REWARD OR PUNISHMENT FOR THE EFF IN 2019?
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.
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.
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.