The EFF’s shining black diamonds

2014-04-06 14:00

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Middle class professionals make up just 3% of the EFF’s membership, according to a recent Ipsos poll – but they are an outspoken minority.

These people are disillusioned with more established political parties and believe they’ve found a home with Julius Malema and his party.

City Press chatted to a few of the country’s middle class ‘fighters’.

"Even we are just a pay cheque away from poverty"

Yerushka Chetty (32) teaches art at a Cape Town college and joined the EFF when it was founded last July.

Yerushka Chetty

“I belonged to the September National Imbizo [formed by Andile Mngxitama] and we decided as an organisation to join the EFF because our politics are very similar,” she says.

“Both have the realisation that we have a lot of ills in this country and to solve it, we have to start at the root cause. It is not just about political power, but economic power as well.”

Chetty says middle class people – whom she believes often have a sense of detachment and individualism – join the EFF because “they have the sensitivity and interest of oppressed people at heart”.

She adds: “[South Africa’s] structure is run on racial capitalism, which means the majority doesn’t have jobs and, of the small percentage who have jobs, 50% of them are underpaid.

“Out of that, a small percentage is middle class. And even middle class people are just a pay cheque away from poverty because we live on credit.”

One of the things that appeals to her about the EFF is that the party has its own “unique structure”?–?a totally different leadership setup?–whereas many of the other new parties are based on old, traditional structures.

“There’s a lot of misinformation on what the EFF is. Some people

think it is corrupt and just another political party, like the DA or Cope, but once we talk to people about the fundamental differences of the EFF, it becomes easier.” Chetty, who is also on the EFF’s list for Parliament, says she never expected a position when she joined.

"The EFF makes me feel welcome"

Tshepo Cameron Sithole-Modisane’s experience as a black auditor in the corporate world pushed him towards politics.

Although he was never politically active before joining the EFF, the 28-year-old says it was the feeling of discrimination he and his fellow professionals experienced in the private sector that prompted him to get involved when

Julius Malema set up his party. “You’d notice when you went to clients that black people wouldn’t get nice big clients like banks and mines.

“[The companies] don’t mind you sitting in the corner as they can pay you for that. For them, it’s about having a certain number of blacks for [BEE] scorecards,” he says.

He also found the party welcomed him and his husband as gay men, and Sithole-Modisane has played a key role in influencing the party’s antihomophobic policies although he holds no official position in the EFF.

Thoba Calvin Sithole (left) and Tshepo Cameron Sithole-Modisane shortly after their marriage. Sithole-Modisane says the EFF has been very welcoming to them as gay men. Picture: Pieter Hugo/ Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery

This week, he conducted the party’s first seminar for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, which aimed to create a political programme that combats discrimination against sexual minorities.

Sithole-Modisane, who lives in the northern Joburg suburb of Sunninghill, particularly hails the EFF’s policies on nationalising the commanding heights of the economy and its promise to provide free education.

While his friends and acquaintances were initially shocked by his new political home, they now understand and accept his choice.

"The EFF fills a void for me"

Polokwane businessman Mashapa Sesera joined the EFF because he “felt South Africa was in desperate need for change”.

Mashapa Sesera. Picture: Lebogang Makwela/City Press

Sesera (35), who is in the catering and manufacturing business, says his hope was reignited when he first heard of the EFF’s policies that emphasised economic freedom and land expropriation.

“The EFF strikes me as an organisation that stands for radical change in South Africa. Now, 20 years into democracy, I don’t believe we should still be struggling with employment and access to education based on finances.

“I always thought we needed a government with clear, radical policies on economic issues.

When the EFF came into the picture it filled that void for me. No organisation in all these years has really appealed to the youth and said: ‘I’m here for you,’ but I believe now the EFF offers hope for them after they have lost hope in the past 20 years.”

Sesera is especially attracted to the party’s policies that seek to change the face of mining.

“We can’t have a situation where we are exploited by investors from overseas who come into South Africa to loot while all we gain is hard labour with no fruits,” he says.

"I always question everything"

Lwando Somhlahlo remembers his grandmother’s words as she was ploughing her garden in Tsolo, Eastern Cape.

Lwando Somhlahlo

“She said that the day white people stopped farming was the day we would go hungry. She has a very commendable vegetable garden,” recalls the 30-year-old.

This memory is one of the reasons he joined the EFF?–?to ensure the land and the means to plough it are available to everyone, he says.

Somhlahlo is an entrepreneur with a degree in accounting from Wits University. He’s proud to come from a lineage of academics and intellectuals?–?his mother was a professor in Afrikaans at the former University of Transkei and his grandfather was a professor at the University of Fort Hare.

“I think it was a curse that I have such lineage because I have always questioned everything, and that would include the ANC.

“Not everyone joining the EFF is a disgruntled former ANC member. I was never a card-carrying member [of the ANC],” he says.

He believes the biggest reason professionals are joining the party is because they comprehend the current corporate “white supremacist system which benefits those of a fairer creed over many Africans”.

He adds: “The ANC has forgotten the principles of the Freedom Charter and the EFF will be bringing those principles back.”

Somhlahlo carefully explains the EFF’s policies, adding they are not radical?–?they are exactly what South Africa needs. He says, for instance, that the party’s nationalisation policy reminds him of those implemented by Mao Zedong in China.

“Just imagine what we would be able to achieve if everyone started out on the same footing? My mother became a lecturer from nothing?–?imagine that potential.”

EFF voter profile

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