EFF will be ‘good for South Africa’s democracy’

2013-08-29 00:00

“EXTREMELY healthy” for democracy in South Africa. That’s how respected economic and political analyst J.P. Landman views the entry of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) into the country’s political landscape.

While some commentators fear Malema’s brash, unscrupulous political style undermines South Africa and could incite violence, Landman believes the registration of the EFF as a political party will open up “something really interesting” in the country’s politics.

“For the first time, we’ll have a left-wing party. If you think about it, we do not have a left-wing party in South Africa,” Landman told the Cape Town Press Club recently.

In June, despite his legal and financial setbacks, the ousted ANC Youth League leader condemned the ANC, its alliance partners and opposition parties as ineffectual, and announced his intention to launch a party political platform with a view to registering the EFF as a political party to contest next year’s elections.

On the policy agenda for the EFF’s consultations are: free education, health care, houses and sanitation; the creation of millions of jobs through protected industrial development; the expropriation of land without compensation; the nationalisation of mines, banks and other strategic sectors of the economy; and building a state capacity that will lead to the end of tenders.

Freedom Front Plus chairperson Pieter Groenewald has lodged an objection to the EFF’s registration as a political party with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), warning that, with its policies based on racism and nationalisation, it would contradict the Constitution and give hate speech a platform.

But Landman is not so pessimistic.

Discussing his latest book, The Long View, in which he calls on South Africans to “get beyond the drama of South Africa’s day-to-day headlines” and focus on the long view of the country, he stressed that, while South Africa appears to be “stuck” economically and politically, many things are bubbling and shifting below the surface.

Asked to comment on recent political developments, Landman said a new left-wing party should be welcomed.

“… If we get a 10% party on the left rabble-rousing about whites stealing land and trying to steal it back and soon, I think it would be fantastic, because it would push the rest of the body politic back to the middle,” Landman said.

“The ANC is not left wing. It is social democratic. A left-wing party does not pay a thousand million rand for a game farm in Sabi Sands where there are just a few lions and crocodiles,” he said, in reference to reports that the government has agreed to pay out more than R1 billion to settle a land claim against the five-star Mala Mala reserve in Mpumalanga.

“That is a party that respects property rights and pays exhorbitant inflated money for land … The ANC is not a left-wing party because [it] allows the Reserve Bank to do what [it has] to do. A left-wing party would have the agenda that the trade union Numsa has. [It] would put the Reserve Bank under political control, take political decisions on interest rates, nationalise industry … and expropriate land without paying out, as well as control the currency and put in tariffs. That is a left-wing agenda. The ANC is very far from that. It is a centre-left party.

“The DA, on the other hand, used to be right-wing, but is now a centre right-wing party. [Helen] Zille is fighting a fantastic battle and moving those old verkrampte English and Afrikaans conservatives into a middle position.

“So you have a centre-left and a centre-right-wing party in South Africa, and all the other political parties — IFP, Cope, ACDP and Agang — are right.

“The SACP just backs the ANC on every word [it] utters and does not have an independent thought.”

Landman continued: “Talk to our European friends … they will tell you what it means to have a left-wing party.

“At the end of 2011, I started thinking … that he [Malema] must form his political party. The country needs him. It is now 18 months later and it looks as if he is going to do it.

“I think it would be extremely healthy to have a left-wing bunch, a right-wing bunch and a group in the middle, and we can have a bun fight. That is the way you organise democracy. Not this kind of walking on eggs, which we now have.”

While Landman was reluctant to estimate the EFF’s success at the polls, he cited a recent survey conducted by consumer insights company Pondering Panda, which found that one in four young South Africans would vote for Malema. The cellphone survey polled 3 585 young people throughout the country, ranging from 18 to 34 years old, of whom 26% said they would vote for Malema if he established a new political party.

The survey found that most of the support for Malema came from young black South Africans, with 30% indicating they would vote for him.

“But, we must remember that the ANC has not swung into action yet,” said Landman.

“Once they get started, they are very formidable electioneering people. As the DA discovered.”

• Sue Segar is a freelance

journalist.

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