EFF’s Malema, Zille tipped their hat to the beret

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

IT WAS the year of the beret, with politi­cians rang­ing from Julius Malema to He­len Zille don­ning the sig­na­ture head­gear, but there’s more to the red beret than just a stylish jaun­ti­ness, ac­cord­ing to the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers ( EFF) Western Cape con­vener.

“The berets give us a greater sense of dis­ci­pline be­cause the beret is sym­bolic of the head­gear you would wear in the mil­i­tary,” said Nazier Paulsen, the EFF’s pro­vin­cial elec­toral strate­gist.

“One of the prob­lems in many or­gan­i­sa­tions is that there isn’t a strong sense of or­gan­i­sa­tional dis­ci­pline. We need peo­ple that, when de­ci­sions are made at a cer­tain level, ac­tu­ally fol­low those de­ci­sions.”

Berets have been used widely in the mil­i­tary since World War 2. They are cheap and easy to make, take up lit­tle room and, most im­por­tant, don’t fall off. Their dif­fer­ent colours and in­signia help cre­ate a sense of unit pride, and build morale.

For the EFF, the sale of berets brings in funds too.

“All our ac­tiv­i­ties are funded by our mem­bers,” said Paulsen. “The red beret, as won­der­ful as it is, as much as we would like to give it away, is used to gen­er­ate funds.

“No­body is go­ing to put money into a move­ment like ours (whose pol­icy is to) na­tion­alise and ex­pro­pri­ate land,” he said.

On the party’s web­site, the berets sell for R80. They are so pop­u­lar that the EFF now tells its Twit­ter fol­low­ers as soon as new stocks ar­rive.

“All sell­ing at a su­per­sonic speed al­ready. Get yours quick!” the party posted late last month.

The head­gear also links the party to beret-wear­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and politi­cians whom many EFF mem­bers ad­mire.

Paulsen said th­ese in­cluded Che Gue­vara, Fidel Cas­tro, for­mer Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez, and as­sas­si­nated Burk­ina Faso Pres­i­dent Thomas Sankara.

Sankara’s in­flu­ence on the EFF is ev­i­dent in the “Sankara oath” that the party would like to in­tro­duce and that would make gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials pledge only to use pub­lic ser­vices.

Dur­ing his four-year pres­i­dency in the 1980s, Sankara was known for his aus­ter­ity. For ex­am­ple, he sold min­is­ters’ ex­pen­sive gov­ern­ment cars, re­plac­ing them with smaller, cheaper mod­els.

The red beret was Sankara’s signa- ture. An Au­gust 1986 As­so­ci­ated Press re­port about a Non-Aligned Move­ment meet­ing in Zim­babwe states: “Thomas Sankara of Burk­ina Faso came in mil­i­tary fa­tigues and a red beret, a pis­tol on his right hip.”

He was killed on Oc­to­ber 15, 1987, dur­ing a coup launched by his col­league Cap­tain Blaise Com­paoré, who as­sumed the pres­i­dency and has been in power since.



MER­CHAN­DISE: Its sig­na­ture red beret also helps to keep the EFF afloat.

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