Max du Preez

EFF 'should not mess with SA's stability'

2016-05-03 07:17

Max du Preez

The Economic Freedom Fighters should be very careful not to mess with two key pillars of South Africa’s stability: the legitimacy of election results and the political neutrality of the defence force.

I have for years reassured business people and potential investors that South Africa’s stability was guaranteed while the Constitution remains untouched, the elected civilian government doesn’t have to look over its shoulder at the military, religious fundamentalism doesn’t take hold and the results of our elections are accepted by all.

My message at these presentations was that stability has to be the first priority. Without that, we will quickly lose our personal freedoms, constitutionalism, our prospects for economic progress and indeed the precious openness of our society.

Stability doesn’t mean the absence of protests, even occasional violent protest. A country is unstable when the state loses control over the use of violence and the rule of law becomes impossible to apply.

Many analysts agreed that the final moment South Africans could be sure that they were irrevocably on the path to democracy was when the army general who was the last head of the apartheid-era defence force and the first of the SANDF in the democratic era, George Meiring, saluted Nelson Mandela at his inauguration in 1994 and military helicopters flew overhead flying the new flag.

Disturbing utterances

South Africa has had a political culture, inherited from the British, I suppose, since 1910 that the defence force serves the government of the day and doesn’t interfere with party politics. This practice was continued after 1994. It also helped that the new SANDF was made up not only of former members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, but also Apla, the Bantustan armies and the remainder of the old SADF.

Julius Malema’s utterances at the EFF manifesto launch on Saturday, that the army could turn against government, threaten to disturb this ethos.

According to a News24 report, Malema said: "The same army, they [the government] say… must be brought to the EFF, that army is going to turn their guns against them, because that army doesn't want this government. That army doesn't want the corrupt government.”

He then directly addressed President Jacob Zuma. "I'm whispering to you Zuma: wherever you are those soldiers are going to turn your guns against you. Be warned, leave office before the soldiers take their guns against you.

"The army is not happy… The army is the EFF.”

This comes very close to threatening a coup d’état. I know it is election talk and hyperbole, but some things should never be vocalised, especially in a fragile democracy like ours – like mentioning a bomb at an airport when you don’t have one. There are some real hotheads in Malema’s party, as the weekend placards about civil war testified.

One only needs to look at some of the unstable countries on our continent, or Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, to understand how dangerous it is to mess around with the legitimacy of election results and the neutrality of the army – go Google the role of the military in Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Egypt as examples. This is where serious instability normally starts.

Narrow nationalists

But we can’t only point fingers at the EFF. Those who are concerned about the EFF’s militaristic style and symbolism should be reminded that the ANC also regularly parades men in camouflage marching and leopard crawling at its rallies. And only the ANC is to blame for the Independent Electoral Commission’s present credibility crisis.

It is cause for concern that South Africa’s politics are moving closer to those of the less successful states in Africa. This can only be due to the hard fact that both President Jacob Zuma and Malema have shown themselves to be narrow black African nationalists.

They still say they stand by the 1955 Freedom Charter and the Constitution, but their real political message and tone are not in tune with the spirit of these documents.

They are both back to the old cry of Africa for the Africans that was soundly rejected by giants of the liberation struggle like Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela many decades ago.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  julius malema  |  jacob zuma
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