Will the EFF sur­vive beyond Zuma?

The EFF, built around the charisma of its found­ing leader Malema, faces a chal­lenge of build­ing struc­tures on the ground in the same way as the ANC and DA have done, write and

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

ON A scorch­ing hot Sun­day af­ter­noon in Oc­to­ber 2013, a boor­ish Julius Malema apol­o­gised to a crowd of his sup­port­ers, gath­ered at Nka­neng in­for­mal set­tle­ment in Marikana, North West, for sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

It was the oc­ca­sion of the launch of his new party, the EFF, hap­pen­ing strate­gi­cally at the site of a fa­tal shoot­ing of 34 min­ers in 2012, one of the big­gest mas­sacres in post-apartheid South Africa.

Malema was fresh from the wilder­ness, hav­ing been ex­pelled by Zuma and the ANC from a party he grew up in, a party he once charged he would never leave.

Not only had he been ex­pelled but the fiery young leader was stripped of his farm, a man­sion in Sand­ton and he was fac­ing charges of tax eva­sion for mil­lions of rand.

Many thought that was the end of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. Malema was a bit­ter man. You could pick this up in the way he tore into Zuma, a man who once pro­claimed that the young leader would one day be the pres­i­dent of the coun­try.

Malema told a cheer­ing crowd that they should refuse to vote for Zuma, a leader he had played a cen­tral role in help­ing to cat­a­pult to the Union Build­ings.

“Refuse to vote for a singer and dancer,” he said. “We want a thinker to drive the pol­icy of our coun­try. We do not want an old man who dances like a teenager. Ev­ery time he dances, older peo­ple look down with shame.

“I apol­o­gise for giv­ing you a medi­ocre non-thinker and non-reader. We must vote for states­men, we must vote for the restora­tion of the im­age of South Africa,” he added.

Malema vowed that Zuma would pay for ex­pelling him from the ANC Youth League.

Even af­ter the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, he de­manded Zuma’s oust­ing as one of the de­mands to form a coali­tion with the ANC.

This week, Malema re­peated that the EFF would work with the ANC only if Zuma was charged with cor­rup­tion af­ter the 2019 elec­tions.

Such is the anger with JZ, as Zuma is known.

The red berets have un­dressed and em­bar­rassed the pres­i­dent in Par­lia­ment, and forced his hand to pay R7.8 mil­lion for the Nkandla up­grade, in a vic­tory that ce­mented the EFF’s place in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

No man has been sub­jected to the EFF’s wrath and scorn, or been at the cen­tre of the EFF growth plan like Zuma has.

To­mor­row, Malema’s party will throw a bash in Dur­ban in cel­e­bra­tion of its fourth birth­day.

This will be tak­ing place four months be­fore Zuma steps down as the ANC pres­i­dent.

And depend­ing on what hap­pens at the ANC’s elec­tive con­fer­ence, there ex­ists a real pos­si­bil­ity that the pres­i­dent might not fin­ish his term at the Union Build­ings in 2019.

For Zuma has been the gift that kept on giv­ing to op­po­si­tion par­ties, such as the EFF, how will the fight­ers sur­vive beyond Zuma?

And what are the party’s prospects at the 2019 elec­tions?

To try to pre­dict the EFF’s fu­ture, per­haps one needs to draw from its past.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Pro­fes­sor Mce­bisi Ndletyana says the lead­er­ship cri­sis in the ANC has been a fac­tor that has pre­oc­cu­pied the EFF since its 2013 for­ma­tion and its 2014 ar­rival in Par­lia­ment.

How­ever, he cau­tioned that it would be a mis­take for any­one to re­duce the EFF’s ex­is­tence solely on its gripe with the pres­i­dent be­cause the party’s poli­cies spoke to a far wider ar­ray of is­sues that res­onated with marginalised peo­ple, es­pe­cially black peo­ple.

“Since their ar­rival in Par­lia­ment, they have brought to the fore, quite force­fully, some of the un­com­fort­able is­sues that the ANC has been hes­i­tant to deal with, es­pe­cially the is­sue of land. For the very fact that the EFF, in its elec­toral de­but, was able to get the 6% that it got, it is an in­di­ca­tion of the res­o­nance of this mes­sage,” Ndletyana said.

The EFF has 25 seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly.

“There will con­tinue to be other is­sues for the party to high­light, as it is do­ing now, which goes beyond its fight with the pres­i­dent.”

But it would be fool­hardy to be­lieve that the EFF’s de­ci­sion to cel­e­brate its fourth birth­day in Zuma’s home prov­ince is not a chal­lenge to the pres­i­dent in his back­yard.

In fact, Malema has made it known that the EFF in­tends grow­ing its mem­ber­ship and voter base in a prov­ince known to vote along eth­nic Zulu lines.

At the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions, the EFF at­tained a dis­mal 1.8% of the votes in KwaZulu-Natal – rep­re­sent­ing two seats in the leg­is­la­ture.

Al­though the to­tal per­cent­age in KwaZulu-Natal grew to 3.46% in last year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, this is hardly a sig­nif­i­cant show­ing to prove it’s ready to take on the jug­ger­nauts – the ANC and the IFP – which is why the party is cel­e­brat­ing in Dur­ban this week.

Asked whether the EFF would fall by the way­side much like other ANC splin­ter par­ties such as the United Demo­cratic Move­ment (UDM) and Cope, Ndletyana said he did not fore­see the EFF drop­ping voter sup­port at the next elec­tions in 2019.

He said it had a far more sta­ble lead­er­ship col­lec­tive than Cope ever had.

“Cope started show­ing signs of un­rav­el­ling be­fore it had even com­pleted a year into its ex­is­tence.

“Re­mem­ber, go­ing into the 2009 elec­tions where Cope had been formed in Novem­ber in the pre­vi­ous year, there were al­ready squab­bles over who should be on the bal­lot pa­per – whether it should have been Mvume Dan­dala or it should’ve been Mr (Mo­siuoa) Lekota,” he said.

“For a while, there was ten­sion and there was some form of a com­pro­mise that Mvume should be the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, but Lekota would re­main the pres­i­dent of the party, some­thing like that. And that ten­sion led to Mvume leav­ing the party. Since then, the party has just un­rav­elled.”

Ndletyana said the EFF was in its fourth year and he had yet to wit­ness any lead­er­ship in­sta­bil­i­ties at na­tional level.

“Malema is an un­ques­tioned leader of the party. There has been some level of fra­cas at pro­vin­cial lev­els, but the party was very quick in deal­ing with that. This is mainly be­cause Malema has ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with re­bel­lious el­e­ments within a party,” he said, al­lud­ing to the EFF’s core lead­er­ship mainly made up of for­mer Youth League mem­bers.

“How­ever, it is likely to re­sem­ble the UDM in terms of its lead­er­ship struc­ture. The EFF will not sur­vive an­other leader be­cause it is a pa­tron party built around the charisma of its found­ing leader,” Ndletyana said.

“Yes, its poli­cies res­onate with a lot of peo­ple out there, but I think the at­trac­tion to the party is more about the charisma of its leader.”

The EFF’s big­gest chal­lenge will be to have a pres­ence in al­most ev­ery street like the ANC or ev­ery sub­urb like the DA.

That the EFF will be the gov­ern­ing party in 2019 ap­pears, at best, a pipe dream.

What is cer­tain, though, is that Malema can once again emerge as a king­maker that might take the crown away from the ANC in 2019, in much the same way he did help wres­tle con­trol of met­ros from the rul­ing party.

But for the time be­ing, can the party sur­vive Zuma’s ab­sence?

That re­mains to be seen. Ge­orge Matlala is In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s Gaut­eng pol­i­tics ed­i­tor and Khaya Koko is a jour­nal­ist for The Star

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.