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.