossessed if not annihilated.
    How that will solve the country’s many problems he did not say, but revenge will be his, and he and his followers will stand triumphant on top of the smoking ruins of the country.

  • Dee Bee says:

    The issue that both the ANC and EFF have, along with the rest of the left, is that they have no ability to think about how to GROW the pie as a form of redistribution and advancement: everything is about dividing up a pie and damned be the consequences. The puerile obsession with ‘revolutionary rhetoric’ belies an inability to admit that:
    a) socialism failed miserably in every country that took a radical route with it;
    b) that simply shouting the same tired cliches over and again does not good policy make: and it is good policy that lifts people out of poverty, not slack-jawed, wild-eyed ‘revolutionary’ soundbites.

    To whit: in 1980, before sanctions really bit, SA was the 23rd largest economy globally, according to the IMF. We were in the same ballpark as Turkey’s and Iran’s, and larger than Austria, Denmark, Venezuela, Norway, Poland, Greece, Finland, Columbia, Romania, Algeria, Taiwan and the UAE. By 1990, when sanctions and regional wars (including internal) had exhausted the apartheid state, Austria, Taiwan, Finland and Denmark had overtaken us. By 2000, with growth unfettered, we dropped to 31st, Poland and Hong Kong overtaking us; by 2010 – peak growth – back to 28th, overtaking Austria, Denmark and Venezuela, by 2020 – the disaster decade – overtaken by most of the EU countries, and Nigeria, Egypt, Bangladesh, Philippines, UAE, and Malaysia, to languish in 40th. By 2028 the IMF has us 42nd – overtaken by mighty Romania. Our policy, given our resources, is crap.

    • blaxx47 says:

      Would those rankings be measured as GDP in US$, or adjusted for Purchasing Power Equity? (E.g., Russia is 11th or 12th measured in dollars at current exchange rates, but when measured per PPP, it moves up to the 6th largest economy in the world)
      I would be interested to hear which four countries bracketed SA in 21st to 25th places in 1980.
      I have an idea that the JSE’s trades ranked it in the Top Ten stockmarkets of the world, around 1980 (when One Rand cost you $1.40)

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    It is unfortunate but a large part of the ‘electorate’ is enamoured by the promise of a ‘better life for all’ fable and knows little better of the consequences ! The visionary outlook of Madiba and his ‘mentor’ Tutu has been lost on most of the ‘followers’ whose personal interests (and their fellow travelers) take precedence. In a clear-eyed way they both ‘warned’ us of the scenario Ismail so ably postulates. Across the globe in various societies (post Gandhian India is an example of that) hate is easier to provoke, than genuinely embracing difference (‘compromise’ being an essential ingredient) … a difficult project at the best of times. Thanks Ismail.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Of course hate is infectious and gives license for more hate. . In a recent phenomenon groups who purported to be ” pro Palestine, anti-Zionist but not anti semitic” have given up that pretence. Now they protest outside the Jewish community offices openly intimidating visitors and shouting age old anti semitic tropes. A new one is that the Jews started the war in Ukraine.

  • rmrobinson says:

    Words words words. Just stop talking and start doing the job.

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