I don’t know if I am in a minority, but when I first heard a new political party was in the process of being formed in South Africa, and it was called EFF, I thought this was a joke. “Oh eff off,” I spluttered. More questionable names for a party are difficult to come by. EFF outdoes Cope, which (cringe, cower) never coped. Deciding on the brand name of any new venture is crucial to its image and ability to survive in the marketplace. And EFF is just not a name that can be taken seriously. Oh, the possibilities spring to mind: Everyone Fucked for Free. Effectively Finished from the First. Eeyore Fails Friends. But taken seriously EFF most certainly is.

What I believe has drawn the attention and support of thousands – and even more as I write this – is the innovative linking of words EFF stands for: Economic Freedom Fighters. Now that’s got “krag”. Giving the new political party a name resonant with the heroic history of “real” freedom fighters and that long tolling bell of names of those who have “struggle cred” is somewhat poetic. It inspires fresh patriotism and unified, social purpose that will have the masses’ fists up again and shaking the clutched symbol for amandla! Once again, the blood of hope will freshly surge in veins and eyeballs as flames of promise, promise, promise are rekindled. And so forth.

Then there is this word Economic, conjoined with Freedom Fighters. This contrast is pure alchemy. The masses are still hopelessly poor and the suggestion of economic freedom being militantly fought for is just reeling ’em in. To add to the military “feel” of EFF, Malema is already being referred to as the “commander in chief”.

So, at the end of the day, the branding of EFF is smart, almost sexy. Advertising rule : always try build the chief benefit of your product into the name. That is why we have Spray ’n Cook, Clean N Fresh, Spray and Wipe. And for the truly bored and overworked househusband or housewife any number of products and services called ” … Sick and Tired?” These may range from anonymous weekends away with gorgeous or well-hung escorts to fake but “genuine-looking!” attempted suicide kits with the added promise, This cry for help will work on him!

Or take the product names for sophisticated condoms. Here luscious brand names flourish like subtropical greenery after heavy rains: Skinless Skin Condoms, Vibrating Johnny, and the rather overblown Trojan Her [!] Pleasure Ecstasy. For the last one, I was rather worried about the promise under the brand name: Feels like nothing’s there! I trust that is a reference to the condom and not to the, um, weenie within. But it seems I digress — yet actually I’m not.

The branding and promise of EFF exploits the moral vacuum that caused the sudden rush to support the new political party. It is the moral vacuum created by the ANC that has led to EFF’s (initial) success. As nature’s laws are inviolable and control us, it would be wise for us to heed some of the laws governing vacuums.

Something, anything, must take the vacuum’s place. Given the endless corruptions of the ANC or “ZANC” and its dismal failure to deliver (except selfish riches for its own leaders and toadies), a moral blankness has been created. Inevitably. Thus we have a bizarre but entirely predictable outcome where gangster-like, manipulative con artists like Floyd Shivambu and Julius “Seizure” Malema are once again back in place, leaders and beacons of light for the desperate and downtrodden, for the disillusioned and downright bloody angry.

The vast majority of people in South Africa may apparently – on the surface – have democratic freedom. But it is clear to anyone who is not ideologically brainwashed — that is to say, has some common sense — that the masses in South Africa have been deeply screwed while the “ZANC” fat cats lap at precisely the self-same capitalist troughs of their apartheid fat-cat predecessors.

Vacuums create disorientation and uncertainty. Blogs are appearing like the well-written, impassioned It’s not easy being an ANCYL member these days. Manqoba Nxumalo is clearly disorientated. Uncertainty creates fear and it is natural to grasp at straws, any – dare I say it – effing straw.

Vacuums are filled immediately. This is the most devastating and scary law governing vacuums. They often fill with a bang, like the sudden vacuum of air made by lightning, which slams closed again with that sound we call thunder. But here’s the problem. Firm, principled morality and political maturity need time to grow and to prove that the EFF means serious business. That it will stand by its rapidly growing support base. This cannot happen as there is no time for any moral ripening, other than the heady, hooray potency of some cheap moonshine or mampoer, which always has the same results: a brief, giddy euphoria … followed by a nightmarish hangover.

Bear in mind I have focused less on giving an opinion than on writing about the natural laws dictated by what happens whenever there is a vacuum. And there clearly is no more dangerous human vacuum than a moral vacuum. History has shown this time and time again. Germany was brought to her knees with the crippling reparations her victors demanded at the end of World War I. But the moral vacuity and corruption that resulted from the cruel reparations opened the way for one of the most monstrous dictatorships known in history. Our literature also shows what happens when moral emptiness occurs. We have books like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

Yes, I did chortle in disbelief when I first heard of EFF. But, after this reflection, I don’t find it funny anymore. Not one little bit.


  • CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg Star: " Mackenzie's writing is shot through with humour and there are many laugh-out-loud scenes". Cracking China is available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle or get a hard copy from www.knowledgethirstmedia.co.za. His previous book is a collection of poetry,Gathering Light. A born and bred South African, Rod now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, after a number of years working in southern mainland China and a stint in England. Under the editorship of David Bullard and Michael Trapido he had a column called "The Mocking Truth" on NewsTime until the newszine folded. He has a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland. if you are a big, BIG publisher you should ask to see one of his many manuscript novels. Follow Rod on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/Rod_in_China


Rod MacKenzie

CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg...

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