EFF won’t prey on vexed vot­ers

The party says its sup­port base will come from the ‘miss­ing vot­ers’, those who’ve never voted or be­longed to a party

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

The Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters (EFF) says it won’t “scav­enge” for the votes of dis­grun­tled ANC and Demo­cratic Al­liance mem­bers head­ing up to next year’s elec­tions but in­stead would tar­get regis­tered vot­ers who stay away from the polls.

In the 2014 na­tional elec­tions, of the more than 25-mil­lion peo­ple who regis­tered to vote, only 18.5-mil­lion cast their vote, ac­cord­ing to the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion. This meant that more than six mil­lion peo­ple did not vote.

EFF sec­re­tary gen­eral Go­drich Gardee said the party would fo­cus on this group — peo­ple who have never voted be­fore and those who do vote but have never been mem­bers of a po­lit­i­cal party.

“Let the DA [mem­bers] keep on eat­ing each other as is hap­pen­ing in the ANC. We have got a spe­cific seg­ment as the EFF, which we must con­cen­trate on. The EFF must look for the miss­ing vot­ers,” he said.

“What we have picked up is that most of the EFF’s paid-up mem­bers and vot­ers are peo­ple who never voted in their life­times be­fore. They never be­lieved in pol­i­tics be­fore. EFF has at­tracted those cit­i­zens who ac­tu­ally never be­lieved in vot­ing or be­long­ing to po­lit­i­cal par­ties.”

De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing the ANC and the DA, which are pre­dicted to have a neg­a­tive elec­toral ef­fect on both par­ties next year, the EFF be­lieves it has lit­tle to gain from un­happy sup­port­ers of these par­ties.

“We can’t be scav­engers and hye­nas look­ing for car­cass bod­ies. It would be op­por­tunis­tic of us,” Gardee said. “And most such peo­ple from other po­lit­i­cal par­ties are in­her­ently dis­rup­tive. They usu­ally think they come from one or­gan­i­sa­tion to the EFF, hor­i­zon­tally, with their own po­si­tion.

“The DA has got a loyal voter base. You can’t touch it. It would be fu­tile to even at­tempt that. The ANC is a brand among the older gen­er­a­tion be­cause they have lived apartheid.”

The niche the EFF is tar­get­ing in­cludes young and first-time vot­ers, specif­i­cally in the 18- to 29-year-old bracket, which ac­counts for 21% of the 26-mil­lion vot­ers cur­rently regis­tered for next year’s elec­tions.

This year marks the EFF’s fifth an­niver­sary, fol­low­ing the ex­pul­sion of its lead­ers Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu from the ANC.

Pre­dic­tions about the party’s chances of suc­cess are gloomy but Gardee said the EFF had con­tin­ued to grow and now had a foot­print in 81% of the coun­try’s 4 329 IEC-listed wards.

The party at­tributes its growth to its bot­tom-up ap­proach to lead­er­ship, which Gardee said en­sured the EFF re­mained rooted in the issues of cit­i­zens.

“I re­ceived a DM [di­rect mes­sage] from a kid in Tem­bisa. She says to me for five weeks we don’t have a phys­i­cal science teacher. I sent it to [Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion MEC] Panyaza [Le­sufi] and [the] Gaut­eng depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion so­cial me­dia plat­form. Within an hour se­nior ANC peo­ple re­sponded,” he said.

“The fol­low­ing day the kid sent me a DM say­ing, ‘The teach­ers are here, Mr Gardee.’ ”

The EFF prides it­self on its role as a thought leader on issues of pol­icy, hav­ing put pres­sure on the ANC to vote in favour of the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion and free higher ed­u­ca­tion.

But, with­out a po­si­tion in gov­ern­ment, the EFF runs the risk of other par­ties, such as the ANC, usurp­ing its role. The rul­ing party can now boast about be­ing pro-poor and pro-black be­cause of its stance on free ed­u­ca­tion and land ex­pro­pri­a­tion.

But Gardee said this was not a con­cern for the EFF, be­cause the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these poli­cies, in­clud­ing in met­ros where it had given its vote to the DA, knew that the Red Berets had started the mo­men­tum.

“The re­cip­i­ents of the ser­vices be­ing de­liv­ered where [the] EFF has an im­pact know where the ser­vices came from. [DA leader] Mmusi Maimane can go cut the rib­bons and [so can Jo­han­nes­burg mayor] Her­man Mashaba. But the peo­ple know,” he said.

Gardee said, although the EFF was go­ing into the 2019 elec­tions with the in­ten­tion of se­cur­ing an out­right vic­tory, it was in no hurry to gov­ern and was happy to forego coali­tion talks.

He said any co-op­er­a­tive agree­ment with ei­ther the DA or the ANC would be formed on its own terms. “Any­one who agrees with our con­di­tions, no prob­lem. We can even say, ‘Gov­ern, you’ve got our sup­port; no­body is go­ing to re­move you from gov­ern­ment. We are here.’ ”

In the 2014 na­tional elec­tions, the EFF re­ceived 6.35% of the votes, giv­ing it 25 seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly. In the 2016 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, it grew its sup­port to 8.19%.

Niche: EFF sec­re­tary gen­eral Go­drich Gardee says his party is fo­cus­ing on first-time vot­ers and those with no po­lit­i­cal party af­fil­i­a­tion. Photo: Paul Botes

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