Could the EFF be the exception to the lack of success of previous offshoots from the ANC?
In 1959, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was formed by former members of the ANC Youth League under the charismatic leader Robert Sobukwe. They felt that ANC had deviated from the programme of action propounded by ANC leader Anton Lembede in 1949. PAC founders were against the preamble of the Freedom Charter, issued in 1955, which stated, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”
From 1959, the PAC was the second-biggest political party in South Africa for black people and was more popular on the African continent than the ANC, which was assumed to be controlled by white communists.
The PAC was also thought to be the more authentic African organisation because of its standpoint on the land issue. PAC policy was for land to be given back to black Africans, whereas the ANC’s Freedom Charter said South Africa belongs to all those who live in it. The founders of the PAC were fundamentally opposed to this.
The arrests of PAC leaders including Sobukwe paralysed the organisation and it could no longer function efficiently. But the PAC continued to be the second-biggest liberation movement in South Africa, although poorly organised. At the dawn of democracy in 1994, the PAC won five seats in the National Assembly, but it has now declined to only one seat.
Then came the formation of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) in 1997, after Bantu Holomisa was expelled from the ANC for exposing corruption on the part of the former Transkei prime minister Stella Sigcau, who was then minister of public enterprises under Nelson Mandela.
At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Holomisa stated that Sigcau had been involved in corrupt activities during her tenure in the Transkei government. Instead of supporting his standpoint against corruption, ANC leaders who were sympathetic to Sigcau moved for Holomisa’s expulsion, and he was booted out of the party for demanding a clean and ethical ANC.
At its peak in the 1999 general elections, the UDM got 3.4% of the votes, but this has since declined to just under 1% of the votes. The UDM was not formed on the basis of policy differences inside the ANC but because of its attitude to corruption on the part of ANC leaders.
Then came the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) after the ANC’s Polokwane elective conference in 2007, when Thabo Mbeki lost the ANC presidential election to Jacob Zuma. The result was that Mosiuoa Lekota (a former national chairperson of the ANC and a former defence minister), Mbhazima Shilowa (former general secretary of Cosatu and former premier of Gauteng), Mluleki George (former deputy minister of defence) and William Madisha (former chairperson of the South African Communist Party) were unhappy with Zuma’s election and left the ANC in 2008 to start Cope, which was formed because of personality clashes rather than policy differences.
At its peak, Cope was the third-largest political party in Parliament, with 1,311,027 votes — equivalent to 7.42% of the national vote. It has declined due to organisational inefficiencies and personality clashes among its leaders, especially Lekota and Shilowa.
Formation of the EFF
In 2013, Julius Malema, who had been expelled as president of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), formed the Economic Freedom Fighters together with Floyd Shivambu (former ANCYL deputy president) and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (former ANCYL National Executive Committee member), using the Youth League’s slogan, “Economic freedom in our lifetime”, to name their new political party.
Malema had been expelled because of disciplinary and factional issues inside the ANC rather than policy differences. Kgalema Motlanthe (the former deputy president of the ANC) and Winnie Mandela (the late former Women’s League president) did not support the expulsion of Malema. His expulsion was moved by the ANC’s National Executive Committee under then president Jacob Zuma, then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and Derek Hanekom, the chairman of the disciplinary committee at the time.
Thursday, 27 July, will mark 10 years since the formation of EFF — now the third-biggest political party in Parliament and growing, after Malema and Shivambu left the ANC and took with them most of its youth support.
The EFF was formed mainly because of personality clashes between Zuma and Malema rather than policy differences, but significant policy differences quickly emerged, not least relating to race.
The EFF’s support will continue to increase under current conditions, with an extremely corrupt ANC in charge and a sky-high unemployment rate. It is now a year since the State Capture inquiry report was released by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and there has been no improvement in the fight against corruption. State Capture continues unabated under Ramaphosa. It is self-evident that the ANC cannot self-cleanse or self-correct under current conditions.
The EFF has changed the face of Parliament since 2009, bringing the vibrancy of young people and radical hostility to the non-racial programme of the ANC from the time of Mandela.
The EFF adamantly and vehemently fought against Zuma’s corruption, but mainly because he expelled its leaders from the ANC rather than on principle. We should remember that the Limpopo provincial government was dissolved by the national government after it was bankrupted by Cassel Mathale, as ANC premier of the province. Mathale had worked closely with Malema, who was then president of the ANCYL, and became premier after former premier Sello Moloto defected to Cope in 2009.
The South African Reserve Bank’s report in 2018 on corruption in the Venda Building Society (VBS) Mutual Bank in Limpopo found that R16,148,569 had been illegally transferred from the bank to Brian Shivambu, the younger brother of Floyd Shivambu, the co-founder and deputy president of the EFF. In 2021, Brian Shivambu paid back R4.55-millon and admitted he had received VBS money. Last year, the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court Pietermaritzburg ordered Zuma to pay back R7.8-million to VBS after he defaulted on a loan he used for upgrading his homestead at Nkandla.
In principle, the EFF cannot be trusted to fight corruption any more than Zuma can, if they assume political power in future. The standpoint of the EFF on the VBS pensioners’ bank heist in Limpopo was very revealing. The EFF failed to defend the lifetime savings of pensioners in Limpopo, who lost everything when the bank collapsed.
The EFF will not improve the living conditions of South Africans. It will implement the economic policies of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. This will lead to an economic meltdown and even further massive hardships.
Under an EFF government, South Africans could face even worse unemployment, and severe petrol and food shortages. The EFF promises milk and honey for the poor, but it is likely to deliver even worse corruption than the ANC.
The solution to South Africa’s problems lies in a radical reform of the parliamentary electoral system, empowering all citizens to hold politicians accountable to themselves, instead of empowering political parties.
We need one person, one vote of real value for all South African citizens. The rise of the EFF will continue to empower political party elites at the expense of the citizens.
We need power to the people, not power to the political parties of South Africa. DM