Is the EFF an effective opposition party?

2015-07-28 08:35
Economic Freedom Fighters. (File, Alexander Joe, AFP)

Economic Freedom Fighters. (File, Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg - The EFF celebrated its second birthday this weekend, but how much of a difference has the party really made to politics?

News24 spoke to several political analysts, and they all seem to have different views on the impact of Julius Malema's opposition party.

The Economic Freedom Fighters get too much credit, some say, while others believe they have single-handedly made Parliament relevant again.

"I don't think they have changed the political landscape," said politics expert Steven Friedman.

"The only way they've changed the political landscape is if there is a split in the ANC, then the ANC loses quite a few votes and that obviously changes various things. That would have been true of Cope as well."

Analyst Prince Mashele said the political landscape was still dominated by the African National Congress.

"In terms of the majority in our political system the ANC is still comfortable," he told News24.

"In a sense, the EFF simply entered the space traditionally occupied by small opposition parties and in terms of numbers they have actually taken from Cope. They were voted by a million voters, that is the number which had voted for Cope. They simply replaced Cope, from a numbers point of view."

‘People listening to Parliament’

However, another analyst Theo Venter, of the University of North West, disagrees.

"They have succeeded in making Parliament relevant again. People are listening to Parliament," he told News24.

"Probably the biggest impact that they have had is to expose the leadership stagnation in the ANC."

Mashele agreed that the EFF had re-energised Parliament.

"If you try to imagine what exactly is going on in Parliament the first thing that comes to mind is the activities of the EFF, it's not what the ANC is saying or doing, or what the official opposition party, the DA, is saying or doing. It's what the EFF is doing. So they are leading in that regard."

Mashele said from a political discourse point of view it could be said that the EFF had redefined the political landscape.

It had taken over the radical, leftist political space which had been traditionally occupied by the SA Communist Party. But because of its position in the tripartite alliance the SACP had not taken it to the same extent as the EFF.

"They have contributed an element of radicalisation to our politics. Outside in and outside Parliament," he said.

‘Nothing new’

Friedman disagrees saying what the EFF is doing in Parliament is nothing new.

"Quite frankly, people enjoy theatre but this idea that shouting the same things that everyone else is saying changes Parliament is rather odd. They are not saying anything new," he said.

"They are saying exactly the same as all the opposition parties are saying they just tend to draw attention to themselves by shouting."

Friedman said the idea that the EFF has shaken up the political landscape was a cliché "born out of no evidence".

The EFF celebrated its two year anniversary in Rustenburg in the North West at the weekend with a rally.

Next year the party will be contesting local government elections for the first time and Malema is confident that his party will make great strides.

The election is said to be the fight for the country's metros, but none of the analysts are of the opinion that the EFF will win any of the major municipalities.

Rural areas, towns

Venter said he believed the EFF would do well in some of the rural areas and small towns.

"I think with a good strategy and resources they can have an impact in small towns," he said.

Friedman and Mashele did not have high hopes for the EFF.

"If you look at by-elections it shows no sort of work on the ground," said Friedman.

"I'm not sure, especially in the major metros, I would really be surprised if they win a single ward. I'm battling to think where in South Africa they would actually win a ward."

Mashele said he did not believe the EFF had leadership projection at a local or even provincial level.

It was a national giant based on Malema's popularity.

"My prediction is this, and I am prepared to fall on my sword - the EFF is going to do very badly at local government level next year because it does not have credible, charismatic leaders who at a local level can occupy the space which is occupied by Julius Malema at a national level," he said.

Read more on:    eff  |  julius malema  |  politics  |  local government

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