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EFF skating on thin ice

Over the past few weeks, I have watched with great alarm as an organisation that occupies a special place in my heart, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), sinks into the abyss of gutter politics that have come to characterise our country’s political milieu. It started with the opening of a house built for a resident of Nkandla, on the day that the ANC was launching its election manifesto. I argued and continue to do so, that what the EFF did on that day was very regrettable, primary because it was a spit in the faces of the working-class majority that the organisation represents.

One of the things I have always hated about the ANC is its blatant contempt for the poor. This is expressed in how poor people are treated as nothing else but voting cattle by the ruling party, reduced to a voting constituency whose loyalty is bought with food parcels that always find their way to poor communities on the eve of elections. The EFF’s stunt was also a show of a contemptuous attitude towards the poor because the reality of the situation is that there was nothing sincere about the building of that house.

Both the beneficiary of this pseudo-nobleness and the time of the execution of this house was a calculated move of cold rationality, aimed not so much at assisting the poor family living in squalor right next to the president’s luxurious residence, but at humiliating the ANC on a day of its manifesto launch. Sadly, the plight of the poor was used as a tool for political battles, the same way the ANC uses food parcels to win political favour with the poor. In the process of all this score-settling, the EFF reduced itself to a caricature of the ANC.

This week, the EFF yet again committed a biblical blunder that on the surface appears noble, but in reality, is nothing else but a reflection of sheer opportunism. The EFF established relations with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), an organisation whose history is written in the blood of innocent black people and whose politics are as regressive as they are reactionary.

The war council of the EFF, led by the commander-in-chief Julius Malema, and the national executive committee of the IFP, led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, met in Durban to discuss issues pertaining to the political space in which both are located. And to chart a way forward on how best to navigate this quagmire that is dominated by ANC influence. The organisations have not entered into a formal alliance, but have agreed to act as each other’s bulletproof vests on the road to the national elections taking place in April. In a joint statement, the organisations assert:

“Both EFF and IFP will protect each other during the elections campaign and will ensure that their members campaign in all areas without fear of intimidation and violence … ”

This might sound harmless, but the implications of this decision are deep-rooted. A relationship of any sort between the EFF and IFP is problematic, not only because of the contrasting ideological postures of both organisations, but because of the history that has shaped both of them, the IFP in particular. Who is this IFP that the EFF wants to have as a tag-team partner?

Buthelezi formally launched the Inkatha Cultural Liberation Movement in 1975. The Inkatha was rooted in a previous Zulu cultural movement called Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe (Inkatha Freedom Nation) that was formed in 1928 by King Dinizulu. In 1953, the South African government introduced the homelands, forming tribal authorities so as to provide for the gradual development of self-governing Bantu national units. The first Territorial Authority for the Zulu people was established in 1970, which defined the Zulu homeland of KwaZulu. On March 30 1972, the first South African Parliamentary Proclamation constituted Legislative Assembly of KwaZulu. Buthelezi was elected as the chief executive.

But by the 1980s, as the opposition to the apartheid regime and homeland regimes grew, IFP vigilantes allegedly tried to suppress student and community opposition. This led to open clashes with the United Democratic Front, a mass-based anti-apartheid movement. Hostilities between the ANC and Inkatha became endemic around Inkatha strongholds, in KwaZulu-Natal and in Gauteng townships. In the process, hundreds of innocent black people were injured and killed. The apartheid government and SAP were found guilty by the Goldstone Commission of complicity in vigilante activities and political violence.

The IFP’s history is littered with violence. It is a history written in blood. It is scary that the EFF, which claims to be pro-black, would want to be “protected” by such an organisation in a democratic dispensation. There is no ideological basis for relations between a socialist EFF and a tribal, nationalist IFP.

The EFF is skating on very thin ice, ideologically and in terms of strategies and tactics if it’s going to allow blatant opportunism and dirty politicking to blind it to the reality that the IFP, by its very history, is as much an enemy of black people as white monopoly capital is. After all, tribal-nationalism and racism are two opposite sides of the same coin.

Author

  • Malaika Wa Azania, an AU African Youth Charter Ambassador for the SADC Region, is a pan Afrikanist Socialist, a feminist and the founder of Afrikan Voices of the Left journal, a publication of Pen and Azanian Revolution (Pty) Ltd, of which she's the Director. She is the former Secretary General of the African Youth Coalition, a pan-Africanist federation of civil society youth organisations in Africa, a free-lance writer, social commentator, activist and essayist. Above all, she's a daughter of the soil!

24 Comments

  1. Shahaab Shahaab 23 January 2014

    You correctly note that ‘One of the things I have always hated about the ANC is its blatant contempt for the poor. This is expressed in how poor people are treated as nothing else but voting cattle by the ruling party, reduced to a voting constituency whose loyalty is bought with food parcels that always find their way to poor communities on the eve of elections.’ However, you then comment that:’The IFP’s history is littered with violence. It is a history written in blood.’ Unfortunately, exactly the same comment applies to the ANC. It was ultimately the ANC’s monopoly on violence and willingness to use extreme forms of violence that led to the so-called ‘democracy’ that SA now is. Basically, only the ANC could stop the violence – much like only Mohammed Aideed in Somalia could stop the violence – for a very good reason. And one day all the myths and pretend histories will be worn out and the uncomfortable truths revealed.

  2. Tapera Tapera 23 January 2014

    ‘There is no ideological basis for relations between a socialist EFF and a tribal, nationalist IFP.’ True – but the EFF isn’t socialist. It is fascist, or crony capitalist – exactly the same as the ANC is. And the tribal, nationalist label applies to the new Zulu ANC perfectly. But you are right that the progeny can’t be expected to fall too far from the tree.

  3. Tapera Tapera 23 January 2014

    ‘“Both EFF and IFP will protect each other during the elections campaign and will ensure that their members campaign in all areas without fear of intimidation and violence … ‘. This is a monumental statement, in the sense that both organisations, based on their history in both cases, know full well and are under no illusions – as to where the primary source of all political violence in SA is likely to emanate.

  4. Nkru Nkru 23 January 2014

    May I restate this. And not to discredit your observations. But it may be relevant for certain post election alliances that may emerge. ‘The EFF is skating on very thin ice, ideologically and in terms of strategies and tactics if it’s going to allow blatant opportunism and dirty politicking to blind it to the reality that the ANC is as much an enemy of black people as white monopoly capital is. After all, tribal-nationalism and racism are on exactly the same side of the same coin. And these are both core values of a certain party.

  5. Sally Giles Sally Giles 23 January 2014

    Jaa well, is anyone really, really surprised?

    I agree that the house building is hugely gimmicky and turns the poor person getting the “free” house into a target.

    The best we could ever expect from EFF is state Capitalism. Socialism, never.

  6. aim for the culprits aim for the culprits 23 January 2014

    Nice article.

  7. Muvhulawa Muvhulawa 23 January 2014

    What a surprise? Buthelezi and Malema in one meeting. That means Buthelezi is desperate for something.

  8. Mazizi Valashiya Mazizi Valashiya 24 January 2014

    EFF does not care much about our history, we want to spend our time looking at the future. whatever the IFP is or is not, that’s does not change them from being black and from being south African. We want a chance to start all over again. EFF is hoping to unite black people not to change them, but as a collective, they can change their future.that is more important than the analysis of how they came to be.

  9. Cyberdog Cyberdog 24 January 2014

    I am confused. At what point in time has the EFF been anything other than gutter politics?

  10. Conrad Steenkamp Conrad Steenkamp 24 January 2014

    And ‘pro-black’ nationalism is not the opposite side of that coin as well? Then I suppose ‘pro-white’ nationalism would be in order as well, not so?

  11. Mike Mike 24 January 2014

    You can smell the fear of the ANC loyal trolls who could not survive in a world without state patronage!

  12. Ian Ian 24 January 2014

    Might be on thin ice in terms of policies, but what a superb job on PR, way ahead of all the other parties.

  13. Owen Owen 24 January 2014

    and the ANC’s history was not written in blood and necklacing (a sub human act) was not brought to us courtesy of the UDM /ANC?

    The EFF’s biggest support base is in Limpopo and North West – what tribe is that again?

  14. Mwafrika Mwafrika 24 January 2014

    I reserve coment on the IFP, as for the Nkandla house unveiling on the same day as ANC manifesto launch, that was a stroke of genius! you might disagree with the ethics of it but campaigns aren’t entirely based on a moral code.

    EFF merely stole the thunder from the ANC,. it’s competition ‘baby’ and I don’t hold brief for any party but that deserved a ‘Bells’

  15. nzs nzs 24 January 2014

    Well, the past is the past (or is it not?). Chief Buthelezi cannot continue to be judged on the basis of his past as Chief Minister of KwaZulu. We have learned to “forgive” ex-Nats who rapaciously held baton, gleefully, of the subjugation and worst atrocities committed against black people in this country. But we made strides to walk past that – why should Shenge be treated differently? Buthelezi has served as minister, deputy minister, acting president – he was acting president when SA invaded Lesotho – and has served in various positions post-1994. Unless we want to besmirch his image, why should we continue dredging up his past. He is, after all, a leader of a party in KZN (and worthy of forming alliances with).

  16. Andrew Andrew 24 January 2014

    Dear Malaika,
    In a recent article of yours I vaguely remember you stating that you were quite young (mid-twenties, I think?) and that fact is apparent in most of what you write: the anger, indignation and naivety of someone young and without much experience of how things tend to work in the real (and often unpleasant) world. It takes me fondly back to my student days when everything was black and white (metaphorically speaking, before you accuse me of racism), before the infinite shades of grey I’ve since learnt to identify had presented themselves.
    Allow me, therefore, to explain it to you: the alignment of your beloved EFF with the IFP makes PERFECT sense; I’m only surprised that it hadn’t happened sooner. It’s political opportunism at it’s finest, serves primarily to infuriate the ANC (something that it will doubtlessly achieve admirably) and provides a buddy backup system for the running street battles and associated violence that I very much fear we’re going to see this election cycle.
    It might come as an unpleasant surprise to you but “Comrade” Julius was – until his undignified ejection from the ANC gravy train – the country’s poster boy (again, the term used in a metaphorical sense) when it came to “blatant contempt for the poor”, as you put it. He and his buddies in the ANC Kindergarten (or “Youth League” as I’ve heard it referred to on occassion) learnt everything they needed to know from those occupying Luthuli House. [Cont…]

  17. Andrew Andrew 24 January 2014

    [Continues…] Tenders, bodyguards, luxury cars, desirable mansions, farms and Breitling timepieces hardly point to a man concerned with those less fortunate than him and struggling in poverty.
    A cynic might say that the EFF has only been created to (a) annoy the ANC, (b) give Julius something to do, (c) build a groundswell of support that he can try using to his advantage in dodging the legal train that is heading towards him and (d) – and this last point is very important, Malaika – provide a handy source of income (through those short-sighted enough to make donations, pay membership fees, etc.) for him to pay off SARS and keep him in the lifestyle to which he became accustomed whilst a member of the ANC.
    Seriously, Malaika: you come across as an intelligent woman, albeit with a chip on your shoulder. So I’m at a loss to understand how you fail to see the obvious. The EFF “leadership” are – like their former buddies in the ANC – utterly contemptous of the poor and view them only as a means to an end.
    Thank-you for reading this and rest assured that I don’t expect a reply to this comment as I expect that you’ll be busy preparing food parcels.

  18. Nchema Nchema 24 January 2014

    I think most tend to forget that EFF is a political party not an NGO. Trying to act saintly and soberly won’t assist its immediate cause, ie to garner enough votes in this year’s elections. Azapo tried those kind of “intellectual” politics and look at them now.

    As a political party in the current state of SA, you have to play by the rules of the big boys, well ANC that it. EFF didn’t set itself as a high moral movement when it started, some even say it will be more violent than the IFP should it be in power, so expecting it to act like ACDP is an illusion.

    EFF hasn’t announced itself as the vanguard of the working class only, they have also been targeting the unemployed youth and marginalised poor, like the family that received the house. So I have no doubt that those constituencies applauded the building of that house.

  19. russell russell 24 January 2014

    To expect the EFF to rise above themselves is pure naivete….on a par with believing ANC election promises.

  20. C Stephens C Stephens 24 January 2014

    To call EFF socialist and IFP tribal is stereotyping. Just as the IFP has broadened its Vision, there is surely space in the EFF for different kinds of radicals. Like Communitarians, who are sometimes called the “radical centrists” because they combine social and moral conservatism with economic liberalism. Who would Pope Francis I campaign for when he critiques “unfettered capitalism” and exhorts people to drive in “humble cars”? (Remind premiers of Northern province and Mpumalanga of that, please.) The Occupy Movement is sometimes called the “Indignados” in some countries. That sounds very close to EFF, but they are not scientific socialists, they believe in God.

  21. The Creator The Creator 25 January 2014

    There’s good reason to be suspicious of anyone doing a deal with Inkatha, but this is hardly surprising; the ANC has made it clear that they will attack the EFF if they campaign in ANC areas in KZN, and therefore the EFF needs allies. Not that they should trust the IFP, of course.

  22. Kgositsile Mokgosi Kgositsile Mokgosi 26 January 2014

    Dear Mal
    This is exactly the reason it suprises me that people can be hoodwinked by such pedestrian trickery.
    He! he! Malema is clever!.
    Well, so are the people who can steal your car while the car is fitted with an immobiliser or the guys who devised the Ponzi scheme.
    The question is, are these the people we want to trust with the money we contribute to run the country?
    South Africa is cursed with this adulation of popularity instead of substance.
    Coke, the soft drink, is much more popular than milk. It was the biggest brand in the world till last year. But definitely it cannot compare with milk when it comes to nutritional value.
    South Africans seem to be bent on placing their destiny in the hands of people who have popularity in abundance but hardly any substance some tinted with huge reputational dents.
    Our only survival is in Black Consciousness.
    Being black does not mean being poor. Poverty is not in the DNA. People should be made aware that being poor is a consequence of not having an opportunity to avoid it, or not having worked harder or smarter enough but that each one can take himself out of the predicament and should never stop trying to do so. Salvation is not in the one night stand food parcel. Even sacrificing all to educate your child can take you out of poverty. We have to instil HOPE. The good feel of idolising people cannot solve our personal problem. It is just that, a warm feeling!
    Voting is like employing someone to do work for you. Choose…

  23. Cam Cameron Cam Cameron 27 January 2014

    The “poor” working-class lady who got the EFF house is married to a man who earns a whopping R250k a year in a safe government job, and who owns three properties already.

  24. Sero Sero 24 February 2014

    Hi Wa Azania

    I salute the piece you have delivered in the Sunday
    Independant of 23 February 2014 ‘Why R. Sobukwe
    is not dead’

    I find your article incisive and containing profound words.

    Much respect,
    D.S Mathunyane.

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