Attacks On EFF Are Attempts To Shrink Radical Politics In South Africa

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Recent attempts in the media to question the legitimacy of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are part of an overall drive to realign South African politics after the 2019 elections following significant losses to the establishment parties. It’s another attempt to write the EFF’s message of radical change out of our politics. 

Quite a few people simply cannot deal with the fact that in spite of trying absolutely everything available to them to drive the EFF out of the public sphere, the party is growing. The results of the 2019 national and provincial elections can’t be interpreted any other way: while the African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) suffered staggering and embarrassing losses, the EFF grew in leaps and bounds. If the ANC and DA are succumbing to the same fate as establishment parties around the world, then it is to the benefit of ‘outsiders’ like the Freedom Front Plus and the EFF. 

This is why the issue of the EFF’s “legitimacy” has suddenly become of interest in the right-wing corners of the media. If the people won’t delegitimise the parties outside the tent of establishment consensus, well dammit, then the media will just have to do it for them…

This is how to read a recent story in the Daily Maverick, which attempted to paint a picture of opulent hypocrisy amongst the EFF leadership. It doesn’t allege any criminal wrongdoing on the part of anybody – just that they drink Moët & Chandon champagne and stay in Camps Bay when visiting Cape Town. 

The argument that the lifestyle of the EFF leadership is “hypocritical” in a way that exculpates, say, ANC or DA or IFP members of parliament is never made – you have to fill that part in yourself.

The EFF are hypocrites because, of course, they don’t “belong” in bourgeois spaces of power and influence, precisely because of their radical politics that seek to benefit the poor majority at the expense of the entrenched elite. 

News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson stated this in a way, when he discussed the EFF’s recent decision to pull its strategic support from the Democratic Alliance in local government. He wrote that a DA still “reeling” from the elections, should form coalitions with the “centrist” ANC in repudiation of radical politics.

“In future, moderate voters are likely to want parties who share the same beliefs to work together against the tide of growing radicalism in formal politics. In plain terms: Maimane and Ramaphosa are much more suitable bed mates than Maimane and Malema,” he claimed.

The point cannot be stated enough: in 2019, the EFF offered a platform of radical sociopolitical change, and its share of the electorate grew from 6.35 percent in 2014 to 10.79 percent this year, as the establishment parties fell. 

(Let’s leave aside that it makes no sense to claim that the ANC that is driving a constitutional amendment for expropriation of land without compensation is “centrist” alongside the liberal DA, against the socialist EFF.)

Before the elections, I said that the knives would be out for the working class. There are going to be punishing job losses, in spite of any promises made in the elections or the recently-passed State of the Nation Address. We are in austerity mode in South Africa, and it is going to happen on the terms of the elite that have a death-grip on our society. This means that it is the poor and working class who are going to suffer cuts to services, job losses, plummeting quality of life and entrapment in poverty. Tax cuts and such benefits are going to flow upward. Misery, downward. This is the political programme that is going to be driven by the ANC and DA over the next few years, as they have done wherever they govern. 

The EFF is the only party offering an alternative to that reality. Whether or not you agree with its politics is beside the point: the parties in charge are only offering the large majority of our people a downward path. The EFF is pointing to a different way.

And that’s why the need to be silenced, and to be driven out of polite society.

The EFF, of course, remains an urgent voice for radical change in our society, and after the elections, one that carries legitimacy and a mandate from the people. No dumpster-diving into their dustbins by the media is going to change that.

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Featured image by Ihsaan Haffajee