RE­WARD OR PUN­ISH­MENT FOR THE EFF IN 2019?

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES -

The party cham­pi­oned the African­ist cause and used the Marikana mas­sacre with great suc­cess to get a foothold among the elec­torate. Malema proved adept at har­ness­ing pub­lic anger around the death of 74 min­ers in the plat­inum belt in Au­gust 2013 on which to build the EFF's elec­tion cam­paign and was re­warded with 12,53% of the pop­u­lar vote in the North West prov­ince in 2014, the big­gest slice of provin­cial sup­port for the EFF in the coun­try.

The ANC Youth League' se­lec­tive con­fer­ence in Bloem­fontein in April of 2008 was a muddy af­fair. Not only did it rain al­most con­sis­tently for the du­ra­tion of the gather­ing, but it sig­nalled the start of the brand of dirty pol­i­tics the ANCYL's then lead­er­ship was to be­come known for.

On Mon­day, April 7, 2008 a young Julius Malema was elected pres­i­dent of the ANCYL, de­feat­ing Saki Mo­fo­keng by less than 200 votes. Malema was con­sid­ered the pro­tégé of out­go­ing youth league pres­i­dent Fik­ile Mbalula. He was one of his chief ag­i­ta­tors against Thabo Mbeki, who was de­feated at the ANC's Polok­wane con­fer­ence five months ear­lier in De­cem­ber 2007.

Malema's elec­tion, how­ever, came at a con­fer­ence that was an ab­so­lute mess. Ques­tions were asked about the le­gal­ity of the vot­ing process and amid ru­mours of vote-buy­ing. But be­yond process and pro­ce­dure it is re­mem­bered for del­e­gates throw­ing chairs in the ple­nary hall, pulling down their pants and slap­ping their ex­posed but­tocks in the di­rec­tion of the stage. Del­e­gates also missed whole ple­nary ses­sions be­cause of boot par­ties and drink­ing out­side the hall.

Fast for­ward a decade into the fu­ture and Malema is no longer a ram­bunc­tious mem­ber of the ANC or the ANCYL, but the mil­i­tant leader of an es­tab­lished op­po­si­tion party with rep­re­sen­ta­tion at all three lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives

It boasts 25 seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly, 30 rep­re­sen­ta­tives in nine provin­cial Leg­is­la­tures and coun­cil­lors in al­most all of the coun­try's mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The party se­cured 1 166 mil­lion votes for a 6,35 per cent share of the vote in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion and fol­lowed it up two years later dur­ing the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion with pop­u­lar sup­port of 8,14 per cent and 1 217 mil­lion votes.

But six months out from the coun­try's sixth gen­eral elec­tion (it will be held in May 2019) the party that Malema built is creak­ing. The EFF's grip on its sig­na­ture pol­icy po­si­tion – ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion – has been loos­ened, it has been linked to the VBS Mu­tual Bank scan­dal and it is ramp­ing up in­flam­ma­tory ra­cial rhetoric.

The EFF's be­hav­iour in Par­lia­ment this week – when it phys­i­cally at­tacked other op­po­si­tion MPs, com­bined with its usual ra­cial in­sults – is its trade­mark. Un­der Malema and his wing­man Floyd Shivambu's lead­er­ship the party is phys­i­cally ag­gres­sive and rhetor­i­cally rash. It is unashamedly pop­ulist and re­sorts to grand prom­ises and po­lit­i­cally charged state­ments as a mat­ter of course.

Strat­egy

The EFF's strat­egy since its rein­car­na­tion from the ANCYL be­tween 2008 and 2013 has al­ways been to ap­peal to the base in­stincts of the marginalised and an­gry. Malema and Shivambu, who was the youth league's spokesper­son un­til he was ex­pelled along­side his leader, quickly es­tab­lished them­selves in op­po­si­tion to the ANC's his­toric mis­sion of non-racial­ism and car­ried this for­ward when they es­tab­lished the EFF shortly be­fore the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion. The party cham­pi­oned the African­ist cause and used the Marikana mas­sacre with great suc­cess to get a foothold among the elec­torate. Malema proved adept at har­ness­ing pub­lic anger around the death of 74 min­ers in the plat­inum belt in Au­gust 2013 on which to build the EFF's elec­tion cam­paign and was re­warded with 12,53 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote in the North West prov­ince in 2014, the big­gest slice of provin­cial sup­port for the EFF in the coun­try. Its sub­se­quent en­try into par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics was con­sid­ered by many a fresh breeze after the ANC's suc­cess­ful and dogged de­fence of then pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. Malema and his red-clad MPs cocked a snook at par­lia­men­tary tra­di­tion and pro­to­col and pro­ceeded to mer­ci­lessly taunt, in­sult and at­tack Zuma with chants of "pay back the money". It forced the Zuma-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture to phys­i­cally at­tack them in the cham­ber of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, which po­si­tioned them firmly on the side of the larger pub­lic. And, ini­tially, it also added some so­phis­ti­ca­tion to its an­ar­chic brand of pol­i­tics by us­ing the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to force Par­lia­ment and gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment the find­ings of the pub­lic pro­tec­tor's in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Nkandla. Malema and the EFF's boor­ish tac­tics how­ever grad­u­ally grew stale and un­palat­able and in the 2016 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion it cam­paigned on the land ques­tion, prop­a­gat­ing the ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion of all land, but with a po­lit­i­cal fo­cus on agri­cul­tural land.

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